Accounting for every ounce of effort put into trying to beat the Utah Jazz, Monday night’s 120-113 loss was the third straight game in which the Memphis Grizzlies’ determination to give their all was just not enough.
“It’s nothing to be frustrated about when we’re giving great fight against the best team in the NBA,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They just have a response for everything. We’re giving it everything we’ve got. We’re competing at the highest level. We’re trying to play our best basketball, and they’re trying to play their best basketball too. …
“It’s actually encouraging that with the group that we have against the group that they have, we’re going toe to toe. It’s phenomenal to watch.”
The No. 1-seeded Jazz now have a commanding 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven matchup with the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies, who will seek to avoid elimination in game five in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday night.
Weathering another barrage of three-pointers, the Grizzlies kept coming back. And when De’Anthony Melton, who had a sensational fourth quarter (15 points), made a layup with 5:20 left in the game, Memphis pulled within two points (106-104). Then the Jazz did it again – a late run that snatched away the possibility of a win for the Grizzlies.
This time, a 10-2 Utah run made it 116-106 with 2:40 left to play, effectively closing the door on the Grizzlies.
“We continue to play hard and not give up,” Grizzlies’ floor leader Ja Morant said. “We have got to find ways to close out ball games.”
The Jazz connected on 17 shots from three-point range, a seven-point margin over the Grizzlies.
“It is tough,” Morant said, referencing how little room for error Memphis has in defending Utah’s arsenal of long-range bombers. “We just have to keep the ball in front of us. We can’t get caught in rotation too much. With us in rotation, they tend to get good looks. We have to get stops, rebound and get out and run.”
Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who scored 21 points, had the FedExForum crowd rocking with his opening dunk.
Asked about the team’s mindset going into what now is an elimination game, Jackson said, “Every game for us is a do-or-die game. That’s just the mentality we have. Obviously, there is a little bit more intensity during these games late, especially when the series is like this.
“You just have to be locked in. A lot of plays are going to be flying at you but keep that same intensity. We know what they’re doing. We got to just execute. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Utah All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell continues to be a huge containment problem for the talent-laden Jazz, finishing with 30 points and going 12 of 13 from the free throw line. He had plenty of help: Jordan Clarkson (24 points), Rudy Gobert (17 points) and former Memphis star Mike Conley Jr., whose 11 points included big-time threes down the stretch.
Memphis’ largest lead was four points and its biggest deficit was 13 points. Morant had a double-double (23 points, 12 assists) as did Jonas Valanciunas (14 points, 12 rebounds). Brooks scored 21 and all of Melton’s 15 points came in the fourth quarter.
“They made more plays than we did,” Jenkins said of the difference in the game. “I thought we got great looks throughout stretches of the game, and every time we missed a wide-open look, either a three or a layup, they just scored right away on the other end.”
Giving the Jazz its due as “the best team in the NBA,” Jenkins said, “… if we don’t take advantage of an opportunity, they’re going to make you pay. A couple of breakdowns here and there throughout the game, but so proud of our guys’ fight. Unbelievable game plan discipline.
“They just made more plays than us. We were right there, another game right there in the fourth quarter. Great fight. Just came up a little short.”
Now comes another test of Memphis’ road prowess. Their lone victory was in in Salt Lake City in game one.
“I think we all understand that we like to quiet other crowds,” Jackson said. “We like to go there and show who we are as a team. We understand that we have to make a name for ourselves, and we’re going to continue to fight no matter what. We don’t care who’s in the crowd. We are going to step up and fight and try to put everyone on notice.”
- Memphis has 2-0 record in elimination games this post-season.
- Tipoff for game 5 is set for 8:30 p.m.