Jazz Overwhelm Blazers in OT, 112 – 103

November 1st, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

(Miami Herald)

Story of the Game

Utah defeated Portland in a crazy, contentious, and extremely competitive match up that required a gutsy Jazz comeback – and a game saving buzzer beating block by Rudy Gobert – simply to force overtime.

What was for most of the night a tough but not particularly aesthetic contest turned scintillating in the fourth quarter and overtime. Huge plays, some of them very odd, abounded:

Jonus Jerebko, who had only played two minutes entering the night, hit a huge three to give Utah an 82 – 80 lead with 6:52 left in the fourth.

Donovan Mitchell missed two shots on back to back plays only to grab offensive rebounds both times, assisting Gobert’s reverse layup on the first and tipping in his own miss on the second.

A bad pass by Damian Lillard went off a diving Joe Ingles hands with 2:19 left, giving Portland a chance to up what was then there three-point lead. CJ McCollum missed a three and Jusuf Nurkic missed a layup on an offensive rebound.

After a defensive stand with 10.5 seconds left in a game tied at 94, Ingles rebounded the ball and shot an outlet pass to Ricky Rubio, but Lillard stepped in the Spaniard’s path, causing Rubio to travel. The Blazers got the ball back with 9.8 seconds left and a chance to win.

Lillard drove hard for a midrange jumper to win the game only to have Gobert tip the ball at what looked like 13 feet from the floor, sending the game into overtime.

Once in the extra period, Utah scored 18 points on four shots.

Yeah, crazy.

But what shouldn’t be lost in the madness is who won the Jazz this game: new players.

Rubio, Mitchell, Jerebko, and Thabo Sefolosha scored 81 points on 51 shots1.

Utah’s stable of holdovers from last season – Gobert, Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, and Alec Burks – scored 31 points on 38 shots. Take away Gobert, and that falls to 15 points on 29 shots.

This is a new-look Utah Jazz, and this win came thanks to that new.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell

Few if any expected Rubio to provide Utah with intense scoring power but that’s what he’s brought thus far this season, and that intensified tonight. Rubio’s 30 points – Utah’s first 30-point game this season – was a radiant anomaly of a performance: 8 of 17 shooting, including 3 of 6 from three and a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line. And one assist. If anyone believed Rubio would be putting up 30 point, 1 assist games in a Jazz uniform, Portland’s Terry Stotts has a place for you on his staff because the Blazers never game planned for that.

Meanwhile, in what is quickly becoming the living legend that is Donovan Mitchell, Utah’s prized rookie wore Damian Lillard’s shoes in honor of his opponent and then dueled the all-world scorer to a near draw. It was the 21-year-old Mitchell who drove Utah’s offense more than any other player, scoring 28 points on 21 shots while adding 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Lillard put up 33 points on 27 shots, adding 10 rebounds and 8 assists. In the fourth quarter and overtime alone, Mitchell scored 12 points, including starting overtime with a three point shot that gave Utah a lead they never relinquished.

Secondary Star: Rudy Gobert

While the Blazers could make a good argument that Nurkic was at least as impactful as Gobert on the night with his 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks, Gobert’s 16/10/3 line was nothing to sneeze at either, especially given that third block may well have saved Utah from losing at the buzzer to Lillard. Blocking that shot, at that time, against that player, is a defensive play that maybe Dwight Howard in his prime could have made. No other player reaches that ball to save the game. Nurkic was great, but Gobzilla is unique.

Secret Stars: Thabo Sefolosha and Jonus Jerebko

Sefolosha is making clear he intends to make his presence so impactful he doesn’t really qualify for this category. Quin Snyder again closed the game with the lanky defender playing a Lillard-guarding power forward while notching 15 points on 10 shots, including 2 of 3 from three and a perfect 5 of 5 from the line, while throwing in 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and a block. An awesome all-around game.

As for Jerebko, it’s not easy to play 20 minutes in a hotly contested game after essentially not playing previously in the season. Not only did Jerebko do that, but he hit two of his three attempts from long range, providing the first real stretch four Utah’s enjoyed this season. His 8 points and 7 rebounds were huge, both in this win and as a positive sign given Joe Johnson’s absence from the line up for the foreseeable future due to right wrist “tendon instability.”

Stats of the Game

0 percent – Rodney Hood’s field goal percentage on 11 attempts on the night. It’s very fortunately for Hood that his team pulled out a gutsy win on the evening or this would be the lead for this game. Hood entered the season Utah’s anointed primary scorer, which intentionally or not positions him as the one to fill the shoes of Gordon Hayward. The simple truth is Hayward played only one game his entire career where he went scoreless in 20 minutes of play, and that was in his second season in a contest where he took only two shots. Hood was so off tonight that Snyder pulled him from the lineup with more than ten minutes left in the fourth quarter and he never got back into the game. If he wants to near his aspirations for the season, and those of so many others, this can’t happen again. It simply can’t.

31 – Jazz made free throws on 36 attempts. That number of makes is nearly double the attempts from the line the team averaged going into this game.

13 – Utah’s three pointers made, making it three consecutive games with at least 13 long range makes. All were wins.

14 – Jazz turnovers, matching their number against the Mavericks. The coaching staff focused on reducing turnovers in practice before the game against Dallas, and thus far it’s worked.

48 – Jazz points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

100 percent – Utah’s home winning percentage. They’ve started the season 5 and 0 in Vivent SmartHome Arena.

Sundries

  • It’s remarkable Utah won this game given how Hood and Favors played. Hood was such a liability that Snyder put in a rookie who may have a hero complex2 in place of the team’s number one offensive option. Just think about that for a moment. Meanwhile, Favors was essentially invisible apart from good effort on the offensive glass (3 offensive rebounds). Otherwise, his 5 points and 5 rebounds made little effect on the game. Add in Ingles scoring 7 points on 10 shots and you have a formula that really shouldn’t allow for a win. If these three struggle in combination like this again, it will almost certainly mean a loss every time.
  • Utah’s bench outscored Portland’s 54 to 20. The Jazz’s ability to go 10 players deep saved this game. The Blazers can really only reach seven deep with competitive talent.
  • While much of the first three quarters was as attractive as a lard statue in the style of Picasso, the second quarter had a unique stench. Portland went five full minutes to start the quarter with no field goals only for Utah to trump that by going over six minutes without a bucket to end the quarter. This led to the Jazz’s worst shooting half of the season at 25 percent.
  • This was a rough game. It was physical, chippy, and mucked up further by questionable calls – and non-calls – throughout the night. For some surprising reason referees John Goble, Tyler Ford, and Aaron Smith deciding grabbing jerseys and arms to hold players from using screens was legal on a one-night-only, special-occasion basis.
  • The Blazers’ best offense, by far, was driving the ball right at Gobert with Nurkic crashing to the hoop, which forced the Frenchman to decide who to cover. He repeatedly helped on the penetrator, as he should, only to have his teammates fail to rotate to Nurkic. The defense needs to have Gobert’s back and fix that.
  • I wonder if 30 points in an overtime win will salve Rubio after dishing only one assist. I doubt it.

This was a tough game, so it’s good the team will stay in Utah for a day’s rest before tilting against the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

Clint Johnson

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.

2 Comments

  1. John Jenkins says:

    The line next one steps up really applies so far for the Jazz. The major non mention was Alex Burks. In and out of the lime light. Rudy seems to have hit his stride. Hood seems to be such a dark and light player. Really on or really off. Needs to attach the rim more. Thabo has become the 2017 Joe Ingles with a Mr Fix It game. Credit the Jazz for not folding down the stretch. Need to win some away games.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’m fascinated by the home/road dynamic to this point and wonder how much is real and how much is the product of a small sample.

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