MEMPHIS — Every NBA team has games they feel they should have won, and two games in particular still stick in the craw of many Jazz coaches and players: a pair of early-season losses at home to the Memphis Grizzlies, some four months ago.
At the time, the games looked like almost-certain wins, considering that the Jazz were picked to finish in the top four or five in the Western Conference, while the Grizzlies were considered a lottery team destined to finish near the bottom.
But the Grizzlies surprised the Jazz with a 92-84 win on Oct. 22 and followed up two weeks later with a 110-100 victory on Nov. 2. Both games were played at Vivint Arena. Just think, if the Jazz had won those two games, they would be in a four-way tie for third place in the West with Houston, Oklahoma City and Portland.
The Jazz, who were able to avenge one of the losses 10 days later 96-88 at the FedEx Forum, will get a chance to even the season series with the Grizzlies Friday night when they take on the Grizzlies at 6 p.m. MT.
A lot has changed since November when the Jazz and Grizzlies squared off three times in the first 13 games of the season. The Grizzlies have traded their franchise player, Marc Gasol, to Toronto and were rumored to be shopping their other top player, Mike Conley, with the Jazz being one of the top suitors.
While the Jazz have made a late-season surge to a playoff position, the Grizzlies have fallen back to where everyone expected them to be at the start and now stand 14th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.
That should be good news for the Jazz Friday, although the Grizzlies roll into the game off a come-from-behind 120-111 win over Portland, their third win in their last five games when Conley scored a career-high 40 points. And their other two losses in those five games came by 2 points to the Bulls and 4 points to the Thunder.
This will also be the first meeting between the two teams since they reportedly engaged in serious trade talks just before the February trade deadline. Speculation at the time had the Jazz very interested in Conley and willing to give up a combination of assets that included Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and draft choices.
But the deadline came and went and Conley stayed in Memphis and the Jazz team remained intact.
As late as Nov. 22, the Jazz were five games behind Memphis in the standings at 8-11, while the Grizzlies were 12-5 with one of the top records in the league. Now the Jazz are sixth in the Western Conference standings at 37-27, while Memphis is 12 games behind Utah at 26-40.
Conley leads Memphis with a 20.4 scoring average and 6.2 assists per game. Other expected starters for the Grizzlies are center Jonas Valanciunas (18.3 ppg), Avery Bradley (17.1 ppg), Justin Holiday (7.5 ppg) and Bruno Caboclo (6.3 ppg).2 comments on this story
JAZZ NOTES: In Utah’s 114-104 victory at New Orleans Wednesday night, six Jazz players scored in double figures, including Favors with 25, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell with 22, Kyle Korver with 12, Jae Crowder with 11 and Joe Ingles with 10. … Wednesday marked the third time in four games that Ingles had at least 10 assists in a game, including 11 against the Pelicans Monday and 10 against Denver last week. … One player who was acquired by Memphis at the trade deadline from Toronto was former University of Utah star Delon Wright. He’s been getting more playing time with the Grizzlies and has averaged 10.8 points in 28 minutes per game and is coming off a career-high 25 points against Portland Tuesday night. … Also acquired in that trade with Toronto last month was former Jazzman C.J. Miles, who is averaging 8.3 points in 23 minutes per game. … Another ex-Jazz player on the Grizzlies is Shelvin Mack, who averages 7.9 points in 23 minutes per game. … Jaren Jackson, a lottery pick for the Grizzlies last year, is out indefinitely with a quad injury. … The Jazz will return home to face Oklahoma City Monday night before hitting the road for a one-gamer at Phoenix Wednesday night.