Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 96-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz do just enough better to beat Memphis this time
It’s not that the Jazz really figured out how to beat Memphis on Monday night: there was no revelation nor revolution in how the Jazz approached or even succeeded in this game compared to two other slogfests they’ve played in the season’s first month.
No, they just played slightly better and got much luckier.
In the better column: they didn’t send the Grizzlies to the free throw line as much. To be clear, they still did frequently; the Grizzlies' free throw rate was still 23 percent, too high and above average for NBA games. But it wasn’t the 28 percent of the most recent encounter, or the 32 percent of the first matchup. They gave themselves a chance to play solid defense, in other words.
In the luckier column: the Grizzlies shot only 16.7 percent from three. Had they shot a still very pedestrian 29 percent from beyond the line, they would have won the game. Notably, Marc Gasol went 0-4, which meant he wasn’t as much of a threat from deep, allowing Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert to stay closer to the paint and protect down low.
In the better column: the Jazz’s offensive rebounding was huge, as they picked up 13 all told for 16 second-chance points. (The Grizzlies, on the other hand, only had six second-chance points.) Again, that was an improvement over previous contests, though the Jazz’s sheer number of missed shots was a large factor in getting that many chances at offensive rebounds in the first place. Gobert and Favors deserve a lot of credit for tracking town three offensive rebounds each.
In the luckier column: Memphis catching the injury bug. All of Dillon Brooks, Omri Casspi, JaMychal Green, and Chandler Parsons missed tonight’s game due to medium-term injuries, which meant more MarShon Brooks, Garrett Temple, and Wayne Selden than you’d probably prefer to use. Meanwhile, the Jazz’s only disqualifying injury was Raul Neto’s hamstring strain.
In the better column: the Jazz also forced 16 Memphis turnovers after getting just 10 and 11 in the other two contests. The Jazz, after playing the Grizzlies a few more times, seemed to have a knack for knowing where the Grizzlies were going with their plays. They also drew offensive fouls as a result.
“They’re active with their hands, and they’re a long team. They’re a physical team, and they put you in uncomfortable situations,” Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game. Memphis' turnovers led to 24 Jazz points.
All in all, I’m impressed with the Jazz win, but still maybe more impressed with this Memphis team. They seem like the real deal after losing 60 games last season, and Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and the Grit-n-Grind Grizzlies are back.
2. Dante Exum’s bounceback game
Dante Exum only played two minutes and 47 seconds against the Celtics on Friday night, which prompted a conversation with head coach Quin Snyder this weekend. Against Memphis, Exum regained his regular spot in the rotation and then some, playing 20 minutes overall thanks to Ricky Rubio’s foul trouble (and eventual fouling out).
It was interesting to hear how that conversation went from both sides of it.
“[Snyder] just challenged me, he knows what type of defensive player I am and how I can contribute to the team,” Exum said. “That’s what I tried to do on every possession.”
Snyder, as is typical, gave more detail. He wanted to get the message exactly correct.
“The expectation for Dante is that he continues to get better as a player. I don’t want him to lose his resolve or confidence, and I don’t think that’s happening. At the same time, he knows the things he can really do to help our team win. He can guard and defend. We’ve talked about him really having a presence on the defensive end. Offensively relax. Don’t relax to the point where you’re casual, but don’t put pressure on yourself.”
“Everyone’s excited that Dante’s healthy, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have growing to do as a player. Frankly, that’s a good thing, when you have a young player that has the ability to get better, that’s exciting. The message is that that takes time. The only way you get better is by having a tough night and reacting to it and analyzing it and continuing to compete. That’s all really that I want to see from him, is that he competes. I think for Dante things will work themselves out. They may not work themselves out to the point where in the next two weeks, that’s where you can run into problems where your timeline isn’t fair. And that’s my feeling about him being out and coming back, there needs to be a competitiveness and a patience that go together.”
Exum embodied competitiveness tonight in his time on the court: he stayed with Mike Conley extremely well, making life tough for the Grizzlies point guard. He also demonstrated a need to be patient: after the game, he talked about how tired he was while playing those minutes.
After the game, Snyder sent a message to his point guard. After being asked a question about Joe Ingles' comeback, he changed the subject completely to how well Exum played, supporting his player. Snyder is strategic about that kind of thing, and after the disappointment on Friday, he wanted to show that he still had Exum’s back Monday.
3. Joe Ingles' sense of humor
On Monday, Joe Ingles made me laugh five times. Here’s the full list:
1. When I woke up, I was scrolling through Instagram, and found that Ingles had left a very awful and entirely hilarious “dad joke” on Donovan Mitchell’s latest post.
2. At morning shootaround, UtahJazz.com writer Aaron Falk was carrying around a fancy new camera owned by the Jazz, the kind typically used by photographers on the baseline. Ingles was curious about it, and asked how much it cost. Falk said he didn’t know, but he guessed it was expensive enough that he’d be fired if he let it get broken.
Ingles said, “Oh, so that’s all we have to do to get rid of you?”
3. After knocking down the game’s dagger three, this was his celebration.
I’m about 99 percent sure that this is a reference to the “Discount Double Check” celebration made famous by Aaron Rodgers in the NFL, but also famously copied by Steve Novak, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook among others.
But because Ingles didn’t have a belt, only a medically-induced head wrap, he did the celebration with that instead. Levels.
4. Just 30 seconds later, Marc Gasol landed on Ingles, trying to break up a pass. It was kind of a scary play, but after getting disentangled from Gasol, Ingles had had enough. “Hey, just get me out of the game,” he joked to Snyder, but definitely loud enough for everyone to hear. In the context of a game that was as tight and competitive as that one, the joke was a shock, and just cracked me up.
5. After the game, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey walked through the locker room. “I’m not coming back here,” Ingles told his general manager after leading the team in scoring. He’d have to get a new player for the next Jazz/Grizzlies game in March.
There’s no real point to these anecdotes, other than this: Joe Ingles is legitimately funny, not just athlete funny. Savor his presence in Utah, Jazz fans.