The Utah Jazz are really good. They don’t get the coverage they deserve, but Donovan Mitchell and crew currently possess the best record in the NBA. While there was severe weather back home in Memphis, the Jazz were making it rain from deep all night long against the Grizz.
Usually these report cards focus in on a few players, good or bad, give them a grade based on how they played and contributed to the result, but this loss falls on the shoulders of the Grizzlies coaching staff.
In his pregame availability Coach Jenkins said that it was a chance to prepare for a playoff type game plan in reference to Donovan Mitchell. They wanted to make him work harder for his looks. Well, if 12/17 shooting for 35 points is what you scheme up to defend an All-Star scorer in a playoff type game plan, you should get back to the drawing board. Mitchell could have easily had a 50 piece had he played the whole game.
Early in the first Dillon Brooks was the primary defender on Spida and he picked up 2 quick fouls while letting Mitchell go 5-5 for 13 points. It was evident Donovan was coming for DB early tonight. It probably would not have mattered who guarded him, but it seemed that he was hunting Dillon early and often, routinely having a quicker first step and getting wide open on Gobert screens (yay screen assists).
STARTING DEFENSIVE GAMEPLAN - D-
Only a D-, you ask? The only starter you could place on Mitchell was DB and there were some shots no one could defend. But it also gets worse.
The Utah Jazz are second in the NBA with 39.6% shooting from three, trailing only the Los Angeles Clippers. A lot of their looks early were of the drive and kick nature as the defense had to collapse and help on the numerous paint entries Mitchell got on whoever was defending him. If Spida wasn’t pulling up and hitting the bottom of the net, he was kicking it out to a wide open teammate for the dagger.
That is all understandable - the Grizz have the drive and kick as a foundational piece of their offense. It’s the adjustment the coaching staff made and stuck with that made no sense. It was obvious no one was going to hold Mitchell or Jordan Clarkson one-on-one tonight, so Jenkins shifted his team to a 2-3 zone. Just in case you are unfamiliar with the design of the 2-3 zone, it’s purpose is to protect the paint and give up the three.
The basis of the game plan was really giving up three point shots to the second best three point shooting team in the NBA. The first few possessions it looked fine as the team rotated a little and disrupted the flow of the game, but as they stayed in the zone for minutes on end, the Jazz did what any good NBA team would do, adjusted. Beating a zone is pretty simple: quick passes with a few ball reversals and you get open shots. Memphis was not lazy on defense by any means, Jazz just moved the ball and got the open looks, going 19-45 (42%).
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GAMEPLAN: F
For some odd reason, Melton was the low man on the minutes amongst the wing players despite shooting 80% on his way to 12 points. On nights that Grayson Allen does not have the shooting stroke (you will know early on), Melton should lead the wings in minutes if you are so determined to have Grayson as a starter. Is is possible the Grizzlies depth is actually hurting them at times?
Shoutout to Jontay Porter for getting his first NBA points, a three pointer from the top of the arc. He finished with 5.
Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, and De’Anthony Melton all played well and continue to be three of the more consistent players this team has had all season.
All in all, the Grizzlies never showed any quit. It was the second night of a back to back, on the road, against the best team in the NBA. Sometimes shots don’t fall and tonight was one of those nights. Can’t fault the guys for their efforts at all.