There aren’t that many games on the final day of the NBA season with two teams that need the win, but the Utah Jazz visit to the Memphis Grizzlies is one of them, with the visitors needing a win and some outside assistance to make the playoffs, while the Grizzlies are trying to get home court advantage in the first round.
This is the fourth time the two teams have met, with Memphis (55-26) winning twice, but the Jazz (43-38) winning the latest encounter does give them a little bit of hope heading into the final day of the season, trying to breakout their short playoff drought, which might be extended to a third year in a row. The Jazz have to beat the Grizzlies, despite their not-so-promising 13-27 away record and hope the Los Angeles Lakers lose to the Houston Rockets.
While it would have been fair all around to have both crucial games for the final spot in the West, but that’s the NBA for you. Memphis don’t have a chance of finishing third, but need a win plus a Clippers lose to claim the actual fourth spot in the West, meaning home court advantage in their first round series, if it is indeed the Clippers they face.
Utah do have a couple of road wins lately to base their faith on. In general they’ve won nine out of their last 11 games, including recent road wins over the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves. What’s been especially surprising has been the production from the backcourt and especially Mo Williams, averaging 18.8 points over the last four games. In their last couple of nights, All Jefferson has taken the scoring load, averaging 31 points in the two wins over the Timberwolves.
Playing well in the paint is the key to hanging with the Memphis Grizzlies, boasting the best big-man duo in the NBA in Marc Gasol (14.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (15.3 points, 11.1 rebounds), who should make life for Jefferson and Paul Millsap quite difficult. Randolph is averaging 20 points and 14.3 rebounds this season against Utah, who have lost five of their last six in Memphis.
Prediction – The Jazz need more things to happen in order to win. With both teams heading into the game in similar form and with a similar need to win (albeit the Jazz are a tad more desperate), the team that manages to have a backcourt player to step up – either Mike Conley or Mo Williams, will probably be the one to win the game, while the inside players should cancel each other out. Still, if I’d have to pick, I’ll take the Grizzlies in this one for generally having the better team and defense.