Mike Conley knows better than anyone how gritty the Memphis Grizzlies can be.
“The Grizzlies are and have always been a team that’s fought and been a hard-working organization,” Conley, who spent 12 seasons in Memphis, said before the series began.
Everyone in Utah knows it now, too.
The Grizzlies grabbed a Game 1 victory in Salt Lake City, beating the No. 1-seeded Jazz 112-109 on Sunday night.
“They wanted it and they really worked for this one,” Conley said. “We have to match that energy.”
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Jazz seemed to go wrong in Game 1, starting a few hours before tipoff.
A few hours before tipoff, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell was ruled out for the team’s playoff opener. Mitchell went through shootaround in the morning and said he was feeling ready to play. After the team’s training staff met in the afternoon, however, it was determined that Mitchell’s sprained right ankle was not quite ready for game action.
In the end, though, it was execution issues that cost the Jazz at Vivint Arena.
“I was happy that we fought back and gutted it out and were back in the game, but I think we all know we need to execute better,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “We competed, but we didn’t execute on the level we needed to. We lost the game and we understand the things we need to do in order to come out and win Game 2.”
Among the biggest issues for the Jazz in Game 1:
• Giving up extra possessions — The Grizzlies attempted 100 field goals. The Jazz shot just 81. Blame that on offensive rebounds (the Grizzlies grabbed 16 of them) and too many giveaways. The Jazz turned the ball over 16 teams, leading to 15 points for the visitors.
“We gave them way too many easy points in transition from turning the ball over,” said Rudy Gobert, who had 11 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. “We know that when they’re playing against our half-court defense, it’s a different story. Giving them offensive rebounds and turnover, we gave them a chance to get going.”
• An off night — The Jazz were one of the league’s best 3-point shooting squads in the regular season, knocking down better than 40 percent of their looks from deep. On Sunday, they shot just 25.5 percent (12-of-47) from 3-point territory.
• Points in the paint — Utah was outscored in the paint 62-42 on a night that saw Gobert foul out for the first time all season. The All-Star center said he had trouble reading how officials were calling Game 1, leading to the foul trouble. Still, Gobert said, “No matter what, I can’t let that affect me and I can’t lose my focus.”
The Jazz jumped out to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter, but Memphis responded with a 27-7 run to close out the half. Star guard Ja Morant (26 points) and the Grizzlies led by as much as 17 in the fourth quarter before the Jazz made one final push.
Utah trailed by 1 with after Bojan Bogdanovic hit a pair of free throws with 6.4 seconds to play. Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, a thorn in the Jazz’s side all night, answered with a layup with 4.3 on the clock. Bogdanovic, who scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth, had one last shot to send the game to overtime. But his contested look from 28-feet only hit the backboard.
“The last play, we lost the game way before that,” Bogdanovic said. “I had a great look I was in a great mood. I hit a couple 3s before. I had a pretty good look. That’s all I can say about the last shot.”
Now the Jazz will have to wait until Wednesday night to get another shot at the Grizzlies.
Some 13,000 Jazz fans were on hand for Game 1. Expect another raucous night at Vivint Arena on Wednesday, when the Game 2 tips off at 8 p.m.