The Utah Jazz (23-15) did more than just lose tonight to the Memphis Grizzlies (23-16). They flipped spots in the Western Conference standings (seriously, no one wants to play potential MVP guard James Harden in the first round, especially not our team that can’t even handle Kyle Lowry or Isaiah Thomas); but they also put Memphis in the driver’s seat when determining end of season tie-breakers. Memphis now leads the season series 2-1, and these teams play once more — on January 28th.
This game was . . . was one beleaguered by mental mistakes for the tired Utah Jazz team. The Grizzlies aren’t usually a team that forces a lot of turn overs, but got the Jazz to commit 12 in the first half and 18 over all. And they were able to score 14 points off of these turn overs, 14 points as fast break opportunities. This was out of character for the Grizzlies, who had been held to fewer than 10 total fast break points in the previous two games between these teams this season.
Turn overs was one of the killers for the Jazz, with each of George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert being on the books for 3 to 4 mistakes each. The other was free throw shooting.
Utah, for the season, are doing okay from the line — 76.3%. Tonight the team shot only 60.9%, going 14/23 at the charity stripe. I’m not saying you have to make all of your free throws ALWAYS, but in a slow pace game when both teams are grinding it out and the score is low, free throws matter a lot more. This season Hill and Hayward have been mostly automatic from the line, but combined to miss three. I’m not going to eat their lunch for that, they still managed to go 8/11 as a tandem. Rudy Gobert went 3/6, which is less impressive. Trey Lyles and Joe Ingles going 3/6 is kind of unacceptable. Hitting 60% of your free throws never helps.
But it was more than just mental errors, this team was haggard and harried into settling for long jumpers most of this game long. The shot chart seems to agree.
The Grizzlies defended better when they needed to, and scored in bursts. The end of the third quarter was particularly where this game moved from being “close” to “out of range”.
See if you can spot anything funny here.
The Jazz went on a mini-run at the end of the game with Hill, Hayward, Gobert, and Trey Lyles. But no one could stop Zach Randolph off the bench (13 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 1 assist); and Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are just too ‘vet’ to let a game like this slip away.
Utah flies back home tonight, and will face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. That game will ALSO be the 3rd game in four nights, and sixth game in a different city in a row. Hooray! Hope LeBron is sitting for rest!