After a narrow victory over the Timberwolves last Saturday, the Memphis Grizzlies returned home Tuesday night to face off against the surging Utah Jazz and start off March with improved gameplay. Perhaps it was the fact that neither Z-Bo nor Beno Udrih played due to illness, or the one-game suspension of Tony Allen. But there is no doubt that the Jazz came into the Forum and simply outplayed the Grizzlies.
What's most devastating about this 93-82 loss was that the Jazz played Grizzlies-style basketball and did it better than the Grizz themselves. A quick glance at the box score shows that the Jazz outrebounded the Grizz by 18. The problems go deeper than that, however, as Utah matched up incredibly well against Memphis in this contest. With no Randolph on the floor, Utah's big men dominated down low. Rudy Gobert had an incredible career-high 24 boards by the time the final buzzer went off, and it was Utah's three bigs (Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Gobert) who combined for 51 of the team's 93 total points.
Things were not nearly as dire at halftime, as the Grizzlies maintained a slim 1-point advantage over the Jazz going into the locker room. Both teams were shooting extremely poorly at that point as the Grizz could only manage 38% from the field and the Jazz were a meager 29%. Even then, however, the Jazz had pulled in 5 more rebounds than the Grizz, and it seemed clear that they would continue to play big to try and pull off the upset.
After coming out of the break, all it took was one driving layup for Hayward to catch fire and singlehandedly take control of the game. The Grizzlies, without Tony Allen, had no defensive counter to Hayward's hot streak as he went 6-8 for 13 of Utah's 27 third quarter points. On the other end of the floor, Memphis continued to share the ball evenly but lost what little firepower it possessed in the first half and had only 23.
Hayward quickly cooled in the fourth, only for his teammates to take the torch and carry on with another 29 to the Grizzlies' 21, making for a final score of 93-82 in Utah's favor. While the Jazz came out red hot in the second half and boosted their shooting percentage from 29% all the way to 64%, the Grizzlies were stagnant with a 43% shooting performance that was not much improved from their first half's 38%.
There was not much to celebrate from the Grizzlies' showing but three performances did stand out.
- The continued exceptional play from Nick Calathes. His top-notch defense was much needed in the absence of Tony Allen. and he pickpocketed the Jazz for his standard 2 steals. Those 2 steals in the team's 6 post-ASG games are good for a league 3rd best in steals/game.
- Courtney Lee. He turned in a stellar performance with a team-high 18 points from a 7 of 13 shooting performance. Lee stepped up when no other Grizzly could find any luck with the rock.
- Finally, the rookie Jordan Adams showed he belongs on an NBA court. In the second half, Adams made his mark on the game with a strong 10 points from 5-6 shooting. Interestingly enough, his 13 total points matched the 13 put up by Rodney Hood, a fellow rookie taken one pick after Adams, who many believed Memphis should have taken with its first round draft pick last May.
The loss is Memphis' third in their last 4 and has the team stumbling into their next contest against a Rockets team that will have MVP-hopeful James Harden back in their lineup. Tony Allen will also be returning for the Grizzlies and the team has to believe that if Randolph and Udrih also return, they have a shot at turning their fortunes in a crucial portion of the NBA season.