With their playoff chances looking more and more tenuous during a recent tough stretch, the Utah Jazz managed to inject some life into their postseason prospects. Behind some clutch play down the stretch, Utah earned a crucial victory over a very good Memphis Grizzlies team, 90-84.
Their recent play has done anything but instill confidence as the season enters the eleventh hour. Facing one of the Western Conference’s contenders was daunting, but the Jazz pulled it out. Gordon Hayward, who has had a few let-downs in recent fourth quarters, was huge in the fourth quarter. His pair of three-pointers helped the Jazz stem Memphis’ late run.
With the vital victory, Utah pulled within 0.5 games of the idle eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers.
Lineup changes: Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin made two key alterations to his rotations Saturday evening that proved integral. First, he inserted Hayward into the starting lineup after coming off the pine the past two months. Hayward’s aforementioned heroics were part of what was a great overall night for the third-year pro. Beyond his team-high 17 points, Hayward also paced the Jazz with eight rebounds while adding three assists.
Second, Corbin implemented the much-discussed “big lineup”: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors. While this proved to be a productive trio last season, particularly during the playoff push, it has been rarely used in the current campaign. With the game’s outcome in the balance, Corbin opted to simply go with perhaps his best players to give him the best opportunity to escape with the win (beyond the three big men, Mo Williams and Hayward finished the game).
— The hall of so-called “Jazz killers” — guys like Linas Kleiza and Matt Bonner who have had career-nights against Utah — received perhaps a new addition to the fold. Memphis guard Jerryd Bayless was tremendous in the loss, hitting 9 of 14 en route to 24 points in the same number of minutes.
— In an odd play, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol’s shoe popped off. It was returned to him just in time to foul Favors with the shoe.
— The Jazz took very good care of the ball, posting a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio, committing a mere five miscues on the evening.
— After starting the past several games, Utah small forward DeMarre Carroll registered a “DNP-CD.”
— A combined 42 fouls produced 53 free throws for the two teams.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.