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Analysis: Jazz improve to 6-2 on the season after blowing out Grizzlies

The Jazz swept the Grizzlies while they were in town and it didn’t matter that Ja Morant returned to play in the second game

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The Utah Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen looks for a passing lane.

The Utah Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen (23) looks for a passing lane while playing the Memphis Grizzlies in an NBA game in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. The Jazz won 121-105.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

The Memphis Grizzlies were in Utah for a baseball-like series against the Jazz. They played at Vivint Arena on Saturday night and again on Monday night.

When the Jazz eked out a one-point win over the Grizzlies on Saturday, with Ja Morant sidelined because of an illness, many were waiting to pass judgment until the teams met again on Monday.

Well, the Jazz swept the Grizzlies while they were in town and it didn’t matter that Morant returned to play in the second game. The Jazz led by as many as 25 and earned a commanding 121-105 win, despite Morant’s 37 points.

The Jazz improved to 6-2 on the season and head out for a three-game trip where they’ll face the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Lauri Markkanen

There’s no doubt, even though we’re just eight games into the 2022-23 season, that Lauri Markkanen is the Jazz’s best player. He finished Monday’s game with a team-high 31 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high four blocked shots. This season he’s averaging a career-best 22.6 points per game to go with 9.3 rebounds.

“He’s an All-Star,” teammate Malik Beasley said. “I want him to get that this year. So we’ve got to make sure we continue winning and get him that ballot vote.”

It would have sounded absolutely insane before this season began to think that anyone on this roster would have a chance at an All-Star selection from the Jazz, and ultimately, Markkanen is going to have a tough time in the Western Conference, whether he’s considered a frontcourt player or not. But his play in these early days has absolutely turned heads around the league and surprised people.

“There’s a lot more that he can do than I thought previously,” Mike Conley said. “Once we found that out in training camp, it was like we were trying to keep him a secret. But he’s starting to show the world who he is.”

It’s hard to really even pin down who Markkanen is as a player. He plays the five sometimes, and he looks like his defense is continuously improving, he plays as a four and three and guards smaller players, knocks down 3-pointers, is a rim runner, is great with the ball in his hands, scores at all three levels, and, and, and.

He’s been put into a pretty unique situation in Utah, with a team that doesn’t have a go-to player and it’s given him a lot of freedom to explore and expand his game which is paying off in big ways.

Malik Beasley

When he’s not promoting his teammate to make the All-Star team in October, Beasley is still finding his way on this Jazz team and he had his best performance of the season on Monday with 18 points, four rebounds and four assists, going 4 of 9 from 3-point land and 7 of 12 overall.

Beasley has kind of made a name for himself in the NBA for being a consistent and reliable 3-point shooter with a career average of 38.5%, but he’s also someone that the Jazz trust a lot on the defensive end and he’s been showing the ability to move without the ball a bit more as of late.

“I don’t want to just be a 3-point shooter,” Beasley said. “I want to make sure I can get downhill and make the right plays for the guys, get some assists. And tonight without Walker (Kessler), I realized last game that I didn’t get no rebounds, so I had to rebound tonight. I made sure that was a priority and it ended up being a good game.”

Halloween fun

Though the Jazz officially celebrated Halloween on Saturday night after the game at a party hosted by Jordan Clarkson (you should check out their Instagram accounts for some great photos), a few of the players continued the fun on Monday night.

Beasley, Clarkson, Collin Sexton, Jarred Vanderbilt and Talen Horton-Tucker arrived at the arena in costume. Beasley as Superman, Clarkson as Jack Skellington, Sexton as an evil clown and Vanderbilt and Horton-Tucker were dressed as Chris Tucker and Ice Cube’s characters from the movie Friday.

The Jazz beat writers also carried some of the Halloween fun into the arena. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden was excellent as lead Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, the Tribune’s Andy Larsen was a reindeer, and I went as a Slytherin student from Hogwarts (I like to think I was a future Malfoy descendant).

Clarkson loved Walden’s costume and gave it an expletive-laden compliment and also noted that, “Slytherin is the coolest house.”

Later, two-way player Micah Potter confirmed that he is a Gryffindor, as all Potters are and Lauri Markkanen, who said he is currently rereading all the “Harry Potter” books and  rewatching all the films as a longtime fan, said that he is a Hufflepuff.

Finally, as the reporters were leaving the court after the game, Memphis’ Steven Adams saw us as he talked with friends and said, “Yeah, Slytherin!”

While none of this seems to have anything to do with basketball, I always find it interesting and fun when you can get a little glimpse into the personalities of the players.