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Grizzles outlast Nets behind Jaren Jackson Jr.'s career-high 36 points

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The Memphis Grizzlies outlasted the struggling Brooklyn Nets in double-overtime for their first win in four games, defeating the Brooklyn Nets 131-125 on Friday.

Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. powered the team with a career-high 36 points at the Barclays Center, including a late 3-pointer to force overtime. He became the third youngest player in NBA history with a 30-or-more point game, behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The Grizzlies (13-8) maintain first place in the Southwest Division, and will continue to try and keep pace with the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference standings. 

The loss drops the Nets to 8-15 and extends their losing streak to five games. Brooklyn matched its season high with 125 points against Memphis with fourth-year player D’Angelo Russell leading the efforts with 26 points, and three Nets — Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — chipping in 15 apiece.

It was yet another thriller Brooklyn dropped. The Nets nearly caught up to the Philadelphia 76ers last Sunday but lost 127-125, and before that, fell to the Mavericks 119-113. 

 

Gordon throws flames from deep

Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon was on fire, connecting on seven three-pointers to finish with 26 points in their 136-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs. He was second behind teammate Clint Capela, who had a game-high 27 points.

Andre Drummond finished with a double-double of 19 points and 20 rebounds in the Detroit Pistons’ fourth consecutive win.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers had double-double performances from both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The pair helped the Sixers to a 16-8 record with the 123-98 win over the Washington Wizards. Simmons scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists to go along with eight rebounds, while Embiid finished with 16 points and 15 boards.

Donovan Mitchell dropped 30 points in the Utah Jazz’s 119-111 win over the Hornets. 

 

Dante’s nadir with Spurs

Nothing seemed to go right for San Antonio Spurs small forward Dante Cunningham, who finished with no points in 18 minutes on the court. He attempted just two shots, a field goal and a three-pointer, but couldn’t net either in their 31-point defeat.

The New Orleans Pelicans could have used a little more help from their bench against the Miami Heat. New Orleans went on to lose 106-101 to Miami with a combined 12 points from their reserves.

 

Nuggets and Blazers deliver on expectations

The Denver Nuggets-Portland Trail Blazers matchup gave us all the action we expected from two of the top teams in the Western Conference, including this early dunk from Blazers forward Meyers Leonard.

Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic wasn’t afraid of the King on Friday. Doncic had back-to-back blocks against LeBron James.

 

Friday’s results

Boston Celtics 128-95 Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons 107-88 Chicago Bulls
Philadelphia 76ers 123-98 Washington Wizards
Utah Jazz 119-111 Charlotte Hornets
Memphis Grizzlies 131-125 (OT) Brooklyn Nets
Oklahoma City Thunder 124-109 Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat 106-101 New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets 136-105 San Antonio Spurs
Orlando Magic 99-85 Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets 113-112 Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 Dallas Mavericks

 

Warriors at Pistons

The Detroit Pistons hope to continue their win streak, which was extended Friday with a 107-88 win over the Chicago Bulls, against a recently bruised Golden State Warriors squad. The Warriors weren’t able to pull off a win Thursday despite Durant’s 51-point night.

The overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors ended the Warriors’ own streak of three consecutive wins. However, things haven’t been easy for the defending champions, as they have been without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Curry is supposed to make his return in Detroit on Saturday, so they will likely get a much-needed boost.

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Joe Ingles scores 27 points, Jazz outlast Celtics 123-115

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Joe Ingles matched his career high with 27 points and added a season-high seven assists to help the Utah Jazz beat the Boston Celtics 123-115 on Friday night in Gordon Hayward‘s return to Utah.

Hayward had 13 points and seven assists in his first game back in Utah since leaving the Jazz in free agency after the 2016-17 season (he didn’t play last year because he broke his left ankle last season in the opener). After waiting for more than a year, Celtics fans greeted Hayward with a chorus of boos.

Donovan Mitchell added 21 points for Utah, Jae Crowder had 20, and Rudy Gobert finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. The Jazz won their second straight home game and second straight overall.

Terry Rozier scored 22 points and Jayson Tatum added 21 for the Celtics.

Boston lost for the third time in four games.

The Jazz started to pull away when they scored 3-pointers on each of their final four possessions of the second quarter to take a 58-51 halftime lead. Ingles accounted for the first three long-distance baskets – highlighting a 20-point first half for him.

Utah opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run. Mitchell ignited the run by draining three free throws and driving for a layup on back-to-back possessions. Derrick Favors kept it going with back-to-back baskets that gave the Jazz a double-digit lead and finished the run off with a pair of free throws that put Utah ahead 75-57 just four minutes into the quarter.

The Jazz eventually built their lead to 20 points, going up 83-63 on a layup from Crowder, before Boston rallied in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics scored on four straight possessions – culminating in Tatum’s layup – to ignite a 15-4 run. Rozier buried a 3-pointer to cap off the run and cut Utah’s lead to 100-96.

Boston got within four points four more times, the final time on a 3-pointer from Marcus Smart that made it 111-107. But Gobert made a layup to push the lead to six and Tatum missed a pair of layups that could have trimmed the deficit again.

Crowder sealed it on a corner three that gave Utah a 117-109 lead with 47.7 seconds left.

 

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Donovan Mitchell, Jazz outlast red-hot Westbrook for win, eliminate Thunder

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The Thunder are about to enter one long, hot summer. One that could be the summer of their discontent.

However, before that can begin, the Thunder players and their fans are going to have to get over a terrible call that cost them the chance to tie the game late in Utah and possibly keep their season alive

Make no mistake, the Utah Jazz and Donovan Mitchell earned the 96-91 win in Game 6 at home Friday night. Mitchell exploded for 22 points in the third quarter on his way to a career playoff high 38 points for the game — he looks nothing like a rookie. It was enough to hold off another molten-hot lava night from Russell Westbrook who had 46 points and had to shoulder the entire Thunder offense with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony cratering in a big game.

The win gave Utah a 4-2 series win. Next up for the Jazz, the Rockets starting Sunday in Houston.

To get there the Jazz did get some help from the referees late.

The Thunder were down 13 midway through the fourth but made a late push behind Westbrook to get it within three with less than a minute left. That’s when there was a frantic series of threes and missed lay-ups by the Thunder — misses by Westbrook, by George, by seemingly everybody — and with each miss a Thunder player pulled in or tapped out the rebound to a teammate. Five times it happened.

On that final, fateful attempt, George got the ball out top, pump-faked, got Rudy Gobert in the air (the big man had switched on to him), and Gobert clearly fouls George in the act of shooting.

No whistle. The officials said after the game that Gobert jumped to the right of George, and PG13 jumped into him to draw the contact. Looking at other angles of the replay, George leans into Gobert some, but that’s still a foul in my book. The officials missed that one. We’ll see what the league says in the Last Two Minute Report, and whatever it is it will change nothing.

That play also is not why the Thunder lost. OKC shot 0-of-7 in the final minute and was 2-of-11 in the final three minutes. George had 5 points on 2-of-16 shooting, with more turnovers than points on the night. Carmelo Anthony had just 7 points and was such a defensive liability Billy Donovan had to sit him for crucial stretches. The Thunder offense was predictable, and defensively they had holes that the Jazz were able to exploit. It was not one call that cost the Thunder the game, it was the previous 47 minutes. It was an entire season of not quite coming together right all meshed into one game.

Utah certainly did exploit those OKC holes, starting with Mitchell.

“After Game 5 (when Utah blew a 25 point lead) there was some question if we could handle it, but the character of this team is incredible,” Michell said. “We all played well, we all did what we were supposed to do and everybody came up big.”

Mostly that was Mitchell that came up big. As he has all season, he took on the Utah offense when it needed him to after a dreadful first half, one where Ricky Rubio went to the locker room with a hamstring injury not to return.

Actually, Utah won the first half. Sure, it was tied 41-41 at the break, but that felt like an upset in and of itself. With Rubio out the Utah offense struggled to get into its sets and create good looks. George played good defense in the first half, making life difficult for Mitchell, and with that pressure Utah turned the ball over on 22.2 percent of their possessions in the first half. Plus the Jazz were just 7-of-16 inside three feet of the rim in the first 24 minutes. As a team, the Jazz shot 39 percent in the first half. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook had 15 points and five assists.

And yet, after a couple Joe Ingles threes and a driving Mitchell bucket late, it was 41-41 after 24 minutes. The Thunder blew their chance to take control of this game.

Mitchell came out on fire after the break and scored first 10 points of the second half for Jazz — each of those involving having ‘Melo’s man set the screen to get a switch — and he kept piling it on as the Jazz stretched their lead out to double digits. For the third quarter Mitchell was 8-o-9 for 22 points, and the Jazz scored 37 in the frame.

The only reason the Thunder were not blown out of the building is Westbrook would not let them be — he had 20 points of his own in the third alone and was knocking down threes like a Curry.

There are those that will complain about Westbrook’s efficiency — he had 46 points but on 43 shots — however in this game, they needed it. With George and Anthony combining for just 12 points, if Westbrook doesn’t go HAM this ends in a blowout.

It still wasn’t enough. And the loss leads into what will be one interesting summer in OKC.

For the Thunder, this loss has to leave a bad taste in Paul George’s mouth as he heads into free agency. Around the league, most sources expect him to leave for Los Angeles, although that is no lock. If George stays and gets a max contract (anything less and he certainly leaves), and Carmelo Anthony opts into his $28 million for next season as expected, all just as Westbrook’s new max deal kicks in, things are going to get expensive in OKC. Considering payroll and luxury tax for being way over the salary cap (and the Thunder will be in the repeater tax, too) bringing back this roster would lead to a more than $250 million payroll. That’s a number that would make the Lakers or Knicks look to shed salary even if they had contenders, let alone the small market Thunder with a team that isn’t going to bring home a ring. If the big three come back, expect the Thunder so have to shed some good role players just to save money.

The Jazz played better as a team all series, with lock-down defense and enough offense to get the win. Just as they had all season. They were able to make Westbrook think as he drove the rim on Rudy Gobert, and their defense kept Oklahoma City’s stars in check.

Whether they can do that against the Rockets is another question, but they earned the chance to try.

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Clint Johnson

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The Utah Jazz’s 117 – 110 home win over the Las Angeles Lakers lifted them into fifth place in the Western Conference playoff standings, but the victory didn’t come as easily as predicted. With Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, and Isaiah Thomas all unavailable, the Lakers had only nine players to put into action against a team that had won 25 of its last 30 games.

But like many young teams in the NBA, when the Lakers play with pace they can get things done on the court. They came out of the game screaming fast and steaming hot, making their first eight shot attempts. Utah’s offense largely kept pace, posting an impressive 62 percent effective field goal percentage in the period. But the Lakers scorching 70 percent was good for a 31 – 24 lead at quarter’s end.

Both teams had shooting  hands hot enough to fry an egg. The Lakers’s rookie sensation Kyle Kuzma had 15 by halftime and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 14, while requiring only 15 shots combined between the two players. The Lakers drilled nine of 15 three point shots in the half. 

Utah countered with its not-so-secret offensive weapon: Ricky Rubio. After demolishing his former Minnesota teammates by scoring 23 last game, Rubio bettered that production by piling on a career-high 25 first-half points against LA! Four the second straight game, the Spaniard made four threes in the first half. 

And just as against the Timberwolves, Rubio’s offensive heroics lifted his team. In what proved to be the determining passage of the game, Utah used a 41-point second quarter to go on a 34 to 17 run across the end of the second period and into the third, eventually building a lead of 15 points.

But the Lakers never stayed cool for long, and their 14 threes on 28 attempts (50 percent) allowed them to keep clawing back into the game.

Utah’s offensive energy ebbed in the fourth quarter, where they shot only 32 percent from the field. Fortunately, the Lakers simmered low with them, managing only 33 percent shooting. With Rubio and super-rookie Donovan Mitchell combining for 57 points to lead the way, Utah coasted to a seven-point win without ever feeling truly threatened, despite the lackluster fourth quarter.  

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Ricky Rubio (31 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 threes, 7 free throws)

Rubio made four of seven attempts from long range and all seven free throws, so he required only 16 shots to get his 31 points. Perhaps never in franchise history has any Jazz player turned around a season as completely as Rubio. In the death march of December, Rubio looked completely incompatible with this Jazz roster. In that month he averaged nine points on 37 percent shooting and a horrid 24 percent from long range while dishing out fewer than five assists. In Utah’s run of 26 wins to five losses, Rubio has averaged 16 points,  as well as well over six assists and five rebounds a game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 44 percent from three. Along with Mitchell, he has completely carried Utah’s offense through long stretches of important games. If there were an NBA award for most improved player from early in a season to its end, Rubio may well win it. 

Secondary Stars: Donovan Mitchell (26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 threes) and Rudy Gobert (12 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals)

Mitchell added to his own franchise record, notching a fifth straight 20-point game as a rookie. His four of eight shooting from long range was a heartening sign as he’s been struggling with that shot for a prolonged period. He missed two of his four free throw attempts as well as a few layups (and wasn’t happy about it), or his night would have been more efficient than 26 points on 21 shots. But his plus-26 tied for game high with Gobert, showing that with Mitchell on the floor the Jazz continue to mow down opponents. 

Gobert has an equal claim to responsibility for Utah’s starters (or four starters with Jae Crowder) running roughshod over the league for the past several months. This offensive shootout wasn’t the type of game where Gobert easily controls the action, but that didn’t stop him from making a massive impact on the game, especially through his rebounding. The five assists from a center are stellar, as well as good evidence of how Quin Snyder’s egalitarian offense continues to hum even while the league’s best defensive player is on the floor.

Secret Star: None

Crowder did what he does (12 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 3 threes), which is now anything but secret. If he’d been on the Jazz all season he would be making a serious case for Sixth Man of the Year given how dominant the team has been with him in the game. Dante Exum did some good things (6 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal) but wasn’t nearly as efficient as he has been this year, making only three of nine shots. This game was all about Utah’s first six players, which was enough in the end.

Stats of the Game

23 – Second chance points for Utah, an 11 point advantage that essentially won the game.

28 of 61 – Combined three-point shooting between the two teams (46 percent).

29 – Jazz assists for the second consecutive game and their 13th such game this season, all wins.

111.3 – Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Jazz. When allowing offenses to score that efficiently this year, the team is only five and 17.

99.8 – Pace of play, roughly halfway between Utah’s 97.7 season average (25th in the league) and the Lakers’s 102.7 (1st)

Sundries

  • A number of young teams in the league are buying completely into rapid pace this season. The Lakers and Suns play faster than any teams in the league, and the Nets and Hawks are each in the top eight in pace as well. When the Jazz let these teams get the tempo up, they’re vulnerable, especially when the opponent hits threes. If Utah’s offense hadn’t performed as well as it did, this is the type of game they could have lost because they couldn’t control the style of play consistently enough.
  • Utah didn’t help itself from the line tonight, at all. They missed 10 of their 27 attempts while sending the Lakers to the stripe 36 times (though they only made 24). 
  • The Lakers’s bench outscored the Jazz’s 30 to 20. Thank the stars for Crowder. Royce O’Neale’s offense has really abandoned him. He has scored in double figures only once in his last 20 games. 
  • Both Kuzma (26 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) and Mitchell delivered in a matchup of the NBA’s two highest scoring rookies – and the two greatest steals in last summer’s draft. Each is a dead lock for All-Rookie First Team honors.
  • If the Ricky Rubio from previous seasons was a bruising power forward, he would be Julius Randle. There’s remarkable skill in Randle, who only missed a sixth triple double this season by one assist (12 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists). He can do so much on the floor except shoot, but that limitation often defines his game. If he ever finds a team that can neutralize that limitation somehow (or develop his shot), they’re going to have a player with many of the same attributes as Ben Simmons or Blake Griffin. 

At the time this is written, the Thunder lost to the Warriors and Denver squeaked by Indiana. San Antonio leads the Clippers by a few possessions going into crunch time. Utah has jumped to fifth in the West, leaping over Oklahoma City, and sits only a half game behind the Spurs pending tonight’s outcome.

If things stand as is, Utah would face a Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard in the first round of the playoffs. Net rating and point differential both give Utah a slight advantage in that series, as does the statistical website FiveThirtyEight’s regular season CARM-Elo score. But home court could make a massive difference, especially as the Spurs currently have a losing record on the road for the first time in years. 

If the Jazz can climb one more spot and earn home court in the playoffs, odds swing not only in favor of Utah making the playoffs but likely to advancing to the second round. To make that happen, they have to get a win at home on Thursday against the Clippers.  

Clint Johnson

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.

Clint Johnson


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Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz outlast Lou Williams, LA Clippers

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The Utah Jazz hosted the Los Angeles Clippers last night in a game that featured an exciting matchup between rookie Donovan Mitchell and Lou Williams.

The Utah Jazz and LA Clippers have had similar seasons. Both of their star players have been out for quite a bit of the season, and they are both battling for playoff spots in the deep Western Conference.

The Clippers came into Utah last night red hot, winners of six in a row. Blake Griffin is always a fun player to watch and he’s having another good season for LA, but last night, all eyes were on the match-up of Donovan Mitchell and Lou Williams.

Lou Williams has looked like an All-Star this season for the Clippers. He is averaging 23.4 points per game on the season, and even had a 50-point game against the Warriors earlier this month. He maintained his hot play by dropping 31 points on the Jazz last night, but ultimately Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz did a good job of forcing him into an inefficient outing that led to a 125-113 Utah victory.

It was clear coming into the game that Donovan was going to have to get into his grill, and force him into tough shots without fouling and he did a good job of doing just that. Williams went a decent 9-of-21 from the field, but just 2-of-8 from deep where he’s thrived of late. You don’t want to give a guy like Lou confidence early in the game, or it could be a long night for you. When he’s hot, he’s hot. When he’s cold, he’s cold. Luckily, the Jazz managed to stave off a hot shooting night.

A big reason for the win was that the Jazz were able to take advantage of a lackluster defensive performance by the Clippers. Looking specifically at the Williams-Mitchell matchup, Lou is an incredible offensive player, but not a great defensive player. When Mitchell was aggressive and attacked the basket at will, he found great success. Donovan finished the game with a team-high 23 points.

Although he struggled from beyond the arc (1-of-6), He was 8-of-10 on two-point field goals and added four more points in seven attempts from the free throw line, which shows how well he did when looking to go to the rim. DeAndre Jordan, a great rim protector, was out for last night’s game with an ankle injury, so that certainly helped Donovan and the Jazz get the edge.

Donovan has proven this season and once again last night that he is capable of being a good two-way player. Even though Williams had a big game himself, it was great to see Mitchell rise to the challenge and help lead his team to a win against such a prolific scorer like Sweet Lou.

Donovan Mitchell and Co. will face off against the Clippers a final time near the end of the season on April 5th. The Utah Jazz will now head out on a three-game Eastern Conference road trip, so in many ways last night’s battle could’ve been viewed as a must-win, making it all the more important that they were able to come out on top.



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Clint Johnson

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The Utah Jazz won their first contest against a Western playoff rival for the first time since their December 1st win in New Orleans. All it took was arguably their best half of basketball all season – and a few nervous moments late.

In the first half, Utah steamrolled the LA Clippers with unstoppable offense. They shot the lights out, hitting 63 percent of their shots, 46 percent from behind the arc, and 10 of 11 free throws (91 percent). It was Quin Snyder’s offense running at its peak, with six players scoring seven or more points: Derrick Favors’s 14, Joe Ingles’s 13, Alec Burks’s 13, Donovan Mitchell’s eight, Rudy Gobert’s seven, and Ricky Rubio’s seven.

All 10 Utah players scored at least three points. It was beautiful to watch and, for the first time in a LONG time, Utah looked like a good team while playing against good competition. But a big part of that was the Clippers’s defense, which in the first half was disinterested and lazy on top of missing DeAndre Jordan inside due to injury. Utah got any shot it wanted, especially inside.

The third quarter saw the Jazz lead rise as high as 25, but in a season like this it’s not surprising even that margin couldn’t save the team from a little heartburn late. LA’s defense – likely fueled by shame after their first half performance – began to play really hard, particularly guards pressuring Utah’s ball handlers.

Starting at 6:48 left in the third, Utah’s offense fell off a cliff against the pressure. The Clippers ripped off an 11 to one run in the third and then added a nine to one start to the fourth. Meanwhile, the Jazz shot 35 percent from the floor, 18 percent from three, and 65 percent from the line. They also turned the ball over an insane 11 times in under 19 minutes of play.

The lead fell to seven with 1:38 left in the game, easily close enough to cause anxious moments for a Jazz squad that has had a difficult season on a number of levels, but the deficit was simply too much for LA to overcome. A few momentum stoppers – Royce O’Neale stealing back a ball he’d coughed up to Lou Williams and darting for an uncontested dunk, a pair of made Gobert free throws, a cashed in corner three by Jonus Jerebko – kept the Clippers from ever really threatening to climb completely out of the whole they’d dug themselves.

While it wasn’t as easy a victory as it might have been after such a dominant first half, the Jazz leave tonight having won two of three games for the first time in their last 22 contests.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Donovan Mitchell (23 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals)

Mitchell’s game continues to develop. The 23 points on 16 shots alone would have been enough to keep him pacing the field in the Rookie of the Year race. But his back-to-back games with seven assists shows him growing into a true offensive orchestrator, while another two steals moves him up to 65 on the season, behind only Ricky Rubio on the Jazz. Topping it all off, he continues to be one of the best closers in the entire NBA, tonight scoring eight fourth-quarter points to help Utah hold on for the win.

Secondary Stars: Joe Ingles (21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals), Derrick Favors (14 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal)

Ingles hit five threes on his way to a season-high 21 and fueled the Jazz’s super-charged first half with his steals leading to open court opportunities. Meanwhile, all of Favors 14 points came in that dominant first half, though he did gobble up seven of his 12 boards in the second half and ended the night leading the team at plus-18. When these two were heavily involved in the offense, Utah was blowing the doors of the Clippers. The pair scored 27 on 17 first-half shots. Once LA started upped the defensive pressure, especially on Utah’s ball handlers, in the second half, the duo managed only eight points on eight combined shots.

Secret Star: Raul Neto (3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists)

Neto’s only made shot of the evening was his lone three attempt, raising his season shooting from deep to an impressive 46 percent. He actually leads the team in that category. The 20-game sample size isn’t the largest, but consider that the Jazz have outscored their opponents by 101 in those 20 games with Neto on the court. There’s no question he deserves more minutes.

Stats of the Game

146.6 – Utah’s ridiculous offensive rating in the first half.

90.3 – Utah’s atrocious offensive rating in the second half.

14 – Jazz assists in the first half.

7 – Jazz assists in the second half.

22 – The rebound advantage enjoyed by the Jazz in this game.

27 – Combined second change points and fast break points for the Jazz in the first half. The team only manages 19 per game this season.

Sundries

  • With Rodney Hood out of the lineup, Alec Burks had a strong game with 15 points on seven shots along with six rebounds. He got to the line eight times, making seven.
  • Gobert followed up last night’s dominant performance with a very solid 16 point, seven rebound, three block outing. He played 58 minutes in a back-to-back set, averaging 19.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and three blocks. So much for having to ease back into the flow of things.
  • Utah really should have shot 33 of 48 (69 percent) in the first half. Gobert missed a pair of gimmies at the rim and Mitchell blew a wide open layup after a beautiful Euro-step passed Blake Griffin. They had to settle for 30 of 48 (63 percent).
  • Lou Williams was stupid good. His 31 points has been the norm recently, but his 10 assists – 10!!! – certainly hasn’t. He’s the first NBA player to combine 30 points and 10 assists since Michael Jordan in 1988. He had 19 and seven in the second half alone.
  • Five teams are fighting for the final three seeds in the Western playoffs. After tonight’s games, here is how that race stands:
    • 6th – Pelicans: 24 – 21
    • 7th – Trail Blazers: 24 – 21
    • 8th – Clippers: 23 – 22 (1 game back)
    • 9th – Nuggets: 23 – 23 (1.5 games back)
    • 10th – Jazz: 19 – 27 (5.5 games back)

Entering the night, Utah was given a 12.9 percent playoff chance by ESPN and a 15 percent shot by FiveThirtyEight. While tonight’s win helps, Utah is still a definite long shot. That they have to pass two teams rather than one means even if a team above them dives down the standing, it won’t be enough to get them to the post-season. If the Jazz want a spot in the playoffs, they’re going to have play good basketball and do it often. The first half of tonight’s game showed they can do it against mediocre to poor defense. Can they manage against better, more intense competition? Can they raise their defense to take some slack off the offense? If they want any shot at the post-season, they’d better.

On Monday the Jazz will try to build momentum with a third win in four games on the road against the least-of-the-East Atlanta Hawks.

Clint Johnson

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.

Clint Johnson


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