Utah Jazz fans have been waiting all series long for their team to put the hammer down on the young-and-overmatched-but-resilient Memphis Grizzlies.
No time like Wednesday’s closeout Game 5 to do it.
The Jazz drilled nine 3-pointers in the opening quarter. Donovan Mitchell racked up 26 points by halftime. Utah stretched its advantage past the 30-point mark just three minutes and change into the third quarter. And the fourth … well, that was an all-but-forgettable victory lap.
And that was that. The formerly feisty Grizzlies’ remaining resolve dissipated, the Jazz cruised to a 126-110 victory, and the team’s much-maligned two-year streak of first-round playoff eliminations was put out of its misery.
They now await the winner of the 4-vs.-5 series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks.
That’s the good news.
Naturally, there had to be an asterisk to it all.
Now looming over the team is the status of All-Star point guard Mike Conley, who checked out of the game at the 8:58 mark of the second quarter, and was ruled out for the remainder of the game at halftime, owing to right hamstring soreness.
Conley missed 21 games this season owing to that very injury — including nine in a row down the stretch run of the regular season.
He had been brilliant all series long against the Grizzlies, the franchise he spent the first 12 seasons of his career with. But he couldn’t close it out. He totaled seven points and two assists in 11:35 of game time before checking out for good.
Now his status for the second round is in question.
The Jazz, of course, have proven exceedingly adept at surviving short-handed, and Wednesday was no different.
They hit 14 of their first 18 shots overall, including 7 of 9 from beyond the arc, in opening up a 47-27 lead after the first quarter. They weren’t able to keep that pace up, obviously, but some elite performances from Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and some great ones from Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Jordan Clarkson kept them well in control.
Mitchell went into the break with 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting, including 5 of 7 from 3. He’d finish the game with 30 points, six rebounds and 10 assists.
Gobert had a typically dominant and efficient performance racking up 23 points (on 10-for-13 shooting), plus 15 boards and three blocks.
Bogdanovic had a hot-shooting first half and totaled 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. O’Neale was aggressive with his shooting, and notched 17 points on 7-for-11 from the field. And Clarkson overcame a slow start to finish with 24 off the bench.
The Grizzlies finally waved the white flag with 2:46 to play, emptying the bench down 20.
The Jazz did the same seconds later.
Now, the Jazz turn their attention to Conley’s health, and to facing either the Clippers or Mavericks. Those teams will have at least one more game to go in their series after playing later Wednesday night.
In the meantime, Utah has a bit to celebrate.
Four wins down. 12 more to go.