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Jazz loss hands playoff berth to Lakers

The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS - The Utah Jazz needed two things to happen Wednesday to get into the playoffs. They first needed to win their game against Memphis, then hope the Los Angeles Lakers lost later in the night to Houston.

The Jazz failed to accomplish the first part, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies 86-70 at FedExForum in their final regular-season game.

That eliminated Utah from playoff contention, ensuring the Lakers a playoff berth whether they beat Houston later Wednesday or not.

Had the Jazz won and the Lakers lost, the teams would have finished tied for the eighth and final playoff spot, and the Jazz would have earned that spot because they won the season series with the Lakers.

It was not to be.

"It's disappointing anytime you don't make the playoffs," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "That's the goal you set at the beginning of the year and we had an opportunity to go. We didn't have our best game (against the Griz) and that's disappointing. They like to grind out games, muck it up."

The Jazz were led by Al Jefferson with 22 points and 16 rebounds, but they shot just 32.1 percent from the floor as a team, and no Utah player besides Jefferson scored more than nine points.

Utah trailed just 40-38 at halftime, but scored just 13 points in the third quarter, when Memphis took control.

The Grizzlies slowly beat down the Jazz and then hoped that Sacramento could beat the Clippers later Wednesday night in order for the Grizzlies to get homecourt advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs that start Saturday.

Boosted by forward Zach Randolph's 25 points and 19 rebounds -- he had 12 points in the pivotal third quarter -- the Grizzlies finished the regular season 56-26.

In doing so, the Grizzlies also set a single season record for most home victories with 32.

"We've overcome a lot each season the last couple of years," Griz coach Lionel Hollins said, "but this year we overcome deaths in our organization, (former majority owner) Michael Heisley having a stroke and going in a coma and some of our players lost family members. Then we had all the trade rumors, bringing new players in. We showed a lot of resilience and toughness. We're happy about moving forward and trying to win as many playoff games as we can."

The Grizzlies led by as many as 20 early in the fourth quarter before the Jazz (43-39) made one last desperate push in the game's final eight minutes.

But Randolph, as he did at the end of the third quarter, made some big baskets in heavy traffic down the stretch to push the Grizzlies across the finish line. He looked a lot like the Randolph from the 2011 playoffs that boosted the Griz past the No. 1-seeded Spurs in the first round, only to lose to Oklahoma City in seven games in the Western Conference semi-finals.

"This is a new season," Randolph said. "I wanted to get my confidence up and play the way I usually play. I wanted to come out, be aggressive and get my rhythm. The guys got me the ball early. I made some strong moves, got to the basket and hit a couple of shots to get me going."

The Grizzlies, who shot just 40.5 percent, had just two players scoring in double figures - Mike Conley with 14 and Darrell Arthur with 11.

But the Memphis bench outscored the Jazz reserves 33-18, and lockdown defense by the NBA's No. 1 defense held Utah to 32.1 percent from the field.

The Jazz's chilly shooting ended their playoff hopes, and they finished 43-39.

The game when the Grizzlies' bench started warming midway through the quarter, especially Keyon Dooling and Darrell Arthur, who had a couple of buckets each.

Randolph got on a roll, scoring three straight baskets on a 15-foot fade, a follow and an inside power move.

Randolph's big third quarter helped the Grizzlies take command, 65-51, at the end of three quarters. Randolph put on an offensive clinic, consistently beating the defense to inside post positions. He hit 4 of 8 shots, along with 4 of 5 free throws in the quarter.

"Zach looked like he was mentally into the game," Hollins said. "He hasn't been the last few games, but I would say he looked like he's in playoff mode."

NOTES: With the Grizzlies' win, the top five teams in the Western Conference finished with 55 wins or more. The last time that happened was in 2007-08. . . Randolph's double-double gave him 45 for the year, fourth in the league. . .The Jazz finished the season 23-8 when Jefferson scored 20 or more points. . .Memphis finished the regular season averaging 16,625 fans, 681,613 total attendance. That's the second best total attendance in team history. . .Memphis had 57 rebounds, the second straight game it has grabbed 50 plus misses.
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