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Instant analysis: Jazz win first of trio of games against Grizzlies

Utah beat Memphis 117-114, winning the first of three games the two teams will play against each other over the course of six days.

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Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots over Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (15) during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 26, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies 117-114 in the first of three games the two teams will play against each other over the course of six days.

High notes

  • With just over a minute left to play and the Jazz leading by just six points, Donovan Mitchell encouraged the crowd to make noise while Ja Morant was shooting free throws and the fans obliged. The Grizzlies cut the Jazz lead down to three points before a wild final 13 seconds, which is all probably more important in the grand scheme of things, but I just like these moments where life feels close to normal again and that was a good moment. Now, to the game.
  • In order to secure the win the Jazz needed two big plays right at the end of the game and the first one came from Rudy Gobert, who closed out on Dillon Brooks at the 3-point line. It was one of the best closeouts I’ve seen from him, definitely one of the best of this year. It capped off a dominant performance from Gobert, who finished the night with 25 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
  • The second play that sealed the victory was Mike Conley winning a jump ball with just 1.9 seconds left on the game clock. You may not remember, but when the second half of the All-Star Game began, Conley went against Chris Paul for the jump ball and didn’t know that he was going to be doing it until basically the second before it happened. He joked about feeling a little ridiculous in the moment. It’s not like those are the only times that Conley has taken part in a jump ball. He’s certainly dived and fought for many loose balls in his career, but it was funny that it just happened to be that moment that was needed for the Jazz to finish out this game with the W.

“Mike got bounce. We’ve still got a rolling bet in the locker room, we’re still waiting for him to dunk. So we should have put a bet on him winning a jump ball too. He wears Jordan. They only sign people that dunk and do stuff like that and Mike is the only one that stays on the ground so hopefully he gets a dunk soon and we win some money on that.” —Jordan Clarkson

“I haven’t seen Mike jump that high since Ohio State. That’s just a winning play.” —Donovan Mitchell

  • Oh and by the way, Conley’s defense is consistently underrated. He’s very good on that side of things.
  • Donovan Mitchell had quite the mixed bag of a game, but overall it was pretty good so we’ll cover the whole thing here in the high notes. He opened the game up continuing to prove that he can hit step-backs at the end of a shot clock with ease, and his second quarter was electric. In that period he went 5 of 5 overall including hitting 2 of 2 from 3-point range. He was cooking and smiling and just looking really confident. In the third quarter he fell off a bit. The Grizzlies were playing him tougher and getting up into him earlier and farther out. His free and confident body language changed and he looked frustrated. Then he came up big in the fourth hitting timely buckets when the Jazz desperately needed them. He finished with 35 points, six assists and five rebounds.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic seems intent on pulling himself out of his recent slump and is continuing to fight for easier buckets rather than shoot his way out and it’s really working. Not only that but he continues to really work harder on the defensive end. I’ve been really impressed with the way he is contesting shots the last couple of games. He was just 1 of 3 from deep on Friday, but he was 8 of 15 overall and got those shots on backdoor cuts and by exploiting mismatches and going to the rim strong.
  • Ja Morant is a sneaky, athletic, unrelenting player and he’s just flat out special.
  • With about 4:30 left in the second quarter, the Jazz had some great help defense and the rotations were so good that I made a note of the time. Jordan Clarkson slid out to the corner to contest a shot and when his man got by Mitchell he was right there to stop him and even then Derrick Favors was the insurance on the back line that sealed the defensive possession. That’s the kind of thing the Jazz weren’t doing a couple of weeks ago when they were kind of losing themselves defensively and it is nice to see them get back on track. They still need to pick things up but these are hopeful signs.
  • Also, Derrick Favors looks like he’s getting back to being himself. A really nice stretch of games recently.

“I know we’re not throwing the best passes to him but he’s got hands like Julio Jones and he’s just grabbing them, finishing them and making the next play.” —Jordan Clarkson on Derrick Favors

Low notes

  • Hesitation Royce O’Neale strikes again. Not that he really ever left, but he was doing a better job lately. That’s not the whole point though. I think that when O’Neale hesitates to shoot open 3s that it’s contagious. There were a couple times that he passed up an open look and when he gave up the ball to Mitchell, Mitchell then passed on an open look for a tougher contested shot inside the arc.
  • The Memphis bench is one of the best in the league and the Jazz knew that they were going to have to be really strong during the minutes when Gobert and one of the other starters were sitting. The first time that Gobert subbed out of the game the Grizzlies made them pay, scoring on six of the eight possessions that followed the Favors substitution. That’s not just on Favors, who looked pretty good on Friday. There was way more penetration and just a lack of rotation on the perimeter that opened up shots and driving lanes and made things really difficult.

Flat notes

  • Georges Niang was called for a foul with just over eight minutes left in the fourth. It was just his second foul but he was furious. He talked to the official for quite a while after and then went back to the bench completely dejected. I’m not saying that the foul call was correct or that it’s not OK for players to be upset after calls they don’t agree with, that happens all the time. I just don’t like that look for Niang specifically. He seems like a player that is harder on himself than anyone else is and right now he’s playing really well. He’s shooting the ball well and has good positioning on defense and it would be unfortunate if something like that took him out of his groove. 
  • Brandon Clarke’s shot form is ... definitely something. What is going on there?