MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Utah Jazz have put themselves in position to help erase a very bad memory from last year’s Florida bubble.
Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, and the top-seeded Jazz grabbed a 3-1 lead Monday night by holding off the Memphis Grizzlies 120-113.
That’s the same lead the Jazz blew in losing their first-round series in seven games to Denver in the bubble. This time around, the team with the NBA’s best record in the regular season is going home trying to close out this first round, best-of-seven series on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
“We obviously remember that feeling that we had last season, and it’s not something we want to experience again,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said.
This is a different Utah team with Bojan Bogdanovic available and Derrick Favors back on the bench. Conley also is more comfortable in his second season.
“We’ll hopefully be able to get our minds focused on business and not let this one slip away like we did last year,” Conley said.
Mitchell said another difference is the Jazz aren’t satisfied being up 3-1.
“We have to go there and take care of homecourt back in Utah, and I think that’s where our head is at,” Mitchell 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. Bogdanovic added 13, 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’s scoring drought with a 3. He also blocked a jumper by Morant and then hit another 3.
“He’s kind of sneaky quiet,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said of Conley. “He whispers, but you can hear him. I think he impacts the game so many ways.”
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.
“They’ve been playing with each other for a long time,” Jackson said of the Jazz. “They have a little bit more playoff experience than us. So, they’ve got a good feel right now.”
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.
“There’s nothing to be frustrated about when you’re giving great fight against the best team in the NBA,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They just have a response for everything. We’re giving everything we’ve got.”
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. … They also had a 20-19 edge in fast-break points.
Grizzlies: They’re now 4-11 all-time in Game 4. … 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.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports