MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, and the top-seeded Utah Jazz grabbed a 3-1 lead Monday night by holding off the Memphis Grizzlies 120-113.
Now the team with the NBA’s best record in the regular season can close out this first round, best-of-seven series Wednesday night in Game 5 in Salt Lake City.
“We are literally going toe-to-toe with the best team in the NBA,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said.
All-Star Rudy Gobert scored 13 of his 17 points in the third quarter. Jordan Clarkson, the NBA’s 6th man of the year winner, scored 24. Bojan Bogdanovic added 13, Mike Conley had 11.
Ja Morant, who averaged 33.7 points through the first three games, scored 23 and had 12 assists for Memphis. Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. each added 21, De’Anthony Melton had all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Memphis opened the fourth quarter on a 12-2 run, taking advantage as the Jazz missed their first nine shots from the floor. Melton hit 5 of 7 shots in the period — including a trio of 3s. His 3 with 5:30 left got the Grizzlies within 106-104.
Conley, with former Grizzlies teammates Zach Randolph and Tony Allen on hand, ended the Jazz’ scoring drought with a 3. The Jazz went 3 of 16 in the fourth but 11 of 12 at the free throw line. Mitchell hit all six and finished 12 of 13 at the line.
Memphis had another raucous, loud crowd waving growl towels that proclaimed “I’m On My Grizzly” quoting rapper J. Cole.
The Grizzlies had their best start to a game in this series, scoring the first four points and leading by as much as four. Better yet, Utah never led by more than five and was up only 34-31 after the first quarter.
Yet Memphis, the youngest team in this postseason, never led by more than four. Utah showed off its talent and experience answering each Grizzlies’ run.
“It’s nothing to be frustrated about when we’re giving great fight against the best team in the NBA. They have a response for everything,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins. “We’re giving it everything we’ve got, we’re competing at the highest level. With the group that we have against the group that they have, and we’re going toe to toe, it’s phenomenal to watch. You’re never gonna play a perfect game. You have to play a perfect game against this team. We’re so close.”
The teams swapped the lead 11 times with seven ties in the first half. The Jazz used a 13-2 run to take their biggest lead at 59-50 on back-to-back 3s by Mitchell before Morant scored the final four of the half to trim Utah’s lead to 59-54.
The Grizzlies got within 72-71 with 7:03 left in the third. Gobert’s three-point play started a 13-2 spurt, and Utah led 100-87 after three.
Jazz: Gobert missed the only shot he took in the first quarter, missed his second attempt in the second quarter and picked up his second foul at 9:50 left. He had just one point and two rebounds by halftime. … Clarkson helped Utah finish with a 40-30 edge in bench scoring. … They shot 17 of 34 (50%) on 3-pointers.
Grizzlies: Valanciunas started this game much better than Game 3 when he scored all 10 of his points in the third quarter. This time, he had six points and two rebounds in nine minutes. … Jackson’s season-high was 20 points against Toronto on May 8 after missing most of the season recovering from knee surgery.