The Memphis Grizzlies weren’t intimidated being the youngest team in the NBA playoffs. The Utah Jazz, who had the NBA’s best record, found out by testing them Sunday.
Donovan Mitchell tried to trash talk Kyle Anderson from the sidelines, Anderson mouthed back and the two had to be separated. Dillon Brooks and Mike Conley traded words in the first quarter and Brooks got even with a third-quarter scoring explosion.
When the Jazz got close in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies traded scrappy play for guts and composure. Brooks escaped from the defense for a driving layup with 3.4 seconds left.
The No. 8-seeded Grizzlies brought a fight to Salt Lake City and didn’t back down on their way to a 112-109 road win over the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.
Brooks and Morant shine in playoff debuts
Brooks fed off agitating Conley before he took his anger out on the Vivant Arena crowd. He deflated the Jazz with 14 third-quarter points and timely baskets that fired him up along with the Grizzlies bench
Ja Morant saved his best for last with 10 points in the fourth quarter. Once Rudy Gobert fouled out with 4:25 left, Morant attacked the rim and scored six late points as the Grizzlies held on despite Bojan Bogdanovic leading a Jazz comebak
Brooks finished with 31 points. Morant had 26 points It was a playoff welcome the duo waited for and both delivered.
Building off tension
Mitchell was a late scratch with a sprained ankle but he gave the Grizzlies’ motivation with his second-quarter exchange with Anderson. The Grizzlies trailed 34-21 at that point but Anderson stayed fired up from the sidelines encouraging his teammates.
The Grizzlies went on to end the half on a 28-9 run and didn’t trail. Bane’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer sparked the bench as they had nine fourth-quarter points to offset a quiet three quarters.
Instead of being overwhelmed by over 13,000 fans in attendance, the Grizzlies fed off the crowd and then quieted them with gritty play and staying composed.
Anderson set a franchise record with six steals, including five by halftime. The Grizzlies forced 16 turnovers and held the Jazz, the NBA’s leader in 3-pointers made and attempted, to just 12 threes and 25.5% shooting.
Instead of looking fatigued from playing just 48 hours earlier to get in the playoffs, they were the aggressor as the Jazz found few easy looks.
The Grizzlies have now won eight of their last nine games. They were huge underdogs coming into the series but by stealing Game 1, they showed they weren’t content just to be there. They’re willing to fight and take stripes instead of earn them by defeat.