UTAH JAZZ

Jazz All-Stars Outduel Morant In Game Two Victory

May 27, 2021, 12:12 AM
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley drives past Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (Photo by Alex Goodlett/G...
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley drives past Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-129, carried by their three All-Stars who send the series back Memphis tied at one game apiece.

Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley reached scored at least 20 points for the Jazz en route to their first win of the series.

Ja Morant scored a Grizzlies record 47 points in a dazzling display but didn’t have enough in the fourth quarter to overcome a large Jazz lead.

All-Stars Carry Jazz To Victory

The Jazz welcomed Mitchell back to the lineup after missing 17 games with a severely sprained ankle, and he did not disappoint.

The fourth-year guard scored 25 points while knocking down 5-10 shots from the three-point line to lead all Jazz scorers.

Conley recorded his second consecutive playoff double-double, scoring 20 points and dishing out 15 assists, and finding a much easier offensive rhythm than he did in game one.

Gobert dominated on both ends, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds while blocking four shots in the Jazz victory.

In game one, the Jazz played without Mitchell, while both Gobert and Conley found themselves in foul trouble, limiting the team to just 58 combined minutes in the loss.

While Mitchell played just 25 minutes, he allowed the Jazz rotations to return closer to normal, creating an opportunity for Conley and Gobert to take over the game early in the fourth quarter.

With Mitchell on a minutes restriction, Gobert and Conley combined to play 73 minutes, including all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and helped rally the Jazz to a 9-0 run at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth to help the Jazz take control of the game.

“I don’t want to have to play 12 minutes in the fourth,” Conley said after the game, “but I know I’m capable of doing it.”

The two veterans combined for 18 points on 8-10 shooting from the floor in the final period, with Gobert adding three rebounds and Conley contributing eight assists to seal the victory.

How Long Can Donovan Mitchell Play Like This?

Mitchell looked tremendous in his return, knocking down three three-points in the first quarter while scoring 12 of his 25 points to help the Jazz jump out to a 36-27 lead after 12 minutes.

The guard proved to be the antidote for Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks who scored 33 points to lead Memphis in game one. Mitchell repeatedly challenged Brooks off the dribble, putting the star defender in foul trouble throughout the first half and helping to limit him to 23 points in 28 minutes on the floor.

Despite Mitchell’s brilliance, there were several scary moments when the All-Star appeared to favor his injured ankle after attacking the basket.

When attacking the rim, the guard didn’t have his typical bounce near the rim, shooting just 3-9 inside the arc and landing hard on the floor on several trips into the paint.

After the game, Mitchell insisted his ankle was fine but admitted there was a mental hurdle to get over after retaking the floor.

“Jumping off the foot that way for the first time that hard in five weeks, landing and cutting, those things you definitely think about,” Mitchell said. “But once you get through the first two, it’s like alright, good, I trusted I was fine.”

Mitchell’s hot three-point shooting was key in his return, but how can he impact the game if his shot abandons him? Does the injured guard have the ability to get downhill and attack the paint, or will he be relegated to the three-point shooter for the remainder of the series?

Those are questions Mitchell and the Jazz will have to find the answer to in the coming days, and they might ultimately determine who emerges victorious from the series.

How Long Can Ja Morant Play Like That?

While the Jazz will be monitoring the health of Mitchell’s ankle, they’ll also have to head back to the drawing board to figure how to break the rhythm of Ja Morant.

The second-year guard scored a franchise-record 47 points, and took over long stretches of the game, specifically in the third quarter.

After building a 20 point halftime lead, the Jazz came out of the break to casually against Morant and he made them pay.

The guard scored 25 of his 47 points in the second half and needed just 11 field-goal attempts to do it, as the Jazz lead was trimmed to as small as two with under four minutes left in the third quarter.

With the Jazz in foul trouble in the fourth quarter, Morant repeatedly earned nine trips to the free-throw line in the final period while attempting only four field-goal attempts to keep the pressure on the Jazz defense.

“He just saw too much space and when he sees that, he’s just going to attack those gaps and those seams,” Quin Snyder said after the game. “There are some things that we tried to do a little differently as the game went on.”

The performance was eerily similar to that of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray who repeatedly burned the Jazz in their opening-round loss last season, as the team’s defenders simply didn’t have an answer for the high-scoring ball handler.

While the two players have different styles of play, the Jazz defensive options seemed limited against the emerging superstar.

Heading into game three, the Jazz will have to make adjustments to slow Morant or risk watching another high-scoring ball handler send them packing in the first round of the playoffs.

Last year, the Jazz couldn’t focus all of their defensive attention on Murray as the Nuggets had too many weapons surrounding him.

Morant doesn’t have a Nikola Jokic, a Michael Porter Jr., or a Jerami Grant around him, and the Jazz may have to risk letting the Grizzlies role players beat them in an effort to slow the guard down.

The Jazz and Grizzlies have two days off before tipping off in game three at Memphis.

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Jazz All-Stars Outduel Morant In Game Two Victory