SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Whether the Utah Jazz keep winning at this pace is debatable, but what is not up for argument is how fun this team is to watch right now.
Led by Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk with 23 points apiece, six Jazz players scored in double figures, as Utah held on in the final seconds for a 124-123 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday night at Vivint Arena.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “It was as hard-fought win against a good team. It was a game of runs, both ways. I thought we executed our offense very well down the stretch. Our last 23 points were assisted.”
“You got to give the Jazz credit,” Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They outcompeted us for 48 minutes.”
The Grizzlies were without all-star guard Ja Morant (non-Covid illness), while the Jazz rested starting point guard Mike Conley. But there were plenty of fireworks from both teams in this game.
Making his first start in a Jazz uniform, Collin Sexton scored 19 points, making 7 of 12 shots from the field. Jordan Clarkson poured in 21 points to go along with six assists, while Malik Beasley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the effort off the bench with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Trailing by five points with 2:30 left in the game, Markkanen hit a corner three-pointer to cut the deficit to two. After trading baskets, Olynyk drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the game, pointing at the raucous crowd afterwards, to give the Jazz a 121-120 lead with 1:08 remaining.
Then with 23 seconds left, Beasley buried a three-pointer, getting mobbed by his teammates, to give Utah a seemingly comfortable 4-point lead.
But after a Jazz turnover, Dylan Brooks hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 124-123 with 15.6 seconds left.
A chaotic sequence ensued on the other end, with the Grizzlies ultimately ending up with the ball with 3.2 seconds left. But the Jazz defense tightened up, and Desmond Bane slipped and fell as the clock expired.
“We don’t really have that one guy that is making all the plays,” Olynyk said. “So when it’s kind of chaotic and you’re moving the ball and your body and creating confusion for the defense, that’s probably when we’re at our best.”
Three of Utah’s five victories have been decided by one point or in overtime.
Bane scored 32 to lead Memphis, while Brooks poured in 30. Tyus Jones added 23 points and 10 assists for the Grizzlies.
Utah continues to share the ball effectively with 30 assists on 45 made baskets in the game. Jarred Vanderbilt did a little bit of everything for the Jazz, finishing with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
Clarkson had six assists, and has become more of a playmaker this season, rather than just a scorer.
“Ever since I got moved to the bench in the past however many seasons, I have just been a gun,” Clarkson said. :I just shoot. But now I am in the position to make plays.”
“I have not begged him to be a playmaker,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “I’ve told him that if the game tells him to shoot 10 times in a row then he should shoot 10 times in a row. But I just think he has more to offer us on that end and we saw some big passes down the stretch from him tonight.”
David Roddy capped a 15-0 spurt with a 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies an 85-79 lead with 4:00 left in the third quarter.
In the final 1:31 of the half, Jarred Vanderbilt and Olynyk combined to scored 10 points to cap a 38-point second quarter as the Jazz shot 15 of 21 from the field. Utah led 62-54 at the half.
Olynyk was 8-for-10 from the field, and contributed four assists and three blocks. Markkanen made 9 of 21 shots, pulled down nine rebounds and dished out five assists.
Utah shots 51.7 percent from the field, and made 19 of 44 three-pointers (43.2%). The Jazz remain undefeated at home, winning all three games at Vivint Arena.
Utah was a bit sloppy with the ball, committing 19 turnovers. But the defense made up for it, forcing 20 Memphis turnovers.
Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler sat out with an illness, while Simone Fontecchio and Rudy Gay are still in health and safety protocols.
The Jazz (5-2) and Grizzlies will play again Monday night in Salt Lake City at 7:00 p.m.