HOW BOUT THIS JAZZ (GAME 43)
HOW BOUT THIS JAZZ (GAME 43)
AT MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (1/8/2022)
The Utah Jazz snapped a 5-game losing streak by dismantling the Houston Rockets on January 5th. Jazz fans may have hoped that win was a sign that the boys in Black and Highlighter Yellow were getting back to their early season winning ways. The next two games would dash any hopes of that thought coming true, as it turns out that the Rockets are More so bad than the Jazz are fixed. After dropping to Chicago on Saturday night, the Jazz had an opportunity to right any wrongs in the FedEx Forum against the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies team who would be without Ja Morant. As per recent trends, the Jazz put up a fight by clawing back from a 16-point deficit, to ultimately fall short at the end with 123-118 being the final. The Jazz were burnt by the backcourt of Tyus Jones and Desmond Bane who combined for 45. But the major factor was the turnovers. The Jazz shot better from the field despite Memphis having the 3-point edge, The Jazz made more free throws, grabbed more boards, had an extra assist, but turned it over twenty times compared to Memphis’s 10. Mix this without a Jazz outlier performance (Markkanen had the team High 21) and it simply wasn’t enough to close. The Grizzlies are currently in the fight for the one seed out west and have won 6 straight now.
The early season narrative of the Jazz being clutch has vanished. Utah is still a fun team with fun players who never seem to have a dull moment (see Jordan Clarkson squaring up for the 2nd time this year). Yet, despite Lauri Markkanen’s All-Star campaign gaining momentum, the Jazz have reverted to a bottom tier team, now 12th in the West. The energy and the play have still been a blast, but the Jazz are more of a “league pass view” a scrappy competitive team without the pieces to fully compete. They are currently who we thought they would be when the season tipped. For example, the Jazz have lost 9 of their last 12, with wins over Detroit, Washington, and Houston. This is less than inspiring but some of the losses have been within 4, 5, 1, 3, 2, 8, and 5. The last 7 losses have been by a combined 28 points. Considering the Mavericks lost at home to Boston not even a week ago by 29 points, and the Clippers were smashed by 31 in Denver the same day, 28 points combined in 7 losses isn’t too shabby. The team competes, the team is fun, and really despite some fool’s gold to begin the season, this is all we could really ask for considering the offseason approach of trading all superstar’s route. Make the game entertaining, establish a competitive culture, but still play a role in the lottery is Utah’s current projection barring any Danny Ainge influence in one direction or another.
Ochai Agbaji was the clear leader in this spot before the zero-point outing in 21 minutes showing against Memphis. He still deserves a shout out however as he did have a perfect 7 of 7, 19-point performance in the loss to Chicago. He did that the game after being a pivotal piece to Utah winning in Houston, responsible for an 8-0 run all by himself. Coach Hardy made it a priority to give the 14th overall pick some run and it has, for the most part, paid off for the Jazz. There will be bumps in the road for any rookie, but Utah is in no rush. This is not a win now team. Giving the former Jayhawk time now, can only help, despite how he plays, in determining the future direction of the team. Speaking of rookies, Walker Kessler was once again a force in the paint. He has had some rough games as of late, but against Memphis he rose to the occasion. He was 5 of 7 from the field for 10 points with 11 boards. The six blocks however really take the cake as the eye-popping stat of the night. He only had one foul as well
showing that more often than not Kessler doesn’t just get shots because he is big or willing to foul, bur rather because his basketball IQ helps him know where to position himself.
Jordan Clarkson does not find his name on this list for playing purposes. He was 50 percent on 12 shots, made two deep balls and had 3 assists for 17 points. Sure, the three turnovers didn’t help, but none of that was big enough to land him in the Tank commander section. What did it was the flagrant foul on Desmond Bane with 5.5 seconds left in the third and the Jazz trailing by 8. Bane drove into the paint and slithered past JC, who responded by taking a major swing at the ball as Bane held it out wide in his left hand. The issue is, Clarkson was on Bane’s right, with the ball as much on Bane’s left as it could be. Clarkson is not known for his wingspan and struck Bane across the forehead. Jaren Jackson Jr went to approach Clarkson, who responded by promptly squaring up before an official held him back. Clarkson was ejected, the Grizzlies got free throws and the ball and Utah lacked a scorer to close out the game. Clarkson has now squared up 3 times in his career, twice with the Jazz and once with the Lakers unofficially.
THREE KEY NUMBERS:
We discussed turnovers being the Achilles heel earlier. Per Eric Walden, The Grizzlies scored 27 points off of 20 turnovers if you needed further prove to cement that. Kelly Olynyk had 5 himself before reaggravating his ankle injury late in the 4th. Vanderbilt, Clarkson and Conley combined for 9.
Secondly, carrying on with Walden’s post game pickups the Jazz also allowed 13 offensive rebounds. These 13 second chance opportunities resulted in another 24 points for the home team Grizzlies. Between Points off of turnovers and offensive rebounds surrendered, Utah gave up an additional 51 points. In a 5-point game, cleaning those things up just even a little bit, could mean an entirely different outcome.
Tony Jones pointed out that 11 of Utah’s upcoming 13 games will be held in Salt Lake City. This means if the Jazz actually do have intentions of making the postseason now would be the time to string together some victories. The Jazz are 12-7 in the house that Larry built so far this year.
OPPOSING FAN COMMENT OF THE NIGHT:
“I don’t ever wish for players to get hurt, but if Kelly Olynyk came down with a case of b-hole spiders I wouldn’t be upset.” -ShonashRavine