The Utah Jazz understandably sat Donovan Mitchell for another game after he apparently didn’t look like he was moving right at their shootaround. His absence ended up haunting them.
If the Memphis Grizzlies were tired from having to play two play-in games to earn they playoff berth, they sure dug deep to hold onto a tight 112-109 victory against the Utah Jazz. It was funny hearing the announcers continually bring up how Memphis may run out of gas, how fatigue would make a difference, but they didn’t blow it in the end.
It’s safe to say that the Grizzlies, whose average age hovers around 24-years-old, were not put off by the big moment. An early 14-point Jazz lead didn’t even seem to faze them, and they went on a 27-7 run that then allowed them to start building their own big lead.
Ja Morant (26 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST) had a good game, but he was able to rely on another X-Factor tonight in the form of Dillon Brooks (31 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK).
Morant and Brooks were just too much for the Jazz to overcome, and they were backed up by gritty performances from Jonas Valanciunas (15 PTS, 13 REB, 3 AST) and Kyle Anderson (14 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST, 6 STL). Memphis simply didn’t seem to have a grasp of the word “quitting” and their confidence in themselves has paid off by giving them home-court advantage with a 1-0 series lead.
The playoffs have to be taken on a game-by-game basis, and it’s good to remember that last year’s first-seeded Lakers lost Game 1 in the first round before winning four-straight against the Blazers.
There are too many other factors that need to be considered, such as Mitchell’s continuing injury woes, Rudy Gobert (11 PTS, 15 REB, 3 BLK) fouling out of the game, and the Jazz shooting atrociously from three. They took a ridiculous 47 three-pointers and only made 12 of them (25.5%). As one of the best deep-shooting teams in the NBA, who finished fourth in three-point percentage at 38.9% in the regular season, they’re going to shoot better next game. Considering that Game 1 was decided by three points, Utah will rue all of those missed chances.
What the Jazz should worry about most, though, is that they’ve now given confidence to a young and hungry team.
The Grizzlies deserve all the credit for their win. They played a great game as a team, never gave up, and then stayed composed and held on to seal the victory. We’re watching a talented young squad grow and mature in real-time.
Memphis will have to figure out a few things as well before Game 2. The Jazz were able to will their way to the line tonight, shooting 29 of 33, which kept them in the game. They can’t rely on Gobert fouling out again in their next matchup, and they were out rebounded 50-43 for the game even with the Frenchman sitting out the last four minutes of the game.
The Grizzlies will also have to find a way to guard Bojan Bogdanovic (29 PTS, 5 REB, 2STL), who went scoreless in the first half but then erupted in the second – including making all nine of his free throws.
All I know is that we’ve got ourselves a series now, and I can’t wait for Game 2.