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The Long View: The Drop killing the Grizzlies

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Dropping on defense killed the Grizzlies in the pivotal Game 3 matchup

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Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies returned to FedExForum for their first home playoff game since April of 2017. Due to COVID-19, it wasn’t a full house but it was indeed a sell out of 12,185 for the biggest game in FedExForum in quite some time.

Unfortunately for those 12K plus, the Utah Jazz reclaimed home court advantage with a 121-111 victory over the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies found themselves down 15, but were able to climb back in the 4th and take a momentarily lead before the Jazz closed the game with a 12-0 run. One of the key differences in the game was the Jazz’s 19 made three-pointers compared to the Grizzlies 13. It wasn’t just that the Jazz made 6 more triples than the Grizzlies, it was the way they got easy looks that killed the Grizzlies. The Jazz are an excellent ball movement team that generates a ton of great looks with their passing, but it was the pick and roll that doomed the Grizzlies last night.

The Jazz were able to get what they want in the pick and roll thanks in large part to what Grayson Allen described as wide screens. The Jazz used the space to create a ton of open looks from beyond the arc.

Early on, it was Memphis’ own former Conductor in Mike Conley doing the damage from distance as he shot 7-10 from beyond the arc last night.

Rudy Gobert sets a solid screen, and it obliterates Melton which leaves JV on an island by himself in the drop setting up a wide open step-in triple for Mike Conley.

Even when JV steps up, he doesn’t have the mobility to really defend the triple. Mike drains the three, but could have easily driven past JV for a layup if he wasn’t shooting it so well from distance.

It isn’t just Mike either that torched the Grizzlies with this last night. Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson got in on the action as well.

Desmond Bane struggles to fight through the Gobert screen, setting up an extremely easy shot for Joe Ingles as JV sags off and starts back peddling in case Ingles were to attack the rim.

Clarkson is able to dribble to his sweet spot and drain another wide open look as JV is occupied by a rolling Gobert and Grayson is still recovering from the screen.

Donovan Mitchell didn’t make a ton of shots with the pick and roll, but was able to get to the foul line a lot as DB would pick up fouls with his contact trying to fight through the Gobert screen. I’m not sure if I’m exaggerating by saying that 50% of Dillon’s fouls in this series have come from Mitchell drawing contact on these plays. You don’t see the full set up, but you can get a glimpse in the clip below on the “contact” created.

After the game, Dillon was pretty adamant that every single screen Rudy Gobert sets is a moving screen which is what caused Taylor Jenkins to get fired up and T’d up in the first half. Ultimately though, Taylor’s point didn’t stick too long with the officials as Donovan Mitchell was able to hit what was ultimately the dagger 3-pointer off the same set.

Kyle gets hung up in the Rudy screen, which certainly gives Dillon’s argument a valid point, and JV backs down leading to a wide open shot for Mitchell to extend the Jazz lead to 4 late in the game. The Grizzlies would score just one basket the rest of the way.


The Grizzlies will have to be much better at defending the pick and roll in Game 4 if they want to head back to Utah with a 2-2 series split. It’s the Grizzlies scheme to drop JV, but it’s creating wide open looks from beyond the arc. Simple math would say that the Grizzlies would be better off with JV attacking the 3-point line and forcing the Jazz to drive to the basket. This would naturally cause the Grizz defense to rotate and the Jazz are so good at passing the ball it could very well still lead to an open 3, but the Grizzlies need to make the Jazz earn their 3-point makes.

The Grizzlies are pretty solid at forcing turnovers when they are scrambling defensively so JV stepping up could cause all sorts of problems. The Grizzlies guards also need to do a much better job of fighting through the Gobert screens. It’s a bit of an issue as Dillon is the only one good at fighting through screens, but he sets himself up to pick up fouls with the way he fights through. The other guards, meanwhile, get obliterated by Gobert - which puts JV in a really tough position for a not-so-nimble big man.

I’m interested to see what adjustments Taylor Jenkins makes as the series continues to combat the Jazz offensive attack. He’ll need to find a way to stop the easy looks from beyond the arc if the Grizzlies hope to extend the series. Regardless of the outcome of the series, this is something the Grizzlies as a team will need to improve upon heading into the rest of this series and next season.

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