There is a new penthouse resident in the West. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the set for part of the season, with the Clippers postponing load management and the Suns missing in the final weeks of the regular season, Utah enters the 2021 NBA playoffs with the no. .1 global seed.
Well, wait a minute: that doesn’t give Jazz the respect it deserves. Did they get some help from the competition? Sure. Did they also use solid coaching, flawless 3-point shooting, a year of rebounding by pick-and-roll savant Mike Conley, better health for Bojan Bogdanovic (as opposed to last fall), an escape from bench by Jordan Clarkson, Stellar D from Rudy Gobert and more All-Stardom from Donovan Mitchell? Absolutely (and it was exhausting writing that sentence).
There are doubts the Jazz are worthy of the seed just because this unit has yet to travel deep into the playoffs. Well, that won’t be the conversation here in the first round, where Utah is understandably a favorite against the mostly inexperienced Grizzlies. This series is shaping up to be a release statement by the Jazz, who will play this round without feeling a major urgency while bringing tons of confidence; the pressure builds from the next round.
The Grizzlies bring a level of intrigue and a bit of excitement to the swaggy Ja Morant, fresh off his impressive Steph Curry and Warriors withdrawal from the play-in game. Morant is an unconventional player who, despite his small stature, will challenge the bigger players at the rim and generally come out successfully. He is the symbol and face of a franchise that undergoes a gradual process designed to create a competitor in a few years. In that sense, the Grizzlies are on schedule, and this series, the first taste of the playoffs since this process began, will serve to mark their growth if nothing else.
Utah has not looked like a suitor since the days of Karl Malone and John Stockton. To even dream of copying that success, the path has to start here in the first round, against a Memphis side playing with house money. If this series includes six or more games, that will say something about the Grizzlies – and even more about Jazz.
Three things to watch out for
1. Morant and Conley should be a delicious game. There’s an obvious angle here: Conley has had a string of really good years at Memphis (his only All-Star appearance, however, has come this season with Utah) and is generally considered the best point guard in history. of the franchise. When Memphis chose to shake up the aging Grit-N-Grind team, Conley was sacrificed and Morant was quickly discovered in the draft. What makes it more appealing is that Conley, after an unstable first season in Utah, is back to the level he saw in Memphis; he averages 16 points and shoots 41% from depth. It’s Old School vs New and worth watching.
2. Jordan Clarkson gets all the love from the sixth man but Joe Ingles is just as strong. In fact, Ingles is the most efficient shooter off the bench, hitting 45% out of 3 (vs. 35 for Clarkson) and 49 overall (vs. 43). Ingles also brings more playoff experience and is arguably more attractive. Additionally, Ingles is a very underrated and intelligent passer who spots his teammates in the paint. Remember when Ingles beat Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder in the playoffs a few years ago with timely buckets? The Grizzlies do better to pay Ingles as much respect, if not more, than favorite Kia Sixth Man of the Year, or else.
3. The Grizzlies are still giving Jaren Jackson Jr. spoonfuls of playing time., who only saw 15 minutes into their overtime win over the Warriors (he was in trouble, but still). Jackson has only played the last 11 games of the regular season after his off-season knee surgery and Memphis places more importance on his future than this series. Therefore, the Grizzlies need center Jonas Valanciunas to at least get Gobert to work and overall they will mostly go with a smaller roster, with Kyle Anderson and rookie Desmond Bane getting executed.
Number to know
17.6 – The Jazz were the only team to place in the top five for 3-point percentage (38.9%, fourth) and percentage of their shots coming from the 3-point range (48.8%, first). They were also the only team to place in the top five for both the opponent’s 3-point percentage (34.1%, second) and the percentage (lowest) of their opponent’s shots coming from by 3 points (34.8%, second). Together, the Jazz have beaten their opponents by 17.6 points per game from 3 points, the second-highest differential of 43 seasons from the 3-point line and more than double that of any other team this season. Portland placed second with +8.5 points per game.
The Grizzlies had the sixth-largest gap from the 3-point range, being outscored by 5.1 points per game from beyond the arc. And in sweeping the regular season series, Utah beat Memphis by 63 points (21 per game) over 3s. But two of the games were within five points in the last five minutes, in part because the Grizzlies outscored the Jazz by 10 points in the paint, 24 points at mid-range and six points from the pitch line. francs, with their 71 total. the free throw attempts being the most important against the Jazz this season.
– John Schuhmann
The Jazz are an extremely deep team and can accommodate up to nine players in the rotation. He’s a tremendous asset in the playoffs, if only because they won’t be hurt by trouble or failed players. Quin Snyder will simply look further down the bench, which stretches out to Provo. It also helps that Mitchell is well rested and healthy and no doubt keen to make up for all the time he has lost over the past few weeks. The Jazz is a tough game for other top teams in the West and will therefore be at the next level against Morant and the Grizzlies, who are taking small steps as a playoff team. Jazz in 4.
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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can send him an e-mail here, find his archives here and follow him on Twitter.
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