‘We are right there’: Memphis Grizzlies refuse to get frustrated after fading late, again, in Game 4 loss to Utah Jazz
For the second-straight game in their Western Conference first-round playoff series, the Jazz outplay the Grizzlies down the stretch to pick up a hard-fought win
Eight awful finishing minutes — four in each of the last two games.
In the Memphis Grizzlies’ minds, that’s all that is keeping them from leading their NBA playoff series with the top-seeded Utah Jazz, instead of trailing 3-1 and being on the verge of elimination.
For the second straight game at FedEx Forum, the upstarts were right there with four minutes remaining, but the veteran Jazz made the big plays down the stretch and took a 120-113 win in Game 4 on Monday night.
Second-year coach Taylor Jenkins said the deja vu-like ending provided more encouragement than frustration, as odd as that may sound.
“We are right there,” Jenkins said. “We are literally going toe-to-toe with the best team in the NBA. We are doing a lot of things great. We gotta find ways to do more.”
“We are right theree. We are literally going toe-to-toe with the best team in the NBA. We are doing a lot of things great. We gotta find ways to do more.” — Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins
As the series moves back to Salt Lake City for Game 5 on Wednesday night, Jenkins promised that his squad would play its best basketball of the season.
“This season isn’t over,” he said.
Two of Utah’s three wins weren’t over until the final few seconds, a fact that Jenkins and the players who spoke to reporters in a postgame Zoom session — De’Anthony Melton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant — emphasized over and over again.
“You are never going to play a perfect game,” Jenkins said. “We have to play a perfect game against this team, and we are so close. Two games in a row it comes down to the last couple of minutes. I would not say I am frustrated. I am so encouraged. All we gotta do is go and win one game on the road. We have won there before.”
In that one, Game 1, the Grizzlies took a big fourth-quarter lead and then hung on for dear life. Clearly, closing out games isn’t a strength for the young team.
It is for the Jazz.
“That’s what makes the Jazz a great team — adjustments,” Melton said.
The former USC standout carried the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter, a rare outburst from a member of Memphis’ bench for the second-straight game after Grayson Allen had 17 in Game 3. Melton rebounded his own miss and made a layup with four minutes, 14 seconds remaining to pull the home team to within three.
After Utah’s second-half hero, Rudy Gobert, made one of two free throws, the Grizzlies misfired on their next three possessions, while the Jazz got 3-pointers from Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to close it out.
“Everybody on that team loves shooting (3-pointers),” Melton said. “They are trying to make records, shooting 3s.”
The Jazz made 17 triples on Monday, after making 19 in Games 2 and 3.
Memphis came out firing 3-pointers as well, then remembered it was Memphis and reverted to Morant and Dillon Brooks attacking the basket, with mixed results. The Grizzlies made just 10 of 35 triples (28.6%) and Morant and Melton both missed wide-open ones in the final few minutes.
“We just gotta find ways to close out better,” said Morant, who was 8 of 21 from the field, including a frosty 1 of 7 from 3-point range, en route to a team-high 23 points.
Jackson Jr. and Brooks added 21 apiece and all 15 of Melton’s points came in the second half.
“They are a great team and they make you pay for mistakes,” Morant said. “It wasn’t about (lack of execution). We just missed too many shots late.”
The Jazz led by as many as nine points in the first half before a pair of Morant buckets trimmed Utah’s lead to five at the break. Utah took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter, then missed its first nine shots of the quarter to let the Grizzlies back in it.
“Give them a lot of credit,” Jenkins said. “That’s why they are the best team in the NBA. I have said it all along. When you don’t take advantage of an opportunity, they are going to make you pay.”
Jenkins told his players to keep their heads up after another gut-busting loss at home.
“Our mentality all season long is to continue to fight, be the most competitive team, the most together team,” Jenkins said. “I have the utmost faith in this group that when we go out and get on a plane tomorrow, we will be ready for Game 5.”