SALT LAKE CITY — Emotionally, it felt like an elimination game.
Memphis was desperate, fully aware what a loss in Monday’s Game 4 would mean. And considering how they had played the rest of the series, it should have been no surprise the young Grizzlies squad never let the Jazz get comfortable.
The Jazz’s early 5-point lead was answered by a 6-0 spurt from Memphis. Utah’s 12-2 run in the second quarter? Answered with a Jaren Jackson Jr. triple. Utah held a 10-point lead early in the third that evaporated to just 1 point by mid quarter. What about the 13-point lead to start the fourth? Cut to just 2 points down the stretch.
That’s how the series has gone. The good news for Jazz fans: Even with the Grizzlies playing extraordinarily resilient ball, Utah has usually had an answer.
And that was the case again during Monday’s Game 4 as Utah pushed the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination with a 120-113 win at FedEx Forum. The Jazz lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can close out Memphis in Salt Lake City in Game 5 Wednesday.
“When there’s a collective mindset that you have to get to the next play together, that’s what you see,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of his team’s ability to keep taking punches. “We’ve been a resilient team all year long. What we’ve talked about recently is our ability to be consistently competitive. And you see that reflected in our execution.”
And in their timely playmaking.
Like Mike Conley, who had a mostly quiet night but made three huge plays in the fourth quarter. After the Grizzlies had cut the lead to 2 with 5:30 remaining, Conley made a side-step 3 that marked Utah’s first field goal of the final frame (the Jazz did, however, have plenty of free throws). Moments later, he batted the ball away from Ja Morant, dribbled slowly up the court and hit a 3 that served as the dagger — for the game, and maybe just the series.
“I was able to kind of be in front of them and cut him off and make him pick up the ball,” said Conley, who had 11 points and seven assists. “I’ve always had quick hands. … I was able to get my hand on the ball.”
As for the 3s?
“Don (Donovan Mitchell) had done a lot during the game. and was wearing down a little bit so I gave him a couple possessions off,” Conley said. “I’ve been in that position plenty where I feel real comfortable with the ball in my hand later in the game and was able to knock down a couple good ones.”
Just like that the lead was back to 10 and the fans were headed for the exits.
Mitchell finished with 30 points and eight assists in the win for the Jazz. His 35 minutes seemed to at least show that his minute restriction from the injured ankle had been raised, if not eliminated altogether. And he looked much more like his normal self, springing off the floor for layups and rebounds, especially one high-rising one in the third.
He was just 8 of 22 from the field, but he proved efficient in drawing fouls, especially on Dillon Brooks. Mitchell comically held up four fingers after Brooks picked up his fourth foul after hitting Mitchell on a 3-point attempt. Mitchell was 12 of 13 from the free throw line and also added eight assists.
Gobert came alive, offensively, after halftime and finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Clarkson scored 10 of his 24 points in the third quarter, leading a big surge to put the Jazz up by 13 heading into the final quarter.
Conley finished with 11 points and seven assists in a relatively quiet night. Well, quiet if you lookat the box score.
“On paper, he only had 11 points, he had seven assists but it felt like he was out there having 20 and 10,” Mitchell said.
Snyder put it this way: “He’s kind of a sneaky quiet. He whispers, but you can hear him. I think he impacts the game in so many ways, and in those instances obviously making big plays. His presence on the court is so settling.”
That presence played a big role in the Jazz answering every Memphis run. And now the Jazz are one win away from advancing.
Utah vs. Memphis
(Utah leads 3-1)
Game 1: Memphis 112, Utah 109
Game 2: Utah 141, Memphis 129
Game 3: Utah 121, Memphis 111
Game 4: Utah 120, Memphis 113
Game 5: Wednesday, June 2, at Utah, 7:30 p.m.
*Game 6: Friday, June 4, at Memphis, TBA
*Game 7: Sunday, June 6, at Utah, TBA