MEMPHIS, Tenn. (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz are one win away from moving past the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time in three years.
Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, and the top-seeded Jazz grabbed a 3-1 lead Monday night by holding off the Memphis Grizzlies 120-113.
Now the team with the NBA’s best record in the regular season can close out this first round, best-of-seven series Wednesday night in Game 5 in Salt Lake City. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Vivint Arena.
A year ago in the bubble in Florida, the Jazz also had a 3-1 lead only to lose the first-round series to Denver in seven games. Mitchell said the Jazz are in the same situation now. This time, they’re happy for the win but know the job’s not done.
“We have to go there and take care of homecourt back in Utah, and I think that’s where our head is at,” Mitchell said.
Rudy Gobert scored 13 of his 17 points in the third quarter. Jordan Clarkson, the NBA’s 6th man of the year winner, scored 24. Bojan Bogdanovic added 13, Mike Conley had 11.
Ja Morant, who averaged 33.7 points through the first three games, scored 23 and had 12 assists for Memphis. Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. each added 21, De’Anthony Melton had all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Memphis opened the fourth quarter on a 12-2 run, taking advantage as the Jazz missed their first nine shots from the floor. Melton hit 5 of 7 shots in the period — including a trio of 3s. His 3 with 5:30 left got the Grizzlies within 106-104.
Conley ended the Jazz’ scoring drought with a 3-pointer. He also blocked a jumper by Morant and then hit another 3 to secure the victory.
“He’s kind of sneaky quiet,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said of Conley. “He whispers, but you can hear him. I think he impacts the game so many ways
The Jazz went 3 of 16 in the fourth but 11 of 12 at the free throw line. Mitchell hit all six and finished 12 of 13 at the line.
Memphis had another raucous, loud crowd waving growl towels that proclaimed “I’m On My Grizzly” quoting rapper J. Cole.
The Grizzlies had their best start to a game in this series, scoring the first four points and leading by as much as four. Better yet, Utah never led by more than five and was up only 34-31 after the first quarter.
Yet Memphis, the youngest team in this postseason, never led by more than four. Utah showed off its talent and experience answering each Grizzlies’ run.
“There’s nothing to be frustrated about when you’re giving great fight against the best team in the NBA,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They just have a response for everything. We’re giving everything we’ve got.”
The teams swapped the lead 11 times with seven ties in the first half. The Jazz used a 13-2 run to take their biggest lead at 59-50 on back-to-back 3s by Mitchell before Morant scored the final four of the half to trim Utah’s lead to 59-54.
The Grizzlies got within 72-71 with 7:03 left in the third. Gobert’s three-point play started a 13-2 spurt, and Utah led 100-87 after three.
Utah was up 3-1 on Denver in the NBA bubble last year, only to see the Nuggets win three straight games and win the series. So the Jazz aren’t celebrating just yet.
“We’ve seen this before,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been here before. This is the exact moment we’ve played. We’ve played up to being this team that we’ve been, because of that moment, I would say. Because that fueled a lot of this season. And we’re here again, and we’re going to go out there and just do what we do and not really relish in the past. Although, it definitely is fuel.”
“I’m sure it’s something that the guys have discussed at various times,” Snyder said. “I think we’re looking at it more generally, as opposed to pointing to a specific series or a specific time. That situation in the bubble was a really unique one, and that’s certainly not to discount the fact that we were in a position that we want to be in again. But this is a different year, and this is a different team.”