Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 124-115 win over the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Flipping the switch in the second quarter
It looked like another rough Jazz performance after the Jazz got out to an early double-digit deficit. Then, in the second quarter, they went on a 25-3 run, and flipped the script completely; they never trailed after that.
What happened in that stretch?
The Jazz’s starters got on the floor.
That’s obviously been a key for the Jazz in the pandemic, being able to play their best players. The Jazz’s starting lineup was a +15 in the Memphis game in 19 minutes, and is now a +40 in 60 minutes since coming to the bubble. We’ve hammered it frequently this season, but the Jazz are very good when their best players are on the floor. They’re not so good the other times.
They changed how they guarded Dillon Brooks.
Dillon Brooks had 18 points through the first 18 minutes of the game, and was getting good looks and fouled frequently. The Jazz stopping fouling him was a key first step, but they also stayed more attached to him after a timeout in the middle of the second quarter as the clear danger man.
Mike Conley became a creator.
Mike Conley had five assists in the six-minute stretch. And they weren’t just lucky assists, they were for terrific shots: three Rudy Gobert dunks, one open Joe Ingles three, and one Royce O’Neale three. Conley has been pretty good in the bubble, but this was his brightest stretch.
That’s all really good stuff, and while some of it was made possible by a little sloppy play from Memphis, it was clearly the Jazz turning their level of play up a notch. It’s a good sign from them moving forward, including against another mid-level Western Conference team in San Antonio on Friday.
2. Rayjon Tucker gets a chance
Some of that initial Jazz deficit was due to bad play from Emmanuel Mudiay, who, you guessed it, turned the ball over again. So in the second quarter and in the second half, rookie Rayjon Tucker got a chance to use Mudiay’s minutes.
I think Tucker was better than Mudiay. He’s a little bigger and more physical, but the biggest thing is that he knows his role: he picks up players in transition, he doesn’t make bad turnovers in transition, and generally the whole team concept works with Tucker taking the floor but not center stage. He finished with one point, a turnover, and two fouls, so I’m not saying it was a tremendous performance, but it was better than the negatives.
The one quibble I had with Tucker’s performance was his reluctance to take open shots when he got them. I tweeted about it midgame after he clearly passed up three wide-open threes to drive instead.
Later, he took one, which rattled out.
After the game on Twitter, Tucker took exception to being called afraid. Frankly, I get that. The guy has taken plenty of threes in his career, was a big scorer in the G-League and in college, he doesn’t think of himself as afraid! And yet, the evidence is clear: Tucker got wide open shots but drove out of them.
If you click through the thread above, there was a little conversation, and I thought it was interesting. Tucker defended himself, noting successful outcomes on two of the three drives he took instead. (The other was a turnover, and in my defense, I noted those successful outcomes too.) And he also noted that he wanted to get into the flow of the game before taking the open shot.
I think that’s one thing Tucker will have to figure out: he’s not playing 35 minutes a game anymore. Initially, he’ll get 6-12 minutes per night, hopefully. And that means taking advantage of every one of those opportunities, because by the time you warm up and get into the flow of the game, it’s time for the starters to come in.
To be clear, I believe in the kid, and I want Tucker to get those minutes. I just want him to take advantage of them.
3. Color in uniforms
One of the best parts of Wednesday’s game was the aesthetics at play. Sure, it was the NBA’s mostly bland bubble court, highlighted by virtual ads that were broken at various points in the game. (When they stretched across the court diagonally for a few possessions, Thurl Bailey made a great joke about one of the players tripping on the logo.)
But the uniforms were terrific: the Jazz’s purple mountain jerseys contrasted against the teal Vancouver Grizzlies jerseys.
I’m #TeamAdidas in general — I’ve always thought their brand allowed more with an enjoyable lifestyle, whereas Nike’s slogans have always insisted you succeed, regardless of whether it makes you happy. But I have to admit that this is one of my favorite things Nike has done: giving every team a plethora of colorful jerseys, and then matching them up against each other.
We don’t always need white jerseys vs. color jerseys in every game, in basketball or any team sport. I like the flair and the flavor of big logos, of strong colors, of audacious finishes. Not every jersey is going to be a home run, but with four jerseys per team (at least) you have lots of different and cool possibilities for these sorts of matchups. Four jerseys per team also has the side bonus of making everyone a lot of money.