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Mitchell, Team USA get back on track with win over Canada

Jared Woodcox , 2019-08-27 04:42:53
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Although it wasn’t a perfect outing, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell bounced back nicely with his Team USA squad on Monday as the group overcame Canada in their final exhibition game.

After suffering a stunning and historic loss to the Australian National Team in the second-to-last exhibition game before entering FIBA World Cup play, Team USA bounced back in a big way by taking care of business against Canada on Monday. The American squad came out of the gates hot by surging to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter and never looked back from there as they ultimately won by a score of 84-68.

After struggling to produce in the second bout against Australia, Utah Jazz rising star Donovan Mitchell had a better outing this time around against Canada. He tied for Team USA’s second leading scorer with Kemba Walker by putting up 12 points. Jaylen Brown led the way with 19 points.

Unfortunately, though, Mitchell yet again had an inefficient outing as his shooting nearly matched the first contest against Australia in which he played quite well but didn’t have the best fortune on getting shots to fall. He went just 5-of-12 from the field which included an identically dismal 1-of-5 mark from the perimeter. Once again, it was Mitchell’s three-point shooting (or lack thereof) that was his downfall.

Still, one more made three would have made his outing 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep, so it’s hard to be overly critical. Nevertheless, it’d be nice to see a significant turnaround in an area that has plagued Mitchell since his rookie season.

Fortunately, he played well in other areas notching a team-high four assists to go along with a pair of steals. Yes, in some ways this was counter-balanced by his five turnovers and a less-than-riveting plus-5 mark on the night, but all told it was still a much better performance than the prior game. And, of course, the end result of a win helps make everything feel a little better.

With the contest against Canada wrapped up, Team USA is now done with ‘friendly’ competition and will move on to the real deal beginning on Sunday where they’ll face the Czech Republic in their first bout of group play.

Fortunately, while I don’t mean to jinx the American squad by any means, the good news they now face is that they figure to be an enormous favorite in group play as they should be head and shoulders above each of their opponents. After the Czech Republic, USA will subsequently face Turkey and Japan. In other words, even though exhibition play is past, Team USA still has three highly winnable games in which they can ideally further build chemistry and cohesion in preparation for the significantly tougher challenges of the following round.

Based on what we’ve seen thus far, they could be highly vulnerable once the competition level elevates, particularly to the likes of Australia (who just toppled them in a scrimmage), Spain, France and Serbia.

Next: Rudy Gobert’s FIBA performance should be a thrill for Utah Jazz fans

Ideally, the recent victory over Canada will be a sign of positive things ahead for Donovan Mitchell and Team USA. Mitchell’s had some brilliant moments, but I don’t think I’m alone among Utah Jazz fans when I say it’d be nice to see even more out of the player many are expecting to take a massive third-year leap as the Jazz set their sights on a championship.

With meaningful FIBA World Cup play just around the corner, it won’t take long to see just what Mitchell and the rest of this young, inexperienced Team USA squad are really made of.

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Ed Davis calls joining Utah Jazz his best opportunity to win a championship

Jared Woodcox , 2019-08-03 14:44:02
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Ed Davis has high confidence in the Utah Jazz’s ability to help him achieve a life-long dream of winning an NBA championship.

If you’ve been following The J-Notes, or truly any Utah Jazz media coverage in general this summer, then you’ll probably have picked up on one very consistent and repetitive theme. The Jazz are all-in on pursuing a championship this season. And that buy-in starts at the top with management and the star players, then trickles down throughout the roster to even the second unit and depth guys.

Seemingly everybody in the Jazz front office and on the roster is focused in on the single target of winning an NBA Championship. Sure, that’s the goal every season and it’s extremely common to hear players speak of their hope and desire to do as much. But this year, it’s more than just a fleeting wish. Their desire to win a championship actually has teeth to it and is a real possibility.

The addition of Mike Conley then later Bojan Bogdanovic unarguably propelled the Jazz to that level. Their presence on the Jazz roster is what first began to turn heads that they, paired with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, could truly form a championship-caliber team. And from there, the Jazz were able to attract meaningful players that wanted to win to round out their already staunch roster.

Ed Davis was perhaps the most key addition outside of Conley and Bogdanovic. And his reasoning for joining the Jazz certainly came as a result of recognizing just what a special group was being put together. In a recent sit-down with UtahJazz.com’s Aaron Falk, nearly the first words out of Davis’ mouth were to discuss winning a championship.

When asked what drew him to Utah, Davis boldly stated, “Being on a contending team.” He then followed up that declaration with the following:

“It’s my dream to win a championship and I felt like this was the best opportunity to do that with this franchise.”

From there, Davis went on to explain that Utah’s experience, star players and good core group surrounding those stars all made the Jazz an appealing destination for him. And one he truly believes can compete for the NBA’s ultimate prize.

Although we don’t have a sure knowledge of which teams were all interested in Davis this summer, considering his reputation and basketball acumen, it’s safe to say that he had several suitors. The fact that he chose the Jazz over any of them speaks volumes about how the team was perceived among free agents this summer, how Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik, Quin Snyder and Co. have altered the organization’s culture for the better and how prolific the group of Conley, Bogdanovic, Mitchell, Gobert and the rest of the solid role guys are.

His calling the Jazz his best opportunity to win a championship was enormous praise. And it isn’t a statement that Utah fans should take lightly. Sure, perhaps he didn’t receive interest from other top teams in the league and so the statement was merely an expression that the Jazz were the most promising team actually interested in him, albeit against lackluster competition.

But considering how friendly Davis’ contract is with the Jazz and knowing all he brings to the table, I’d wager he turned down some pretty attractive opportunities from teams that will be jockeying with the Jazz for playoff positioning. Davis has always been about as real and genuine as you can get, and his declaration that he liked the path to a championship that the Jazz offered is very much a testament to what they’ve built.

I’ve spent weeks on The J-Notes aiming to convince or reassure the general masses that the Utah Jazz are indeed a championship-caliber squad. But if you don’t believe me, then definitely believe the confidence of the players. Ed Davis may be the latest to speak of Utah’s championship desires, but he’s far from the first or only. Yes, they’ll have to do more than just speak on it, they’ll have to execute on the floor to their highest potential. But the talent and belief is certainly there, immediately forming a rock-solid foundation.

Next: Utah Jazz should be featured on Christmas Day instead of New Orleans Pelicans

And if the Jazz are able to compete for a championship, Davis most certainly will be a key piece to that. As Rudy Gobert’s backup at the center position, he’ll have an enormously crucial task of holding down the fort and anchoring the defense while the Stifle Tower rests. As a high-motor guy with impeccable rebounding ability, he figures to be a heaven-sent for the second unit.

His ability to impact the game combined with the well-rounded and deep nature of the rest of the Jazz roster has most certainly set the team up to be a contender to reach Davis’ long-held dream of winning an NBA championship.

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Are Utah Jazz being over-hyped or can they really win a championship?

Jared Woodcox , 2019-08-02 03:47:37
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The Utah Jazz are facing significantly higher expectations for next season. But is the hype justified or just setting fans up for disappointment?

Make no mistake about it. The Utah Jazz have had an incredible offseason. The addition of highly respected veteran Mike Conley instantly elevated the team to a new level, and the subsequent signings of Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay added much-needed firepower and depth.

The team has rightfully been showered with praise for their moves this offseason, with many lauding their ability to overcome the small-market obstacles that have plagued them for so long to be come a projected powerhouse. In a recent article from The Athletic (paid subscription required), Zach Harper placed them on a list among the West’s elite, along with a projection that they’d be in the mix for the top overall seed in the conference and possibly a top 5 offense and defense.

That’s definitely high praise and even higher expectations – especially for a team that was just the fifth seed a season ago and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs – even with all the changes. But Harper has been far from the only one to express how prolific the Jazz figure to be next season. The Ringer has given them high marks along with other writers at The Athletic, including Utah’s very own Tony Jones, along with many other experts and media members alike, both inside and outside Salt Lake City.

This has led to an outpouring of excitement and hype from Utah Jazz fans. Much of that is deserved and well-placed. There’s just no denying how much more talented Utah got this summer. But based on some recent outcomes, it’s also justifiable to wonder – are the Jazz really going to be able to compete for a championship or is this little more than premature offseason hype?

We’ve seen this kind of hype in the past. Although ESPN’s official power ranking from this season was pretty disrespectful to the Jazz, placing them at ninth in the NBA, some experts from the sports media giant last summer projected the Jazz to finish as high as second in the West. After ending the 2017-18 season in style and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, many thought that by running it back the Jazz could be something special.

Instead, Ricky Rubio reverted to his former inconsistent ways, Donovan Mitchell struggled with health early in the season, the awkward personnel fit with few shooters on the roster reared its ugly head and the Jazz finished well below their expected mark by dropping to fifth in the West. Yes, they were better than a typical fifth seed and a stauncher team than their record indicated, but the disappointment culminated in a first-round loss to the Houston Rockets which felt like a discouraging step in the wrong direction.

And along that vein, 2018-19 wasn’t an anomaly. The Jazz have made somewhat of a habit of underachieving in recent seasons. The following pair of tweets from NBA Advanced Stats Writer John Schuhmann tells a pretty disconcerting story.

Namely, based on Utah’s average point differential during the last five seasons, their expected wins were significantly higher than where their record ended up in reality. In both 2015-16 and 2017-18, the Jazz earned seven less victories than what was expected based on their incredible point differential mark. That’s a significant difference that would have led to a much higher seed and better postseason opportunities in every instance.

In 2016-17 by these metrics, the Jazz finished only three wins below their expected rate. However, Utah was ravaged by injuries that season in what some measures indicated could have otherwise been a 60-win season if they’d stayed healthy.

A lot of that inability to live up to expectations has to do with what Schuhmann pointed out in his second tweet, the Jazz struggled to finish close games. That 89-101 record in games that were within five in the last five minutes is a total knife to the chest. You would expect a team of Utah’s caliber and with the success they’ve enjoyed the past three seasons to be better in those types of situations.

The point of all this is that, while it’s true that on paper the 2019-20 Jazz team is far superior than any of those groups listed here (and perhaps superior to any team since the legendary Finals squads of old based on what we know of the situation right now), they’ve also struggled to live up to expectations before. Recent history would indicate that even when fans and media members are high on the Jazz and like their chances, they haven’t quite been able to live up to expectations.

So should we be worried about a repeat occurrence of that this season? Well, it’s certainly feasible that it could happen again. There’s always that chance that things just don’t click, that injuries strike, or that players simply under-perform or fail to get better. The cynic in me is scared to get overly excited about this team knowing their reputation for heartbreak.

However, the optimist in me is having a hard time not being overly giddy about the season ahead for the Jazz and what it may hold.

And perhaps that’s the best message I can aim to portray here. Could the season be yet another disappointment? Well, sure, I suppose so. You always have to let a season play out and see what comes of it.

But even as skepticism tries to shine through, I feel comfortable saying that Jazz fans have every right to be excited about this upcoming season. Mike Conley is a significant upgrade over Ricky Rubio, and represents exactly what the team needed in terms of a second creator and scoring threat for the Jazz. Bojan Bogdanovic excellently fills Utah’s former shooting void and should fit the Jazz DNA like a glove.

The rest of the guys added depth and versatility unlike anything the Jazz have had in recent seasons. Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell appears primed for a massive breakout season, Rudy Gobert is entering his prime and should continue to be a force for Utah on both ends of the floor. Projected Starter Royce O’Neale could be in for a career year and Joe Ingles will enjoy a less demanding role that could produce massive dividends.

Not to mention, one of the largest former problems mentioned above was that the Jazz simply haven’t been able to find a way to win close games. In the past two seasons, a lot of that has had to do with Donovan Mitchell being their lone closer option who was easily honed in on and overwhelmed by opposing defenses. Now, however, the Jazz have a number of guys capable of closing big games, especially newcomers Conley and Bogdanovic.

Not only that, but with such a deep team, the Jazz will hope to find themselves playing in less closely contested games, as ideally their well-rounded attack will keep opponents backpedaling all game long.

The nice thing about this Jazz roster is that while they by no means boast the best duo in the league – combos such as LeBron James/Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard/Paul George are among some of the first to come to mind – they very well could have the best overall starting five, and almost certainly have the most potent 10-man rotation from top to bottom.

Does that automatically make them the best team or the favorite in the playoffs? Of course not. The NBA is a star-driven league and obviously we’ve seen what those elite guys can do in a playoff series as they carry a team on their backs. But the Jazz shaved down their weaknesses significantly and have a nice touch of star power of their own with each of Mitchell, Gobert, Conley and perhaps even Bogdanovic flirting with that All-Star caliber line.

In other words, while nothing is guaranteed and even in a best case scenario in terms of chemistry and health, a championship will still be exceedingly difficult for Utah, that chance and opportunity is most definitely there. They have the depth and well-roundedness to be a top regular season team. I agree with Zach Harper wholeheartedly in their ability to compete for the number one seed in the West.

And from there, well, anything could happen. Of course top seeds aren’t a given to make the Finals, but home court advantage and recent history have proven that more often than not, the one or two-seed in either conference is the one that advances to the Finals. If the Jazz are as prolific as their roster has the potential to be in the regular season, they could put themselves in a great spot come playoff time.

And once the postseason rolls around, they are constructed such that they can push and compete with any team in the Western Conference.

So, yes, especially given Utah’s checkered history when it comes to elevated expectations, it’s wisest to exercise caution and not get too overly excited about their championship odds when we have yet to see the new-look squad play a single game together. However, I’d also say that Jazz fans are justified in giving in to the hype a little bit and showing more optimism than usual for the season ahead.

Next: Utah Jazz: What is Royce O’Neale capable of next season?

Because the 2019-20 rendition of the Utah Jazz is masterfully constructed, extremely deep and light on weaknesses.

In other words, Jazz fans, it’s finally OK to believe, for a change. Next season’s team is going to be an incredible one with the potential to compete at the highest of levels.

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Mike Conley praises SLC, wants to win the right way

Jared Woodcox , 2019-07-20 03:31:32
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Mike Conley knows he has a great opportunity with the Utah Jazz and, perhaps most importantly, realizes how meaningful it would be to bring a championship to Salt Lake City.

In a league that’s become all too closely associated with teaming up with star players and forming super teams, for those of us who lean towards supporting the underdog, the 2019-20 NBA season looks like it finally might provide a bit of a breath of fresh air. While there are undoubtedly several daunting teams and some incredible dynamic duos, there’s no lone clear cut favorite as several teams appear poised to compete for a championship.

Among those teams is the upstart Utah Jazz, a perennial small market underdog that has a reputation for fielding a good team, but not one that can truly compete at the highest level. Other such small market teams that may find themselves in that mix this season are the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers who were both prolific a season ago.

But Utah could very well have the edge over their small market competition and find themselves in the same tier as the behemoth LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers who boast some of the league’s best players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the former and LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the latter. The Jazz got significantly better this offseason, and one principal way they did so was by adding point guard extraordinaire Mike Conley to their ranks.

Conley has consistently been one of the best point guards in the game and is arguably the best active NBA veteran to have never appeared in an All-Star Game. Flying under the radar in Memphis hurt his prospects in that regard, but his talent most definitely isn’t lacking.

And ever since Conley learned that he would be joining the Jazz, he’s been nothing but upbeat and optimistic. Clearly he sees just how high this team’s ceiling can be and how much potential they hold, and he’s excited to be a part of it.

In fact, in a recent article from J. Michael of the Indy Star describing the current situation for small market teams, he gathered some highly meaningful quotes from Mike Conley regarding how he feels about his new team and opportunity. In comparing SLC to other markets, the Jazz point guard had the following to say:

“You have cities like Miami or L.A., New York, big-time markets. There’s a lot of growth that guys see. There’s a lot of things outside of basketball that guys see that can entice them. I didn’t know anything about Salt Lake City. It’s an unbelievable city. It’s an unbelievable place to be. Guys don’t get to spend time in these areas and communities to realize how good the opportunity would be if they went there.”

Man, that’s got to be music to Jazz fans’ ears. Not only is Conley praising the often overlooked and underappreciated Salt Lake City, but he realizes the opportunity he has to make a difference in such a community, even if it is a smaller one than many players might prefer.

But as if that wasn’t already enough, Conley added another bit of great insight that should excite Jazz fans even further. When asked about the tougher path that small market teams have to follow, here was his response:

“You’ve got to do the right things through the draft. It makes it a little bit of a harder road, but also I think it would be more enjoyable to ultimately win a ring in a place you have to work so hard for it.”

In an era where players have been more prone to seek out the easy way to a championship (looking at you Kevin Durant) rather than working through trials and building something special and meaningful albeit in a perhaps difficult situation, Conley’s point of view is a breath of fresh air.

Today’s society is predicated on instant gratification, handouts and taking the easy way out. Lost in that mindset is an attitude of working hard to defy the odds and experiencing the joy that comes from overcoming those obstacles with diligence and integrity. But Conley is one of the rare few who still gets it. He knows that the harder the journey and the more daunting the path, the greater the reward will be.

In other words, he wants to win a championship, but he wants to win it the right way. He wants that enjoyment that will come from taking an under-appreciated and overlooked team all the way to the top of the ladder in spite of all the challenges that surround them.

Fortunately, the Jazz have put themselves in about as ideal of a situation to do so as they could have. They have a loaded and well-rounded roster with great shooting around defensive star Rudy Gobert and budding star Donovan Mitchell. They’ve added an experienced floor general in Mike Conley and a sharpshooter extraordinaire in Bojan Bogdanovic.

They’ve played their chips just right to bounce back majestically from the Gordon Hayward fiasco of a few summers back. And now they, with Conley leading the charge, have a chance to raise their small market squad to the ultimately glory.

It’s hard to imagine a joy that will be greater than that for the team and the Salt Lake City faithful. Winning a championship in Utah is something that to this day many would say is impossible. The players likely recognize that general sentiment as well, which is why winning it all would be so rewarding, as Conley pointed out.

Next: Rudy Gobert will be the key for the Utah Jazz to outmatch the LA Clippers

Mike Conley knows how special this next season could be with the Jazz and he’s excited to get underway in a new city in which he’s making the absolute best of his opportunity. His viewpoint thus far should have his teammates and fans totally thrilled with the exciting season that lies ahead.

Can it be October already?

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The Hornets defeated the Jazz by a final score of 83-74. Kennedy Meeks led the Hornets with 18 points (8-11 FG), 10 rebounds and 4 assists, as Dwayne Bacon followed with 11 points (4-9 FG) and 2 rebounds in the victory. For the Jazz, George King tallied 20 points (8-17 FG) and 5 rebounds, while Josh Sharma recorded 12 points (6-8 FG) and 5 rebounds in the losing effort. With the win, the Hornets finish MGM Resorts Summer League 2019 with a record of 2-3, while the Jazz finish with a record with 2-3.

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Kevin Durant had 31 points and 9 assists to help the Thunder to a 116-96 victory against the Jazz. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights.

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Adding Conley a huge win, but keeping Favors is monumental

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-23 21:39:08
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Adding Mike Conley was a huge win for the Utah Jazz. But doing so while also keeping Derrick Favors was almost unbelievably fortunate.

The Utah Jazz could do little more this offseason than fill out their roster with scrubs from the local YMCA and it would still be considered an absolute success. By adding prolific point guard Mike Conley, who should fit the team’s style and culture like a glove, to an already talented roster, this team looks poised to take a major leap in the West next season.

After coming off the best statistical season of his career in 2018-19 in Memphis which saw him post 21.1 points per game to go along with 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals on solid efficiency from the field, Conley will almost certainly be a largely impactful addition for the Jazz. For a deeper dive on how his style of play will be a match made in heaven in Utah, be sure to check out my piece on the matter here.

But by sending away Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and a pair of first-round picks for Mike Conley, the Jazz did more than hit the jackpot by adding a talented point guard who should fit perfectly. They also hit a grand slam by managing to hold onto starting power forward Derrick Favors.

For weeks, the speculation was that for the Jazz to be able to pull off any sort of meaningful trade, they’d need to include Derrick in the mix. After all, with a non-guaranteed contract and the fact that he’s easily one of Utah’s top-five best players, he was among their best assets. Figure in as well that – in the case of Conley specifically – the Jazz would be taking on significant salary, and many figured it would just make sense to part ways with Favors to alleviate some financial stress.

However, front office wizards Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and Co. worked their magic and managed to keep a hold of Favors while still adding their primary target – Mike Conley. This is highly significant for the Jazz as Derrick Favors has been crucial to Utah’s success both in the regular season and the playoffs, and keeping him on board no doubt strengthens the Jazz moving forward. That’s even more true with Conley now set to run the point.

Despite logging fewer minutes than he deserves or is capable of, Favors has been ideal for the Jazz as he’s always perfectly accepted his role and done the things that have been asked of him without question. By backing up Rudy Gobert at the center spot, he provides Utah with 48 minutes of unyielding defense and rim protection. He is also more capable of defending fours out to the perimeter, which makes him an essential piece of Utah’s versatile defense.

Not only that, but Favs is a rebounder extraordinaire whose sheer hustle and grit have gone as far as to turn the tide in playoff series – just ask the 2017 LA Clippers and 2018 OKC Thunder about that as he was revolutionary in both postseason matchups.

As Dennis Lindsey said to close out the 2018-19 season, Derrick Favors isn’t a part of the problem in Utah – a problem that has involved a shortage of spacing and shooting prowess – instead, he’s a part of the solution.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the answer as a deep-ball threat despite consistent effort to add a 3-pointer to his game and unrelenting hopes from fans that he can follow in the perimeter shooting footsteps of big man Brook Lopez. What it means is that Favors brings so many intangibles – defense, extra possessions, rebounding, versatility on both ends of the floor, hustle, energy, etc. – that he has marked himself as a crucial piece of this Jazz roster.

Add in that he’ll now have the luxury of playing with the best point guard to suit up in a Jazz uniform since the days of Deron Williams, and Derrick is likely to be even more effective this season. No longer will Utah be plagued by a starting lineup that only has two shooting threats in Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles as Mike Conley will now fill that void in an immense way.

The added space that will provide will give Favors more opportunities in the mid-range and better chances as the roll man attacking the rim in the pick and roll. Despite adding a star-caliber point guard and the best player in the trade by obtaining Mike Conley, the Jazz also kept one of their best players on the roster. And that right there was a huge (and in many ways largely unexpected) win.

Not only was keeping hold of Derrick Favors while snagging Conley massive for the Jazz because of how talented Derrick is, but it could be significant for another reason. Favors yet remains one of Utah’s best trade assets, so holding on to him rather than dealing him could potentially allow the Jazz to add another star or near-star player.

Now, the odds of this are very much slim giving the tricky financial spot Utah is in, but there are possible avenues where it could happen. I recently wrote about as much in relation to the Jazz potentially being able to deal Favors and Exum to clear way to bring in Tobias Harris, who has expressed strong interest in the Jazz. Unfortunately, before you get your hopes up too high, it’s unlikely at best that such will be plausible.

Any sort of transaction along those lines would require finding three teams willing to cooperate, including Philadelphia. It would also require one of either Philadelphia and another team to be interested in taking on one or both of Favors and Exum. Favors is a great piece, but still has to be in the right fit, of course. And Exum, well, he’s about as risky as they come given his injury history.

To be frank, I’ll be shocked if either one of those two players suit up for any other team besides the Jazz to start next season, and that’s perfectly fine. Keeping Derrick Favors was obviously a high priority for Jazz brass this summer and they found a way to do it. Whether he’s now able to hit the floor along newcomer Conley and the rest of his teammates (which makes a ton of sense and is most likely) or if he’s used to bring in additional pieces, the fact that the Jazz kept him in the trade is nothing short of monumental.

No matter how you look at it or how the remaining pieces shake out this summer, the Jazz have managed to add one of the league’s best point guards while keeping a strong and daunting roster intact, which includes Derrick Favors, who could have an even better season in 2019-20 with an enhanced point guard in tow.

The Jazz obviously aren’t done yet this summer as they need to fill out their roster and have a roughly $4.8 million Room exception they can use to bring in additional talent. That said, no matter how they close things out before season’s start in October, they’ve already won the offseason in a big, bad way by adding Mike Conley and keeping big man Derrick Favors.

Next: Three Mike Conley stats that should have Utah Jazz fans feeling giddy

This squad has set itself up to compete with the best of the best in the West. Next season can’t get here soon enough.

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Tillman scores career-high 16, Utah beats Hawaii 80-60

Steve Godfrey , 2019-04-23 06:39:50
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With their backs against the wall and their season on the line, the Jazz secured a home playoff victory over the Houston Rockets, 107-91. Jae Crowder set the tone and Donovan Mitchell finished it off with 19 fourth-quarter points. It was as Korver said, urgency and something good were on display at Vivint SmartHome Arena in the Jazz’s behalf. 

Game balls could be thrown around to nearly every one on the roster. Mitchell led the team with 31 points, including a magical fourth quarter, while Crowder went for 23. Ricky Rubio played with his usual heart and passion, but also filled up a stat sheet with 18 points, 11 assists, a steal and a block. Royce O’Neale harassed on defense while collecting a double-double, 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Derrick Favors came off the bench for 12 points and 11 rebounds. 

As they say, the strength of the team is the team. Head coach Quin Snyder even said it post-game:

“That’s the definition of the team, when you put the group in front of yourselves. We have a lot of guys who are willing to do that. Some of them did it tonight, some of them will have to do it next game. That’s what makes a team good, makes a team a team.”

 



Mr. Buckets: The Start for Crowder

As the series came to Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz elected to start small and put Crowder in the starting lineup. The Jazz got off to a great start in game three and the offense looked more fluid and electric (minus A LOT of missed shots). The team stayed with that game plan Monday night and Crowder made the most of his early minutes.

The Jazz took a 9-6 lead within the first four minutes, with Crowder scoring all nine. Remember, he was 4-of-21 from the floor in the first three games while scoring 19 total points but by the end of the first 12 minutes Monday night, he was 5-of-5 with a game-high 14 points. As the Rockets stormed back from a 14-point deficit – six straight possessions in the first quarter ended in a made three – it was Rubio’s turn to steady the team and provide the offense. He went for 11 of the team’s next 13 points.

Listen, if you were to bet on Crowder and Rubio combining for 25 points in the game’s first quarter, you’d be a wealthy man. The Jazz led 32-24 at the end of the first quarter.

Following the game, Snyder was quick to praise the fast start of both Crowder and Rubio. He said: 

“I think it’s the way that they did it: both of them attacked. Jae got downhill and attacked the rim, Ricky did the same thing. That aggressiveness, trying to drive the ball… those two guys emotionally and obviously their play, but their countenance and their competitiveness is something that our team needs and guys really feed off of.”

Mr. Closer: The Ending for Spida

The Jazz led by as many as 14 in the game, but saw that lead dwindle as Houston went 8-for-12 from deep in the third quarter to take a 79-76 lead heading into the final frame. Houston outscored the Jazz 32-23 in that third stanza and game three deja-vus were flooding the arena. Per the Houston Rockets PR team, Houston was 13-0 when leading after three quarters of play in the playoffs under head coach Mike D’Antoni, including 5-0 vs. Utah. Additionally, the only Rocket playoff sweep was in 1995 in the Finals against Orlando.

Mitchell wanted to keep it that way, while adding a 1 in the loss column for Coach D’Antoni playoff leads heading into the fourth. 

Right out of the gate in the fourth quarter, Mitchell nailed a three, his first of the game. Rubio then took a high pick and roll to the hoop for a leaner in the lane. The next offensive possession was a DM spin in the lane on Austin Rivers for a nice bucket and the Jazz went on a quick 6-0 run to regain the lead 83-79 lead.

Mitchell wasn’t done there, however as he then hit back-to-back threes. He had 13 points in the first three minutes of the final quarter and ended with 19 in the quarter on 6-of-12 shooting to carry the Jazz to the finish line. His confidence was high and you could see the determination in his body language to get the win.

It wasn’t just Mitchell, though, who helped the Jazz get a home win as Favors was subbed in late in the fourth for Rudy Gobert who had a few mental mistakes and turnovers as the game was teetering back and forth. Favors has been the ultimate professional on being ready when called upon and not pouting about playing time or starting status. As he has done game after game in a Jazz jersey, he put on his hard hat and just went to work. Notably, Favors grabbed four offensive rebounds late in the fourth to help the Jazz bleed clock and get quality possessions. As Mitchell drove and missed a few shots at the rim, Favors was quick for the putback. 

O’Neale also put his stamp on the game in the fourth as he contested Harden on all of Houston’s possessions, even picking him up from full-court at times. O’Neale has the offensive talent to keep pace with starters and hold his own, but it’s his length and athleticism on the defensive end that warrant him a valuable member on a playoff squad. In the game’s biggest moment, he wasn’t afraid of Harden or Chris Paul, going relentlessly at them in his defensive posture. 

Snyder noted all of this post-game and said:

“The beginning of the fourth we started very well. (But) then we had guys step up to make plays on both ends of the floor. Obviously Donovan had a stretch where he started to get it going a little bit and gave us a little cushion. I thought Derrick’s offensive rebounding late in the game was crucial. And then Royce’s ability to defend without fouling, maintain his aggressiveness and be disciplined at the same time.

Numbers

  • The bigs were big and the Jazz came up big: 52-35 rebound advantage and 52-22 points in the paint advantage. 
  • Houston had 16 turnovers which resulted in 21 Utah Jazz points. 
  • The Jazz were 4-15 from deep at the half, but finished the game 11-35 for a 31% performance. 

In Houston’s Own Words: 

Game five will be Wednesday night in Houston at 6 p.m. MDT. If this was the last game in Salt Lake for the season, it was an excellent finale and epitomized what the highs and the goods of Jazz basketball are all about: grit, determination, team identity, highlight reel plays, and a product on and off the floor to be proud of. 

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Rockets series not in doubt, but Game 4 win was still huge

Ryan Aston , 2019-04-23 05:49:25
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Although the Utah Jazz are still headed for a first-round exit, their Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets was a big one for the franchise.

Coming into the 2019 NBA Playoffs, no team in the history of the Association had ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series. And if you think the Utah Jazz are going to become the first at the expense of James Harden and the Houston Rockets, I can cut you a killer deal on some ocean-front property in Arizona.

That said, the Jazz’s 107-91 Game 4 win over the Rockets on Monday night was still a big one for the franchise, on multiple levels.

First and foremost, it reaffirms a winning culture that has been instilled by Jazz ownership, and realized by GM Dennis Lindsey, head coach Quin Snyder and the core of players led by Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, and that’s no small thing.

One would be hard-pressed to blame the Jazz for mailing it in given their predicament, but the fact that they had pride enough to play hard and still notch a monster victory in what is essentially a no-win situation shows the kind of character a team MUST to take a seat at the table with the league’s elite.

This year, Utah fell short of that goal, but the Jazzland masses can rest easy knowing that this is just one battle down; the war still rages on and this club, from top to bottom, is clearly committed to getting its due.

Secondly, several players registered performances on an individual level to show the world that the doldrums of this series through three games had some flukey elements and, despite the slumpage, they’re value as high-level NBA guys remains firmly intact.

Mitchell, Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale and Ricky Rubio all sang glorious redemption songs in Game 4, but it was the 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up whose efforts spoke loudest.

After a Game 3 loss, Kyle Korver famously raved about Mitchell, calling his recent setbacks vs. Houston just “part of his story” and, really, the story of a guy who will likely go down as one of the great players in the game. With a turn of the page to Game 4, the Jazz’s alpha dog proved that Korver’s musings weren’t just hollow platitudes.

Mitchell scored 31 points, grabbed seven boards and keyed the 15-1 run in the final carom that propelled his squad to the W. 11 of those came off of his hands and, by the end of the period, he had scored 19 over the game’s 12 minutes.

The haters, Twitter hipsters and Ben Simmons fans of the world like to hit Mitchell on his occasional lack of efficiency, but his clutch powers and otherworldly will to win games are truly undeniable.

Ultimately, the Jazz’s Game 4 win wasn’t the start of some record-breaking comeback. If anything, it more closely resembled that dying loved one, who gets well enough to leave the hospital, only to take a last gasp, say some final goodbyes, then call it a day.

Next: Splash Uncles have been disappointing in Jazz-Rockets series

But the fact that the Jazz fought so hard for it and were successful in their bid — against a world-class opponent and in spite of dire straits — is about as positive a sign as fans could hope for about their team’s mission to acquire the game’s ultimate prize.

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Take a look back at our debut of the City Edition uniforms and accompanying court against the Golden State Warriors

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