Mitchell, Exum lead Jazz past Grizzlies, 107-97
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Dante Exum has always been known for his speed.
But the Utah point guard says the game has slowed down for him and that’s made all the difference.
“I’m playing slower. People are saying I’m super quick but I’ve slowed down and do it in bursts ... instead of going 100 miles per hour all the time,” Exum said.
Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points and Exum had a season-high 21 to lead the Jazz over the Memphis Grizzlies, 107-97 on Friday night.
The Jazz clung to a 96-91 lead in the fourth quarter before Exum made a short jumper and then used his speed to make a layup and put the game out of reach.
″(Exum) was huge in that last quarter. He had to get to the rim and make plays for other guys,” said Joe Ingles, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds playing the point.
Exum showed strong defense and was just one short of his career best as he shot 8 of 10 in the absence of Ricky Rubio.
“He was great on both ends. He made plays, stayed active and was a spark off the bench,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said.
Royce O’Neale added 13 points for the Jazz, who are jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference.
“It was a tight game but I got a steal and an and-1 and then (Exum) got a steal and some layups. We bring a lot of energy and had the momentum swing our way,” O’Neale said.
Marc Gasol missed just one shot — a long 3-pointer — in scoring 28 points, but didn’t play in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies may have needed him the most.
“We’d like our young guys to get better,” J.B. Bickerstaff said regarding leaving the veteran Gasol on the bench for the final 16 minutes of the game.
MarShon Brooks had 24 points after scoring a team-high 21 points Wednesday against the Trail Blazers in his first NBA game since April 16, 2014. He is averaging more than a point a minute during his 10-day contract.
In each of their last two home games — losses to lowly Atlanta and a depleted Boston squad — the Jazz failed to score a basket in the final 2:25 and gave up leads down the stretch.
This time, Exum, in just his eighth game after preseason shoulder surgery, made sure the Jazz didn’t need to sweat it.
“It was good to have a game like that after all I’ve gone through this season. It obviously boosted my confidence a lot,” Exum said.
The Jazz swept the season series with the Grizzlies, 3-0.
Gasol made his first eight shots, including four 3-pointers. The Memphis center gave the Grizzlies a 64-60 lead in the third quarter with two more jumpers beyond the arc after his first miss of the game. Memphis trailed by as many as 17 in the first half.
Grizzlies: Memphis scored 14 points in the first quarter, matching Oklahoma City’s output on Oct. 21 for the lowest of the season for a Utah opponent. ... Then, Gasol scored 13 by himself in the second quarter. ... Ben McLemore got a technical foul for pushing Rudy Gobert after a play with 7:36 remaining.
Jazz: Rubio missed the game with a sore left hamstring. The Jazz are 4-1 without Rubio this season. ... Mitchell is 18 of 68 from 3-point range the past eight games. ... Utah made only 15-of-26 free throws.
STUCK ON THE BENCH
Gasol was having one of his best shooting games of his illustrious NBA career when he sat for what he thought would be a brief rest with 4:01 left in the third quarter. “The ball went through the hoop. Guys found me when I was open. Obviously, once you get in a little bit of rhythm, it’s harder to stop,” Gasol said. When asked why he didn’t return to the court, he shrugged and said, “Ask them,” deferring to the coaching staff.
Since replacing David Fizdale on Nov. 27, Bickerstaff has a 14-43 record as an interim coach. “Obviously, not knowing the future is always difficult. But this group of guys has been great to coach because they’ve never made me feel like a substitute teacher. Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve bought into,” Bickerstaff said. “I’ve never felt like they’ve been trying to maneuver around me or go above me. They’ve just done what we’ve asked them to do.”
Grizzlies: Continue their trip at Portland on Sunday night.
Jazz: Visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday afternoon.