WHO: Memphis Grizzly (39-34, 21-16 away) vs. Utah Jazz (52-20, 31-5 at home)
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. CST
O: Vivint Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN: ESPN / 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Sean McDermott (left foot pain, Out)
Utah: Donovan Mitchell (ankle, doubtful)
PROJECTED STARTING CONFIGURATION:
Memphis: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr. Jonas Valanciunas
UTAH: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’neale, Rudy Gobert
For the first time since the 2016-17 season, the Memphis Grizzlies are in the playoffs.
A common connection between the Grizzlies then and the Grizzlies now is that their point guard is the main reason they made the playoffs.
A wonderful tale of this playoff series between the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies is that then Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley now faces Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant.
However, as wonderful as this tale is for Grizzlies fans, the only thing that matters for this current list of Grizzlies is that their work isn’t done.
Without a doubt, there should be plenty of reasons to celebrate the Grizzlies making the playoffs. However, this celebration is only valid for one night. Making the playoffs means you have a chance to win an NBA title. Without a doubt, this is where the focus of this Grizzlies team changed.
Sadly, Utah Jazz stands in their way in the Grizzlies’ pursuit of the NBA title. The Jazz produced the best NBA record this season and thus won first place in the Western Conference. Their depth as well as their ability to shoot and defend all three is remarkable. Without a doubt, the Grizzlies are major underdogs in this playoff round. However, there are ways the Grizzlies can at least make things competitive.
Here are a few ways Memphis can make the series interesting from the start:
In terms of NBA benches, the Jazz and Grizzlies finished among the top 10 reserve units in points per game, FG% and production of three points. Jazz have the best bench duo in the league, as Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson are both finalists for Sixth Man of the Year. The Grizzlies are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but their bench has struggled recently.
However, the Grizzlies bench shone on Friday night. And with the way the Jazz shoots all three, the trio of Grayson Allen, Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton must be prepared to hit some deep shots. When it comes to starting units, the Grizzlies are at a disadvantage. The Memphis bench needs to produce, especially beyond the arc, for Memphis to have a chance to win tonight and overall in this playoff round.
The Utah Jazz finished in the top five in the NBA in both shooting and defense. The Memphis Grizzlies didn’t. However, a key perspective in this game comes from the start of the season. The Grizzlies faced Utah in three games over a five-night span at the end of March. Memphis lost all three games.
However, coach Taylor Jenkins and his team have found plenty of adjustments to make. The end result was perhaps the most productive period of attacking play in Grizzlies history. For much of April, the Grizzlies were in the top five teams in the NBA in both shooting and defending all three. They will still need that type of effort to win several games against Utah in this series.
In addition to being effective at defending all three, the Grizzlies need to stay disciplined. They were average for the league or better in terms of flipping and fouls. While the Utah Jazz have been successful in preventing fouls, they are 18th in the NBA for turnovers per game. The Grizzlies have had long periods of ingrained defense creating turnovers or defending the three-point line well. In this playoff series, the two defense forces of the Memphis team must show through.
Despite their youth, the Grizzlies know what to expect. The key is to play attacking basketball well and stay disciplined in defense. If Memphis can handle the basketball, they can find their eyes open. Considering their opponent, the Grizzlies need to hit as many open looks as possible. In the end, it feels like Memphis needs to play as close to his cap as possible to get the win. The Grizzlies did just that on Friday night: they look set to do it all over again in Game 1 tonight.
Final score: Grizzlies 111 Jazz 105
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