Following a tough loss on Friday night, the Utah Jazz will aim to bounce back against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday evening.
It’s often stated that in the game of basketball, players have to have amnesia. This applies not only to individuals within a game as it’s important that they don’t get rattled by missed shots or other mistakes, but also to teams within a season. A devastating loss can’t be held on to, instead players need to adopt the frequently expressed mentality of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and simply move ‘on to the next one.’
That’s exactly what the Jazz will aim to do after falling short by a mere point to the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Utah’s next contest comes on Monday night in which they’ll take on the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies had made the playoffs for seven years straight before plummeting in the standings last season. Memphis finished second to last in the West with a record of 22-60 in a season that saw a head coaching change, multiple injuries and an overall lack of depth and cohesion.
With Mike Conley back in the lineup and the ever-steady Marc Gasol primed and ready to help lead the charge, Memphis figures to be a more challenging squad this time around. However, finding their way back into the playoffs could also remain a difficult task for them in 2018-19.
While Conley’s return is a nice boost, overall the Grizzlies still lack depth and experience, which could prove extremely costly against the loaded Western Conference. Thus far, Memphis has started the year out 1-1 and neither game has provided us much insight. In their first contest, they were thoroughly beaten by a solid Indiana Pacers team. However, in the second, they crushed the lowly Atlanta Hawks.
In losing to a good team and beating a bad team, it’s hard to gauge where the Grizzlies stand. However, in years past, this matchup has been a tough one for the Jazz as it’s featured two gritty defenses going head-to-head. Thus far on the season, though, neither the Jazz nor the Grizz have been all that staunch defensively. After a pair of games, Utah ranks 22nd in the league with a defensive rating of 113.7 whereas Memphis comes in at 19th with a mark of 112.9.
Though not a great start for either team, I have a feeling both will bounce back, and whoever can do so the most quickly, beginning with Monday night’s contest, will likely have a large edge in the contest and the regular season series. The Jazz getting back to their stingy defensive ways will be a major key to victory in the game ahead.
The Grizzlies rank towards the bottom of the league in both offensive rating and points per game, so as long as Utah plays a buttoned-up game on D, they should have no problem slowing Memphis down. Overall, the Grizzlies are short on prolific offensive players, so putting up points will likely be a struggle for them assuming Utah’s defense is back at its typical mark.
Apart from Conley and Gasol, two guys who the Jazz will need to keep a close eye on are Jaren Jackson Jr. and Garrett Temple. Despite being a rookie, Jackson figures to be a stud at the NBA level, and is off to a phenomenal start through two contests, posting averages of 17 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on impressive shooting splits of 55.6 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep.
Meanwhile, Temple isn’t exactly known as being a team’s ideal offensive weapon, but so far he is leading his Grizzlies team in scoring at 21 points per game while shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from deep. If the Jazz allow him to keep up the hot hand, the play of Temple could very well prove to be their undoing.
So between stepping up to slow down Memphis’ stars in Gasol and Conley, returning to the former defensive level that we all know Utah is capable of and stopping the red hot Jackson and Temple from getting into a groove, the Jazz should have a pretty good recipe in place for coming away victorious on Monday.
As such, I’m going to pin them as relatively easy winners in the upcoming bout, as I believe they’ll overtake the Grizzlies in short order.
Prediction – Jazz 121, Grizzlies 104
The Jazz need to earn a win on Monday not only to re-establish their confidence after a soul-crushing loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday, but also to set the tone for the tough road trip they have ahead. After playing Memphis, Utah will go on to visit Houston, New Orleans, Dallas and Minnesota in what figures to be a daunting road trip.
Getting off on the right foot before heading out on the road will be an important step for the Jazz. Utah and Memphis tip things off on Monday at 7:00 PM MT within the friendly confines of Vivint Smart Home Arena.