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Home Opener Preview: Jazz at Grizzlies

Quick Preview of tonight's game featuring SLC Dunk's Amar Smith

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight the Grizzlies come back home to the Forum for the first time this season and welcome the Utah Jazz in an effort to go for a 12th consecutive regular-season victory at home. The Jazz arrive in Memphis after committing 17 turnovers in Saturday's 110-100 loss to the Spurs, including six turnovers in the fourth quarter after coming back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit.

The X-Factor

Mike Conley finds himself 4 of 9 from the arc this season, yet the Grizzlies are still facing three-point trouble with a 4 of 18 statistic for the rest of the team. Regardless of the 3 pt shooting, though, the Grizzlies merely need to continue doing what they're doing and out-wrestle Utah's bigs down low. Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol form a unit that is scoring a combined 57.0 ppg with 29 rebounds. The Grizzlies, as a team, are out-rebounding their opponents by an average of 4.5.

SLC Dunk 5on5 Preview

I got in touch with Amar Smith over at SLC Dunk, SBNation's Utah Jazz site to talk about the game and get a point of view from the other side of the court:

MP: How have you felt about Utah's performance coming out the gate this season? Is the 1-2 record reflective of how the Jazz have played?

AS: I think that the Jazz' performance and the Jazz' record should be based on different metrics. I guess they are. The record id the easier one to look at and honestly, last night's game against the San Antonio Spurs was and always was supposed to be a loss. Third game in four nights, against the team we have the most trouble playing against in their gym. The first game was a win against the Dallas Mavericks when they played the last night, and they were playing without two starters. So I think most people favored the Jazz. The only issue with the record was how they did not take care of business, losing by 2 points to the New Orleans Hornets who were playing without Eric Gordon, and only could play Anthony Davis 14 minutes. It's a game the Jazz should have won, but did not. In the tough western conference it's a game the Jazz will have to make up down the road.

The Jazz, outside of their 1-2 record, haven't been playing well. Outside of the 1 point lead against the Hornets, the Jazz have been down big at the half in each of their games. And they've been down big because they absolutely hemorrhage points in the second quarter. In Dallas game was won because Mo Williams got hot, and the Spurs game was tied going into the fourth because he scored 15 points all by himself. As a team, the Utah Jazz are not playing well. The record shields this point. A few guys are working hard, but the team defense is in 'voluntary summer workout mode' right now.

MP: What's the most interesting player-player matchup tonight?

AS: Unlike Rick Majerus, I AM a big Gay guy. ( ) And I think Rudy Gay is going to be a handful for the Jazz wing defenders. I'm most interested to see how he and Mavin Williams match up. Marvin is athletic as well, but not to the same level as Rudy. Marvin apparently isn't the 'same old' Marvin that he was in Atlanta. He seems to fit our system better and has been a solid starter. He's more capable of checking Gay (who has started out great, 'cept for his FT and 3PT shooting), than say, a Josh Howard, C.J. Miles, Matt Harpring, or whomever we've thrown at him in the past.

MP: Who do you see as the make or break player for Utah this season?

AS: I'm a traditionalist in this regard, but for Utah to succeed, they need to have a successful inside scorer. More and more the signs point to this being Al Jefferson, but he hasn't yet really lived up to his massive $15 million dollar contract. He started off weak in the preseason this year, playing against a bunch of teams who were resting: Andrew Bogut (1 game), Kendrick Perkins (1 game), Dwight Howard (2 games), Pau Gasol (1 game), Blake Griffin (1 game), and LaMarcus Aldridge (1 game). And against non-All-Stars our primary scorer managed only to shoot 44 fg%. Now in the regular season he was shooting in the 30 fg% range, but somehow upped it against the San Antonio Spurs to 42 fg%. Jefferson wasn't the most efficient player before, but now that the Jazz added all these new pieces, they can't afford to waste possessions on Jefferson anymore. Jefferson is currently scoring 12.7 PPG, and a CAREER low 14.9 points per 36 minutes. It's not like he's become Arvydas Sabonis with the passing either. He's not better as a team mate on offense. His defense is just as bad as it ever was. And now he's scoring even worse. If the Jazz don't get him going, then our season is sunk.

MP: Who do you see as the make for break player tonight against the Grizzlies?

AS: Randy Foye is currently in a hot shooting streak, and has been the only consistent performer off the bench this year. He has the perma-Green light to shoot. (Which is fine, because he doesn't add much to the team outside of shooting) If he is capable of heating up for another 18-20 points off the bench, then the Jazz might make life difficult for Memphis.

MP: If the Grizzlies ________________, then they will walk away with a win tonight.

AS: "If the Grizzlies run a pick and roll four times a quarter, they will walk away with a win tonight." I think Utah had a good off-season, and completely removed the problem of three point shooting; while ignoring the real problem which is defense. This is not a tough Jazz team. This is not a defensive Jazz team. It's not the 90's anymore. This Jazz team is soft, slow reacting, and do not know that they're supposed to rotate and help one another on defense. I could get an open look in a pick and roll situation where Al Jefferson is forced to rotate to me. And I'm a short, out of shape, 30 year old Indian dude. (Think Aziz Ansari) The key to beating the Jazz is to make smart decisions on offense, be patient, and let the Jazz beat the Jazz. In the last two games we've seen: Danny Green wait off the ball for 9 seconds on the shot clock then just move to the super wide open place for the ball to get to him in scoring position; Ryan Anderson consistently get open on offense as the only scoring threat -- even with less than a minute on the clock and the game tied; and a freaking Greivis Vasquez game winning runner off a pick and roll where our guys bumped into one another. Yes, like a Three Stooges skit.

Mo Williams isn't a defender. Jamaal Tinsley isn't a defender. Randy Foye isn't a defender. Al Jefferson can't move in pick and rolls. And our younger dudes don't play much. I'd go with any sets you have that require the defense to switch. There were be more open spaces on the court tonight than a panoramic photograph of Iowa.

MP: Thanks, Amar. Truly appreciate what you're doing over at the blog and looking forward to tonight's game!

AS: Thanks again Marcus! I love the blog, you guys do a great job.

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