Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grizzlies 91, Jazz 87: On to the Next One

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Zach Randolph had his hands full against Derrick Favors last night.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph had his hands full against Derrick Favors last night.

Somehow, the Grizzlies managed to pull off a come-from-behind win in Utah last night to beat a Jazz team that's given the Griz more trouble than they've had any right to all season long now. After trailing by as much as 16 in the third quarter, the Grizzlies did some Sean Tuohy math ("If they can get it to single digits by the end of the third quarter") and slowly reeled in the Jazz over the next 18 minutes.

The need for a comeback was partly attributable to the slow start: the Griz ended the first quarter trailing 25-17 and shooting 29% from the floor, with ten different guys getting playing time as coach Dave Joerger flailed around to find a set of players who weren't actively opposed to the idea of playing a basketball game in Utah.

The struggle—a lack of interior defense that made Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors look like, well, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, Tony Allen's continued struggles to guard Gordon Hayward, Courtney Lee's continued struggles to do much of anything useful, among other maladies—continued for a solid 30 minutes of game time, with the Grizzlies never able to get any closer than 10 points or so.

That changed starting in the third quarter and after Mike Miller tied the game with a huge wide-open 3, the Griz finally got the lead again with 2:17 left in the game. Despite a couple of attempts to turn the ball over and hand the game back to the Jazz, the Grizzlies made it out with the only thing that matters on this road trip: a win.

Game Notes

⇒ James Johnson played more minutes than he has lately (a little over 18) and did... just okay. Joerger put him in no doubt looking for some kind of a spark off the bench to get things going. Johnson did that, to an extent, but whether it was inconsistency due to lack of solid playing time or whether he was infected by the same general lethargy that had the rest of the Grizzlies in the mud (and not in the "good" way), Johnson didn't do much. In fact, according to Basketball Reference his individual offensive rating was 51 and his defensive rating was 107. Those numbers would be great... if they were reversed.

⇒ Derrick Favors was too much for Zach Randolph to handle last night. He gave Z-Bo fits on both ends most of the game, to the tune of 22 point and 10 rebounds. Of course, Enes Kanter got 15 rebounds, too, which is more indicative of the Grizzlies' general lack of effort on the offensive glass, but Favors in particular gave Z-Bo problems. Randolph's inconsistent defense has hurt the Grizzlies at times this season, but it's hard to say how much of what happened last night was due to a genuine mismatch and how much was effort/execution.

⇒ It would appear that the Monstars have stolen Courtney Lee's abilities. That's the only explanation I can think of for his slump as of late. Lee has struggled to even get a shot up, forcing Mike Miller into the role of "primary floor spacer" that doesn't bode well for the Grizzlies' tentative playoff hopes. Lee was shooting well above his career averages for a while there, so this is obviously the "regression to the mean" that we were all waiting for, but man, is it poorly-timed. With any luck Lee will get his groove back and the Grizzlies will be on their merry way.

⇒ However improbably, the Grizzlies are now 1-0 on this 5-game road swing, which is the only point that really matters from last night. Everyone struggles in Salt Lake City to an extent. With any luck, last night's lethargy doesn't carry over to the rest of this trip, or the Griz are going to find themselves in ninth place faster than you can say "unmet expectations." File this one away and move on. Next up are the Golden State Warriors tomorrow night.

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