Check out the top 10 plays of the night around the NBA, featuring Devin Booker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, Jonathon Simmons, Rudy Gobert, TJ Warren, Jeff Green, Jaylen Brown, and Kris Dunn!
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One of the strangest nights of basketball in Salt Lake City history witnessed two records, a grotesque return of a local cult hero, and a blowout of the Phoenix Suns by the Utah Jazz, 125-92.
The record that will garner the most attention came in the person of Devin Booker, who delivered the finest display of offensive skill ever in the history of basketball in this state. It wasn’t just the raw number: 59 points, an all-time mark for any player ever in Utah1. It was the incredible variety of ways in which Booker scored.
This wasn’t some monstrosity of a modern James Harden game, fueled by 20 attempts each from the three point and free throw lines. Booker only attempted eight threes, making five. While he did go 16 of 17 from the stripe, he also played through more contact than Harden experiences in a full season. Booker made shots from everywhere, all night, no matter what one, two, or sometimes even three Jazz defenders tried to check him. His shot chart should be hung prominently in Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix as a work of fine art.
Booker’s brilliance put the rest of the Suns’ ineptitude in stark relief. On a record-setting night when an opponent lit them up for 59 points, the Jazz won this game by 33 despite essentially approaching the game like a walk through. Utah’s starters scored 87 points, and that with Donovan Mitchell shooting a bored-out-of-his skull four of 14. Utah grabbed this game by the throat and the lead never shrunk to single digits in the second half.
It’s fitting that the Suns’ matador defense witnessed Rudy Gobert setting an NBA record for dunks in a season at 270, a triumph almost overlooked as Booker scorched Utah’s lauded defense one on five.
The end of the game was so utterly lacking in drama that it degenerated into a showcase of the sad. This pitiful climax included Booker being re-inserted with a few minutes left and the game long, long decided in an attempt to chase 60 points, then the Jazz making the petty decision to foul another player as the clock wound down rather than giving Booker a shot to break out of the fifties.
But none of that would have been necessary except for the return of Jimmer Fredette to the state that is still, despite all reason, intoxicated by his very existence. With Booker sitting on 59 points as the game wound down, Fredette ran off eight shots in less than seven minutes of fourth quarter play, missing all but one, as fans in the arena cheered mindlessly every time he touched the ball. It become such crash of enthusiasm and awkwardness that Jimmer’s desperate quest to make his first NBA bucket since his return consumed the Suns, and their guy who had 59-freaking points could barely get his hands on the ball!
What a weird, stress-less, preposterous night.
Stars of the Game
Superstar: Devin Booker (59 points!) and Rudy Gobert (27 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 9-11 FG, 9-11 FT)
Devin Booker scored 59 against two and three good defenders! That just happened!
Gobert wasn’t bad either. Not only did he have one of the best offensive nights of his career, but he continued to thoroughly traumatize Deandre Ayton, the Suns’ heralded first overall pick in the most recent draft. Ayton took only seven shots in the entire game and was essentially a non-factor for the second straight contest against the Stifle Tower.
Secondary Star: Derrick Favors (18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 25 min) and Ricky Rubio (18 points, 6 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal)
When Gobert wasn’t waltzing in for dunks against a hapless Suns defense, Favors took his turn, scoring 18 on 13 shots. He’s continued his career-best play of late, filling up the stat sheet with five assists after notching his career high in dimes (seven) last game against Phoenix.
Rubio has been remarkably quiet lately — not in terms of unproductive so much as peripheral. He’s taking fewer than nine field goal attempts in March, seventh on the team, yet has scored in double figures five of the last six games. If the Jazz could get anything near a nightly 18 and six on only nine shots from the Spaniard, they’d be a terrifying opponent in the playoffs.
Secret Star: Raul Neto (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, +20)
Neto continued his rock solid play, helping Utah’s bench annihilate the empty back half of the Suns bench. In his 17 minutes of play Utah outscored the Suns by 20.
Stats of the Game
70 – Jazz points in the paint, tying their season high. They are 4-0 in these games. Shocking.
34 – Jazz points off Phoenix’s 22 turnovers.
33 – Points scored by Suns players other than Booker.
19 – More assists by Utah (31) than Phoenix (12).
- Booker got a rousing ovation from Utah’s fans, which was only appropriate. The shot making he displayed in this game was phenomenal, especially given Phoenix’s utter lack of other offensive options to divert attention. With Gobert camped out eating foie gras — messily and with much noise — in Ayton’s head, it felt like Booker really was playing one on five sometimes. Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale were physical with him and played up into his body and draped across his back. Didn’t matter. Gobert sold out contesting shots, and for essentially the whole fourth quarter Favors doubled him off every pick, sliding along with his hands up as Booker’s defender chased from behind. None of it mattered. Booker hit shots over and around anyone in his way. He was awesome.
- While it will understandably get less fanfare than Booker’s out-of-body experience, the Jazz’s twin towers did a bit of demolition tonight as well. As a combo, Gobert and Favors combined for 45 points on 24 shots to go with 18 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks.
- Jimmer Fredette is so small, and so slow, and that was so striking seeing him tonight after his time away. And he’s under such pressure every time he’s in front of a Utah audience to appear anything like a legitimate NBA player. I winced each time the crowd lustily cheered him down the stretch of the fourth quarter and he racked up misses. Here’s a hint: if anyone genuinely cares about Fredette’s success at a late-career NBA resurgence, maybe don’t put the focus on him when a teammate has gone off for 59. Cheer the guy reaching for 60. Without that unreasoning spotlight on him, Fredette might make a three, maybe even two, and begin to make a legitimate claim for a place at the far end of an NBA bench.
- Quin Snyder played 12 guys. Every one of them scored.
- If Dragan Bender and Deandre Ayton aren’t the worst pair of defensive bigs I’ve ever seen in the NBA, then they’ve got to be the worst pair that’s that tall.
- Congratulations to Gobert on his record-setting 270 dunks! Apparently those high passes Snyder drilled into the players’ heads2 all season paid dividends.
This is seven straight blowouts against one head scratching loss against the Hawks. Don’t look now, but the Jazz currently stand in 5th place in the West with Portland in a double overtime throwdown with Brooklyn as I write.
The Jazz will be heavy favorites in their next six games. Should they win them all (as they could), there’s a real chance their final two tilts against the Nuggets and Clippers may have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs on the line.
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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GAME RECAP: Pelicans 124, Heat 123
GAME RECAP: Pelicans 124, Heat 123
Anthony Davis put the Pelicans on his back with 45 points, 17 rebounds, 5 steals, and 5 blocks as the Pelicans get a win in overtime over the Heat 124-123. Goran Dragićc scored 30 points for Miami in the loss.
2 days ago
The Utah Jazz head south to take on the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, pitting rising stars Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker against each other.
Since the return of Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz have begun playing like the team we thought they would be at the start of the season. They are starting to win games on the shoulders of an elite defense, by out-working the competition and using well-rounded offensive efforts.
The Jazz have won three games in a row, and five of their last seven. In that stretch, they have the league’s sixth best Defensive Rating, the 10th best Offensive Rating and they have a Net Rating of 5.8, which is good for fifth best in the NBA.
As obvious as this sounds, the Jazz are a different team with a healthy Gobert on the floor. If healthy for the whole season, Utah would likely be in the thick of the playoff race, and not trying to play catch-up.
They’ll have a good chance to continue that success and to win their fourth game in a row on Friday night, as they face off against the Phoenix Suns.
The Jazz cannot take the Suns lightly however. In their first matchup, all the way back on October 25, the Jazz came out with one of their worst performances of the year, and lost 97-88. TJ Warren was the one who torched the Jazz, finishing with 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting.
However, these teams are very different from the ones that took the court in that first matchup. The primary change for the Jazz has been the emergence of Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell. In their first meeting, Mitchell played only 12 minutes and scored just two points. Since that game, Mitchell is boasting averages of 20.7 points, 3.5 assist, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
He has taken the NBA by storm, has won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors, and has entrenched himself as a lead candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Friday night, he will be matched up against another up and coming star in Devin Booker.
Booker’s rise to fame is actually much more similar to Mitchell than some might realize. Both were late risers up the draft board due to their impressive team workouts. Both were taken with the No. 13 pick in their respective drafts.
Both quickly made people realize that they made a mistake passing on them.
In just his second season, and at only 20 years old, Booker went off for 70 points against the Boston Celtics. Sure, his teammates were force-feeding him the ball, and Phoenix ultimately lost that game by 10; regardless — 70 points is 70 points.
So far this season, he has continued to show his incredible scoring chops, and boast a more rounded game than most may think. He is much more than just a 3-point shooter. He will attack the basket and picks his spots. This season he is averaging 24.4 points, 4.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
As the primary scoring guards for both teams, I expect Mitchell and Booker to be matched up against one another for much of the game. The one clear-cut advantage that Mitchell has over Booker is his defensive focus and ability.
If Mitchell can take this matchup personally, and finish with 20-plus points for the 24th time this season, the Jazz will have an excellent chance at winning their fourth game in a row,
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