Memphis, Tenn. • Turnovers committed and offensive rebounds allowed.
Those were a big part of the story for Games 1 and 2 between the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies.
And they were a big part of the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s Game 3 at the Grind House, as the Jazz’s lack of effort allowed their underdog opponents to rally back from a huge deficit, and even take the lead in the final minutes.
And then, the Jazz got grew up and got serious.
After falling behind by two, they responded by reeling off an absolutely clutch 12-0 run — locking down defensively, finally imposing their will on the boards, getting one big bucket after another, and earning a multitude of trips to the line.
Those final 4.5 minutes of brilliance were enough to slowly suffocate the Grizzlies and secure a 121-111 victory at the FedEx Forum, and a 2-1 series lead.
“It was extremely important to win this one, honestly,” said Mike Conley, who racked up 27 points (on 8-for-16 shooting, including 7 of 10 from deep), eight assists and six rebounds in his latest return to the city where he spent the first dozen years of his career. “You don’t want to say ‘must win’ too soon, but it felt like that’s the kind of urgency we were playing with — and we’ll continue to play with throughout the series.”
The urgency may not have been there for the full 48 minutes, but it certainly resurfaced in the moments when it mattered most.
Donovan Mitchell got it started with a layup, then a pair of free throws. Then, after Dillon Brooks missed back-to-back 3s, Mitchell drained one. A Memphis turnover led to a 5-on-4 sequence that culminated with Rudy Gobert getting loose inside, then gently lofting in a reverse flip shot. Mitchell then suckered Brooks into challenging a 3 and committing a foul — his sixth — and thus getting another trip to line for his efforts. Mitchell then drove inside again, got a whistle against Jonas Valanciunas, added two more free throws to his résumé …
And before the formerly-frenzied Memphis crowd knew what had happened, the Jazz’s 109-107 deficit had transformed into a 119-109 lead with 1:34 to play.
Mitchell (who contributed 29 points thanks to a 9-for-11 effort at the stripe) said it was crucial for the Jazz to shake off that series of turnovers they committed in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, to forget about allowing the Grizzlies to garner seven offensive rebounds over the final period …
Yes, those mistakes were costly — but only as much as what they did in the next few minutes allowed them to be.
“A lot of it was mental. That’s what I was saying to the guys, like, ‘Look, you know, we’re going to make mistakes, but it’s how do we respond to that?’” Mitchell said. “And we understood that this [Grizzlies] team is going to come back. We can go up 20, 30 against this team, they’re going to come back. They just have that will about them, and hats off to them for that. But it’s all about the mental part — locking in, executing and then also responding to adversity when you make mistakes, when you miss three shots in a row, when they make five shots in a row. That’s what the playoffs are. That’s what’s going to come down to.”
Coach Quin Snyder said that the ability to shrug off those tough moments and the get back to doing their thing was paramount.
“You can’t get too high or too low emotionally, and you’ve got to just keep focusing on execution. And that’s really what we tried to do,” he said.
Gobert (15 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks) noted that the Jazz were in control for most of the night, aside from the opening minutes of the third, when Valanciunas briefly off, and those rough parts of the fourth, when the Jazz were falling back into their old bad habits.
It’s those times, he added, that distilling the game down its simplest tenets proves most beneficial for Utah.
“We focused on the little things — make sure that we’re getting those rebounds, that we’re communicating better, and offensively, make sure the ball was moving. And when we do those three things, everything else kind of flows,” he said.
Those final minutes could scarcely have flowed any better.