After a win on New Year’s Eve against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Jazz welcomed the Memphis Grizzlies to Salt Lake City to try and make it two in a row. Memphis has been finding their groove since starting the season slowly. They had won four of their last six games, and are looking at a favorable January schedule to help them climb the standings. The Jazz have been furiously treading to stay above water without Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks, and for the fifth straight game, Derrick Favors. The injuries have prevented the Jazz from capitalizing on a relatively down year in the West. They’ve done just enough to stay in the eighth and final playoff spot, but it will take several more weeks of patchwork to stay there until they are fully healthy again. They put together a strong performance to get a huge win against the Grizzlies.
The big challenge for the Jazz was keeping up with the formidable Memphis frontcourt. The Grizzlies are one of the few teams that have two dominant bigs. In the early going of the first quarter the Jazz were effective against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Jazz controlled the glass in the first quarter, leading to second chance buckets. Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward both filled their roles as the offensive engines for the Jazz. At the end of the first quarter the Jazz led 28-25. They played very well, shooting 56% from the field, 50% from three. They also outrebounded Memphis 10-6 in the first.
The second quarter started with the Jazz keeping the pace of their first quarter. They had a nice margin on the glass, and they kept shooting well. But Memphis closed out the half on a run. They narrowed the rebounding margin, and continued to shoot well as the Jazz cooled down. The Grizzlies took a lead with about a minute left in the half. The Jazz were able to close out the half ahead, after a score off of a Memphis turnover. Rodney Hood led the Jazz in scoring with 15 first half points. Tony Allen led Memphis with 8 points in the first half. Jeff Withey was impressive in the minutes he played. He finished the half with 6 points, 3 rebounds and a block. The halftime score was 46-45 in favor of the Jazz.
Memphis built a lead as the third quarter got underway. This keeps with a strange trend of weak third quarters for the Jazz this season. But as the quarter wore on the Jazz managed to close the gap and get it back to within one possession. Joe Ingles hit a three, Courtney Lee matched it, and then Trey Burke converted an and-one in barrage of three-point plays Memphis failed to score on the following possession and the Jazz had a chance to cut the lead to just one. Chris Johnson missed an open look at the basket but Memphis failed to score in the remaining seconds of the quarter. At the end of the third it was 66-69 for the Grizzlies.
The Jazz took control early in the fourth quarter. With just over three minutes to go in the game they had a five point lead. Memphis fought back and took the lead late. Rodney Hood got to the line with 30 seconds to go and had a chance to put the Jazz in front. He missed the second free throw, giving the Grizzlies a chance to win it with the last shot. Marc Gasol missed an open jumper from the right elbow and the Jazz called time out with .8 seconds left. Rodney Hood missed a long three and it went to overtime.
The Jazz stayed strong in the overtime period. Rodney Hood, who had a career-high 32 points, hit two huge free throws to put the Jazz in control. After that, Utah closed out with a series of big stops. Trevor Booker came through on the glass in the closing minutes of overtime, and knocked down his free throws to keep the Jazz ahead. The final score was 87-92 for the Jazz.
This win was huge for the Utah Jazz as they look to develop without key pieces. They’re starting to come together and lock down on fundamentals. The Jazz had a nearly flawless first quarter that set the tone for the game, and fought to close this one out. Even with such a great start, they had to give everything to stay in front and even come back at times. After some really tough losses, a win like this will build tremendous confidence for the group as a whole, but especially for guys like Jeff Withey, Tibor Pleiss, and Rodney Hood. Each of these guys contributed in major ways to help propel the Jazz to a win. Houston will be in town on Monday night.
Rodney Hood (Career-high 32 points):
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