Grizzlies’ challenge vs. Jazz becomes even bigger


The Utah Jazz are expected to have Donovan Mitchell ready to go when they look to rebound against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series at Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.

Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, who took advantage of not having to guard the injured Mitchell, exploded for 31 points as the eighth-seeded Grizzlies stunned the West’s regular-season champs on Sunday in the opener of the best-of-seven series.

Mitchell missed the final 16 games of the regular season with a sprained right ankle, a stretch during which the Jazz lost six times and barely held off the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the West.

Mitchell gave himself the green light after the morning shootaround on Sunday to return for Game 1 later in the day, only to be kept on the sideline when the Jazz decided he wasn’t quite ready to go.

Utah’s medical staff has since announced the league’s 11th-leading scorer during the regular season has improved to the point where he has been cleared to return for Game 2.

Better late than never, Mitchell assured Monday.

“I felt like I should have played. It’s no secret,” he said. “At the end of the day, the experts said no. We can disagree on those things, but that was the frustration.

“The biggest thing for us is moving forward. We lost Game 1, and we’ve got (stuff) to handle. Excuse my language, we’ve got (stuff) to handle moving forward.”

Keeping the Grizzlies off the offensive glass is something that can be improved upon. Utah had the upper hand in many of the key stats in the opener but couldn’t overcome a 100-81 deficit in shot attempts.

The main reason for the discrepancy was 16 Memphis offensive rebounds that helped lead to a 62-42 advantage on points in the paint. Jonas Valanciunas snatched six of the offensive boards, while Brooks found his way to three.

Having helped land the Grizzlies in the first round by being the designated Stephen Curry stopper in the NBA play-in tournament finale on Friday, Brooks’ effort at both ends has been contagious.

“He brings a lot of energy on the floor,” Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant said. “As soon as we get here in the locker room, he’s already up active and loud. He carried it onto the floor for us during the game. We just continue to play off him. I think everybody on this team gets a lot of energy from him, just seeing how active he is on the floor.”

Brooks and Mitchell went head-to-head twice during the regular season, both coming in a back-to-back at Utah in March.

Mitchell got much the better of the matchup, going for 35 points in each game, hitting 24 of his 40 shots and 10 of his 14 3-pointers. Brooks countered with a combined 35 points, shooting 14-of-29 overall and 4-of-11 on threes.

Brooks, the league leader in fouls during the regular season, was whistled for three in each game, helping Mitchell get to the line a total of 12 times. He made them all.

The Jazz lost Game 1 of the series despite a 29-15 advantage in free throw points. Utah got 33 tries, Memphis 21.

–Field Level Media

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