Wednesday brings us a matchup between the Jazz and Grizzlies, who are 2 teams going in starkly different directions. This season has been an abject disaster for the injury-riddled Grizzlies, who seem to go into each game with half a roster’s worth of talent on the injury report. The Jazz, meanwhile, are playing their best basketball of the season, and they’ve officially entered the playoff chase. Entering Wednesday’s action, Utah sits just 3 games back of the Pelicans for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference.
Head coach Quin Snyder recently made a tactical adjustment to the way his team runs the pick-and-roll, which has led to Ricky Rubio enjoying arguably the best individual stretch of his career. Over his last 5 games, the former Timberwolf is averaging 21 points, 9.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and a steal per game. Not coincidentally, the Jazz are 5-0 in that span.
Rubio is also shooting 55% from the floor over his last 5 games, which is likely unsustainable. He’s a career 38% shooter from the field. He’s been even more ablaze from deep, having connected on 62.5% of his threes since January 26. Rubio is a career 31.6% marksman from 3-point range.
Utah managed to decimate the Pelicans the other night despite one of the worst games of Donovan Mitchell’s young career. The prized rookie was a complete non-factor that night, finishing with just 2 points on 1-6 shooting in just 19 minutes. It was Mitchell’s first game back after missing a game with an illness, but clearly, he wasn’t completely well. Here’s hoping he’s feeling better ahead of tonight’s tilt in Memphis.
The Jazz have also gotten back to their sound defensive ways with Rudy Gobert back in the fold. The Stifle Tower has missed 2 different stretches of the season with a knee injury, but he’s back and continuing to dominate both ends of the floor. Against Anthony Davis and the Pels, Gobert finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds while completely taking Davis out of the game on the other end. Davis finished just 6-16 and looked completely disengaged for the majority of the game.
Gobert will be tangling with Marc Gasol tonight. Gasol has posted career averages of 18.2 points and 7 rebounds in 9 career head-to-head meetings with Gobert, but he’s shot just 41.7% of the field against him.
As for Memphis, Gasol is just about the only good thing going for them these days. The Grizz have lost 4 straight overall and 6 of their last 7. The Grizzlies were absolutely embarrassed last night as they were blasted by the Hawks, who happen to own the NBA’s worst record. Mike Conley is out for the season, while Tyreke Evans is being held out as the team seeks a trade.
Deyonta Davis and Chandler Parsons are listed as questionable to play tonight. Even if they are good to go, interim coach JB Bickerstaff has very little talent at his disposal. Gasol is being forced to play heavy minutes alongside guys like Wayne Selden, Mario Chalmers, Andrew Harrison and Ivan Rabb. It’s in the running for the least talented roster in the league.
It also doesn’t help that this will be the Grizzlies’ third game in 4 nights after playing last night in Atlanta. Fatigue has to be setting in, and it wouldn’t be a major shock to see Gasol held out of this one in order to rest.
The Jazz being 7-point favorites is a bit rich, but they’re in a great spot tonight. The Grizzlies are wounded, tired and lacking confidence. Given the fact that the Jazz are flying high, taking them to cover the spread on the road looks like a relatively safe bet. Take Utah -7.
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