Memphis Grizzlies vs. Jazz in NBA Playoffs: Screening Report, Prediction
They will have this chance to prove they belong again on Sunday (8:30 p.m. TNT / Bally Sports Southeast) when they open their first round playoff series against the No.1 seeded Utah Jazz.
“I think we take that mentality and we do a good job playing as an underdog,” said Grayson Allen. “This fight that we have, it just takes it to another level.”
The No.8 Grizzlies will need it against the team with the best record in the NBA, which includes three wins over Memphis. Here are five keys to the series.
Ja Morant’s A performance of 35 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals on Friday could have put the NBA on guard.
This series can continue its coming-out evening. Morant averages 26.7 points in three games against Jazz, including a pair of 30-point games. He also shot 51% from the field, including 54.5% in paint and 40% on 3 pointers.
Even with Defensive Player of the Year, contender Rudy Gobert protecting the rim, Morant can make an impact. The Jazz will challenge him to draw 3 points, and he will have to make them. But with more eyes on him, Morant has a chance to elevate his game again.
The health of Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell has been absent since April 16 with a sprained right ankle. The All-Star goalie returned to training this week and plans to play on Sunday.
How healthy he will be could give the Grizzlies hope. It will take time for Mitchell to find his rhythm after missing 16 games, and he will have to do it with Dillon Brooks to keep it up.
Jazz beat the Grizzlies in Memphis on March 31 without Mitchell because they had three 20-point scorers, led by Mike Conley’s 26 points.
Hello old friend
Speaking of Conley, Memphis will be torn cheering for the Grizzlies but wishing the best to one of the most beloved players in team history.
Conley, who spent 12 seasons at Memphis, is one of six jazz players averaging double digits in terms of scoring. The first time All-Star shoots a career record 41.2% in 3 points.
The Grizzlies’ depth appeared on Friday with Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman Sr. and Grayson Allen all stepping in off the bench. They’ll need this and more, along with Jonas Valanciunas to get back in shape after serious issues limited him on Friday.
This may not be enough to counter Jazz. Utah has two finalists for sixth man of the year, Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson. Conley has broken the Grizzlies’ heart once this season and is about to do it again.
The Grizzlies have played seven games in 13 days. The Jazz got seven days off between their last game and the first game.
The Grizzlies have played 42 games since the All-Star break, more than any other team that has remained in the playoffs. Morant and Brooks have played over 40 minutes the last two games and a shorter bench means they will have heavy minutes.
At some point, fatigue will catch up with the adrenaline and Salt Lake City’s high altitude is not a friendly place to recover. Do the Grizzlies have enough in the tank after putting in so much effort just to reach the playoffs?
Three is a magic number
The Grizzlies had 15 3 points on Friday. It’s about an average night for the Jazz, who led the league in 3 points (16.7) and attempted (43.0) per game while finishing fourth in percentage (38.9%)
In their three wins against Memphis, the Jazz averaged 15.7 to 3 points. If the Grizzlies are to shock the NBA world, as they say, they’ll either have to play outstanding defense or make enough lines to counter.
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Melton has to shake off his shooting fit while Bane and Allen have to be on their games. However, the Grizzlies shot just 32% three-way against Utah, a reminder that the Jazz were second in the league in 3-point defense.
Prediction: Jazz in five
The Grizzlies deserve to be congratulated for reaching the playoffs well ahead of schedule. They got an emotional high beating the Warriors on the road to finish the path. But they are Jazz underdogs for a reason.
Even though Mitchell is not 100%, there is too much firepower between him, Clarkson, Conley, Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic. Gobert has also been a force in all three games.
To borrow one of trainer Taylor Jenkins’ favorite phrases, this series is a great opportunity for growth. The Grizzlies will gain more lessons to lean on, but for my prediction, the Jazz will win this streak as a better team.
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