Monday, February 13, 2012

Postgame Notebook: Jazz 98, Grizzlies 88 — Where It's a Night of Funny Hats and Failure

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM

Game face: Looking tough in Tams caps. Or trying.
  • Game face: Looking tough in Tams' caps. Or trying.

The Lead: The Grizzlies suffered arguably their most disappointing loss of the season tonight. It was the first home loss not to the Thunder or Spurs, and was made worse by being to a Jazz team that's been fading and that the Grizzlies have to pass to get back into the playoffs. A win tonight would have moved the Grizzlies ahead of the Jazz in the Western Conference standings.

Further — unlike the home losses to the Thunder, for instance — this one really felt like the Grizzlies lost rather than that they got beaten. And there were three short stretches that seemed to really kill them:

1. An 0-7 start in the first few minutes in which the Grizzlies somehow notched 5 offensive rebounds without scoring.

2. After the starters turned an 8-point deficit into a 2-point lead with strong play in the first half of the third quarter, the Grizzlies lost momentum when they started subbing in bench players. The Jazz went on a 10-2 run over a five-minute span after the Grizzlies first third-quarter substitution.

3. With the Grizzlies down 5 midway through the fourth quarter, unforced errors on consecutive fastbreak opportunities kept the Grizzlies from cutting the deficit to one: First Tony Allen got fouled in transition and missed both free throws, then Dante Cunningham bobbled an on-target lob from Mike Conley. Instead of being down one, the Griz allowed a lob dunk for Derrick Favors out of the ensuing timeout and were down 7 (83-76) with five minutes to play.

Man of the Match: Several players had decent stat lines for the Grizzlies, but nobody seemed to really put their stamp on the game. I guess I'll give it to Mike Conley, who was the best point guard on the floor and finished with 17 points (6-11 shooting), 6 assists, 2 steals, and only 2 turnovers.

Nightly Number: The Grizzlies thrive off steals and forced turnovers. They lead the league in steals (10.3) and are second in turnover differential (-3). It wasn't working tonight, as they managed only 7 steals and were +5 on turnovers. The Jazz are a low turnover team on the season and are deep and strong in the frontcourt, so they might be a bad match-up for the Grizzlies — off-setting the Grizzlies greatest strength and compounding their greatest current roster weakness. But those factors don't excuse this one.

The Match-Up: Given the Jazz's size and depth advantages up front, the Grizzlies needed a decisive win in the small forward match-up between Rudy Gay and Gordon Hayward. Instead, the Jazz's second-year swingman came out ahead. Hayward outscored Gay 14-6 in the first half. And though Gay lead the way with a terrific third quarter in which the Grizzlies got back into the game, one good quarter was — is — not enough. On the whole, Hayward was the more efficient player, with a game-high 23 points on 8-12 shooting, while Gay's team-high 22 came on 10-19. More telling was that Hayward's scoring came with 5 assists and 0 turnovers, while Gay's turnovers outnumbered his assists 5-to-2.

Modeling the Memphis Tams throwback look.
  • Modeling the Memphis Tams throwback look.

Elements of Style: It was throwback night, with the Grizzlies wearing the two-toned yellow-and-green uniforms of the ABA Memphis Tams for the second time this season but the first time at home. (The first time was the road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.)

The weather-appropriate giveaway at the game was a Tams' knit cap, which a surprising number of fans —┬áincluding the ones featured in this post — wore during the game.

The Jacob Riis Report: The Jazz snapped a three-game losing streak with this win, but I still expect their February fade to continue. Despite their strong start — with 14 of their first 20 games at home — I don't see the Jazz as a team that's going to stay in the playoff race heading into the final month. They are, however, big and deep up front, with starters Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap (combining for 37 points and 23 rebounds) backed by huge, strong, but raw young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who were both effective in small doses tonight.

Where They Stand: The Grizzlies fall back to .500 at 14-14. The Grizzlies are 10th in the West, a game back of Utah and Portland.

Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies finish this five-game home stand Tuesday night with the Houston Rockets.

Announced Attendance: 14,234

Deflections:

Continuing the throwback night theme were four former Grizzlies on the Jazz sideline: Sidney Lowe, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, and DeMarre Carroll

After getting good play from the bench in the previous two wins, it was rough-going tonight outside of Dante Cunningham. Four other bench players — O.J. Mayo, Quincy Pondexter, Jeremy Pargo, Hamed Haddadi — didn't provide much, shooting a combined 1-9. Mayo was 0-3, his first game of the season without a field goal.

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