Jazz Bust Skid With a Decisive Win Over Kings

January 18th, 2018 | by David J Smith

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell continues to turn heads. He finished with 34 points against Sacramento. (John G. Mabanglo)

 

After dropping 15 of their last 19 games, the Utah Jazz earned a much-needed respite Wednesday evening, scoring an easy 120-105 victory over the Sacramento Kings. In one of their most complete outings since early December, Utah coasted its way to the W, outscoring the struggling Kings the first three quarters. Without further ado, here are some observations from the Jazz’s impressive performance.

Rookie keeps Donovan-ing and Mitchell-ing. Quite simply. this writer is running out of things to say about Donovan Mitchell. Each game, even during this recent skid, the poised rookie does things that elicit “oohs” and “aahs” both in the arena and on social media. Wednesday was no exception, as Mitchell tallied 34 points on just 19 shots1. While the total was great, the way he did it was even more eye-opening. Mitchell poured in 23 points in the second half, helping easily snuff out any Sacramento hope of getting into the game. And there was the matter of three highlight reel dunks. What can we say? The kid simply is special, as the Sacramento Kings broadcast crew so aptly described in this video.

Breaking out of slumps is a good thing. It is remarkable how much easier the game is when the Jazz wings’ shots are finding the bottom of the net. Much has been said of the boos Utah — and namely Rodney Hood — received during Monday’s lackluster loss versus the Indiana Pacers. A very motivated Hood played with a sizable chip on his shoulder all game. The result: perhaps his most well-rounded game of the year. He scored 25 points through a variety of ways, connecting on four treys and displaying his mid range game for all to see. His eight rebounds represented his highest since the January 2016. Add in two assists, two steals and probably a breath of relief for Hood. When his game is on, Utah becomes a totally different team.

Joe Ingles also enjoyed a return to form, draining four three-pointers on his way to 14 points. It represented just his second double-digit scoring game in the past 13 games2. Ingles has looked a bit less spry of late, so more importantly, the energy he showed against the Kings was a welcome sight.

The grass is not greener. The George Hill saga was one of the grand “what if” scenarios in recent years for the Jazz faithful. He was a mini revelation last season after his trade to Utah. For the first month, he was perhaps the Jazz’s most consistent player, while posting All-Star caliber numbers. Hill was a wonderful complement to Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward, bringing another perimeter marksman, facilitator and defender.

Then came the injuries, which derailed the finest campaign of his career, even in the midst of the team’s postseason run.  There was also confusion regarding his agent situation, as well as some reportedly stark differences of opinion on a fair contract amount. Subsequently, any discussions on a possible renegotiation-and-extension did not go far. Hill’s asking amount combined with what the Jazz front office were comfortable doing (along with concerns about his durability) caused both to look different directions come summertime. Ricky Rubio was brought to Salt Lake City and has really struggled. While Hill got a nice pay day from Sacramento, he too has had a rough transition. He has voiced displeasure about what he and veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter were told in the off-season compared to the forlorn way things have played out for the Kings.

Hill recently relayed to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee of his regrets on how things played out. He said “My adjustment in Utah last year was very easy just because of my relationship with coach Quin [Snyder]. He is like coach Pop, very precise, very strategical. We had a great team, and I wish we could have stayed together. But it’s a business.”

Hill put up a stat line Jazz fans became accustomed to Wednesday night: 20 points (6-of-10 FGs, 4-of-5 3s), 5 assists, four rebounds, three steals and zero turnovers. While Rubio was solid with nine points, seven assists and four steals, Hill was very good. It is easy to see that even without Hayward, Hill could have helped this Jazz squad. Given Rubio’s difficulty in acclimating in Utah, some Jazz fans have pined for Hill’s heady play. But what is done is done, as Jerry Sloan would say. Still a discretionary tale that causes many to ponder what could have been.

Parting Shots

  • The Kings have some really intriguing players. Bogdan Bogdanovic (25 points, six rebounds and 6-6 3-pointers) was terrific and shows promise of being a player Sacramento could look to long-term. Ditto for Willie Cauley-Stein (26 points, 10 rebounds). But the overall talent still is subpar, as is the way the roster fits — or does not fit — together.
  • Wednesday was just the 12th time in 43 games where Rubio totaled seven or more dimes. For a guy whose career average is 8.1 APG (including 9.1 last season), this is surprising. Here’s a quick breakdown of his assist games: 10+ assists: three games; 7-9 assists: nine games; 5-6: nine games; 4 or less: 22 (including three games with just one assist and one with zero).
  • It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Kosta Koufos was selected as the 23rd pick in the 2008 by the Jazz. Still just 28, he has carved out a solid career as a good to very good back-up center.
David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and Hoopsworld.com (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife, Elizabeth, have some amazing children--four girls and two boys. Voted "Most Likely to Replace Jerry Sloan" in high school.
David J Smith

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