Taylor Jenkins and Quin Snyder are in a NBA playoffs ‘chess match’ that’s years in the making | Giannotto – Commercial Appeal

Chess

Once Game 2 ended, once Donovan Mitchell made histriumphant return from injury and Ja Morant gave the Memphis Grizzlies and the NBA a historic glimpse at what he is already and what he could become, once this Western Conference first-round playoff series was sent back to Memphis evened at one game apiece, it was forward Kyle Anderson who offered perspective on what it all meant.

Its almost like a chess match, he said. Theyre going to watch their film and make adjustments, as we are going to do the same. Lets see who made the better adjustments in Game 3.

So if Game 1 was the game that announced the Grizzlies as a threat, and Game 2 was the game in which Mitchell and Jazz pushed back, then perhaps Game 3 Saturday (8:30 p.m., ESPN) at FedExForum will be remembered as the adjustment game.

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GIANNOTTO: Memphis Grizzlies and Ja Morant accomplished what they needed to in Utah

If that's the case, then it will also highlight the two coaches in this series, and a connection that probably isnt being discussed enough due to all the other intriguing storylines emerging.

Although Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins is usually identified as a descendent from the Gregg Popovich and Mike Budenholzer coaching tree, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is actually the first boss Jenkins had as an assistant coach more than a decade ago for the Austin Toros, the G League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs.

I wouldnt be here without him, Jenkins said earlier this week. Hes influenced me so much. ... As I always say, it was kind of my graduate degree program, getting exposed to his tutelage."

The two worked together for three seasons in Austin, Texas, and then once more as assistants on Budenholzers staff in Atlanta during the 2013-14 season. Snyder noted last season before facing Jenkins for the first time as a head coach that Jenkins probably helped me more than he realizes, because at the time Snyder was in Austin attempting to resurrect his coaching career after a tumultuous ending at Missouri.

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This season, of course, Snyder led Utah to the best record in the NBA and hes a Coach of the Year candidate. Jenkins, meanwhile, has the Grizzlies ahead of schedule for the second season in a row despite being the leagues second-youngest coach leading the youngest roster in these playoffs.

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I dont know if they both had this from the start, but being with Quin, the way he dissects film is another level and I think thats the same thing Coach Jenkins has, said Grayson Allen, who played his rookie season for Snyder and the Jazz. Theyre both extremely detail-oriented and I think you see that the most in the film sessions the next day, where something you might not even be thinking about or a little adjustment here or there, theyre both no detail gets left. Theyre all in on every little detail of the game.

Now, all those meetings over coffee, all the game plans they devised together, all the little nuances each picked up on one another, they are re-surfacingat the most important moment of their careers to this point.

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Its a particularly interesting dynamic for Jenkins because he's being exposed to a national audience perhaps for the first time and a positive national perception is forming based on the Grizzlies' success.

Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder speaks with guard Jordan Clarkson (00) during a timeout in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)(Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP)

Locally, though, Jenkins is being scrutinized like never before because more Memphians are watching every decision and every substitution of every game like never before during his tenure.

Jenkins has navigated this minefield reasonably well the past few weeks, with one notable exception that could have altered the trajectory of his time in Memphis had it cost his team a chance to participate in this best-of-seven series.

Jenkins, youll remember, elected not to challenge a foul call on a Jordan Poole 3-point attempt in the closing minutes of the play-in win over Golden State even though replays showed he should have and the leagues two-minute report confirmed as much the next day. If Morant doesnt push Memphis past Golden State in overtime, if Jenkins subsequent moves to play Allen and Xavier Tillman didnt work out so well, the conversation heading into this offseason would have changed.

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But Morant and Dillon Brooks did lead the Grizzlies into the playoffs, and then Memphis upset Utah in Game 1. Suddenly, the narrative flipped again.

I love watching his teams play, TNTs Charles Barkley said of Jenkins during halftime of Game 1.

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Jenkins acknowledged his experiences working under Snyder helped me maybe a little bit as the Grizzlies figure out how to combat the Jazz. He decided, for instance, to take a simplistic defensive approach to Utahs pick-and-roll actions because Snyders offense is built around creative disguises intended to force teams to over-think.

The Jazz, by the way, destroyed Memphis in the pick-and-roll in Game 2. Whether it was Mike Conley or Mitchell feeding Rudy Gobert, its what allowed Utah to score 141 points, hit 19 3-pointers and pull away from the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter.

Count that among the adjustments Jenkins must make if Memphis is to remain within striking distance of the Jazz over the weekend. Hell also need to determine how to kick-start the Memphis bench that had been so good during the regular season.

And what about the adjustments that might need to be made to Snyders adjustments?

The chess match has begun.

You can reach Commercial Appeal columnist Mark Giannotto via email at mgiannotto@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter:@mgiannotto

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Taylor Jenkins and Quin Snyder are in a NBA playoffs 'chess match' that's years in the making | Giannotto - Commercial Appeal

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