I have a number for you: 128.6.
That is the offensive rating the Memphis Grizzlies produced in
the second half of Game 1 against the top-seeded Utah Jazz. It
marked the ninth time all season that the
Jazz had given up an offensive rating of 128 or higher in a second
half; one of those instances came against the Grizzlies during a
March 30 meeting (Utah won, 117-114).
There's room for Jazz optimism, of course. While the Grizzlies
flirted with a 130 ORTG in the second half of Game 1, the Jazz
*eclipsed* that mark (134.7). That isn't a massive suprise; the
threes started falling a little more (19.4% in the first half,
30.8% in the second), and they were able to get much better
production at the rim (11-of-14).
But the Grizzlies' offense humming like that was intriguing.
They got off to a cold start in their own right, posting a 100.0
ORTG in the first half. The second-half bounce back was impressive
because of the way they got it done: half-court, pick-and-roll
I had questions about the Grizzlies scoring against the Jazz
when their defense was set. I was especially concerned about how Ja
Morant, in particular, would hold up against postseason planning.
To that point, it was encouraging that the Grizzlies had a plan and
stuck with it.
Their preferred method of attack: pick-and-rolls involving a
pair of screeners. Dragging more bodies into the action gave Jazz
defenders, particularly the ones at the point of attack, more to
think about. More space to navigate. That indecision, paired with
the natural openings of the drop coverage the Jazz play, gave the
Grizzlies options to exploit.
Let's start with this third-quarter possession.
The Grizzlies go with a double-high look with Jonas Valanciunas
and Jaren Jackson Jr. as screeners. Jordan Clarkson is in a bit of
a pickle. The mental math quickly begins.
Which screen is Kyle Anderson going to use?
Would it be better to fight over or under the
Is the screener, whichever one Anderson uses, going to roll
How does that affect the recovery path?
Anderson chooses to use the Valanciuas screen to his left.
Clarkson guessed incorrectly, his initial movement going to
his left toward Jackson Jr. There's obvious trouble
there; Clarkson is now behind the play, leaving Derrick Favors in a
Yet, there's more here. Look at Bojan Bogdanovic. As Valanciunas
rolls to the basket, Jackson Jr. pops above the break. Bogdanovic
has to make a choice: provide some semblance of a tag on
Valanciunas' roll, or stay attached to Jackson Jr. and give
Valanciunas an unimpeded path. He opts for the latter.
The result is a fruitful one. Favors steps up to contain the
Anderson drive. With no tag from Bogdanovic or weakside help behind
that, there's nothing Utah can do to take away the lob.
A fun part of playoff ball is that it's all about exploits,
baby. The Grizzlies got the result they wanted and went back to the
well on the very next possession.
Anderson chooses to go right this time, triggering a screen from
Jackson Jr. The Jazz are able to snuff things out, but it flows
into a Jackson Jr. flare, which then flows into a
Jackson Jr.-Valanciunas pick-and-roll. Bogdanovic late-switches
onto Valanciunas on his roll, leaving Favors on an island against
the drive. The whistle is blown after the rim attempt, leading to a
pair of free throws.
Cool. That's Anderson as the ball-handler. How do you think it
went with Morant as the ball-handler?
Pretty darn well.
We got a nifty example of Dillion Brooks and Valanciunas
operating as screeners.
Brooks' positioning is key here. Joe Ingles can't provide any
sort of tag on the Valanciunas roll in good conscious, so
Valanciunas is able to freely rumble into the lane.
Bogdanovic pulls over from the corner to provide late relief, an
understandable-yet-risky decision considering Morant's passing
ability and Anderson's newfound shooting stroke. Here's your kind
reminder that Anderson shot 36% from three on moderate volume this
Morant ends up making his own magic out of the play. He slithers
inside of the trailing Royce O'Neale. It isn't a full "snake" of
the screen, but it's enough to get O'Neale on his hip. Morant peeps
Bogdanovic and Favors converging on the roll, so he bounces it
outside and opts for the floater instead.
Of course, sometimes it doesn't even take all that.
Same alignment, but this time Anderson replaces Brooks as the
screener. O'Neale gets caught in traffic. Morant turns on the jets,
blowing by the recovering O'Neale before launching off one foot for
a skyscraping floater over the outstretched limbs of Favors.
We did get to see a counter from the Jazz later in the half.
Instead of ducking under or looking to stay attached to Jackson
Jr., Bogdanovic shows high against Morant in an effort to keep him
from turning the corner. Jackson Jr. short-rolls, but does so with
Valanciunas also occupying the area.
Of course, Morant is so good that the gambit doesn't work. He
simply resets and works 2-on-2 with Valanciunas and gets a bucket
out of it.
The Grizzlies still should consider leaning into this setup more
in Game 2. They generated a point per possession (1.00 PPP) on 10
"double-pick" looks in the second half, per a source with access to
Second Spectrum tracking data. It's a solid bump from their general
pick-and-roll efficiency (0.93 PPP, 24th in the NBA, per
Being able to give the Jazz more things to sift through while
attacking the cracks of their base coverage is ... probably a good