Jazz Score 129 for Second Straight Game in Phoenix Blowout

February 2nd, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

In a battle of young stars, the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (45) outgunned Devin Booker (1) of the Phoenix Suns, notching the second 40-point game of his rookie season in Utah’s 32-point smack down of the Suns in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Story of the Game

Given the nature of this season to this point, many likely expected the Utah Jazz to follow up their stunning 30-point shellacking of the Golden State Warriors with a let down loss in Phoenix. Not tonight. The Jazz blew the Suns off their own court out of the gate and never looked back to declare the team from SLC is finally playing well. Really well.

This contest was over at halftime. 

Utah’s starting lineup, which has struggled all season, throttled the Suns. Just under seven minutes into the game, Utah led 21 to eight. The Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gobert, and Derrick Favors triad that has been the focus of so much angst all season was awesome as the team showed both offensive explosiveness (shooting 69 percent from the field) and frightening defense (holding the Suns to 23 percent shooting). Rubio, Favors, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles each scored at least four points and Gobert, though scoreless, rejected two shots and added a steal.  

The Suns swapped their numbed starters for more energetic bench players and fought back to within five by the end of the quarter. But the Jazz geared up once more in the second and this time never let their foot of the accelerator, doubling up Phoenix in the quarter 34 to 17. They shot the ball with lethal accuracy (54 percent from the field while making six of eight from deep), shared the ball liberally (10 assists in the quarter), protected the ball (only one turnover), and constricted the Suns’s outmatched offense, holding them to 37 percent shooting, 25 percent from three, while forcing six turnovers.

Down 62 to 40, the Suns never really threatened again. At one point the Jazz led by 41.

The few runs the Suns made, such as 25 to 10 burst to close out the third quarter, were always matched or exceeded by Utah, often thanks to one or more of the Jazz’s 15 big threes on 29 attempts. The only drama in the second half came at the hands of Mitchell, whose 21 first-half points drew the mind to his 41-point outburst earlier in the season. Might he give another run at that 40-point mark?

Not only did he make that run, he crossed the finish line with nearly seven minutes left in the game, piling his second 40-point game on top of the Suns’s already bruised collective head.

The Jazz have now won four games in a row, five of six, and six of eight. They scored 129 in consecutive games for the first time since 1992. And Mitchell continues to make a strong case for being the best rookie in the history of the franchise. 

This season has quickly turned from sour to super interesting. 

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Donovan Mitchell (40 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 7 threes)

Mitchell’s seven made threes set a new career high, and he required only nine attempts to reach that. He scored 40 on 19 shots, adding a five-for-five night from the free throw line to his seven threes. After seemingly exhausting ways of amazing, he continues to manufacture new methods. Two 40-point games by a 21-year-old rookie. His only peers to pull that off in the past 30 years: Allen Iverson in 1997 and Blake Griffin in 2011.  

Secondary Stars: Ricky Rubio (14 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 2 threes) and Rudy Gobert (10 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 5 blocks)

While Rubio’s stats for the game are impressive, especially shooting two for two from long range and five of nine overall, it was his impact in the dominant first half that gave his real measure of influence tonight. He had all but two of his points and one of his assists by halftime! Combined with terrific defense on Devin Booker, who shot two of 10 in the half, Rubio showed he can be a game-changer.

As the Jazz settle into the first stretch of consistent good offensive play with Gobert healthy all season, he is settling into the role he’s best suited for: offensive opportunist and defensive destroyer. Tonight he took only eight field goal attempts and missed his only free throw attempt, but the team’s defensive rating with the Stifle Tower on the floor was a 78.7. He blocked five shots and helped Utah to outscore the Suns by a staggering 40 points in his 32 minutes of play.

Secret Star: Royce O’Neale (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals)

O’Neale continues to make the most of his opportunity with Rodney Hood out with injury, and gathers in more of Quin Snyder’s trust game by game as well. He played 27 minutes tonight and continued to display the ability to contribute across the board. He’s far from a polished product at this point, an erratic shooter (he took 10 shots for his eight points) who sometimes turns the ball over too much (though he didn’t cough the ball up at all tonight) and can get overly aggressive defensively as illustrated by his five fouls against the Suns. But he plays hard, has a versatile game, and consistently impacts play positively, so Snyder will find him minutes even after Hood’s return. 

Stats of the Game 

129 (258)1 – Jazz points scored.

50 (103) – Field goals made by Utah.

15/29 (29/57) – Three point shots made/attempted by the Jazz. That’s 52 percent shooting both tonight and in the two-game stretch.

92 (182) – Points scored by Jazz starters. The last two games the starting five have been world-beaters.  

67.1 – Utah’s net rating tonight with Rubio on the floor. With the Spaniard in the Jazz scored 144.1 points per 100 possessions and allowed 77. WOW!!!

Sundries

  • It’s a small sample, but in the four-game winning streak the Jazz have been very good with the combination of Rubio, Gobert, and Favors on the floor. In 10.5 minutes per contest over that stretch, they’re scoring better than 27 points on 52 percent shooting and outscoring opponents by 6.8 points. How much of that is a product of unsustainable 58 percent shooting from long range is a major question. But early on this season the trio looked completely feckless offensively. In the last few games, they’ve shown that isn’t inevitable.
  • Rubio is really giving the team everything they anticipated when they traded for him. He’s dished 20 combined assists in the last two games and, more importantly, at least five in eight straight games. It’s no coincidence that Utah has not lost two contests in a row in that span. Just as importantly, he has taken 11 or fewer field goal attempts in all but one of those contests. That’s Rubio’s game, and that’s what the Jazz need from him. If he can keep it up, the recent frequency of wins should be sustainable.
  • Favors has four double-doubles in his last eight games, and another game he posted eight and 10.
  • Ingles is 28 for 49 from three in his last eight contests. That’s 57 percent! Any defender that helps off him at this point should be relegated to the G League instantly.
  • As one who is not much of a Dragan Bender connoisseur, I’m not certain whether the Croatian has ever before had a quality NBA offensive game. But he was good tonight, scoring 16 and adding nine rebounds, five assists, and a block. Despite this, I don’t think fans in Phoenix should start buzzing about finding a creature akin to the New York Unicorn.

At 23 and 28, the Jazz are only three-and-a-half games out of the eighth spot in the playoffs. The Clippers traded away Blake Griffin, likely throwing in the towel in the playoff chase. The Pelicans currently sit in the seventh seed but will swapping in Nikola Mirotic for the injured DeMarcus Cousins keep them afloat? And Utah is charging, for the first time all season scoring well with their All-NBA center on the court.

With the trade deadline fast approaching, there is one glaring question: what will happen with Rodney Hood? Is it coincidence that the Jazz’s best basketball of the season has come with their once-anointed primary scorer injured? Uncertainty about the fate of other players, particularly Favors and Joe Johnson, also swirls, but not in the way it did a few weeks ago. The team has gelled with a formula lacking Hood as an ingredient.  

The Jazz are not writing off the playoffs this season. Whatever else happens, with Hood and beyond, trust that part of the rationale will be that it leaves the team in position to make a run at its second straight trip to the post-season.

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.
Clint Johnson

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2 Comments

  1. John Jenkins says:

    The Phoenix game was fun to watch. Rudy makes such a huge difference in spacing and on the defense he creates hesitation. The hesitation from players he is near is observable. Mitchell, Rubio, and Ingles have gone over their humps and are playing well. Cross fingers and knock on wood. Nice to see Derrick having good games . He is an excellent player and good guy. Royce is as you said,Clint, solid. Ekpe got in and as usual seemed to provide intelligence, defense, and a spark.. Yeah he also scored. Hope he develops a decent jump shot this off season. Thanks Clint.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      It was a fun game, at least for us Jazz fans. Phoenix has Booker and it looks like Jackson could be a player, but I’m not high on Chriss and have never liked Bender much. If they don’t make marked improvement over the next two years, it wouldn’t surprise me if Booker gets dissatisfied and asks for an out.

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