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.
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!