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NBA Playoffs, Grizzlies-Jazz: Utah makes bold statement with dominant offense while dispatching Memphis

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The Utah Jazz faced questions about their postseason readiness all season long. Would their 3-point shooting hold up against playoff-caliber defense? Would Rudy Gobert be able to defend in space after two ugly postseason losses to James Harden and the Houston Rockets? Does this team have the star power to compete with true contenders? After their Game 1 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, those concerns only grew louder. If Donovan Mitchell wasn’t going to be healthy enough to play, the Jazz looked like they were in serious danger. 

Well, so much for that thought. Mitchell returned for Game 2 and the Jazz haven’t looked back. On Wednesday, they completed the five-game gentleman’s sweep with a 126-110 victory over the Grizzlies, and they did it without making any drastic stylistic concessions. Gobert is at his best defensively playing close to the basket, so the Jazz surrendered a barrage of floaters trusting they could keep the Grizzlies from shooting enough efficient layups and 3-pointers to stay close. 

The Jazz, after all, make those shots in spades. Utah hit 72 3-pointers across its four victories, which should surprise no one, as the Jazz led the NBA by making nearly 17 of them per game during the regular season. The resultant spacing only made life easier for Gobert, who turns ball-screens into dunks at a rate no other big man can match. He scored 23 points in Wednesday’s win, and Mitchell, now back to full strength, led the way with 30. The Jazz averaged 124 points in the series. 

That offensive excellence insulates the Jazz against the defensive decline that tends to come with drop-coverage centers in the postseason. Prior Jazz teams were built largely around their defense, and when Harden exposed their vulnerabilities, Utah had no other way of beating postseason opponents. Without Bojan Bogdanovic last season, their offense lacked the firepower to get Utah past Denver once Gary Harris returned to defend Mitchell. 

But the 2020-21 Jazz are dominant on both sides of the ball. They are arguably the NBA’s best shooting team, but they still allow the third-fewest 3-pointers in basketball. Gobert can get practically whatever he wants inside, but he still terrifies opposing scorers. For the first time in this era of Utah’s history, the Jazz are a complete basketball team. They won this series with offense, and if they keep this up, they’re going to win their next three that way as well.