Jazz Bricks Bludgeon Home Team in 92 – 84 Loss to Grizzlies

October 22nd, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

The Utah Jazz’s Ricky Rubio continues his slow start to the season, going one of eight on a night where cold shooting was the hallmark of his entire team in their 92 – 84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in arguably the ugliest game of the early NBA season. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Story of the Game

Yuck. And uck.

There may be nothing as aesthetically unappetizing as a game between the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies. But at least the Jazz won all three of these clankers last season. Tonight’s 92 – 84 loss, the team’s second straight at home following a crushing buzzer beating loss to the Warriors, has the Jazz stumbling into the season at only a single win in three attempts.

The problem is as obvious as a bag of bricks to the face. Actually, that description has become a remarkably accurate summation of the Jazz offense.

After roaring into the season by scoring 123 points in each of their first two games, the Jazz managed only 84 tonight in a performance of balanced mediocrity. The team failed to score 25 points in any quarter and had only three players in double figures, with a team-high scorer boasting only 15. 

The 81-point first-half explosion against Golden State now looks like the cruelest of deceptions, a quirk of fate not at all representative of a Jazz offense that looks anything but cohesive after an off-season designed to cement cohesion. Utah has scored 126 points in their last 72 minutes of play, and the ineptitude looks systemic.

Utah’s offense floundered in every way possible, shooting worse than 36-percent from the field, missing three out of four threes on their 32 attempts, and mustering only 18 assists. Perhaps even worse, no Jazz player competed with any force in this game, and the only real pace came in the person of a frenetic and wild Dante Exum, who zipped around the court on his way to four points on 11 shot attempts and little else to show for his frenzy.

When Marc Gasol fouled out with 3:41 left in the fourth quarter, the Jazz managed what might with a dose of charity be called a burst of offense, but never managed to close within six. It’s a bad loss to what is most likely a pretty bad team thanks to unquestionably bad offense.   

Stars of the Game

Superstar: None

Marc Gasol (18 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists) and Mike Conley (23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) were the two best players on the floor by a wide margin. But the pair combined to score 41 points on 35 combined shots, a far cry from the production of a true superstar duo1. That they were so obviously superior to any Jazz player crystalized how much the Jazz floundered from top of the roster to bottom of the bench.

Secondary Star: Jae Crowder (15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 of 4 from three)

Crowder was really the only major contributor for the Jazz who should be able to look himself in the mirror after this game. 15 points on 7 shots is hyper-efficient, and it’s the type of offensive impact the team grew to depend upon from Crowder last season, at least in terms of point volume. He didn’t impact the game much at all beyond scoring and rebounding, but that was a clear high-water mark for the Jazz in this game.

Secret Star: Grayson Allen (7 points on 2 shots, 1/1 from three, 2/2 free throws)

Allen made his regular-season NBA debut in a third quarter where the Jazz were absolutely lifeless. Allen gave fans their only real reasons to cheer all night, nailing both of his three point attempts and throwing down a picturesque one handed dunk. Expect Quin Snyder to call Allen’s number earlier in future situations where the Jazz struggle to hit shots. 

Stats of the Game

14-percent — Long range shooting by the Jazz starters, including 1 of 7 for Joe Ingles, 1 of 7 for Donovan Mitchell, and 1 of 5 from Ricky Rubio.

4 — Combined points by Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors in the first half of this game. The Grizzlies defense applied the Warriors’s strategy of dropping defenders into the path of the roll man in Utah’s pick and roll and completely gunked up the Jazz offense.

10 — Jazz points off of turnovers. Last season they averaged nearly 17 per game.

2 — Point advantage for Shelvin Mack, former Jazz man and current Memphis’s backup point guard, over Ricky Rubio’s (six) and Dante Exum’s (four) combined scoring.

5 — Quarters in the last six played where the Jazz scored 22 or fewer points in the period.

Sundries

  • The Grit and Grind days are long passed in Memphis — except when they meet the Jazz. The Grizzlies’s defense tonight was stellar, both overplaying Jazz wings beyond the three point line and hedging passing lanes, all while collapsing into the paint at the slightest provocation. When the Jazz did get the ball at the rim, Gasol always had his body into the offensive player and his hands up in the air, rarely making a play on the ball but trusting his nudges and bumps to throw shots off. It worked. Utah missed 18 shots inside the key.
  • Utah’s starting guards don’t look good. At all. Mitchell is shooting 34-percent from the field and 28-percent from three. He isn’t playing with the same rhythm and confidence as last season and seems to be thinking more than he ever did as a rookie. Meanwhile, Rubio is shooting 25-percent from the floor. A team can’t win many games with guards that offensively anemic, especially if they’re going to combine for over 28 field goal attempts a night. 
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. looked really promising, especially for a 19-year-old. He showed good footwork in the post, springy legs on a put-back dunk, and surprising speed and a solid handle when he took the ball himself from half court and finished at the rim. While he didn’t hit any of his four threes tonight, he did take four and clearly feels confident in that shot. It looks like Memphis has a player there.
  • The Grizzlies aren’t an offense to write home about (or watch when one can possibly avoid it), but the Jazz defense was quite strong tonight even if it was against sub-par competition. Nine of Memphis’s points came on low percentage pull-up, contested threes against the clock: Mike Conley nailed one to close out the third quarter and Shelvin Mack2 drilled two in the final seconds of the shot clock in the fourth quarter. On a night when you’re missing three out of every four threes, a trio of daggers like that can make the difference. It did tonight. 
  • Marc Gasol is a nightmare match-up for Gobert. He combines bulk (which the Frenchman struggles against) with range (which pulls Gobert away from the hoop) and caps it off with a keen knowledge of how to use players’s motion against them, which helps him get shot by and over the league’s best rim protector. The two have had some noted battles and Gobert hasn’t always been on the receiving end, by any means. But when Gasol is hitting his jumper, there are few players more difficult for Gobert to check. 
  • The playbook for how to stymie Utah’s offense is out there, and it isn’t hugely complicated. Switch on the perimeter to keep from ceding advantages to players coming off screens. Drop defenders into the paint to cut off Gobert and Favors rolling to the hoop. Send two or three people to surround Mitchell when he attacks the hoop, and sometimes trap right off the pick. Then keep hands up in passing lanes and trust Utah will eventually force passes trying to get the offense to churn on. They’ll keep seeing this until they learn to routinely counter it. 

It’s way too early for anyone to panic about the Jazz, but a little anxiety isn’t inappropriate. After all, the next six games are all against Western competitors aiming for the playoffs. The Jazz have yet to play a full quality game and have looked disappointing far more often than enticing so far. If that continues Wednesday in Houston, it’s the formula for another loss. 

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.

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