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NBA playoffs: Jazz math problem just doesnt add up for Grizzlies as Utah takes 2-1 series lead

4 min read

The raucous sound of nearly 10,000 fans welcomed the Memphis Grizzlies back to FedExForum after 10 days. After four years without playoff basketball, it felt right that Game 3 had the season’s largest crowd.

The Grizzlies rode that emotion, overcoming an 11-point third-quarter deficit. Fans waved their Growl Towels to spur them on.

But the Utah Jazz stayed composed. A hostile environment didn’t shake them and they closed out the Grizzlies with their defense and won 121-111 on Saturday to go up 2-1 in their first-round series.

The Grizzlies led 109-107 after a shot by Ja Morant with 4:27 left. It was their last field goal as the Jazz followed with a 14-2 run.

The theme of Game 3 was the Jazz countering every Grizzlies push. Any time Memphis had a surge, Utah met it with a run of its own.

Donovan Mitchell started it with a layup and free throw. The Jazz’s defense did the rest as the Grizzlies got cold at the wrong time and Mitchell finished with 29 points.

The Jazz made a franchise 19 3-pointers in Game 2 and followed suit with 19 more Saturday. Even though Memphis made 13 3-pointers, it wasn’t enough.

PLAYOFF SCHEDULE:First-round matchups, results, game times, TV info

Ja Morant had 28 points, and Dillon Brooks had 27 points before fouling out. Grayson Allen had 17 points off the bench.

The Grizzlies haven’t stopped the Jazz’s dribble-penetration all series and it’s led to open shooters. This time, Royce O’Neale took advantage with four 3-pointers, and on a night where Mitchell shot 2-for-10 from deep, it didn’t matter.

Until the Grizzlies solve their math problem, this series won’t add up in their favor. — Evan Barnes

State of the series: Jazz lead 2-1. Game 4 is Monday in Memphis (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

Donovan Mitchell (45) scored a game-high 29 points for the Jazz.

Bucks 120, Heat 103

We’re definitely not in the bubble anymore. Milwaukee is the first team to advance to the second round after finishing off a dominant sweep of the Heat in Game 4. It’s a measure of revenge for the Bucks, who were stymied by the Heat in a five-game series loss in last year’s bubble playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds, and Brook Lopez scored 25 points as the Bucks methodically came back after trailing by as many as 12 in the first half. Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Jimmy Butler had 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for the Heat, whose season comes to a disappointing early end after reaching the NBA Finals last year.

State of the series: Bucks win 4-0.

Blazers 115, Nuggets 95

Back and forth they go in a series that seems destined to go the distance. Portland’s latest win might be the most impressive as they prevailed despite the worst shooting game of Damian Lillard’s playoff career. Lillard finished 1-for-10 shooting for 10 points, but Norman Powell stepped up with 29 points to match his playoff career-high. Denver’s starters were “awful,” according to coach Michael Malone, and MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic was limited to 16 points and just one assist. The Nuggets shot just 34% from the field overall, including 13-of-44 (29.5%) from 3-point range.

State of the series: Tied at 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday in Denver (9 p.m. ET, NBATV).

Sixers 132, Wizards 103

The top-seeded Sixers are in complete control of the series after another dominant win over the Wizards in Game 3. Joel Embiid scored a playoff career-high 36 points, and Tobias Harris had 20 points and 13 rebounds. And while no NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit, the Sixers are not looking past the Wizards yet. “You don’t get anything until you win four, so we’ve accomplished nothing as far as we’re concerned,” said coach Doc Rivers. Russell Westbrook had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for Washington, and Bradley Beal had 25 points.

State of the series: Sixers lead 3-0. Game 4 is Monday in Washington (7 p.m. ET, TNT).


Here’s where the rest of the first-round series stand entering Sunday:

Knicks vs. Hawks

Trae Young has not been intimidated by the moment in his playoff debut, carrying the Hawks while averaging 27.7 points and 10.3 assists through three games. The Knicks have seen the opposite from Julius Randle. The Most Improved Player recipient is averaging just 14.7 points in the series on 24.1% shooting.

State of the series: Hawks lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Atlanta (1 p.m. ET, ABC).

Suns vs. Lakers

A pivotal Game 4 might swing on the injury report. Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are questionable for the Lakers with knee injuries, though Davis said there’s “no chance” he sits out. Chris Paul is also questionable for the Suns with the right shoulder injury that’s hampered him since Game 1.

State of the series: Lakers lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Los Angeles (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Nets vs. Celtics

The Celtics finally showed some signs of life in Game 3, but it took Jayson Tatum’s playoff career-high 50 points to get back in the series. While the Nets might not run away with it, they’re still in the drivers seat. Locking back in on defense will be key for the Nets after allowing the Celtics to shoot 50.6% in Game 3.

State of the series: Nets lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Boston (7 p.m. ET, TNT).

Clippers vs. Mavericks

After dropping the first two games of the series in disappointing fashion, the Clippers found their resiliency to salvage the series in Game 3. Their momentum is precarious, though. L.A. still has no answer for Luka Doncic, who has been the best player in the series, and Dallas can regain control with a win in Game 4.

State of the series: Mavericks lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT).