The first quarter was actually a pretty well played 12 minutes of basketball by both teams. There’s a reason that so many liked the Utah Jazz in the preseason as a team to watch in the Western Conference - their mix of veteran players and a young, talented core is dangerous when it’s clicking. They were doing just that in the first quarter - George Hill was 4-5 shooting, scoring nine points, to lead the Jazz to a 52.9% shooting quarter. But Mike Conley had seven points on 2-3 shooting, and the Grizzlies were 10-19 from the field in the opening frame themselves.
Utah held a one-point lead at the end of the first after both teams shot 53% from the field and were both 4-9 from three. The second quarter started well enough for Memphis, as Troy Daniels’s shooting and Zach Randolph’s footwork got the Grizzlies the lead. Utah fought back, but the Grizzlies offense was crisp and their defense settled in to be able to maintain the lead for a large stretch of the second quarter. The advantage for the Grizzlies got as high as eleven as the Grizzlies scored 30 points in the paint, outscored Utah 26-17 in the second quarter, and had a 52-43 lead at the end of the first half.
The second half began with an 8-3 Utah run, which was stopped by a Gasol made jumper. Players like Vince Carter were making an impact without having to score a bucket:
#FunWithPlusMinus Vince Carter is +14 despite not scoring a single point, Zach Randolph is +10, the only two Grizzlies in double digit +.— Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) January 29, 2017
As mentioned above, Zach continued to play remarkably well, especially considering the fact that Rudy Gobert began defending him in the post. Gobert, a long, athletic big, is the prototypical defender to give Zach fits and get him frustrated. But Randolph was impressive, as was Marc Gasol, who scored 12 points in the third quarter. The Jazz finished the quarter well, especially including a desperation three-point make by Rodney Hood almost at the buzzer, and were within six points at the end of three quarters as Utah outscored Memphis 31-28 in the frame.
Rodney Hood kept Utah hanging around at the beginning of the fourth, but Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies in keeping the Jazz at bay. Memphis was not defending perfectly - they fouled far too often, which is par for the course at this point for the Grizzlies - but they were doing enough to make Utah’s life difficult while scoring the ball at a steady clip to keep their lead.
Utah got the score within three, and then Mike Conley scored seven consecutive points for Memphis to slow the run of the Jazz again. Every time Utah got close, the Grizzlies had a response. The Jazz were game, but Memphis made more plays tonight and earned the hard-fought win behind remarkable performances by Zach Randolph and Mike Conley.
Some stats that jump off the sheet tonight:
- Memphis shot over 50% from the field. Considering they were the worst shooting team in the NBA based off of percentage for the season at 42.8% coming into the contest, that is a welcome outlier against a darn good defensive team in Utah.
- Mike Conley (23 points on 14 shots) played under 30 minutes tonight, which is important to keep an eye on on this road trip. This game was on the second night of a back to back set of games, and coupling that with Memphis playing six contests in nine nights, it will bear watching how minutes are managed by David Fizdale so that his key players stay fresh and healthy heading into the All-Star break.
The Grizzlies are back in action Monday night against the Phoenix Suns. Chandler Parsons figures to be back in the starting lineup, and Brandan Wright may return to the court as well after a prolonged absence with an ankle injury.