Jazz Use Balance to Stay Perfect in March

March 6th, 2018 | by Steve Godfrey

Mitchell reaches around defenders to scoop home two of his 19 (via ESPN.com)

The Utah Jazz’s latest win started with a 9-0 offensive run and ended in holding their opposition to a 13-point fourth quarter. When you combine offense and defense, you get the win. The Jazz did so for the 15th time in 17 outings, beating Orlando 94-80 in Salt Lake on Monday night.

On the first offensive possession of the game, Donovan Mitchell had a decent look for three. Instead of settling for the jumper, he pump faked and drove in for an easy deuce. On the ensuing defensive possession, the Jazz forced a 24-shot clock violation. It was just that kind of night. Here’s how it breaks down by quarter, with some anecdotes along the way. 

1st Q: Points in the Paint

The Jazz overcame the absence of Derrick Favors (neck spasm) and had no trouble packing the paint. It started with the Mitchell drive on the first possession, but the rest of the team followed his example. On pick-and-roll plays, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio were able to curl, draw defenders, and then dish inside to a big. For the season, the Jazz shoot 61 percent from within five feet of the hoop as the bigs catch the oops or guards get easy floaters/lay-ins.  Rudy Gobert took full advantage with six easy buckets and the team scored 14 of their 25 in the paint, but still trailed 29-25 at the end of the quarter. 


….to Epke Udoh. Within thirty seconds, the man grabbed a steal and then a block. He was ready to play when called upon. Udoh has perhaps registered more minutes than expected, but he is a versatile defender who has accepted his role and plays hard. In fact, in just 50 games this season, Udoh has collected 62 blocks. With Favors out, he was due for minutes and was ready.  He knows what he is good at it and does it well. 

2nd Q: A Clamp Down

Both teams shot well in the first quarter, the Jazz at 50 percent and Orlando at 54, but the numbers were bound to regress. Both teams couldn’t stay that hot, and luckily for the Jazz, it was the Magic who took a dip. At the half, Rudy (12 points) and Ingles (16 points) had shots falling to put the Jazz’s percentage at 53 percent. Orlando? In the second quarter alone, they scored 15 total points on 5-of-22 shooting. 

In fact, the Jazz connected  8-for-10 during one stretch to really pull away. At the same time, a 12-0 run in two and a half minutes really helped while the Magic went without a field goal for close to five minutes. All told, the Jazz closed the quarter on a 19-5 run to take a 54-44 lead at the half. 


….to Ricky Rubio. When he attacks the defense, the Jazz offense clicks. He brings the ball up, is quick around defenders, and makes great decisions to either pass or score. In the second quarter, Rubio led the charge by pushing the ball and then making plays like this: 

However, his highlight was clearly missing a three and letting Rudy do his thang (yes, with twang). 

3rd Q: A Bank Shot. By Gobert. 

Um, Rudy banked in a jumper. Like, a real fifteen-foot jumper. And, like, it was on purpose. And he made it. He pump faked, dribbled once, calmly cleared it off glass, and then looked at the Orlando bench as hot stuff. 

By the end of the third quarter, Gobert had a double-double with 19 points, on 9/10 shooting, with 11 rebounds and a team-best +17. He was the best player on the court. 

Gobert has been amazing since his return to b-ball action. Want stats to prove it? In his last 19 games, Gobert is averaging 14.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. For the season, he is shooting 60% from the field, which would put him at fifth in the league for such a high percentage, and averages 2.4 blocks a game, which would tie him for first in the league. Key word: would; he doesn’t qualify. Those are All-NBA numbers, but by the end of the season will Gobert have missed too many games to be honored as such? His resume is as impressive, if not more-so, than Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Karl-Anthony Towns, centers that will be in consideration for All-NBA honors, but Gobert has the blemish of 26 missed games. 

Jazz fans know and love him as the Stifle Tower, a defensive force that has a work ethic as fearless as his attitude. He is simply the fuel that drives this Utah Jazz team. Had he been healthy all year, where would the Jazz be standing in regards to the playoff push? Had he been healthy all year, would he be recognized as an All-Star? Had he been healthy all year, would he be collecting hardware at the NBA Award Show in June? 

4th Q: Stats Toward Victory

  • The Jazz maintained their high shooting percentage and finished the game at 49%. Orlando shoots 46% on the season, good for 13th in the NBA, but were cold in Utah with 34%. 
  • Donovan Mitchell scored 11 points going into the fourth quarter. He got to the line in the fourth to help get him 19 for the night (and a +17!), but if he wants to average 20.0 ppg by the end of the season, he’ll need to make up ground as he sits at 19.9 ppg. 
  • The Jazz average 21.4 assists a game, which is quite low and ranks 24th out of 30 teams in the NBA. On Monday night, they passed the ball around and garnered 23. The ball was moving more in the first half as Ingles had seven first half assists and Rubio had five. 
  • Post All-Star break, the Jazz have had a turnover problem. On average, they commit 14.5 turnovers. With plenty of time til halftime, the Jazz were halfway to that mark with seven. For a while in that second quarter, the Jazz were reckless and careless – Joe Ingles especially – and coughed up silly TOs. Luckily, that died down as the game went on and they finished with 16 TOs that only yielded 11 points. 
  • Random stat of the game: By halftime, the Jazz had yet to attempt a free throw, a first of the season. 
  • Oh, and Quin was ejected with fifty seconds left in the game. The Jazz attempted more free throws than Orlando, but it still felt a few calls were going the wrong way. Quin thought so and tried to argue a few push offs throughout the game. As the game was about to expire, another potential push off occured but the refs didn’t call it. He wanted to talk to a ref, but he turned his back. He looked to another ref and he, too, turned his back.  It was the first time in his career that Quin has been ejected. 

What’s Next? 

After winning 15 in the last 17, the Jazz will take their three-game win streak into Indiana for a date with the Pacers on Wednesday. Indiana is a good team, 4th in the East, with a 37-27 record. They are 7-3 in their last ten, led by first time All-Star Victor Oladipo. Can the Jazz stay perfect in March? 

Steve Godfrey

Steve studied journalism and English, and now teaches high school in Northern Utah. He started his own website and writes about being a Tortured Jazz fan at: http://www.thetorturedfan.com/. He joined the Salt City Hoops team at the start of the 2017-18 season to connect with more Jazz fans and to continue to apply his passion for writing and for basketball.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *