Clutch Kelly Olynyk Becomes Jazz Closer In Win Over Grizzlies

Oct 29, 2022, 11:30 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2022, 12:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz stunned the Memphis Grizzlies by erasing a five-point deficit over the final 2:41 of the fourth quarter and earning a 124-123 victory.

Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk combined for 46 points while Jordan Clarkson chipped in 21 points and six critical assists in the win.

The Jazz moved to 5-2 on the season and sit in third place in the West.

Kelly The Closer

One of the Jazz’s biggest questions entering the season was who would get the ball late in games when the team needed a bucket.

Truthfully, the Jazz still don’t have a closer, as Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarson, Malik Beasley, and Kelly Olynyk have each taken turns making big shots in the team’s five wins.

But in clutch moments so far this season, Olynyk has stood above the rest.

The tenth-year big man is shooting a staggering 63 percent from the floor in clutch situations this year, and a perfect 100 percent from three.

Against the Grizzlies, Olynyk scored 10 fourth-quarter points, knocked down all three of his field goal attempts including two threes, and added two free throws to boot.

It’s a new role for the 31-year-old who has started and closed fewer than 30 percent of his 617 career games.

“I’ve not really been a full-time closing guy,” Olynyk admitted after his big fourth quarter.

Olynyk’s three with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter gave the Jazz a 121-120 advantage, and the Grizzlies were never able to regain the lead.

“Kelly’s been making huge plays for us,” Markkanen said. “Not just three-pointers, but we all know what he did to win the New Orleans game.”

Making game-winners is a bit of an ironic role for Olynyk who the Jazz acquired in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic, their last great late-game shooter.

When asked whether he thinks he has a history of making clutch shots, the Gonzaga product was unsure of how he stacked up against other NBA players.

“I’d like to think I do,” Olynyk said.

As it turns out, Olynyk has shown a consistent pattern of strong fourth quarter performances.

Saturday night’s 10 point outing was the 27th double-digit fourth quarter the center has had in his career, despite rarely closing games during his 10 seasons in the league.

Ochai Agbaji Finds His Mojo

With Mike Conley sitting, and Rudy Gay, Simone Fontecchio, and Walker Kessler missing the game due to illness, Ochai Agbaji saw real rotation minutes against the Grizzlies for a second straight night.

The rookie shot just 2-6 from the floor but found a way to impact the game with his rebounding.

Agbaji grabbed four rebounds to go with seven points in 17 minutes.

“I’ve just encouraged Ochai to get himself into the game,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Try to make some hustle plays — crash the glass, pick up defensively — to just try to create a little Mojo for himself.”

Agbaji found a rhythm by snaring three offensive rebounds and knocking down 3-5 free throw attempts.

“He’s showing us that he actually has a pretty good nose for the ball, I’m not sure we knew that coming in,” Hardy said. “But he really is able to pick good angles coming out of the corner crashing, so really happy with him.”

Whether Agabji remains in the lineup when the Jazz get healthier remains to be seen, but he’s shown promise in his first two true appearances of the season.

Vanderbilt Is A One Half Wonder

Jarred Vanderbilt might have the most polarizing halves of basketball of any player in the NBA.

In the first halves of games this year Vanderbilt is averaging a strong 6.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 13.2 minutes on the floor.

In the second half, the forward is averaging 1.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes.

While some of those numbers can be attributed to Vanderbilt regularly finding himself in foul trouble early in the season, Saturday night’s performance was equally uneven despite finishing with only fouls.

Vanderbilt was on triple-double watch in the first half five points, seven rebounds, and four assists, but recorded just two points, three assists, and zero rebounds in 10 second half minutes.

The 23-year-old’s game is clearly continuing to develop as evidenced by his improved three-point shooting, but even more important will be his ability to impact the game in both halves going forward.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz and Grizzlies will face each other once again on Monday night in Salt Lake City at 7 pm MT. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. The game will also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

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