Jazz Reverse Second Quarter Blues In Win Over Memphis
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz got back to their winning ways after beating the Memphis Grizzlies 126-112. A hot-shooting second quarter, a short-handed opponent and a few days off helped the Jazz recapture the high level of play they showed early in the season.
The Utah Jazz had lost five of their last six games. And in almost every game, including their lone victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, the story was nearly identical. The Jazz would hang tough with their opponent for the first six minutes of the game. Then, the bench unit would sub in, the opponent would build a lead to end the first quarter — then the Jazz would get blitzed in the second quarter and the game would be out of reach.
Saturday night, the script looked like it was following the now too familiar storyline. With 5:58 left in the first quarter, the Jazz were tied with Memphis at 15. Over the second half of the quarter, the Jazz were outscored 21-17 and entered the second quarter trailing the lowly Grizzlies 36-32.
Call it Déjà vu.
But any fear that the Jazz would once again find themselves with an insurmountable first-half lead was erased thanks to the roster showing a willingness to share the ball and find the hot hand.
Buoyed by five straight makes beyond the three-point line, the Jazz started the second quarter on 25-4 run to take a 57-40 lead. The Jazz were 7-10 overall in the stretch, including four made baskets from reserve Jeff Green.
Green made three consecutive three-point attempts before clanking an alley-oop opportunity from Donovan Mitchell off the back of the rim. Green quickly made up for the error by finishing an alley-oop from Royce O’Neale on the next possession just 10 seconds later.
“I just wanted to be aggressive. When I have the shot take it.” Green said, “I had a couple of lucky ones at the end of the shot clock and one that actually slipped out of my hand but it went it so I’ll take it. My teammates did a great job of penetrating the lane and kicking out and finding the open guy and I just wanted to make the shot.”
The Jazz won the second quarter 37-18, and took a lead into halftime for the first time in six games. As a unit, the team shot a combined 13-23 from the field including 7-11 from the three-point line and 4-4 from the free-throw line. The Grizzlies shot just 7-19 from the floor and 2-10 from three.
An injury-riddled Memphis Grizzlies roster was just what the doctor ordered for a reeling Jazz team, desperate for a win. Memphis came into the game extremely short-handed, missing rookie of the year front-runner Ja Morant, fellow first-round pick Brandon Clarke, and veteran Kyle Anderson.
If depth wasn’t already working against the Grizzlies, center Jonas Valanciunas picked up three personal fouls in seven first-half minutes and Memphis was forced to rely on little-used Grayson Allen, Bruno Caboclo, and De’Anthony Melton to fill out a full 10-man rotation.
The Jazz were shorthanded as well, playing their second consecutive game without starting point guard Mike Conley who sat out with a sore hamstring. Conley was on the floor shooting in the Jazz pregame but was ruled out during the team’s morning shootaround.
Donovan Mitchell got the start for the Jazz at point guard, and had his best game in several weeks. Mitchell finished the game with 22 points on 9-17 shooting including 2-4 from the three-point line. It’s the first time in eight games Mitchell has shot 50% or better from the floor — the Jazz were just 2-5 between the two outings.
Memphis was able to trim the Jazz lead to seven points with 5:04 left to play in the third quarter on an Allen basket, but back to back three-point makes from Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic pushed the lead to 13, and the Grizzlies couldn’t close the gap any further.
Green’s hot shooting continued beyond his second-quarter explosion. The 12th year veteran tied his season-high with 19 points on 7-9 shooting, missing just one of his six three-point attempts.
The Big Picture
The win over Memphis was a good start for a Jazz team that will have to make up for the 1-4 road-trip over the next two weeks to make a push back towards the top half of the Western Conference standings. The Jazz will host Oklahoma City Monday night, before traveling to Minnesota, then returning home for two games against Golden State and Orlando. The Jazz then travel to face Atlanta and Charlotte, two of the six worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
As of Saturday night, the Jazz were just 2.5 games back of the Denver Nuggets for the third-best record in the West.
Inconsistent play from both Emmanuel Mudiay and Dante Exum has left the Jazz with few answers as to who should get the majority of the back-up ball handling minutes with the bench unit.
Last week against Philadelphia Ingles had a breakout performance running the second unit, scoring 13 points and 7 assists in a Jazz loss. Against Memphis, Ingles continued to look comfortable in the role adding 12 points, 10 assists, and 4 steals and leading the Jazz with a game-high +23 plus-minus.
Coach Quin Snyder credited Ingles’ unselfishness as the key to his performance.
“He shared the ball,” Snyder said of Ingles playmaking, “Making plays for other people which he’s good at.”
Getting consistent offensive production from Ingles would go a long way towards solving the Jazz lack of offensive production in the second unit.