by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Brandon Dill of AP Photo
The Utah Jazz (29-30) takes on the Memphis Grizzlies (34-22) in their final game before the NBA All-Star break.
Bittersweet Symphony in Memphis
Going into this game, the expectations were pretty low given the circumstances. Utah was without Rudy Gay and Lauri Msarkkanen while still adjusting to new rotations since the trade deadline. Starting off a little slow, Collin Sexton (1 assist) tried to bring Utah back after being down 12-4 just three minutes into the game. Sexton unfortunately put that weight all on his back and ended up injuring his hamstring and would not return to the game. Memphis saw this opportunity and fired at will from the perimeter shooting 7/11 (63.6%) with Jaren Jackson Jr. shooting 3/3 (100%) from deep. Trying to find new life from the bench in a game that was looking to get out of hand, Utah coach Will Hardy looked to his new guys. With just over two minutes left, Juan Tuscano-Anderson (7/10/1) made is Utah debut and finished the quarter with his first made basket narrowing Memphis’ lead to 38-24.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “ Juan’s first bucket as a Jazzman #TakeNote https://t.co/g9YyPlLNcE” / Twitter
Memphis took control to start the second quarter with a 12-4 run. Utah was able to gain some momentum after Talen Horton-Tucker (15/7/7) created a nasty poster on Jackson Jr. to give Utah some hope. That dunk was the arguably the only bright spot of the quarter for Utah. Shooting 1/10 (10%) from the perimeter, 15 turnovers that resulted in 26 fastbreak points for Memphis, it’s no surprise that Utah was only able to score 23 points. Even with Kelly Olynyk (28/14/6) finishing the half with a double double, Utah trailed 63-47.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “😲 yep, THaT’ll do 😲 #TakeNote | @Thortontucker https://t.co/keEdhE7jnA” / Twitter
The Good, the Bad, and the Jazz
Memphis was still able to find answers to all of Utah’s schemes but only to a certain extent. Desmond Bane (24/6/4) shot 4/5 (80%) within the perimeter but Utah had a few tricks up their sleeves. One of their tricks was also debuting new center Damian Jones (7 points and 2 rebounds) who had an immediate impact with two blocks, one being 25 seconds into his debut. Being able to catch alley-oops and create off the pick-and-roll, many Utah fans were wondering if Jones won rotational minutes over Udoka Azubuike (1 rebound) going forward with his performance. Utah was able to start the comeback going into the final quarter as they cut the deficit down to 88-80.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “Newest member of the Rimness Protection Program ⤵️ #TakeNote | @dameology https://t.co/7goSZI1Ig6” / Twitter
The fourth quarter felt like we were in for a photo finish. Within the first four minutes of the quarter, Utah was able to cut the lead down to three, the smallest deficit for Utah since the 10:25 mark in the first quarter. Utah’s perimeter shooting helped keep Utah in this game going 5/9 (55.6%) for the quarter. Even with his one three-point shot, Ochai Agbaji (17/1/1) continued to turn heads on both ends of the court. Agbaji even had fellow teammate Jordan Clarkson’s (20/9/6) jaw drop after an emphatic dunk with 1:28 left in the game to put Utah within one point. Unfortunately for Utah, Ja Morant (20/8/9) put the nail in the coffin from the free throw line sending Utah into the All-Star break with a 117-111 loss.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “OKAY OCHAI 🔥 #TakeNote | @Youngoch https://t.co/NoIapBzKCN” / Twitter
The NBA will go on a break for All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City. Utah will have a handful of participants in this year’s events but play will resume on Thursday, February 23 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.