Jazz have to find way to break down Grizzlies without Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY — Tough defense has become a trademark for Memphis once again. Opponents are facing the harsh reality that the Grizzlies are going to make them grind out possession after possession over 48 minutes.
Memphis enters a rematch with the Utah Jazz on Friday with the third best defensive rating (101.5) in the NBA. The Grizzlies have held four straight opponents under 100 points and have gone 3-1 in that stretch.
It has given their offense a chance to progress and blossom, which has happened. Memphis averaged 112.0 points and shot 53 percent from the field while closing out October with back-to-back wins over Phoenix and Washington.
“The way we’ve played offensively — so up and down — it’s good to be 4-2,” guard Garrett Temple said. “That means our defense has been (strong). We’ve been doing what we’re supposed to be doing, even though we have a lot to improve on, on that end as well.”
Memphis put together one of its best defensive performances of the season in its first trip to Salt Lake City. The Grizzlies ground out a 92-84 win over Utah after limiting the Jazz to just 35 percent shooting — including a dismal 8-of-32 performance from 3-point range.
Utah trailed the entire second half and never found a true rhythm on offense. It left the Jazz feeling frustrated.
A different story unfolded against Minnesota in a 128-125 loss to the Timberwolves on Halloween night. Utah had no trouble scoring in bunches, but the Jazz couldn’t stop their divisional opponent from doing the same.
Derrick Rose led the charge on offense, turning back the clock and dropping a career-high 50 points. It isn’t the first time Utah has been torched this season. The usually stout Jazz defense has held just two opponents under 100 points through seven games and has allowed more than 120 points in two of the team’s three losses.
“We talked about wanting to make a mark with our defense, and tonight was an opportunity to do that,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder told the Deseret News following the loss to Minnesota. “We weren’t able to get stops and that’s what cost us the game.”
Getting stops may be more critical sine Donovan Mitchell won’t be playing Friday. Mitchell sat out during the final minutes of the fourth quarter against Minnesota after suffering some right hamstring tightness. He underwent an MRI Thursday, and it was negative, but the Jazz announced he wouldn’t play. The Jazz ended up being outscored 12-9 without their star on the court.
The second-year guard is the main engine powering Utah’s offense, averaging 23.3 points on 44.6 percent shooting.
Memphis will be down a starter for certain when the Grizzlies face the Jazz. Chandler Parsons is still dealing with lingering knee problems and could miss his team’s three-game road swing. Parsons is definitely out against Utah on Friday.
“He’ll be with us, but we don’t expect him to play,” Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
Utah enters Friday’s game looking for its first home victory. The Jazz went 0-2 in Salt Lake City in October with losses to Golden State and Memphis.