Mark Milligan Jr.
Nov. 11, 2018
The Utah Jazz are sitting with a 6-6 record to start the season and if you were feeling like they were underperforming, you’re not alone. Considering their post-All-Star dominance last year and their uneventful offseason, I’d dare say most fans expected Utah to pick up where they left off. I’m as guilty as anybody.
However, what we’ve seen so far should probably have been expected, even from a great team like we hope them to be. Just because the team barely changed doesn’t mean their environment didn’t. With the Western Conference becoming more competitive and the new freedom of movement rule (sure, let’s tack on another rule to put defensive teams at a disadvantage) there are new hurdles for the Jazz to overcome. Not to mention, while the team is still adjusting, this early part of the season happens to be one of the more difficult schedules in the league with 19 of their first 30 games being on the road, often against teams that are playing better than expected. The trick isn’t about dominating this part of the season. It’s about surviving it, learning, and adjusting, and that’s exactly what the Jazz have been doing.
In fact, tonight will be a good measurement on how well they’ve been doing that. One of those teams that have been playing better than expected is the Memphis Grizzlies, who the Jazz have already lost twice to this season. Utah fans were understandably disappointed when their team lost at home in only their 3rd game of the season to a Memphis team that wasn’t supposed to be very good. Yet aside from the fact that the Grizzlies always play particularly well against Utah, they have proven to be a legitimately competitive team thus far with a 7-4 record and currently tied for 4th in the West. In fact, the Jazz aren’t the only team being unexpectedly stunned by a Grizzlies team who has already beaten the Nuggets and 76ers as well.
The Jazz will now travel to Memphis in an attempt feed the momentum of a 2-game winning streak and avoid their 3rd strike against Marc Gasol and company. A redeeming win would give Utah some valuable confidence as they begin their 5-game road trip that includes stops on Boston, Philadelphia, and Indiana.
No question that Quin Snyder and his staff will have the team plenty prepared with two games of experience under their belt already this season. A major key to keep an eye on will be defending the Conley-Gasol pick’n roll/pop, a task made even more difficult with the freedom of movement rule. Having Donovan Mitchell back (a luxury the Jazz Missed our on during the last matchup) will definitely come in handy as well.
At this point, both teams know each other well and Utah has no excuses at this point. They won’t be caught off guard by a surprisingly good team and they should have all of their starters this time. (Rubio was listed as questionable due to back spasms, but it is expected that he will play.) It’s time to see if the Jazz can get the Memphis monkey off their backs at 6:00 PM tonight.
*Featured image via TennTruth.com