Extra Pass: Jazz hoping for another win vs. Grizzlies

Published October 31, 2022, 1:00 PMMiguel Flores

After an entertaining first meeting, the Jazz are set to host the Grizzlies again. Catch the action live at 9:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines.

It's no surprise that the Memphis Grizzlies are good. They’re supposed to be fun, exciting, and contending this season so expect them to come up on Extra Pass more often this season.

But the Jazz? The Jazz traded away their superstars and most of their veterans in the offseason for draft picks and young players. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Utah.

Instead, the Jazz are 5-2 to start the season with wins over contenders like the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Grizzlies just two days ago.

That game came down to the final minute with the Jazz winning thanks to a clutch triple from Malik Beasley. Even with Ja Morant sitting this game out, this was one of the most fun games this early in the season.

How have the Jazz been so good?

Like a good studio jazz band, Utah has come together and maximized every strength of their roster. Sure, there’s a lack of star power, but they’ve made up for it with supreme chemistry. There’s nothing revolutionary to what they do – they run a five out offense with one or two guards that can drive and kick to their shooters. 43.8 percent of their shots this season have come from beyond the arc, way higher than the league average rate of 38.4 percent.

It's a bit disingenuous to say that the Jazz do not have a star since they do have a couple of players breaking out in a major way. Six-year veteran Lauri Markkanen has been making the most of his break. In Utah, he’s made the most of his experience last season playing as a small forward next to other giants Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Markkanen is averaging 21.4 points on 47.9 percent shooting with 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. All of these would be career-highs if the season ended today.

The Finnisher has had plenty of challenges in his career. He had to go through several nagging injuries and coaching changes during his four-year stay with the Chicago Bulls. He never quite found a fit there since the Bulls signed and drafted players in his position. Signing with Cleveland last season, Markkanen again was a part of a positional experiment, spacing the floor for a gargantuan Cavs lineup. All of those hurdles plus a solid campaign in the FIBA Eurobasket set up what Markkanen is now: a dangerous offensive weapon. 

Instead of pairing him with a burly bigman to protect the paint, the Jazz have opted to use journeyman Kelly Olynyk. Coming into his 10th NBA season, Olynyk was seen as another piece the Jazz would shop when they inevitably trade all their remaining veterans. Instead, Olynyk has only helped them win more games. Olynyk is shooting 64.0 percent from deep, averaging 13.7 points and causing catastrophic problems for opposing defenses.

When everyone thought they’d be digging themselves into a hole for Victor Wembanyama, the Jazz unearthed one of the most fun duos in the league. That’s not all that makes them fun though. Who would’ve thought that a team whose backcourt is made up of irrational confidence All-Stars Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley, and Colin Sexton would form one of the best pace-and-space offenses in the league? Probably no one, except the Jazz themselves.

The Grit ‘N Grind

Memphis hasn’t been too shabby themselves. They’re still led by their frontman Ja Morant, whose been playing out of his mind to start the season again.

In the five games he’s played, Morant has averaged an absurd line of 32.6 points on 52.9 percent shooting with 4.4 boards and 6.8 assists. He's been gliding past defenses and has been more confident in his 3-point shot, knocking down 56.5 percent of them.

He was out two days ago with an illness. If Morant does miss tomorrow’s game, the Grizzlies have the best backup point guard in the league in Tyus Jones ready to roll. He had 23 points and 10 assists in his spot start last Sunday.

Desmond Bane has also become must-watch TV, mostly due to his insane biceps. When people say that lifting weights negatively affects your shot, show them a picture of Bane.

The dude that has 24-inch biceps is a career 43.5 percent shooter from deep. This season, Bane already has a 38-point outburst in his pocket and is averaging 24.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

It's not as if the Grizzlies lack for guys who love to shoot. Dillon Brooks sees himself as the best player on the court all the time. Rookie Santi Aldama has filled in well for Jaren Jackson Jr. as Memphis’ starting power forward. The Grizzlies have built a team and culture that you just expect to do well, even without their star.

Where to watch

This game will be live tomorrow on NBA TV Philippines at 9 AM. There’s also an intriguing early Eastern Conference clash between the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors at 7:30 AM on NBA League Pass.