by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Garrett Ellwood of Getty Images
Coming into the game, Memphis announced that Desmond Bane would not play due to ankle soreness, but Ja Morant would return for the matchup on Halloween. Utah also received good news from its injury report. Rudy Gay, who has been away from the team due to health and safety protocols, had been cleared. Gay remained out to ensure he is in competitive condition.
From the opening tip-off, it was known that Morant was hungry to be back on the court. On the second possession of the game, Morant scored an easy, uncontested dunk. Though shooting came pretty easily for Memphis, shooting 8/12 (66.7%) within the perimeter, they struggled from the free-throw line early. Memphis went 1/5 (20%) for the quarter with Dillon Brooks accounting for three of the five misses. Outside of missed free throws, which Utah went 3/3, Utah shot pretty similarly to Memphis in the first quarter. With one more perimeter shot than Utah, Memphis finished the first quarter with the lead of 26-23.
The second quarter is when Utah began to use the home court to its advantage. After monstrous plays by Talen Horton-Tucker and Lauri Markkanen continuing to play at an All-Star level, Utah pushed the full throttle. Utah outscored Memphis 38-18 in the quarter geared by 7/13 (53.8%) shooting for the perimeter. With such a large lead, 61-44, it may have been overlooked that Morant led all scorers at halftime with 21 points.
Having A Gourd Time
The second half still felt like a fast-paced game but centered around perimeter shooting for Utah. While Utah was shooting 7/16 (43.8%) from three, Memphis put their emphasis on driving to the basket shooting 9/21 (42.9%) for the quarter. Though offense is an easy stat to speak about, defense prevailed for Utah. Markkanen consistently showed his height can be effective on both ends of the court. Markkanen hit a career-high in blocks with four while being the first Jazz player to have four blocks and four made three-pointers made in a game. Memphis continued to show some fight but after being outscored 36-30 in the quarter, Utah led 97-74 going into the fourth.
The most memorable moment of the night came in the fourth quarter. Dillon Brooks embodied his inter Allen Iverson by stepping over Mike Conley as if he were Ty Lou in the 2001 NBA Finals. Dillon Brooks forced the ball out of bounds while he was playing aggressive defense on Conley. Brooks looked like he wanted to move on to the next play, but what looked like manufactured aggression led to a technical foul on Brooks. With Utah continuing to find ways to score, Memphis eventually had to waive the white flag. With 4:40 left in the game, Memphis put in their reserves to rest their stars. Utah came through with back-to-back wins against Memphis with a score of 121-105.
Malik Beasley, the leading scorer off the bench with 18 points, had his Utah career high. He sees himself as a high-level player but continues to credit his teammates for allowing the gamer to be fun with their success.
Utah travels to Dallas to face the Mavericks for their first game of a three-game road trip on Wednesday.