At some point, you tip your cap to the #1 seed in the entire NBA Playoffs.
Every time the Memphis Grizzlies made a run at the Utah Jazz in Game 4 of their first round NBA Playoff series, Jazz Coach Quin Snyder’s crew was able to answer. A Jordan Clarkson make here, a Donovan Mitchell drawn foul there...time after time, every lane to a chance to tie or take the lead for Memphis was closed almost as quickly as it opened. Rudy Gobert made his presence known consistently, Mike Conley continued his steady play - Utah was able to time and again take the air out of the sails of the Grizzlies.
Memphis fought like hell. They gave tremendous effort and never, not once, laid down. But the margin for error against the Jazz is so small that near-perfect performances are needed just to eek out victories when you have the roster limitations of the youngest team to make the playoffs in a decade. That showing didn’t come. And the Grizzlies season is on the brink because of it.
Some quick takeaways from a Game 4 that saw a somewhat surprising Utah sweep of the Grizzlies at FedExForum.
More of Desmond Bane, please
The 30th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft out of TCU has me sounding like a broken record. But he’s really very good at basketball, and he should have more than three shot attempts (all of which he made) through three quarters of play and in 17 minutes on the floor. He is more than a three point marksman - snagging multiple rebounds, dishing out multiple assists, committing zero turnovers, and providing key defensive exchanges in pivotal moments when Memphis needed him most. He is such a integral part of this team not only because of his elite range, but because he can create as a secondary or tertiary facilitator while also holding his edge defensively.
He should be a vital piece of the next great Grizzlies team. Which shouldn’t be too far away.
De’Anthony Melton reminds us what matters
Entering the 4th quarter De’Anthony Melton’s month-long funk was continuing. He was scoreless in 11 minutes played. In fact, outside of one assist it was as if he hadn’t even played statistically. Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins continued to lean on Grayson Allen, for better (does exactly what Jenkins wants him to do) or worse (the Jazz instantly attack him almost every possession he is on the floor) but Jenkins understands that Melton and the aforementioned Bane both also have had terrific overall seasons. So Jenkins decided to stay small, and prioritize getting Melton minutes.
It paid off in the final frame.
Melton scored 15 points in the 4th quarter and provided the Grizzlies much needed life to help the team keep the game close. But even beyond that, in the “long view”, De’Anthony led a push of a team that has struggled to close (and that trend continued of course - Mike Conley led the final charge that ended this game) and displayed a level of contribution that, compared to his age (just turned 23) and NBA pedigree (2nd round pick, traded from Phoenix), should not be happening.
Memphis has had a special season. It is in danger of ending, but that does not take away from the fact that it was special. Melton was a key part of the Grizzlies being here. And that 4th quarter reminded us of that, after a run of poor play.
- Kyle Anderson remains fun to watch play basketball. On multiple possessions Anderson would bait Rudy Gobert in to a leaping contest of a shot at the rim, only to use his length and passing acumen/timing to feed a big underneath for an easy look/dunk. His offensive scoring has fallen off compared to where he was earlier this season, but his five assists and multiple steals are further evidence of how he can impact games without point production.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. is waking up. Not the most efficient night (21 points on 18 shots) but he looked more fluid and in rhythm not just defensively, but offensively as well. Of course it is almost too little too late, but it is reassuring entering the offseason (whenever it comes) that Jaren has started to regain some of his flow and feel for the game. A healthy Summer and Fall where he can work on his game and not rehab will do him wonders.
- Finding the defensive issue. Perhaps it is simply tipping your cap to the Jazz, who are the most prolific three point shooting team in NBA regular season history. Maybe it’s the inability of Taylor Jenkins to adjust his defensive drop scheme when this Jazz team was clearly very good at disrupting it. The Grizzlies rotations going small with Desmond Bane at the 4 surely don’t help in terms of using length and size to attack passing lanes and break lines of sight. The truth is probably in the middle of all these factors and then some...but still, another near 50% shooting night from beyond the arc for the Jazz was too much to overcome. Again.
The Memphis Grizzlies head back to Utah to try to save their season in Game 5 against the Jazz on Wednesday night at 8:30 PM CT.