Jazz, seeing contributions from new starters, turn attention to Grizzlies

Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy said he wasn’t trying to put his players on alert when he mentioned that he wanted them to “play hard and pass” and that changes might be in order after an ugly loss to Portland last week.

“My intent was not to send a message,” Hardy said. “My intent was to put people on the floor that I felt like were going to give us the best chance to win. We’ve seen enough play this year to know how we played early in the year. It wasn’t meant to punish anybody. It wasn’t meant to prove a point.”

Whatever the intentions were, it has worked so far. The Jazz swept the New Orleans Pelicans in back-to-back home games — 105-100 on Saturday and 114-112 on Monday — after Simone Fontecchio and Omer Yurtseven were inserted into the starting lineup.

Incidentally, Lauri Markkanen missed both games with left hamstring soreness and his status remains uncertain heading into Wednesday’s game at the Memphis Grizzlies.

Yurtseven averaged 6.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks, with Fontecchio scoring 14 on Monday after contributing 10 points in Saturday’s win.

The Jazz passed with efficiency while holding on for the most recent two-point win, dishing out 31 assists on their 37 field goals. Utah also hit 17 3-pointers, including six in the fourth quarter.

“It was just the fact of us moving the ball instead of trying to make plays for each other,” said Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, who was sick Saturday, then totaled 16 points and 10 assists Monday.

“Sometimes the play is just swinging it. Sometimes that gives us a chance to get to the next action. The next guy makes the play for someone else. That’s been the biggest thing for us, and when everybody’s touching the ball, it feels good.”

The Grizzlies enter this matchup having lost four consecutive games and five of six. Memphis is still looking for its first home win after eight defeats. They had two days off following Sunday’s rough 119-97 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With Ja Morant’s continued absence from his 25-game suspension, opponents are clamping down on Memphis’ other main scorers, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. Bane scored 13 points, making only five of 16 shots against Minnesota. He’s only made three of 14 3-pointers in his most recent two games.

“It’s a sign of respect the way teams defend Jaren and defend me,” Bane said. “These are plays that I probably wouldn’t be getting as much if (Morant) was on the floor because he usually takes the bulk of the attention from defenses.”

This will be the third time the Grizzlies and Jazz will play in November.

Utah won 133-109 at home on Nov. 1 and defeated the Grizzlies 127-121 nine days later in Memphis. Bane scored 37 in the second game, which was marred by Jackson’s controversial ejection and a technical against coach Taylor Jenkins.

Jenkins voiced his frustrations about the officiating after that game, calling it, “One of the most poorly officiated games I’ve ever seen.” He was fined $25,000 by the NBA for his rant about Jackson receiving a double-technical foul after complaining to referees.

“Our team is competing their (tails) off, and this is what happens? The interaction right now with the officials, complete disrespect,” Jenkins said. “It’s unbelievable. … I don’t understand it.”