The seemingly magic carpet ride that the Grizzlies took Greater Memphis on during the postseason has ended and – after a requisite time for reflection – there will be a full-throttle push to step into the collective vision of a “bright future.”
A run into the Western Conference playoffs that many prognosticators – official and otherwise – did not see coming concluded Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the No. 1-seeded Jazz notched a 126-110 victory to take the best-of-seven series (4-1) from the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies.
At this point, not much really needs to be said about the dynamics of the last game. The more experienced Jazz did pretty much what they have done since their star guard Donovan Mitchell got into the mix after being held out of game one (Memphis’ lone win) to further his recovery from injury.
Mitchell led the Jazz with 30 points. Center Ruby Gobert dominated the inside with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Jordan Clarkson, who netted the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honor, was dominant off the bench with 24 points. Worrisomely for Utah, former Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr. came up with a hamstrung concern and only played 12 minutes, scoring seven points.
As they have throughout the series, the Grizzlies fought hard only to be outdone by Utah. Memphis shot 52 percent in the first quarter on 12 made shots, but the Jazz shot 69 percent on 18 made baskets. Managing only to get within 15 points after the first period, the Grizzlies trailed in the game by as many as 34 points and were out-rebounded 51 to 39.
The Grizzlies were led by their backcourt as Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks each had 27 points. Morant had 11 assists and 7 rebounds, recording the team’s only double-double. Center Jonas Valanciunas finished with 18 points and forward Jaren Jackson Jr. had 13.
So as the team and its fans take a deep breath, I’m sharing some of the post-game reflections from the head coach and players.
Head coach Taylor Jenkins:
“I am so proud of them. This was an unbelievable season. This was a great season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Our team has stuck together, to play meaningful games at the end of the season. We have a bright future ahead of us.”
“It (the season) meant the world. … We found a way to complete our goal of making the playoffs. The taste of the playoffs is on everyone’s mind.”
“Our defense got tested. Our rotation has got to be better. When the going gets tough we have to find a way to make shots.”
Jaren Jackson Jr.:
“I get to play with guys that care so much about the game. … It is so refreshing to be around them. When we are out there it comes from a place with so much joy. I am so blessed to be a part of this team. The hunger is really there.”
“We got the taste of the playoffs and we can build on that. Championship teams have the mentality that every possession matters. They are not coasting. They are not checked out. That is great for us. We don’t care who is out there, we just love competing.”
More from Dillon Brooks:
“Everyone got better as the year progressed. We have a lot of pros on the team that approached the game in the right way. It makes everyone want to play hard and for each other.”
More from Taylor Jenkins:
“Ja is a huge part of our future. That gives me so much confidence (about) what we can accomplish. Ja has grown up so much this year. He is going to be highly motivated going into the off season. We will be back. That is a great mentality. He is only beginning to scratch the surface of what he can become.”
“I have a lot of mixed emotions. None of us like losing. We did not want our season to end the way it did. We have a lot to be proud of. This off-season is very important to us.”
“I am proud of our fight. We played the team with the best record in the league. No matter what happened. we continued to fight.”
“We are still starting to find our identity. We let our defense fuel our offense; everyone staying bought-in and staying positive.”
- Tradition calls for exit interviews with the media for the players and front office.
- The NBA Draft is in July, with the Grizzlies holding the 17th pick.