Utah Jazz match Grizzlies’ resilience with their own, win Game 4 to take 3-1 series lead

The Jazz take Memphis’ best shots and hold them off for a 120-113 victory. The series now shifts back to Salt Lake City for potential close-out game on Wednesday.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Monday, May 31, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis, Tenn. • Every time the Utah Jazz thought they had the Grizzlies on the verge of falling behind for good Monday night, they got proven otherwise.

That 10-2 run to go up nine late in the second quarter? Answered with two buckets to make it a five-point game at the half. That end-of-third-quarter stretch that extended the advantage to 13? Memphis was back within two points with 5 1/2 minutes to go.

Yeah, the Grizz are a resilient bunch.

Thing is, so are the Jazz.

Every time Memphis seemed on the verge of turning the game around, Utah would reassert control, surge further ahead, and slowly squeeze the life out of the Grizzlies’ fading hopes of extending their postseason run.

Timely buckets and timely stops — over and over again — eventually settled things, as the Jazz pulled away for a 120-113 victory at FedEx Forum. Utah swept the two-game Grind City set, and grabbed a 3-1 stranglehold on the first-round playoff series, with the teams now headed back to Salt Lake City.

“When there’s a collective mindset that you have to get to the next play together, that’s what you see,” coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve been a resilient team all year long. Our biggest challenge, and the one we’ve talked about the most recently, is just to be consistently competitive. And our execution is reflective of that on both ends of the floor.”

The crucial final three-plus minutes Monday saw Mike Conley block a Ja Morant jumper, then go down and drill a 3-pointer on the other end. After Morant missed a 3, Rudy Gobert located Bojan Bogdanovic for another triple.

Just like that, the lead went from four to 10.

And just like that, all the raucous energy seeped out of the building.

Conley said Utah’s experience was a key factor, as the Jazz were able to maintain an equilibrium of sorts, while the Grizzlies were momentarily powered by a subsuming energy derived from closing the gap, but also ultimately came up short when that power waned.

“Well, I think in those stretches where they’re making runs, they’re a very emotional team — they get very high in those moments. And for us, it’s kind of just trying to stay steady through it all, trying to understand that execution and discipline down the stretch is what we need most,” said Conley. “And when we’re able to do both of those things on both ends of the floor, I think it allows us to put stretches together where we stop a 9-0 run and put our own 14-0 run together, allowing us to get a little bit of breathing room to win these games down the stretch.”

Indeed, the Jazz were all the better for all their players who stayed the course.

Donovan Mitchell played 35 minutes and looked his normal self again, racking up 30 points and eight assists.

After being limited to just a single point and two rebounds in a nondescript first half, Gobert came alive after the break, finishing with 17 points and eight boards.

Jordan Clarkson, who struggled through the first three games, and began Game 4 a woeful 2 for 7, hit 6 of his final 11 shots to post 24 points and six rebounds.

Conley, meanwhile, had his quietest game of the series thus far (just six field goal attempts), but had those clutch stretch moments to highlight an 11-point, seven-assist effort.

“He’s kind of sneaky quiet. He whispers, but you can hear him,” said Snyder. “… Mike’s capable of making big plays on both ends, and those two plays consecutively surely had a big impact on the momentum of the game.”

Still, while Utah’s ability to weather the storm and get going again has proven a most useful trait, those fluctuations in effort and intensity remain a problem they’d like to solve.

“They’re a team that’s never going to quit — up 30, down 30, it doesn’t matter what quarter it is. And hats off to them for that. But the biggest thing is when you have a team that’s always to be aggressive, always trying to continue to fight, you got to be smart with the basketball,” said Mitchell. “Too many times tonight, we’d get up nine, 10, and we’d get careless. I threw a cross-court baseball pass — turnover, leads to a 3. We had another one that was a stupid pass. … We fixed it, we executed through it, and it didn’t end up hurting us.”

This time.

Well, other times, too. These Jazz have had plenty of experience at staring down adversity, and have found that taking it on collectively generally yields the most capacity for overcoming it.

“Most important, more than anything, is to be able to keep trusting each other when it gets tough,” said Gobert. “And when it gets tough, I feel like we raise our level, and raise it together. … Our communication goes up, our physicality goes up, and our awareness goes up. And it ends up in wins.”

The Grizzlies have proven that they will not give up or go away.

The Jazz, meanwhile, have proven the same. That’s how they’ve amassed a 3-1 series lead, and earned a chance to close things out on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. in the friendly confines of Vivint Arena.

Then again, the Jazz have had a 3-1 series lead in their recent history. They’re plenty motivated to get one more victory.

“We didn’t really come in the locker room like, ‘We got ‘em.’ The job’s not done. It’s not finished. I think that’s the message. I know that’s the message,” said Mitchell. “One through 17, coaches, and everybody. We have to go and take care of home court back in Utah.”