Jazz Drop Out Of Playoff Picture With Loss To Memphis

Jan 8, 2023, 7:15 PM

Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy...

Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz fell out of the Western Conference Playoff picture with a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, 123-118.

Adding insult to injury, the Jazz lost Kelly Olynyk late in the fourth quarter to an injury to the same ankle he hurt in late December.

Jordan Clarkson was ejected in the third after committing a flagrant foul against Desmond Bane who led the Grizzlies with 24 points.

Jazz Fall Out Of Playoff Picture

The Jazz have been on a steady decline since opening the season 10-3, dropping 20 of their last 30 games since their hot start.

With the loss to the Grizzlies, the Jazz fell three games below .500 for the first time this year, and more importantly, out of the Western Conference Playoff picture.

“We’ve had a tough stretch lately and I do really feel and our coaching staff feels that we’ve played more good basketball than bad basketball in that stretch,” Will Hardy said.

The Jazz were tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers 7.5 games back of first place in the West when the day started, but with the loss dropped to 12th in the West.

The team is still very much in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference, but with injuries to Collin Sexton and now questions surrounding the health of Olynyk’s ankle, the likelihood of qualifying for the playoffs has taken a hit.

“With 39 games to go, a lot can change and those results can start to go in your favor if your approach is good and you play the right way on both ends,” Hardy said.

While the Jazz coaching staff can focus on keeping the team competitive on the court, the front office could take an alternate approach.

With the February 9 trade deadline fast approaching, Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik must decide if it’s in the team’s best interests to climb back into the Western Conference Playoff picture over the final three months of the season or to further deconstruct the roster to improve the team’s draft stock and gain more future flexibility.

The Jazz have been rumored to be in talks with several teams about trades over the last month, now, how they fare over the next handful of games could determine which direction they chose to go.

Olynyk Injury Is Tough Break

Kelly Olynyk had struggled since returning to the Jazz lineup after suffering a sprained left ankle in late December.

The veteran center had been averaging 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting a difficult 28 percent from the floor and 22 percent from three over the last six games since returning from his four-game absence.

Olynyk appeared to have broken out of that slump against the Grizzlies by scoring 19 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out five assists on an efficient 7-9 shooting from the floor including 4-6 from three.

However, late in the fourth quarter Olynyk reinjured his left ankle when he turned it while driving to the basket against the Grizzlies’ defender.

The Gonzaga product ran to the sideline and collapsed in pain before limping to the locker room before the final buzzer sounded.

The Jazz went 2-2 in the four games that Olynyk missed in December with his last injury, beating the lowly Detroit Pistons and road-weary Washington Wizards, but falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs on the road.

The upside for the Jazz in light of Olynyk’s injury is they play six of their next seven games at home. The downside is those games include the Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Brooklyn Nets, four of the NBA’s most talented rosters.

The Jazz have played solid basketball this season when fully healthy. But with Sexton sidelined and Olynyk now facing questions about his availability, the Jazz’s recent slide could worsen.

Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

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Jazz Drop Out Of Playoff Picture With Loss To Memphis