SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz thought they would have Donovan Mitchell back in the lineup for Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs against Memphis.
But hours before tipoff, Mitchell was scratched from the lineup, catching the Jazz players off guard, and the offense struggled.
Dillon Brooks had 31 points and seven rebounds and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Utah Jazz 112-109 Sunday night in the opening game of their first-round playoff series.
The Jazz committed 16 turnovers, eight in the first quarter, allowed 17 offensive rebounds, and made just 12 of 47 shots from 3-point range.
“Whether it was the offensive rebounds or the turnovers, they just had a lot more possessions than we did and that’s hard to overcome,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “I was happy with the fact that we fought and got back in the game there at the end. But I think we all know we need to play better. And we need to execute better.”
Brooks set a single-game franchise scoring record for a Memphis player making their NBA playoff debut, surpassing the 24 points scored by Marc Gasol against San Antonio on April 17, 2011.
“It’s the best feeling,” Brooks said after the win. “Fans talking ish to you. It just fires me up. I love that. That’s my game. Physicality, I was born into that.”
Ja Morant added 26 points. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Kyle Anderson added 14 points.
After going scoreless in the first half, Bojan Bogdanovic scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Jazz. Mike Conley had 22 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds. Rudy Gobert added 15 rebounds and 11 points before fouling out for the first time this season, and Derrick Favors finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“Man, Dillon obviously plays with a lot of passion,” said Conley, who played 12 seasons with the Grizzlies. “That’s the word I use. You either like it or you don’t. When you’re his teammate, you love it. When you play against him, you hate it. But he was unreal tonight. He basically was unguardable there for a few quarters when he was making everything. It’s Game 1, and he performed very well.”
Bogdanovic hit five free throws in the final minute to help Utah cut Memphis’ lead to 110-109 with 6.4 seconds left. Brooks made a layup at the other end, and Bogdanovic missed a 3-point try with 1.9 seconds left that would have forced overtime.
After making at least one three-pointer in every game this season, Jordan Clarkson was 0 for 8 from beyond the arc, finishing with 14 points on 5 of 16 shooting from the field. Clarkson also had four turnovers.
Mitchell was expected back after missing the final 16 games of the regular season, but the Jazz medical staff thought it was best to hold him out.
Mitchell tweeted after the game, “Sorry y’all. I wish I could say more. I’ll be out there soon!
“I found out about 4 o’clock,” Conley said. “Obviously, that’s tough on our team. But we’ve played all season with guys in and out of the lineup. That’s not an excuse.”
“It was a big surprise,” said Gobert. “When you wake up from a nap and find out your star player isn’t going to play, it throws you off a little bit.”
The Jazz struggled to generate consistent offense in his absence. The Jazz came into the playoffs as the most prolific three-point shooting team in the NBA history, but made just 25 percent from beyond the arc.
Utah cut a double-digit deficit to 60-59 following a layup by Bogdanovic. Then, Brooks took over. He scored 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the third quarter. Brooks capped off his scoring flurry with back-to-back baskets that extended the Grizzlies’ lead to 78-68.
Memphis led by as many as 17 points in the fourth, going up 94-77 on a jumper from Tyus Jones, before the Jazz rallied late.
Utah experienced a dry spell on offense through much of the first quarter. The Jazz made a single basket over a seven-minute stretch while committing six turnovers. The Jazz committed eight total turnovers in the quarter.
Memphis went ahead 17-14 on a three-point play by Dillon Brooks, but could not gain further ground against the Jazz defense.
The Grizzlies missed 14 straight shots over a seven-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters. It opened the door for Utah’s 15-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back baskets by Gobert for a 29-17 lead.
Memphis answered with a 31-7 run, starting late in the second quarter and went ahead 53-43 early in the third. Brooks and Morant combined for six baskets and 17 points to fuel the spurt.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. at Vivint Arena.