Here are five things to keep an eye on heading into Wednesday night’s Game 5 between the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz.
1- Facing Elimination — Teams that lead an NBA Playoff series 3-1 have gone on to win that series 95% of the time. So history is against the Grizzlies but they have won two elimination games already this season. The Grizz knocked off both the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors during the play-in portion of this postseason so they know the stakes and know what it takes with their backs against the wall.
2- Last Year — Teams with a 3-1 series lead are 248-13 when it comes to winning the series. But one of those 13 is Utah. Just last year, the Jazz blew a 3-1 lead in this same opening round of the NBA Playoffs, losing three straight to the Denver Nuggets. But that was in the Bubble. For the Grizzlies to advance, they have to win three straight with two of those games in Salt Lake City where the Jazz was an NBA-best 31-5 this season before dropping game one to the Grizz.
3- Sixth Man of the Year — Utah has so many weapons, it’s hard to contain everyone. Mitchell, Conley, Gobert and Bogdanovic…just to name a few and now, NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson seems to have found his footing. After going 9 for 27 in the first two games of this series, Clarkson is shooting 45% in Games 3 and 4 including 24 points in Utah’s Game 4 win. Just another weapon for the Jazz as they look to close things out.
4- Jaren Jackson Jr. — After missing most of the season rehabbing an injured meniscus, Triple-J is trending up. On Monday night, Jackson scored a career playoff high 21 points, going 8 of 16 from the field which included 3 3’s while also pulling down six rebounds. Jaren did a little bit of everything in Game 4. He needs to do even more in Game 5 if the Grizzlies hope to bring this series back to Memphis.
5- Closing Time — You can crunch the numbers all you want in this series but the reason Utah has won three straight and heading home with a chance to clinch is what the veteran Jazz have been able to do at the close of games. Especially the two games at FedExForum. In Saturday’s Game 3, the Grizzlies took a 109-107 lead with 4:27 to play only to see Utah close the game on a 14-2 run when the Grizz missed nine straight shots. Two days later in Game 4 and starting the 4th quarter down by 13, the Grizzlies got within one possession four different times and each time, the Jazz had an answer. The Jazz also hit 11 of 12 free throws in that final period to once again, hold off the upstart Grizz. If the Grizzlies have the lead, late in Game 5, they must find a way to making winning plays.