MEMPHIS — The Utah Jazz lost on Wednesday night and it might have been their most impressive performance of the season.

The Jazz were trailing the Memphis Grizzlies by as many as 24 points, including being down by 21 points in the third quarter, and it was probably more rewarding than some of the Jazz’s wins this season.

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This team just doesn’t quit

There are some basketball games that you watch, when one team is just absolutely blowing out the other team and you’ve probably changed the channel, or even left the arena. Players on this Jazz team have been on teams where they felt the same way. They know when they don’t have a chance anymore and when a game is more-or-less over. But this particular Jazz team rarely feels that way.

On Wednesday, the Grizzlies started out the game super hot. It seemed like they couldn’t miss. Meanwhile, the Jazz couldn’t buy a bucket. But they didn’t give up and the players didn’t hang their heads. Instead, they chipped away at the lead and didn’t force anything and they ended up nearly coming all the way back. With 1:28 left to play, an Ochai Agbaji dunk cut the Grizzlies lead to just one point.

“Nobody ever gave up throughout the whole game,” Jordan Clarkson said. “Even though there were a bunch of turnovers, missed shots early, down 20 … Nobody was thinking oh it’s over. We were like we’re for sure coming back in this game.”

That’s the way this Jazz team has been all season. And although many coaches and athletes will tell you that there is no such thing as a moral victory, that’s not true. Because I’ve seen the Jazz locker room after their games and this season they are proud of what they’re able to do, even when the deck is stacked against them.

On Wednesday, All-Star starter Lauri Markkanen was a late scratch due to his right knee being sore. Then, just a few minutes into the first quarter, Collin Sexton left the game after pulling his left hamstring. The Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the league (No. 2 in the West) and have a 24-5 record at home this season. None of that mattered to the Jazz. They just played their tails off and then were proud of the way they competed despite the circumstances.

“I think that if our team plays with that competitiveness, and if they play that together for the rest of the year, we and our fans will be very proud of this team,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said.

Juan Toscano-Anderson

The players the Jazz acquired at the trade deadline (minus Russell Westbrook, who I still believe will not end up playing for the Jazz) made their debut with the team on Wednesday and immediately made a difference.

Not only did Juan Toscano-Anderson knock down his first 3-point attempt, but he showed a whole range of skills in his first game with the team. He was smart and sneaky with how he crashed the glass, he moved well without the ball and made smart spacing decisions and he was also good with the ball in his hands and facilitating at times. He finished the night with seven points, 10 rebounds, an assist and a steal in 25 minutes.

“It’s not just the physical things that he does,” Hardy said of Toscano-Anderson. “He’s an unbelievable communicator, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, he knows how to play making quick decisions … I thought he was great.”

Damian Jones

Damian Jones checked into the game with 2:31 left in the third quarter and that’s about how long it took to realize that Udoka Azubuike might have just lost his job as backup to Walker Kessler.

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Just in that short span at the end of the third, Jones recorded four points, two rebounds and a block. He would go on to finish the night with seven points and two blocks in just 7:40 of total playing time.

His ability to move and change direction really stood out, and he moved well off of screens and in dribble-hand off situations. Also, it didn’t hurt that he gives the Jazz another lob threat.

When Jones and Toscano-Anderson were on the floor together in the third quarter, that’s when the Jazz started their run to come back and they were a huge part of that.

“Damian came in and really gave us a burst athletically,” Hardy said. “Defensively he showed some ability to stay in front of the ball and alter shots at the rim. Clearly a great athlete … We needed a change of pace in tonight’s game, we needed to see if we could find a spark and I thought both of those guys delivered.”

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