Jazz aim for 10th straight road win against tame Grizzlies
Two teams streaking in opposite directions duel Friday night when the Utah Jazz take on the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, Tenn.
The Jazz will seek a 10th consecutive road victory and to improve their chances of making a repeat appearance in the Western Conference playoffs after they take the court for the second time on a five-day, three-game trip.
The trek got off on a positive note when the red-hot club thumped Indiana 104-84 on Wednesday in a bit of a homecoming for Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell.
The Louisville product won't get to play an NBA game in his adopted state because the NBA doesn't have a team in Kentucky. So many of his college fans made the 114-mile drive north to Indianapolis to catch a glimpse of the Rookie of the Year candidate.
Mitchell did not disappoint. He contributed 20 points and six assists to the win, much to the joy of a healthy contingent of new Jazz fans.
"They showed out for sure," Mitchell proudly boasted. "It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I was able to play in front of them."
It's a bit farther from Louisville to Memphis -- 384 miles to be precise -- but Friday represents another rare opportunity for Mitchell's fans to see him in action.
Mitchell was held to nine points in a trip to Memphis earlier in the season, but the Jazz nonetheless managed a 92-88 win last month on the strength of Ricky Rubio's 29-point effort.
The win was part of an amazing stretch in which the Jazz have won 15 of 16 to rally within arm's length of a Western playoff spot with 17 games remaining.
The season, meanwhile, cannot end soon enough for the Grizzlies, who have lost 15 in a row, including their last five at home.
In fact, had the season ended Thursday, Memphis (18-46) would have landed the No. 1 pick in the draft by virtue of having the worst record in the league.
That doesn't mean the Grizzlies have given up on the season. Despite playing without their two top guards -- Mike Conley and Tyreke Evans -- Memphis hung tough with playoff-contending Boston, Denver and San Antonio among its last six games.
They also were without Andrew Harrison in Wednesday's 119-110 loss at Chicago. Harrison poured in a career-best 23 points the last time the Grizzlies saw the Jazz.
Playing without Evans has been a bigger obstacle to overcome. The last time he was on the court, Memphis beat Phoenix 120-109 on Jan. 29.
The Grizzlies haven't won since.
Evans, battling a cartilage tear in his ribs, had 27 points in that win. He has scored 20 or more points in 15 of his last 25 games.
The pending free agent insisted this week that he hasn't given up on the season despite having sat out the last seven games.
"I'm getting there," Evans said after a workout Thursday. "I'm doing one-on-one drills trying to keep my conditioning up. There's certain movements I make that still bother me a little bit, like going up and doing different type of layups. Other than that, I'm trying to keep my legs right, so when I do come back, I'll be ready."
Updated March 8, 2018