Former Grizzlies star guard Mike Conley Jr. returned to a familiar FedExForum court on Thursday and helped the visiting Utah Jazz derail the Grizzlies’ bid to avoid the third loss to Utah in six days.
In the only game the Jazz will play in Memphis this season, Conley, with 26 points, led Utah in scoring in their 111-107 victory.
Ja Morant, who has manned Memphis’ starting point guard role since Conley’s departure to Utah, scored 36 points, adding seven assists.
Memphis (22-23) lost the first game to the Jazz (36-11) by three points before being dominated in the second matchup. Grizzlies’ head coach Taylor Jenkins noted the team’s effort to overcome breakdowns.
“You can’t dig yourselves holes against any team in this league, and especially a team of this caliber. So, a lot better job (than the blowout game against Utah),” said Jenkins. “I definitely still think we had a number of breakdowns in that first quarter. So despite being down one, I felt like we could’ve even had the lead.
“They (the Jazz) shot the ball really well in the first quarter. We had some breakdowns there, but we were able to fight through and make it a one-point ball game going into the second.”
Trailing 29-28 at the end of the first quarter, the Grizzlies tied the game at 38 on a Desmond Bane basket with 7:18 left in the first half. The Jazz responded with 9-0 run in two minutes and led 57-49 at the halftime break.
In the third quarter, Morant did what leaders do: He took over, scoring 13 points as the Grizzlies surged to a 76-75 lead at the end of the quarter.
The last three minutes of the game was like watching the Ja-vs-Mike show. Morant and Conley exchanged multiple baskets. In the end, Conley’s band of brothers were too much for the Grizzlies.
“We go out each and every game with confidence no matter who we are facing,” said Morant on playing the top-tier Jazz. “We just try to go out and win every game, play hard and play our style of basketball. Just attacking every game the same way.
“As long as we go out there and play hard and play our style of basketball, I feel like we’re fine with whatever happens; but obviously we want to win.”
Jonas Valanciunas continued his double-double streak (15 games) for the Grizzlies with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Kyle Anderson finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
NOTES AND NEXT:
Brandon Clarke and Grayson Allen did not play against the Jazz. Both were expected to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday (April 2) at the FedExForum.