UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Sweep Grizzlies After Harrowing 36 Hour Ordeal

Mar 31, 2021, 10:14 PM | Updated: 10:28 pm
Utah Jazz defenders surround Memphis Grizzlies guard Kyle Anderson (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Imag...
Utah Jazz defenders surround Memphis Grizzlies guard Kyle Anderson (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz overcame the Memphis Grizzlies with a 111-107 victory, but more importantly, the team escaped physically unscathed after a harrowing 36 hours.

The team’s plane hit a flock of birds shortly after departing the Salt Lake International Airport on Tuesday, forcing the plane to return to Salt Lake to make an emergency landing. Less than seven hours later, the team was back on a flight, without Donovan Mitchell who still rattled from the earlier issues, and headed towards Memphis.

Once on the court, guard Mike Conley led all Jazz scorers with 26 points against his former team, while Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 47 points in the Jazz victory.

Ja Morant scored 36 points to lead Memphis but came up short against the Jazz for the third time in the six days.

Jazz Detail Terrifying Plane Trip

Much of the discussion with Jazz players and coaches during pregame and postgame interviews was focused on the Jazz ill-fated first attempt to travel to Memphis.

From the first-hand accounts, the ordeal was far more terrifying than the photo and video evidence had implied.

“For good 10 to 15 minutes, I think all of us on that flight were questioning if we were really going to be here today,” Conley said. “So that’s how serious it was for us.”

According to Conley, as the plane was making its ascent, there was a loud boom in one of the plane’s engines indicating something had gone seriously wrong.

“All of a sudden it felt like there was an explosion. Literally, that’s what it sounded like for most people,” Conley said.

“We started to bounce then just started tilting to the left. People on the back of the plane said they saw flames.”

Though the flight lasted only 16 minutes according to radar trackers, there were moments when the Jazz players weren’t sure they were going to make it off the plane alive.

“At least 30 seconds in that flight, everybody came to a point where it was like, ‘Man, this might be over for us,'” Clarkson said. “You know, it’s sad to say that.”

Players aboard the plane were texting loved ones in case the plane was unable to land safely, pushing the team to reflect on the most important aspects of their lives.

“In the moment, and really, in hindsight, you have a gratitude and appreciation for the many people and relationships that we all have in our lives,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I feel fortunate that those are things that I think we say and we mean, but in those times you truly feel.”

Ultimately, the plane landed safely, and the Jazz were able to reboard a flight headed to Memphis late Tuesday evening, but not before a truly frightening few minutes.

“We’re just thrilled and thankful for pilots and staff and when they were able to do to get us back home safely,” Conley said. “I think a lot of us were shook up.”

Jazz Win With Odds Stacked Against Them

Considering everything the team had been through over the previous day and a half, nobody could have faulted the Jazz had they no-showed against Memphis Wednesday night, satisfied simply to have escaped their flight uninjured.

But that’s not all that was working against the Jazz. These two teams had faced one another twice already in the last six days with the Jazz sweeping the Friday-Saturday meetings in Salt Lake City.

Adding further difficulty, leading scorer Donovan Mitchell chose to stay home after Tuesday’s events.

Instead of folding, however, the Jazz left Memphis with one of their most impressive wins of the season.

“You don’t beat a team three times a week very often,” Conley said of the team’s performance. “So for us to come out, given the circumstances, we didn’t make any excuses, we just went out there and we played our ball and competed as best we could.”

Conley scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter on a perfect 5-5 shooting, outdueling Morant, his heir apparent in Memphis to get the win.

Clarkson and Bogdanovic both continued to fight their way out of shooting gluts and sparked the Jazz with 47 combined points.

Clarkson had his worth month of the season during March, averaging 14.5 points while shooting just 34 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three.

However, with Mitchell out, the guard gave the Jazz a valuable 24 points and seven rebounds off the bench, though it took him 22 shots to get there.

Bogdanovic’s slump has lasted most of the season, albeit with enough bright spots along the way to make it seem as though the end of his struggles is always on the horizon.

Against Memphis, the forward had 23 points on just 6-17 shooting, but connected on 5-12 from beyond the three-point line to help carry the Jazz short-handed offense.

Bogdanovic hadn’t broken the 20 point threshold in 11 straight games with the Jazz, his longest stretch since signing in Utah, so Wednesday’s performance was a welcome sign when the Jazz desperately needed it.

The Jazz have now won seven straight after a rocky start to the month and finished their worst season of the month with an impressive 9-4 record.

The team now returns to Salt Lake City where they will face the Chicago Bulls on Friday with a chance to earn their franchise-record 21st consecutive victory at home.

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