The Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies play each other for the second time in 10 days Friday, but things are a bit different this time around.
For starters, this will be an in-season tournament game and will be played in Memphis. The Jazz, who beat the Grizzlies 133-109 on Nov. 1 in Salt Lake City, will also be playing without their starting center. Walker Kessler is sidelined for at least two weeks with an injured left elbow.
“This is why you try to always lean into the fact that this is a team, and you try to keep everybody on the roster ready,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “As all of us that spend a lot of time in the NBA know, things can change in an instant.”
That plays in the favor of Memphis, which lost its first in-season tournament game last Friday in Portland. This will be Utah’s first tourney action. Both teams are in West Group A, along with the Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
Without Kessler on Wednesday, the Jazz used a three-guard starting lineup that included the first starts of the season for rookie Keyonte George and second-year guard Ochai Agbaji. George dished out nine assists and scored seven points in a 134-118 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
“I thought we started the game well, helping our teammate who was guarding the ball,” Hardy said. “Then as the game went on, I thought the threat of the 3-point shot impacted our defense and we started creeping out closer and closer to our own man. We left teammates on an island and the Pacers started throwing it inside.”
The result was the lopsided loss despite a 33-point outing by Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen’s 24 points and nine rebounds. The setback was Utah’s fourth consecutive. The Jazz sport an 0-5 road record, including losses in the first three games of this four-game trip.
Perhaps most glaring, it was Utah’s fifth loss by at least 16 points in nine outings.
Memphis can use all the advantages it can get. While the Jazz are off to a disappointing 2-7 start, the Grizzlies have only one win in eight games. They fell 108-102 to the Miami Heat at home Wednesday night.
Jaren Jackson Jr. topped Memphis with 28 points, but it wasn’t enough to help the Grizzlies pick up their first home win of the 2023-24 campaign.
“We didn’t have a lot of guys play well,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Credit the Heat. Their physicality really bothered us. I think we were frantic at times. Just couldn’t get a rhythm going.”
Still, the Grizzlies were within three points with 35.5 seconds remaining after a 3-pointer by Santi Aldama, but Miami’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. delivered a heartbreaking blow from beyond the arc on the ensuing possession to clinch it for the Heat.
“We have a group that fights to the very end,” said Grizzlies guard Luke Kennard, who scored 13 points against the Heat. “It was a little too late there at the end. There were spurts in the game that we were kind of out of it, and they go on runs. We stayed with it to the end of the game. It’s definitely a tough loss. Being 1-7 isn’t where we want to be.”
–Field Level Media