You guessed it, yet another “biggest game of the season”. And on national TV to boot.
It’s easy to see where the Jazz are headed…they’re just not quite there yet. Their birthdates are mostly relatively recent, and that often is a major impedance to NBA success.
Could the Grizzlies get off to the ever-coveted “great start to the interminable road trip”?
Seven things, let’s look at ’em…
Thing one: Post play. Now Derrick Favors, bless his heart (if you’re from the south, you’re aware that there’s not a more backhanded compliment in the human lexicon). He ate grizzly bear for lunch in the first half, and 22 and 10 is a nice game-but he became a victim of the grind in the fourth quarter. 14 and 7 at the halfway point, and he didn’t get his looks thereafter-I’d imagine he was a top-of-list discussion in the Grizzlies’ locker room. Gasol had an interesting night-his frustration was evident before and after a play where he took an elbow to the noggin on the way to the hoop-but he and Conley began to work together well early in the fourth and said work resulted in a nice 18 and 7 for Big Spain.
Thing two: Not hard to imagine that Burke had this game circled on his calendar-national TV and a matchup with an, dare I say it, upper-tier NBA vet PG. Yes, he’s a typically rambunctious rookie, but he seemed to have extra pep in his step this night. Like Favors, he had his way in the first half, but going 0-3 from three in Q3 was one of the things that let the Grizzlies back in toward the end of it. Sure, the Grizzlies went down sixteen at 65-49, but the rookie rambunctiousness overcame his energetic game.
Thing three: Baskets that count for, well, three. The Jazz have guys who can hit from distance, although they’re below-average percentage-wise in the league. Richard Jefferson leads the Jazz in three-point percen…..huh? Really? Almost 43%? No kidding? Yep. And guys like him are the no-namers (ok, ok, he’s a bit of a “name”) who kill the Grizzlies on any given night when things aren’t going well. This game illustrated what is perhaps the best outcome from distance for which the Grizzlies might hope in a “normal” game-they only take nine but make four, and the opponent takes almost twice as many but only makes five.
Thing four: Tony Allen probably shouldn’t have played. We’ve all suffered some form of that nasty flu-type bug this winter, and he obviously was still feeling the effects. Have to admire his determination, but his ten minutes were all in the first half, and he missed all five of his FGA’s, all but one, if memory serves, were point-blankers.
Thing five: The Jazz took away the Grizzlies’ first option extremely well in the first half. What was already a somewhat-halting Grizzlies offensive pace (always is, right?) was slowed even further by good scheming from the home team. The spots were being hit, the Jazz were just there waiting. The high-low didn’t work (Gasol, ZBo, Koufos, Leuer…didn’t work for any combo of them), and the Jazz were able to cut off the Grizzlies PG’s at the elbow (there were some chip shots, but many were missed due to timely interference from Favors). The screens in the second half were better, and the movement after them was quicker as well.
Thing six: Grizzlies played eleven guys, with all except Leuer logging at least fifteen minutes. Even Leuer’s stretch in the first half was significant. Joerger left out only Udrih and Davis, and leaving out the latter seemed a bit odd when pitting him against Favors might have been helpful in the first half. Likely thinking was Leuer for spacing. Dr. JJ had a great stint in the second half, with a longish 13 minutes spanning the third and fourth. His 1-4 shooting was not eye-popping by any stretch, but as he is wont to do, he contributed high energy and helped the team wrap that muddy boot around the Jazz’ basketball shoes.
Thing seven: It was 84-77 and things looked dark in Grizzland. Then, a 12-0 run. These guys have more guts in their little fingers than most of us have in the entire large intestine, INCLUDING THE COLON. If you don’t get that slightly modified movie reference, you’ve missed a true classic. The line fit this night, however. Conley, Lee, Miller, Gasol, and Randolph put it on the Jazz, who were playing a large-ish lineup with Hayward at the SG, with Marvin Williams (?) playing the whole fourth quarter.
Gasol, Randolph, and Conley carried the team. We’ve heard that line a lot, eh? The three cornerstones got the team off to a winning start on a HUUUUGE road trip-someone else will need to take the reins at some point on this western swing.
Gotta keep winning.