Jazz Win Four Straight, Smother Grizzlies In Series Finale

Jun 2, 2021, 11:34 PM
Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale gets tied up with Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen (Photo by A...
Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale gets tied up with Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz blew out the Memphis Grizzlies 126-110 and advanced out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

After losing the series opener to the Grizzlies, the Jazz won games 2-5 to become the first team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz in scoring with 30 points, 26 of which came in the first half to carry the Jazz to the second playoff series win in his young career.

The Grizzlies were led by Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant who scored 27 points each in the series finale but fell well short of making it a competitive game.

Mitchell Carries Jazz To Insurmountable Lead

If the Jazz learned one thing in this series, it’s that almost no lead is safe against this feisty Grizzlies roster. Almost, almost no lead.

Rather than settle for a low double-digit lead in the first half, which the Grizzlies would inevitably erase, and turn into a single possession game in the fourth quarter, Mitchell helped the Jazz storm out of the gate by building an enormous 47-27 lead after 12 minutes.

The Jazz were essentially perfect in the opening 12 minutes, knocking down 18-26 field goals and 9-15 from the three-point line while committing just one turnover.

The team’s 47 points were a postseason franchise record, led by Mitchell who scored 14 points on 6-8 shooting including 2-3 from the three-point line in just over six minutes on the floor.

“You can’t give a team like that life,” Mitchell said. “You saw that at the end of the game, you give them some glimmer of hope and then they come out there and start making shots. So we just wanted to try and take that from them early.”

The Jazz lead eventually ballooned to 35 before Memphis chipped away at the enormous deficit in the fourth quarter.

Mitchell now stands alone with the second most 30 point games in Jazz history, passing Adrian Dantley with 11, but trailing Karl Malone who had 52 outings of at least 30 points.

For the series, Mitchell averaged 28.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the three-point line.

The Jazz went undefeated with Mitchell on the floor, after losing game one while the All-Star guard was sidelined with an ankle injury.

We’ve got to continue to have the same level of effort and intensity every game throughout these playoffs,” Mitchell said. “Tonight was good, but we did what we’re supposed to do, and we’ve got to go out there and take care of business next round.”

While Mitchell scored 30, Rudy Gobert added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Jazz, the fourth time the All-Star center has recorded a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in his career.

Jazz Role Players Dominate Grizzlies

Though Mitchell and Gobert were the clear stars for the Jazz, they got more than enough help from their supporting cast.

For the second straight game, Royce O’Neale and Jordan Clarkson were terrific either spreading the floor and giving the Jazz a needed scoring threat off the bench.

O’Neale finished with 17 points, one shy of his playoff career-high while knocking down 7-11 shots from the floor. The forward also grabbed six rebounds and recorded four steals in 35 minutes.

After struggling badly to open the series, Clarkson turned it around ahead of the second round. Clarkson scored 24 points in 30 minutes off the bench to help spell Mitchell for an extended stretch during the game.

“JC really picked his spots,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Obviously, he made some buckets, but he also got into the lane and broke the defense down and that was what we were trying to do.”

The Sixth Man of the Year award winner averaged just 15 points on 36 percent shooting through the first three games of the series but saw his average climb to 24 points on 44 percent shooting over games four and five.

Bojan Bogdanovic also did his part to help the Jazz closeout Memphis. The Croatian forward had a quietly terrific series averaging 18.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists while shooting a blistering 49 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the three-point line.

Bogdanovic’s performance is important for the Jazz as the sharpshooting forward had struggled early in the season when playing third fiddle behind Mitchell and Mike Conley.

The Jazz will need Bogdanovic to keep his efficiency up, even if his shot attempts drop during the playoffs.

Conley Leaves Game With Hamstring Soreness

The Jazz nearly perfect performance was marred by an injury to Mike Conley who left the game in the second quarter after feeling tightness in his right hamstring.

It’s the third time this season Conley has been diagnosed with hamstring tightness, an injury that first bothered the veteran before the All-Star break.

Conley missed six games in February rehabbing the injury but reaggravated it in April, missing nine of the Jazz’s last 11 games of the season. The guard had appeared in six straight games for the Jazz since returning on April 14 but left early on in game five.

“The first quarter I felt a little tug or whatever in my hammy, I came to the bench and made the staff aware,” Conley said. “I told them I’d try to just run on it and play through it and see how it feels, and it just kept getting sorer and sorer the more I was running on it.”

The injury could have major consequences on the Jazz in the second if Conley is once again out for an extended period of time. The Jazz are now awaiting the outcome of the first-round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks to see who they’ll face in the second round of the playoffs.

The Mavericks took a 3-2 series lead with a victory in Los Angeles in game five, and are headed back to Dallas for a potential closeout game on Friday. If necessary, game seven between the two teams would be held on Sunday, with game one of the conference semifinals beginning early next week.

That could allow the Jazz to give Conley as many as six days off before game one, and an important stretch for rest if the guard is cleared to return.

After the game, said he was optimistic he’d return, but understood that is up to his body and the team’s trainers.

“Obviously, it’s the playoffs so my mindset is to be ready to play,” Conley said, “so that’s the visual I’m going to put in front of myself that I’m going to be ready. But at the same time, we’re going just see what happens in the next few days and be smart about how we approach it.”

The guard is set for an MRI Thursday morning.

Conley played a significant role for the Jazz in the playoffs before his injury. The guard averaged 20 points, 10.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 53 percent from the three-point line in the opening-round series.

He’s also provided invaluable support to Mitchell late in games when opposing defenses have focused on the fourth-year guard.

Joe Ingles started the second half in Conley’s absence. After beginning the series averaging 12.5 points on 66 percent shooting from the floor and 60 percent from three, the veteran cooled off considerably.

Ingles scored just five points total in games three and four and went scoreless in game five.

The Jazz went 15-6 this season in games Conley missed due to his hamstring injury.

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