Sunday, December 8, 2019 2:16 AM EST
By JOHN COON, AP
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Defense is a work in progress for Utah, and the Jazz are starting to put more pieces of the puzzle together.
Utah used a strong defensive performance in the second quarter to power its way to a 126-112 victory over Memphis on Saturday night.
The Jazz smothered the Grizzlies during the quarter, forcing turnovers and contesting shots with a vigor not previously seen during a road trip in which they dropped four of five games, or during a lopsided loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Through the first 10½ minutes of the second quarter Saturday night, Utah gave up just 10 points. The Jazz forced seven turnovers and scored 14 points off the miscues. It set the Grizzlies on their heels, and Memphis never really recovered.
“We got stops,” center Rudy Gobert said. “We raised our level defensively and we stopped turning the ball over offensively. All of a sudden, we were able to score, to get stops, to run on them. The ball was moving.”
Donovan Mitchell led a balanced offensive attack with 22 points. Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jeff Green scored 19 points apiece. Green matched his season-high. Utah shot a season-best 57% from the field and went 19 of 34 from 3-point range.
Excellent ball movement produced high percentage shots through all four quarters. The Jazz had 32 assists on 45 baskets. Joe Ingles led the way with a season-high 10 assists to go along with his 10 points. Gobert (five) and Emmanuel Mudiay (seven) also finished with season highs in assists.
“We moved the ball,” Mitchell said. “We were all on the same page, for the most part, trying to get each other involved. That's just how we have to continue to play.”
Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 26 points and Jae Crowder added 13 for the Grizzlies. Memphis lost despite forcing 22 turnovers and shooting 53% from the field.
“They came out firing on all cylinders,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They hit 19 3s. That's hard to overcome.”
The Jazz shot 60.5% and went 11 of 19 from 3-point range in the first half alone.
Memphis kept pace with the Jazz in the first quarter. The Grizzlies went on a 15-5 run to take a 35-28 lead near the end of the quarter. Crowder sparked the run with back-to-back 3-pointers, drawing a foul and converting a free throw on the second.
Memphis took advantage of six Jazz turnovers in the first quarter, converting them into 13 points. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, committed only two turnovers.
“They came out really physical early,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I think as the game progressed, our level of determination to cut and move alleviated some of that.”
That all changed in the second quarter when the Jazz clamped down on defense to break the game open before halftime.
It opened the door for Utah to make a 20-4 run and take a 60-42 lead. Mitchell bookended the run with a layup and a 3-pointer. Green fueled the bulk of outburst with a pair of 3-pointers and a running alley-oop dunk over a two-minute stretch.
“We just missed shots, man,” Jackson said. “They shot really well today, it was just a couple we needed here and there. Probably taking smarter shots, maybe we used too much of the clock at times. We just missed.”
Memphis cut the deficit to single digits midway through the third quarter. The Grizzlies closed within 82-75 on back-to-back baskets from Solomon Hill and Grayson Allen. Memphis never got closer than seven points.
Ingles and Bogdanovic hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 15-4 run. Green capped it off with another outside basket, putting the Jazz up 97-79.
DISHING IT OUT
Ingles made a splash in his second straight start. He became the first Jazz player to record 10 or more assists this season.
Three of his assists came in the first quarter while the Jazz were trying to keep pace with the Grizzlies' hot shooting. Four came in the third quarter when Memphis attempted to rally from a double-digit deficit.
“He's starting to fall into a comfort level and I know (he showed) his ability to make plays and find people on the perimeter or finish,” Snyder said. “He had a great decision-making game.”
Crowder received a nice ovation from the crowd during pregame introductions. He also shared a hug with Snyder in front of the Jazz bench just before tipoff.
The veteran forward appeared in 107 games with Utah, making 11 starts, before a trade in July sent him, Allen, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round draft pick to Memphis in exchange for Mike Conley. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds during his stint with the Jazz.
“Feels good to be back,” Crowder said. “Me and the crowd have a good relationship and left on a good note, so it felt good to get an ovation when I came back here.”
Grizzlies: Ja Morant missed his fourth straight game because of back soreness. … Crowder got a nice ovation from the crowd during pregame introductions. He played with the Jazz from 2017-19. ... Allen finished with 13 points in his first game back in Utah. He spent his rookie season with the Jazz, appearing in 38 games. ... Memphis outscored Utah 21-8 in fast-break points.
Jazz: Mike Conley missed his second straight game with a left hamstring strain. … Seven Utah players scored in double figures. … Emmanuel Mudiay dished out a season-high seven assists. … The Jazz outscored Memphis 10-0 in second chance points.
Grizzlies: At Golden State Warriors on Monday.
Jazz: Host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.
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