The Triple Team: Utah Jazz get a clutch win against Memphis. What went right in the playoff-clinching victory?

Plus: Rudy Gay returns to the rotation and highlights from an OT win over the Grizzlies

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 121-115 win over the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Playing the right way

It’s funny — The offensive rating was not awesome tonight. It was just a 104 offensive rating from the Jazz. Frankly, they couldn’t reliably make outside shots tonight, making just 25% of their mid-range looks and 31% of their threes.

But I thought they played really pretty good team basketball on their way to that 104 offensive rating. Just maybe, what Rudy Gobert says is true: that when the team plays the right way on offense, it makes their defense stronger. And just maybe, it was that cohesion that got them this win.

Like, here’s the first Jazz basket of the game. What does this remind you of?

It reminds me of how they played last year: in 10 seconds, they make six passes. They move the defense around very purposefully. And in the end, their best 3-point shooter gets a wide-open 3-point shot. The blender returns.

So what if they don’t trap Mike Conley, like they did on the above play? Well, he had an answer for that, too:

What if the Grizzlies switch? Jordan Clarkson is so smart here: he gives himself as much space as possible, and then makes a great read when the help comes.

Donovan Mitchell didn’t have a great game, truthfully. He did some of the iso-ball things late that frankly weren’t likely to be effective — he took an ugly 20-footer that missed, got blocked on a no-chance close attempt in the final minutes. I’m not saying he didn’t try to find teammates — he did multiple times — but there were certainly some elements there of Mitchell’s problematic late-game play.

But Mitchell isn’t the Jazz’s only playmaker. When Conley and Clarkson are doing the right things, the Jazz can get enough good looks to survive and thrive. In particular, if those things are as connected as Gobert wants, they can feel good enough about things to play solid defense on the other end.

2. Danuel House plays more, Rudy Gay plays

Danuel House was once again excellent tonight.

One big differentiator in his defensive game vs. the other Jazz perimeter defenders, in my mind: the ability to regain containment on a play in which the opponent has an advantage. Two good examples here:

On both of these plays, it looks like Desmond Bane or De’Anthony Melton have the first step and a good look at getting to the rim. But House fools them. He stays with his man, and catches up once they go up for the shot. I think other Jazz defenders simply pass the assignment on to Gobert at that point, but that can put Gobert in impossible defensive situations. Instead, House makes big plays.

His running in transition is also very valuable, I think. He’s outright sprinting here in a way that, again, I’m unused to seeing from a Jazz wing player:

As a result, Snyder played House to end tonight’s game. There’s a decent case he should end every game in the playoffs — he simply has provided much more than O’Neale has. But we’ll see.

The other notable shift was the re-appearance of Rudy Gay in the rotation, while Juancho Hernangomez didn’t play. That was a good indication that Gay isn’t forever relegated to the bench. I’ll be curious what happens against Oklahoma City, especially against smaller lineups.

3. Highlights from the bench

One of the things that can happen in sports — and for some reason, especially in basketball — is that we lose sight of the absolutely incredible things that these athletes are capable of.

Basketball is extremely fun! Furthermore, there’s a limited amount of it left, just three regular season games. Certainly, this space has been dedicated to all sorts of drama and analysis and negativity and bummer reactions as the Jazz’s season has gone rather wayward in recent months. This, I realize, has probably made this column less fun to read on a regular basis.

Tonight, especially, there were several game-changing plays that made the crowd absolutely explode, and so we might as well feature them here.

First of all, this Clarkson layup is absolutely magnificent. Using this version of the video because I like the unusual angle and ABC4′s hyper-HD look.

The first screen isn’t effective, so Gobert re-screens. That one works, and Clarkson squeezes in between to split the screen, cutting off the defenders. Then, he attacks the help at the rim, tantalizing them with the ball in one hand, then switching it to his lesser-used left hand for the delightful finish in mid-air. My goodness, it’s so athletic — so silky.

And how about the sheer volume on this Hassan Whiteside block?

The timing is exquisite. The length required alone limits the number of people who could attempt this block. And then, Whiteside throws the ball into the earth with so much force that it bounces probably 15 feet high.

Whiteside was exceptional tonight — it’s a very good thing that he’s healthy and playing well, at the right time.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.