Gassed Jazz Gutsy in Memphis Loss, 79 – 88

January 8th, 2017 | by Clint Johnson
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Rodney Hood’s struggles on this road trip continued, and tonight many of his teammates unfortunately joined him. (Brandon Dill/AP Photo)

Story of the Game

There are opponents who would present a less probable win at the end of a road trip than the Grizzlies, but perhaps none who are physically less pleasant to play in such a situation. There’s a strong argument that as the second game of a back-to-back and fifth game in seven days, all on the road, resulted in a schedule loss. An already fatigued Jazz, fresh off a lethargic performance saved by a furious fourth quarter rally in Minnesota, simply didn’t have the energy, physical or mental, to match the Grizzlies tonight.

In era where NBA rules favor offensive players, spacing, and freedom of movement in nearly every way, Memphis is unique in their stubborn insistence of playing up into opponents’ bodies regardless of where they are on the floor. That pressure deflated the already gasping Jazz for most of the night, leading to perhaps the poorest three-quarter stretch of the season. Utah scored 18 points in the first quarter, followed by 17 in the second, and 16 in the third as what little energy they brought to the contest bled away. The Jazz entered the fourth quarter with 14 turnovers, 38 percent shooting, and what must have been a strong sense the game was over.

But in what has become an admirable habit, Utah fought back harder than any likely expected. A 22 – 10 run fueled by five made threes, one more than the team managed in the rest of the game, cut the deficit to 77 -82.  But that’s where the last burst of energy ran out and Memphis closed the game on a 6 – 2 run to take a half-game lead on the Jazz in the Western Conference standings.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Gordon Hayward

The award is largely honorary. On a night where no Jazz player looked truly good or able to dictate play for any stretch, Hayward matched the Grizzlies grit and grind better than any of his teammates, producing a typical stat line of 22 points (thanks to going 3 of 5 from three and 7 of 9 from the free throw line) with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He never managed to shift play to a place where it felt like Utah had offensive momentum until the game was practically out of reach, but neither did he let his team fall so far behind they would quit.

Secondary Star: Trey Lyles

Lyles didn’t do much more than shoot well in limited minutes, but on a night like this that shooting was mana from heaven. In a little over six minutes of fourth quarter play he fueled Utah’s furious comeback by scoring all 11 of his points on the night, including hitting all three of his attempts from long range. The Jazz were plus ten in that stretch and charged hard enough to make Memphis sweat in a game that never really felt like Utah could summon enough horsepower to win.

Secret Star: Rudy Gobert

Marc Gasol is likely to win the battle of the big men in the public eye given he outscored Gobert 17 to 5 and won the game. But he took 18 field goal attempts to get those 17 points and was blasted on the boards by Gobert 4 to 13. On the season against Utah and its Stifle Tower, Gasol has shot 35% and is a minus 22. Even on a night when Utah’s offense failed them, Gobert’s defensive presence held up.

Stats of the Game

29 percent – Rodney Hood’s field goal percentage both against Memphis and on the five-game road trip overall. That isn’t exactly the kind of consistency everyone has been hoping to see from Hood.

18 – Jazz free throws in the second half. If they’d made more than 11 of them, the night just might have turned out differently.

4 – Fouls by each of Gasol and Conley going into the 4th, which likely played a role Utah’s ability to trim the lead to a point where the game at least became interesting.

23 – Consecutive games in which Gobert has gobbled at least 10 rebounds, extending his own team record.

4.4 – Seconds in which Memphis scored six points to end the third quarter. A Troy Daniels three followed by a Zach Randolph deflection and Vince Carter bank in three at the buzzer. That sequence visibly devastated Utah, so much so it’s remarkable they made the run they did midway through the fourth quarter.

8 – Utah assists through the emaciated first three quarters of the game. They finished with 14.

Sundries

  • There’s no question it has been a brutal trip for Rodney Hood. Even worse than his overall field goal percentage has been his long range stroke, which has gone utterly defunct at 19 percent. For a desperately needed shooter, that drought is devastating, which has been the case the last five games. Utah’s may be 2 – 3 in that stretch, but with Hood on the floor the Jazz have been outscored by 23 in that span.
  • Favors took another corner three tonight after nailing a huge corner three in the final minute of the win at Minnesota. He missed this one, but it makes five attempts, one away from his season high, in only 24 games. He can get wide open corner threes in this offense. If he keeps taking them and manages to hit even a respectable number, it could significantly improve the offense for the better.
  • Dante Exum received another DNP – coaches decision while Shelvin Mack struggled, producing 4 points on 5 shots while posting a minus 8 on the evening. If Mack doesn’t play better than this, expect the grumbles about Exum’s lack of run to grow much louder if he stays on the bench.
  • For perhaps the first time in a Jazz uniform, George Hill looked deeply and persistently frustrated against Memphis. It’s no secret he has felt poorly the past two games, and deserving so. A seven foot giant concussed him with an elbow to the face while splitting his lip wide enough to stick a finger through. Hill had been unable to eat for several days leading up to back to back contests against NBA competition. Throughout much of this game, it all combined to crack Hill’s resolute calm. He mustered it again and hit both his shots in the fourth quarter comeback, but that the frustration got out in the first place communicated perhaps better than anything else how hard this game and road trip have been for the team but especially for Hill personally.
  • The end of this game featured one of the weirdest sequences in NBA history. First came Gasol’s four free throws in reward for a travel. Really. With the shot clock winding down and less than 30 seconds left in the game, Gasol received the ball at the top of the key. After faking a pass, he stepped back with his right foot, making his left foot his pivot foot. He then slid his left foot behind the three point line, faked a shot to get Gobert in the air, and jumped elbow-first into the Frenchman. Third-year ref Justin Van Duyne called a foul and, bizarrely, decided Gasol’s shuffle took him behind the line. Gobert received a technical and Gasol winded up shooting four, repeat four, free throws, making three. If that wasn’t strange enough, on the following possession Trey Lyles faked Vince Carter into their air while taking a three and drew a foul. The only problem is Carter never touched Lyles. The veteran floated right on by, Lyles missed the three, and Marc Davis blew the whistle. Lyles made two or the three attempts. Combined, it resulted in seven three throw attempts when, according to the rules, none should have been given, all within a six-second span in the final 24 seconds of what was, before the madness, a six-point game.

Next up: Quin Snyder likes to say the first game home after a long road trip is like a final de facto road game because of how challenging it can be to settle in after days away. Tuesday at 7:00 pm, that unofficial road game will be against the world champions newly fortified with a familiar face in Kyle Korver, who will be deadly at the end of a LeBron James skip pass. Welcome home, boys!

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

2 Comments

  1. John Jenkins says:

    Clint., I have to say you were very perceptive in this column. The Jazz play was atrocious at best from the starters in the first half except maybe Rudy and possibly Gordon. Hayward can not hesitate and the Jazz need to know he is on the court. Needs to touch the ball nearly every time down. Hood is playing as poorly as he has in a Jazz uniform. Might give him time with second team. Burks and Exum need court time to get in rhythm and Dante out from under being Qinned. A stint for both with the Stars would be beneficial as the Jazz have done with Joel. Favors was essentially not in the game at all. Seemed very fatigured. Hill was exhausted and Gordon disappeared at times in this and other games. Lyles was good. Played well over all. Turnovers killed the Jazz. Just bad, poor choice turnovers. Rudy plays hard all the time. Why oh why do not the Jazz push the ball? You do not have to shoot quick, but you can. When will Quinn figure out that Shelvin is fine when the game is not close and can turn a close game into a lose with bad defense and choices? The play with Gasol was so obviously bad, I was shocked and Rudy was right to be pissed.
    Why do the Jazz not push the ball? There is nothing that says your pace can slow when you pass half court, but you can get a few more easy point. Especially against the Griz. Turnovers, some is due to just bad judgement and part is a regularity of how the Jazz set their offense. Pass to trailer reverse pass to wing or guard.
    Quinn needs to shake up his starters. Ingles could start to help with passing and scoring.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I can only guess about why they don’t push the ball more often, but here are my suspicions:

      1) There’s additional focus this season on smalls helping out with defensive rebounding. With Favors being out so much and being physically compromised when he plays, Gobert has needed help on the defensive glass. Hayward and Hood are both putting up career highs in defensive rebounds. That comes at the cost of getting down the court fast.

      2) An emphasis on ball protection. With ball handlers moving back to rebounders to get the ball, it’s harder to get into the break.

      3) Personnel. Hayward and Hood handle the ball a lot, and neither are particularly fast for their positions. Also, with Burks being out and Exum getting little or no playing time, the team lacks a player with both the mentality and ability to get up the court and to the rim on his own. Even Hill is more of a stop and go player than a straight burner.

      Add it all together and you get what we’re seeing this season: a team second to last in fast break points.

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