WHEN: 8:30 PM CST
WHERE: Vivint Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Sean McDermott (left foot soreness, Out)
Utah: Donovan Mitchell (ankle, questionable)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
Memphis: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr. Jonas Valanciunas
UTAH: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’neale, Rudy Gobert
For the first time since the 2016-2017 season, the Memphis Grizzlies are in the playoffs.
One common connection between the Grizzlies then and the Grizzlies now is that their point guard is the main reason why they made the playoffs.
A wonderful narrative to this playoff series between the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies is that the point guard for the Grizzlies then, Mike Conley, gets to face the point guard of the Grizzlies now, Ja Morant.
However, as wonderful as that narrative is for Grizzlies fans, the only thing that matters to this current Grizzlies roster is that their job is not finished.
Without a doubt, there should be plenty of reason to celebrate the fact that the Grizzlies have made the playoffs. However, that celebration is only valid for one night. Making the playoffs means you have the chance at an NBA title. Without a doubt, that is where the focus of this Grizzlies team has shifted.
Unfortunately, standing in their way of the Grizzlies pursuit of the NBA title is the Utah Jazz. The Jazz produced the best record in the NBA this season, and earned the top spot in the Western Conference as a result. Their depth as well as their ability to shoot and defend the three is remarkable. Without a doubt, the Grizzlies are major underdogs in this playoff round. However, there are ways in which the Grizzlies can at least make things competitive.
Here are a few ways in which Memphis can make the series interesting from the start:
Winning the Bench Battle
In terms of NBA benches, both the Jazz and Grizzlies finished among the top 10 reserve units in points per game, FG%, and three point production. The Jazz have the best bench duo in the league, as Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson are both Sixth man of the Year finalists. The Grizzlies are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but their bench has struggled recently.
However, the Grizzlies bench shined on Friday night. And with how well the Jazz shoot the three, the trio for Grayson Allen, Desmond Bane, and De’Anthony Melton must be ready to hit shots from deep. When it comes to starting units, the Grizzlies are at a disadvantage. The Memphis bench must produce, especially from beyond the arc, for Memphis to have a chance to win tonight and overall in this playoff round.
Focus on the three
The Utah Jazz finished in the top five of the NBA in both shooting and defending the three. The Memphis Grizzlies did not. However, one key perspective in this matchup comes from earlier this season. The Grizzlies faced Utah in three contests over a five night period in late March. Memphis lost all three games.
However, Coach Taylor Jenkins and his staff found plenty of adjustments that needed to made. The end result was perhaps the most productive period of offensive play in the history of the Grizzlies. For much of April, the Grizzlies were among the five best teams in the NBA in both shooting and defending the three. They will need that type of effort once again to win multiple games against Utah in this series.
Consistent Defense and Discipline
Along with being effective defending the three, the Grizzlies must remain disciplined. They have been league average or better in terms of turning the ball over and fouls. While the Utah Jazz have done well in preventing fouls, they are 18th in the NBA in turnovers committed per game. The Grizzlies have had extended stretches of their defense being anchored by creating turnovers or defending the three point line well. In this playoff series, both strengths of the Memphis team defense must shine through.
Despite their youth, the Grizzlies know what lies ahead of them. The key is playing good offensive basketball and remaining disciplined on defense. If Memphis can take care of the basketball, they can find their open looks. Considering their opponent, the Grizzlies must hit as many open looks as possible. In the end, it feels like Memphis must play as close to its ceiling as it can to get the victory. The Grizzlies did exactly that on Friday night: they seem poised to do it again in Game 1 tonight.
Final Score: Grizzlies 111 Jazz 105