WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 8:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Sean McDermott (Out, foot)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
UTAH: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert
The Grizzlies did the right thing to start the series - coming out hard and stealing game one in Salt Lake City. Now it’s Do or Die time as they trail the Utah Jazz 2-1 heading into Game Four.
The Grizzlies have an admitted propensity to play better on the road with their self-proclaimed “Road Warriors” mantra but they will have to step up at home one last time and stick to their season pattern of .500 play on the road. As much as they like playing on the road, going back to Utah down 3-1 will almost certainly spell doom.
The Grizzlies and Jazz playing contrasting styles of basketball and - with Donovan Mitchell’s return - the Grizzlies have struggled to put it all together and wholly adapt to the actions they’ve provided on the offensive end as they have all season.
Now, with the season effectively hanging in the balance, it’s time for the Grizzlies to use what they’ve learned in the first three “growth experiences” to tie this series.
Curb The Foul Situation
The Memphis Grizzlies have fouled a lot to start their first venture into the playoffs. After an NBA regular season that saw them finish 9th in the league in total fouls - one spot behind the Jazz - the Grizzlies are currently last in the category in the NBA playoffs. The Grizzlies have averaged 23.3 fouls a night through three games which is an additional four fouls a game to their season average.
The Utah Jazz are on a heater right now shooting 49% from the field as a team and 46% from three the last two games. That is incredible efficiency that - when aided by free throws and the Grizzlies being in the bonus - makes them nearly unbeatable. The Utah Jazz are +18 in free throw attempts and shooting better at the line than the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies have made a living for a better part of a decade for being a physical, defensive team but right now the Jazz are using that aggressiveness and physicality against them and putting players in unwinnable situations leading to fouls and more possessions for them.
It’s time to adapt to the playoff whistle.
Improve on the Perimeter Defensively
As Brandon Abraham touched on yesterday, the Grizzlies perimeter defense, more specifically the drop coverage on pick-and-rolls has been costly throughout the series - especially since Mitchell’s return.
Tonight will mark the 7th time the Utah Jazz have faced the Memphis Grizzlies this season and the game plan has been consistent: Get the Grizzlies in high pick and roll and get busy. The Grizzlies haven’t adapted. The Jazz - especially Donovan Mitchell - are drawing the same fouls on Grizzlies defenders attempting to work over the top of screens in the playoffs as they were in March. The problem now is that in addition to the fouls they’re allowing the Jazz to get in-rhythm warm-up jumpers working off of these actions due to over helping. They will have to do something defensively that runs the Jazz off of the three point line but also doesn’t just lead to easy Rudy Gobert lobs once they’re forced to put the ball on the floor.
Get Jaren Jackson Jr. more involved inside (& out of the corner)
That’s what Jaren Jackson Jr. is shooting from behind the arc so far this postseason. Most possessions, you’ll see the Grizzlies “unicorn” camped in the corner of the offense while everyone else goes through the offense.
This needs to change.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is still figuring it out in his new 7’1” frame as he returns from injury but in his role as a modern, floor spacing big they have to find ways to get him involved in other ways. Jaren Jackson Jr. made his largest impact of the game and of the series in the fourth quarter of Game 3 by getting in the paint to score and fighting for rebounds. For the first time this series, it looked like he was having fun. While they don’t need to have him clogging up the lane for Morant, Brooks, and others, they have to get him down low and let him utilize the post moves that everyone has seen him use in the past.
The series is far from over. The Grizzlies can still restore the feeling of the 2011 Playoffs that saw the Memphis Grizzlies upset the 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs - but it starts with tonight.
This young Memphis Grizzlies squad got to experience the “Grindhouse” playoff atmosphere for the first time. They’ve taken two on the chin and are now on the outside looking in of a competitive playoff series. The game will be decided by whether or not the Memphis Grizzlies can execute the points listed above. The Grizzlies are once again the underdogs with their backs against the wall and if the last two weeks are any indication that’s the situation they love the most.
Hopefully, they rise to the occasion one more time and are riding high into Game 5 in Salt Lake City.
FINAL SCORE: Grizzlies 115, Jazz 110