The Memphis Grizzlies have nothing to lose and they’re playing like it as they head into Game 2 of their Western Conference first round playoff series with the top-seeded Utah Jazz. Under the old playoff format the Griz wouldn’t even have qualified, but they took advantage of the play-in tournament winning two games to claim the No. 8 seed. They then proceeded to upset the Jazz 112-109 in the opening game of the series. Leading scorer Donovan Mitchell has been cleared to return for the Jazz, tipping the scales in their favor for Game 2.
This NBA playoff game takes place on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 and will air live on TNT with tip off at 10 p.m. ET from Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz Odds
Spread: Memphis Grizzlies +8.5 | Utah Jazz -8.5
Money Line: Memphis Grizzlies +334 | Utah Jazz -425
Season to Date
The Grizzlies finished ninth in the Western Conference during the regular season and wouldn’t have qualified for the playoffs under the old format. I guess we could say they are a big fan of the play-in tournament. As a lower seed the Griz had to win twice and they did, continuing a strong run to close the season. They edged San Antonio 100-96 and knocked off Golden State on the road to join the field. Their Game 1 victory gave the Griz eight wins in their last nine games. They were just 4-5 ATS in those games, but for the season they’ve been a profitable team going 44-31 ATS in all games with two straight payouts.
Utah owned the NBA’s best home record during the regular season going 31-5. That means nothing come playoff time and the Jazz found that out the hard way. Mitchell has been cleared to play and is expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday, and his presence will have an impact. He missed the final 16 games with an ankle injury and the Jazz went just 10-6 in those games barely holding off Phoenix for the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Mitchell leads the Jazz in scoring and he’ll demand plenty of attention from Dillon Brooks, who went off for Memphis in Game 1 without having to worry on the defensive side. The Jazz are just a much better team with Mitchell handling the offense and forcing opponents to spend energy on defense.
The Grizzlies are playing their best basketball at the right time. They ended the regular season winning five of six games and became the first team to win twice in the play-in tournament. Their only loss in their last nine games was at Golden State in the season finale costing them the No. 8 seed. It didn’t matter, though, since the Griz avenged that setback with a thrilling overtime win over the Dubs to join the field.
What makes them so scary is their balance. Five different players led them in scoring in the final six regular season games. Three players hit the 20-point mark against the Spurs and six reached double figures in the OT win over the Warriors with Ja Morant leading the way with 35. Brooks tallied 31 against the Jazz in Game 1 with Morant adding 26 in the upset win that cashed the OVER.
Maybe the Jazz took the Griz lightly or maybe the week off between games played a role. What did affect Utah was not having Mitchell in the lineup. They played the last 16 games without him, but appeared as though the leading scorer was ready to suit up on Saturday only to be held back hours before tipoff. “Obviously that’s tough on our team when we’re expecting a guy lake that back. But we’ve played this season with guys in and out of the lineup so that’s not an excuse. But definitely a game changer when you know a guy of his caliber is not able to play,” Mike Conley said.
The Jazz looked out of sync for long stretches with the offense going stagnant and the defense playing passive. Still, they got within a point late in the fourth quarter and Bojan Bogdanovic missed a potential game tying three-pointer at the horn. “I was happy with the fact that we fought and got back in the game there at the end. But I think we all know we need to play better. And we need to execute better,” Quin Snyder said. Mitchell’s return and getting a game out of the way after a week off will help and I expect that Jazz will return to their dominant ways at home.
Grizzlies at Jazz Prediction
Our picks: Utah Jazz -8.5 and OVER 218
The loss wasn’t due to anything Memphis did specifically rather the Jazz just didn’t play well. They should know better after a tough season series. Utah won all three but with the exception of a 16-point win in the middle game of the series they were close. Utah won the other two by a combined total of seven points. That has me leaning toward taking the points in Game 2, but with Mitchell back the Jazz will show why they had the NBA’s best record.
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