The Memphis Grizzlies and the Utah Jazz are all tied up at one game a piece in their first round NBA Playoff series. Very few folks saw the Memphis victory in game one coming - even without Donovan Mitchell, Utah was viewed as the superior team. The only problem is, they forgot to tell Ja Morant and his young Grizzlies that. Now, Memphis is about to return to FedExForum with home court advantage and a chance to take a stranglehold on this series against the number one seeded Utah Jazz.
What a time to be alive. How did we get here?
Joining me to tackle some review of games 1 and 2 are GBB Senior Staff Writers Bryce Hayes, Justin Lewis, and Brendan Smart, as well as GBB Writer Jesse Cinquini.
Ja Morant played quite possibly the best game of his career in Game 2 and the Grizzlies still lost. What specific thing comes to mind that Memphis failed at that led to their demise?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) - Their inability to defend without fouling. Outside of Ja Morant and Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas and Dillon Brooks are the other two Grizzlies currently critical to keeping Memphis competitive in this series. Jaren Jackson Jr. could turn the tide in the Grizzlies favor, but that level of Jaren has yet to show up. Until he does (if he does?) the likes of Dillon and Jonas have to remain on the floor. Being removed from the process early doomed Memphis, despite having a legitimate superstar performance from the audacious Ja Morant.
GBB Senior Writer Bryce Hayes (@nxtprodigy) - Offensively, there’s really not that much to complain about from Wednesday night. They played well thanks in part to Morant carrying in a game riddled with foul trouble. Defense is where the trouble Their struggles defensively- especially in the high Pick & Roll allowed Gobert a number of unabated dives to the empty paints for dunks or open looks for other Jazz players on the perimeter due to over rotation. This, in conjunction with Jazz’s 3PT volume, spelled doom.
GBB Senior Writer Justin Lewis (@J_Timberfake_) - The onslaught of three point shooting by the Jazz was inevitable, low of averages. But the pick and roll defense by Memphis was atrocious all night. Fouling a three point shooter 4 times is also boneheaded. (The DB on Joe Ingles called should’ve been reversed). The bench, especially Grayson was a no show.
GBB Senior Writer Brendan Smart (@bsmart21) - Obviously the foul trouble sticks out. The Memphis Grizzlies got in foul trouble early in the first quarter forcing Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas to the bench. A young team doesn’t know how to adjust to different officials, but that’s something they’ll have to learn, and they did in the second half. Allowing Utah to get out to the double digit lead early hurt.
GBB Writer Jesse Cinquini (@CinquiniJesse) - The Grizzlies can’t give up 19 threes and expect to have a shot at winning. After holding Utah to 12-for-47 (25.5%) from deep in Game 1, the Jazz responded with a 19-for-39 (48.7%) showing in Game 2. Utah led the NBA in three-point attempts and makes this season — it’s their primary strength. Whether it’s rushing out to the line to contest quicker or being more aware of where shooters are, Memphis needs to make life difficult for the Jazz beyond the arc.
In Game 1, Dillon Brooks was very much in the zone on both ends of the floor. Game 2? Offensively Dillon did well, but struggled with foul trouble. Which Dillon, if you had to choose, would you prefer - offensively efficient Dillon, or defensive stopper Dillon?
MULLINAX- Give me defensive Dillon. Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, and (in theory) Jaren Jackson Jr. are offensively inclined enough to get the Grizzlies by. But Jonas and Ja especially have defensive troubles from time to time, and Brooks’ elite preparation and tenacious approach to the game shines through brightest on the defensive end of the floor. Of course when Dillon is efficient scoring it helps the Grizzlies. But as a stopper? Brooks can make winning time plays more consistently.
HAYES - In theory, you would like to have both as Dillon Brooks has been awesome to start the playoffs. A number of the fouls he has picked up have been ticky tack fouls but he has to adjust to the tighter playoff whistle. Donovan Mitchell has been one of few players to give Brooks fits this season so if I have to take an inefficient (or even nearly nonexistent) offensive effort from Brooks due to his exerted effort to lock Mitchell down - I’ll take it.
LEWIS - I can’t believe Joe asked ME, DB Island’s public enemy #1 a Dillon question!! My biggest knock on him has always been the volume coupled with the inefficiency. At one point Dillon was 8-9 but because of foul trouble it really was a moot point. This team needs defensive stopper Dillon more so than 8-9 shooting Dillon. We are never getting both, so give me the All Defense performance.
SMART - Can there be both? I’m totally kidding, but in game one he did both. Give me Brooks that starts the engine on either end of the floor when this team needs life. It seems like he can read situations, and insert himself, along with belief into his teammates late in games. Memphis needs defensive stopper DB.
CINQUINI - I’ll take defensive stopper Dillon any day of the week. Even when at the top of his game offensively like he was in Game 1, Brooks isn’t considered one of the world’s greatest scorers. As for the other end of the floor? That’s an entirely different story. Brooks is an All-Defensive Team caliber ball-hawk who agitates stars physically and mentally.
The Memphis Grizzlies shocked the world on Sunday night and snapped back to reality on Wednesday. Did Donovan Mitchell make that big of a difference? If not, who did for the Jazz?
MULLINAX - Mitchell made that big of a difference. He was a threat to score both from range and off the dribble. But even beyond that, he provided the Jazz with a much needed boost of confidence. In game one, the Grizzlies hit Utah time and again and most of the time they just took it. With Mitchell back in the fold the Jazz were much more aggressive and ready to meet the intensity of the Grizzlies. Donovan even trash talked Dillon Brooks! That mental toughness will come in handy this weekend - Memphis will be ready to test this Jazz squad in more ways than one.
HAYES - Donovan Mitchell provided the Utah Jazz an extra adrenaline boost with his return but the Grizzlies weathered that storm early & kept it competitive. I do not think his return made that big of a difference sans providing more catch & shoot opportunities for others. The Jazz made 19 threes on nearly 50% shooting - it is what it is. You just charge an effort like that to the game & focus on protecting home court after a successful opening to the series stealing one in Salt Lake City.
LEWIS - The Utah Jazz’s 6-8 men had the biggest impact on the game. That would be Kane Fitzgerald and the other two zebras. In Game 2 they were the Dillon Brooks of officiating — high volume of calls, inefficient on the accuracy of them. When DB and JV are the floor, they make the Grizzlies significantly better and that was proven during that third quarter run. Sure Mitchell brought a spark early in the game, but the foul trouble changed the landscape of that game more than a Utah player.
SMART - Momentum wise, Mitchell not only shot the ball well, but provided that spark of life for this Jazz team. Utah as a whole played really well, and looked like the number one seed. Mitchell did his job, and provided energy on and off the court on Wednesday night.
CINQUINI - Donovan Mitchell is the best player in this series and was a game-changer in Game 2. The former Louisville star led the way in the scoring department for Utah with 25 points and connected on five threes, all while sucking Brooks into foul trouble in the process. He didn’t appear any worse for the wear after missing a significant amount of time with an ankle injury.
.Thank you to Jesse, Brendan, Justin, and Bryce for participating. On Saturday we will have four more GBBers join me to preview games 3 and 4 in Memphis for the Grizzlies.