"Physical Game" | Utah's Comeback Attempt Falls Short In Loss To Memphis

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

It’s safe to say the schedule has not been kind to the Jazz — and Sunday night was further proof. 

Playing the second game of a back-to-back against a rested Memphis squad, Utah ran out of steam in the end. Despite overcoming a 16-point deficit in the third quarter, the Jazz couldn’t complete the comeback and fell 123-118 to the Grizzlies. 

“Physical game from both teams,” head coach Will Hardy said. “Obviously the second quarter got away from us. … But I think our team dug in in the second half. I thought our team matched the physicality, but ultimately that second quarter was where the game was decided.”

Sunday was Utah’s 43rd game of the season, the most in the NBA. It was also their 11th back-to-back, once again most in the NBA. Lastly, it was their 24th road game, tied for the most in the league. 

Again, this Jazz team refused to make excuses and continued to fight until the end. Considering the circumstances, they could’ve mailed it in over the final 24 minutes — but that’s not who this team is. 

"I really liked our collective resolve on the second night of a back-to-back,” Hardy said. “Our team continues to dig in and fight, and give a great effort every single night. Again, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the results but we’ve had a tough stretch lately. ... But I feel — and our coaching staff feels — that we’ve played way more good basketball than bad basketball in that stretch."

Going up against the best defense in the league, it wasn’t going to be easy for Lauri Markkanen on Sunday.

Still, The Finnisher recorded his 28th game of 20+ points when he finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. 

Since returning from an ankle injury a week and a half ago, Kelly Olynyk hadn’t looked like the same player he was before the injury. 

However, he was back on Sunday night. 

Doing a little bit of everything on both ends of the court and scoring at all three levels, Olynyk finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. He shot 7-for-9 from the floor and 4-of-6 from deep. 

He’s such a valuable member of the team with his high IQ and ability to space the floor — and Sunday night was the ideal example of that. 

After appearing to hit the midseason rookie wall over the past few games, Walker Kessler was absolutely dominant against Memphis. His five blocks in the opening 12 minutes were a career-high for a quarter, and his six blocks total were also a career-high. 

He finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the year. 

As expected after playing less than 24 hours ago, the Jazz got off to a slow start on offense as they trailed 17-10 early. However, the defense was in good form as Kessler was dominant in the opening 12 minutes with five blocks and single-handedly allowed Utah to get back into the game.

Still trailing by seven late in the quarter, the Jazz rallied with a 10-2 run as Rudy Gay and Malik Beasley found their offense — with Gay throwing down an emphatic dunk. 

Utah led 24-23 after one. 

The second quarter saw both teams settle in and exchange buckets for most of the quarter. 

Memphis began to gain separation following a 12-4 run that gave them a nine-point advantage late — but Markkanen knocked down a deep three to end the run. The Grizzlies weren’t done, responding with a 12-2 run before Jordan Clarkson’s bucket ended the half. 

Utah trailed 66-52 at the break.

Once again, the Jazz are never out of any game — showing off the resiliency they’ve become known for. 

A Memphis bucket made the deficit 16, but Utah reeled off a 32-17 run to cut the deficit to one following a Clarkson bucket with just over two to play. The Jazz hit five threes during the run. 

The game then got physical as Clarkson — 13 points in the quarter — was ejected following a Flagrant II foul on Memphis’ Desmond Bane — and the Grizzlies ended the quarter on a 13-5 run. 

The Jazz trailed 98-90 heading to the fourth. 

The final 12 minutes were entertaining, with both teams exchanging buckets and neither able to pull away. 

Every time the Jazz would get close, Memphis would string together a few stops to get the lead back to 10. But Utah kept coming, responding every time and cutting the deficit to four or five multiple times. 

The Jazz made one last run, cutting the deficit to six with just over two minutes to play. They had a chance to cut into the deficit more, but Olynyk turned his ankle on a drive, leading to a turnover and Grizzlies dunk — ending the comeback bid.

“What we have to maintain is the perspective of our team and what’s going on,” Hardy said. “We  continue to have the right approach every day. … We have 39 games to go and a lot can change. Those results can start to go in your favor if your approach is good and you play the right way on both ends.”

Clarkson finished with 17 points and three assists, while Mike Conley added seven points and eight assists. Beasley finished with 15 points and three assists off the bench. 

Utah returns home as Donovan Mitchell returns to Vivint Arena on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MT.