Donovan Mitchell, Jazz Hold off Ja Morant, Grizzlies 121-111 to Win Game 3

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 30, 2021

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) shoots as Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen (3) defends during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis

Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points and Mike Conley added 27 more as the Utah Jazz took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies by defeating the hosts 121-111 on Saturday at FedExForum.

The Jazz led by double digits after the first, second and third quarters, but Memphis began the fourth on a 13-2 run to tie the game at 98.

Memphis grabbed a 109-107 lead on a Morant bucket, but Mitchell scored 10 points during a 14-2 Utah run to end the game.

Conley hit seven three-pointers and also dished a team-high eight assists. Rudy Gobert pitched in a 15-point, 14-rebound double-double alongside four blocks.

Morant (28 points, seven assists) and Dillon Brooks (27 points) paced the Grizzlies' offense. Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Kyle Anderson (11 points, 13 rebounds) added double-doubles.

Utah is now two wins away from reaching the Western Conference semifinals for the third time in five years.

Notable Performances

Jazz G Donovan Mitchell: 29 points, five assists

Jazz G Mike Conley Jr.: 27 points, eight assists, six rebounds

Jazz C Rudy Gobert: 15 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks

Jazz F Bojan Bogdanovic: 15 points, six rebounds

Jazz G Jordan Clarkson: 15 points

Grizzlies PG Ja Morant: 28 points, seven assists

Grizzlies F Kyle Anderson: 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals

Grizzlies C Jonas Valanciunas: 10 points, 13 rebounds, five assists

Grizzlies SG Dillon Brooks: 27 points

Grizzlies SG Grayson Allen: 17 points


Conley, Mitchell Lift Jazz

Utah led by 12 points after the first quarter and 11 points following the second and third, but the resilient Grizzlies hung around and tied the game at 98 thanks to six Brooks points, a Kyle Anderson tip-in and five Grayson Allen points (both buckets off Anderson assists).

The Jazz needed to dig deep to rally against a tough, gritty Grizzlies team that had the backing of a loud and vibrant home crowd. Thanks to Conley and Mitchell, they were able to pull through.

Conley drilled a clutch three-pointer, his seventh of the game, for a 103-100 lead:

utahjazz @utahjazz

our hearts:<br>⠀/\⠀ /\⠀ /\<br>_/ \ /\_/ \ /\_/ \ /\_<br>⠀ \/⠀⠀ \/⠀⠀ \/ pic.twitter.com/gUkDeezL3Y

After Morant answered Conley with a three of his own, the Jazz point guard fired back with a 10-foot floater.

Four straight Grizzlies points gave Memphis the 107-105 lead, but Conley then found Gobert for an alley-oop dunk and a 107-all tie.

Conley was the best and most consistent Utah player on the floor, and Sarah Todd of the Deseret News pointed out his importance as the point guard dominated the opposition:

Sarah Todd @NBASarah

Mike Conley vs. the Grizzlies right now

And Sam Vecenie of The Athletic shouted him out too:

Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie

I’ve admittedly only been partially paying attention to Utah-Memphis, but every time I look up I’m just blown away by how Mike Conley dictated this game in pick and roll. Especially the last six minutes. Every right decision as a passer. The early 3s. Just a superb game.

Morant answered yet again after the Conley dish to the big man, but it was Spida Time from that moment forward.

Conley's assist to Mitchell for an and-one finger-roll layup that gave Utah a 110-109 edge was essentially a passing of the hero torch.


Donovan Mitchell drops 29 PTS to lead the Jazz to a Game 3 win in Memphis 🔥 pic.twitter.com/09SKOnpAZf

From that point on, it was all Mitchell as he destroyed the Memphis defense and led the Jazz to the 10-point win.

Mitchell soon hit the biggest bucket of the game courtesy of a three-pointer over Anderson for the 113-109 advantage:

utahjazz @utahjazz

🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶🥶how many chara pic.twitter.com/m537by7ZN0

Tony Jones of The Athletic had this enlightening comment as Mitchell was doing work:

Tony Jones @Tjonesonthenba

These are just im Donovan Mitchell and I’m a better player than anyone on your team possessions

After Conley found Gobert for another bucket, Mitchell went back at it, drawing a pair of fouls and hitting 4-of-5 free throws.

That salted the game away for the Jazz as it withstood a furious fight from the Grizzlies, which have had a reputation over the years for being a tough, blue-collar team that's hard to put away.

Conley, who played in Memphis for the first 12 years of his career, was a fixture on some of those teams. In the end, his own grit and grind—coupled with Mitchell's bucket-making—put Utah in the series lead.


Resilient Grizzlies Fight Until the End, But Early Hole Too Much To Overcome

Memphis never let Utah run away with this game even though it looked like the Jazz's three-point barrage could do just that.

The fact that the Grizzlies took the lead multiple times in the fourth quarter showcases this team's heart and perseverance in the face of adversity.

They clearly take after the relentlessness of their star point guard in Morant, who is well on his way to being an All-NBA player and postseason fixture for years. He's already put himself in great company:

NBA History @NBAHistory

Ja Morant has scored 101 points in his first three career playoff games, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan as the only players in NBA History with 100+ points in their first three postseason games. pic.twitter.com/l67In1VLlv

The end of the fourth quarter did not go their way as Mitchell simply took over while Memphis went cold from the field, but the issue Saturday was deeper than that, as Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweeted and Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins mentioned after the game:

Evan Barnes〽️ @evan_b

Taylor Jenkins continues to go back how the first Q let the Grizzlies down<br><br>Grizzlies trailed by 12 after one.<br>They lost by 11.<br><br>I've said it all game. Do the math and this loss is easy to figure out. Add in the Jazz making 19 3s compared to the Grizzlies' 13.

Utah won this game despite getting outscoring Memphis in just one quarter. The problem for the Grizzlies, though, was that one quarter ended with the Jazz up 34-22 after 12 minutes.

Cassie Carlson of WMC Action News 5 relayed another problem that Jenkins mentioned:

Cassie Carlson @CassieCarlsonTV

Taylor Jenkins: Jazz made the plays down the stretch. First quarter Grizzlies didn't have the discipline.

The defense clearly did not fare well in those 12 minutes, as seven Jazz three-pointers proved to be the difference in Utah giving itself some breathing room. Royce O'Neale hit three of them.

Utah ultimately went 19-of-43 from three, and Memphis shot 13-of-41. As Barnes noted, it's not hard to see why the Grizzlies lost. They simply couldn't match Utah's firepower from deep, as most evidenced by a fantastic first quarter.

What's Next?

Memphis will host Utah for Game 4 on Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET.