SPORTS

Conley Re-Injured As Jazz Escape Magic With Victory

Dec 17, 2019, 11:42 PM | Updated: Dec 18, 2019, 12:36 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mike Conley returned to the Utah Jazz lineup after a five-game absence in a 109-102 victory for the Utah Jazz, but the story of the game was how quickly he left the rotation. Conley was ruled out of the game in the fourth quarter after experiencing hamstring discomfort in just 19 minutes of play. 

Conley subbed out of the game with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter and never returned. 

The Story

Jazz coach Quin Snyder once again altered his lineup with Conley back in the rotation, keeping Joe Ingles in the starting five, and moving Royce O’Neale to the bench. Conley was the first Jazz starter to sub out of the game, replaced by O’Neale, as Snyder went back to the five-man unit that started the previous five games in Conley’s absence.

As a starter for the last five games, Ingles saw his season averages rebound to resemble his seasons with the Jazz, averaging 12.2 points, 7.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds, shooting 50 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the three-point line. 

Ingles continued his strong play, finishing the night with 16 points, 12 rebounds and two assists while shooting 5-8 from the floor and 2-2 from three. The Jazz will need Ingles to keep his high level of play if Conley continues to be plagued by his hamstring. 

“I think everyone is seeing the way Joe started to find his timing and some of his confidence shooting the ball,” Snyder said of changing his rotation around Ingles recent play.

Conley struggled in his return to the lineup, scoring just seven points and dishing out six assists on 2-8 shooting and 0-4 from the three-point. 

Snyder wasn’t able to elaborate on Conley’s injury after the game.

“They’re evaluating him right now, I’m not going to speculate on it right now,“ Snyder said.

O’Neale, who had started 24 of the Jazz 26 games, continued his improved play in a reserve role. The forward scored 11 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out one assist in 35 minutes, shooting 4-8 from the floor including 3-6 from the three-point line.

With Conley out, O’Neale was forced to close the game, and the third-year veteran performed admirably. O’Neale gathered two late-game rebounds and a steal to help the Jazz escape with a victory.

“That’s just who he is, making the extra plays, sacrificing his body and thats why we respect him and respect what he does,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said of O’Neale.

The Game

With Conley back in the lineup, the Jazz looked as comfortable running their offense as they have at any point this season. 

At the half, the Jazz had built an 11 point lead, outscoring the Magic 58-47 in the first 24 minutes of play. The Jazz shot 53 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three, and held Orlando to 42 percent from the floor and just 17 percent from the three-point line. 

The Jazz built the lead to 18 points in the third quarter but saw it trimmed back to 11 at the end of the third quarter. 

The Magic took their first lead of the second half, 91-90, on a Nikola Vucevic three-point shot with 6:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, and saw the lead balloon to 97-90 with 4:44 left in the game. 

With the Jazz hemorrhaging points, Mitchell took the team onto his shoulders and delivered one of the best clutch performances of his career. Over the final 4:31 of the game, Mitchell scored eight points on 4-5 shooting, leading the Jazz on a 19-5 run to close the game with a victory.  

The run was spurred by a highlight-reel dunk over Vucevic that reignited the crowd in the Vivint Smart Home Arena. 

“I understand with a guy like that, you can’t lay it up you’ve got to try to go up there and dunk it,” Mitchel said of the explosive finish, “I don’t know how tonight happened, I didn’t even dunk in warms ups, I didn’t have any legs.” 

The Magic overtook the Jazz in the fourth quarter thanks to a 32-8 run that spanned 7:55 to end the third quarter and begin the fourth quarter, leading up to Mitchell’s dunk. 

“There was no hanging your head over this happened or that happened,” Snyder said of his team, “If there was a couple of mistakes, we didn’t let those mistakes tear us apart.” 

Guard DJ Augustin led the charge for the Magic scoring 14 of his team-high 22 on 5-5 shooting in the fourth quarter. 

Mitchell was joined in the game-saving run by Bojan Bogdanovic who had his sixth 30 point outing in a Jazz uniform. The sharpshooting forward scored nine points in the final 3:40 of the game on 3-3 shooting, adding two free throws to clinch the game. 

“Offensively for me sometimes it’s been tough,” Mitchell said of his offensive burden with the Jazz, “He makes my life a lot easier. Having a guy where you can run actions throughs and making decisions in the clutch.”

Bogdanovic and Mitchell both finished the game with 30 points, marking the first time the Jazz have had such a luxury since Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer did it on March 28, 2008. 

The Big Picture

The Jazz have won three games in a row and move to five games over .500 for the first time since November 29, though the win was marred the re-aggravation of Conley’s hamstring. 

The team will be once again forced to toil with lineups in the second unit that have struggled in Conley’s absence and did so again in the fourth quarter with the point guard ruled out. In Georges Niang’s 3:35 on the floor in the final period, the Jazz were outscored by eight points, a trend that was common over the last five games. 

Snyder will have to continue to search for answers if Conley misses extended time.

Obviously worn down by the number of lineups he’s been forced to play, Snyder joked about the motivation for Tuesday’s lineup adjustments. 

“Yeah, I’ve been reading all the blogs, and I gotta tweet now, too,” Snyder said, “Just taking good advice from everywhere I can get it. I filled up my car at the service station today, and they told me too. So, I’m trying to listen.”

The Jazz now embark on a three-game pre-Christmas road trip, starting in Atlanta, stopping in Charlotte before finishing in Miami. The Hawks are tied for the second-worst record in the league at 6-22 and should provide the Jazz with an opportunity to readjust to having Conley out of the lineup. 

The Jazz tip-off against the Hawks at 5:30 Wednesday night. 

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