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MikeCheck: Grizzlies address “slip-ups” amid Game 4 quest to knot series against Jazz

by Michael Wallace | Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – Regardless how this series plays out from here, the Grizzlies are gaining valuable experience that is fast-tracking their development process as they stare down the vaunted Utah Jazz midway through the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

But save that macro assessment for another day.

The Grizzlies are too fixated on the micro details.

Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Grizzlies emerged from Sunday’s film review with a numeric breakdown of the miscues that haunted them in Saturday’s 121-111 loss. Now, the youngest NBA team to make the playoffs in a decade aims to bounce back and draw even with the No. 1-seeded Jazz in Game 4 on Monday at FedExForum.

Jonas Valanciunas celebrating
MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 29: Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrates during Round 1, Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

Boasting the best record in the NBA this season, as well as a top-three league rating in offense and defense, the Jazz are good enough with getting help from their opponent in games. So the first step the Grizzlies must take to regain their footing in this series involves not giving Utah an unnecessary leg up on the court.

“We showed them the clips,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of his team’s film session from Saturday’s loss in preparation for Monday’s game. “And there were basically 28 points we just gave them because we didn’t control what we should have been controlling in that game. And it was almost a quarter of their offense we can hopefully take away.”

From breakdowns in pick-and-roll defensive coverages to routinely fouling Jazz players as they attempted three-point shots, there is plenty for the Grizzlies to address and correct in a short turnaround. Swingman Dillon Brooks insisted his team will enter Game 4 desperate for a win to avoid falling down 3-1 and giving Utah a chance to close out the series in Game 5 Wednesday.

But desperation will only carry the Grizzlies so far against a Jazz team that has drilled 38 threes and averaged 131 points in their two victories since dropping Game 1 at home to Memphis. The Grizzlies know they have a very narrow margin when it comes to defending the Jazz, and a determined attention to detail is vital if they have any chance to remain in this series.

And there were basically 28 points we just gave them because we didn’t control what we should have been controlling in that game. And it was almost a quarter of their offense we can hopefully take away.

Taylor Jenkins

The biggest lesson the Grizzlies are learning so far about playoff basketball is that their veteran opponent is capable of capitalizing on every mistake and miscue they make. Memphis knows it can't afford to get off to a sluggish start like it did in Game 3, when the Jazz jumped ahead 34-22 in the first quarter. And the previous game, it was a 22-point hole the Grizzlies dug themselves in the first half before a valiant second-half rally came up short in a 141-129 loss.

“Now, you can’t have too many slip-ups,” said Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, just the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 100 points over his first three career playoff games. “Normally, good teams make you pay for that. And for every slip-up we’ve had in this series, Utah made us pay. We have to stay locked in defensively, be very solid and then just go out and try to run.”

The Grizzlies have outperformed the Jazz in many areas in this series despite losing two of the first three games. On Saturday, they held an edge in fast-break points, second-chance points and outscored the Jazz by 20 (54-34) in points in the paint. Overall, they’ve also outrebounded the Jazz on the offensive glass and have forced more turnovers throughout the series.

But it hasn’t been enough to compensate for the enormous edge Utah holds from the three-point line, where they’ve outscored the Grizzlies 150-84 over three games. On top of that, Jenkins said he’s counted 10 times in the series when his team was called for fouls as Jazz players were attempting jumpers from the perimeter or three-point range.

Normally, good teams make you pay for that. And for every slip-up we’ve had in this series, Utah made us pay. We have to stay locked in defensively, be very solid and then just go out and try to run.

Ja Morant

For Memphis, those are the more easily identifiable areas to correct. Picking the proverbial poison on pick-and-roll defensive coverages is a much more complicated predicament. It’s essentially a chess match, with the Jazz having lethal pieces all over the floor.

“They have a lot of shooting on the floor at all times and obviously have a big paint presence in (Rudy) Gobert putting pressure on the rim,” Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones said. “They’ve got great playmakers as well. They’re the No. 1 offense in the league and number one seed for a reason. It’s because they’re good on both ends of the floor. It’s a tricky, tough matchup, but we’re up for the challenge and know what’s at stake. We’re confident with where we’re at and confident knowing the adjustments we can make and where we can make strides.”

Dillon Brooks guarding Donovan Mitchell
MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 29: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies plays defense on Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz during Round 1, Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

The Grizzlies insist they’re not overwhelmed by the challenge.

“What we’ve learned in these first three games will help us in this next one,” rookie guard Desmond Bane vowed. “We’ve gone toe to toe with the best team in the world. It’s obviously given us a lot of confidence, and for a lot of us, it’s our first time here. So we’re learning along the way, but I don’t think anyone is scared of the moment. I think we’re handling that well.”

They’ve got great playmakers as well. They’re the No. 1 offense in the league and number one seed for a reason. It’s because they’re good on both ends of the floor. It’s a tricky, tough matchup, but we’re up for the challenge and know what’s at stake. We’re confident with where we’re at and confident knowing the adjustments we can make and where we can make strides.

Tyus Jones

Whereas the Jazz hope to gear up for a championship run, the Grizzlies head into Game 4 drawing from the inspiration and determination that fueled them in the survive-and-advance Play-In Tournament. Jenkins suggested the Grizzlies essentially won a pair of Game 7s in beating the Spurs and Warriors in those winner-take-all matchups just to get into the playoff field.

Game 4 at home against the No. 1 seeded Jazz isn’t exactly that, but it’s relatively close.

“Our season is not obviously on the line, but we understand the importance of what it would mean going down 3-1 instead of 2-2,” Jenkins said. “But you’ve got to raise that appreciation level and embrace how hard it is. Embrace your identity, your unselfishness and your competitiveness. Our game-plan discipline, when it’s been really good and we’ve been really disciplined, we’ve been a hard team to beat. Luckily it’s a seven-game series.”

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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