Jazz Fall To Miami; Move On From Dante Exum, Jeff Green
MIAMI, Fla. – The Utah Jazz lost for the first time in six games, falling to the Miami Heat 107-104, finishing their three-game road-trip 2-1, and make a series of moves heading into the Christmas break. The Jazz will enter the two-day hiatus with an 18-12 record, and a revamped second unit.
The Jazz were on the wrong side of a 21-4 run late in the third quarter and into the fourth, once again the result of a poor performance by the team’s bench which turned an 81-74 lead into a 95-85 deficit.
As a result, the Jazz made three major moves to improve their struggling bench.
First, before taking on Miami, the Jazz traded Dante Exum to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with two future second-round draft picks for fifth-year guard Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson, a proven scorer will be counted on to lead the team’s offense in the second unit.
Jordan Clarkson hesitates & scores. He has a season-high 21 PTS!#BeTheFight 92#Hornets30 76
📺: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/OrBtyKvN4C
— NBA (@NBA) November 14, 2018
Then, after a seven point, two assist, three rebound outing against the Heat, the Jazz waived veteran forward Jeff Green. Green had struggled to shoot the ball in his brief career with the Jazz, connecting on just 38 percent of his shots from the floor and 33 percent from the three-point line.
After waiving Green, the Jazz signed Milwaukee Bucks G-League affiliate forward Rayjon Tucker to add frontcourt depth. Tucker is the G-League’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 23.8 points for the Wisconsin Herd, and had scored 30 points or more in each of his last four outings before signing with the Jazz. Since teams are unable to sign players to 10-day contracts until January 5, Tucker was signed by the Jazz for the rest of the season.
Rayjon Tucker with 34 Points vs. Salt Lake City Stars https://t.co/40kYi4a9We
— NBA G League 🇪🇺 (@nbagleague_EU) December 21, 2019
The Jazz starters were forced to play extended minutes as coach Quin Snyder held the team’s bench players to low minute totals due to their underwhelming performance.
“I thought we got tired, we had some really good looks, they trapped us but a couple of possessions we didn’t handle it as well as we could have,” Snyder said of his team in the second half, ”But we got good looks and thats what you have to do when someones going to double you.”
Miami was aggressive defensively in trapping Donovan Mitchell who has been moved into point guard position as Mike Conley rehabs from a hamstring injury. Mitchell struggled shooting the ball connecting on just 5-18 shots for 13 points.
“I think we played really well but we just had little breakdowns,” Mitchell said, “That just can’t happen, and on top of that, we didn’t make shots.”
The Jazz played well through the first three-quarters of the game and carried a five-point lead into the fourth quarter, despite a below-average night from the team’s two leading scorers. Mitchell struggled both shooting the ball and with turnovers, as four of the team’s 11 giveaways were attributed to the third-year guard.
Bojan Bogdanovic picked up three first-quarter fouls and missed the entire second quarter as a result. Bogdanovic finished the game with 19 points, but shot just 4-13 from the field, instead adding a significant amount of his points at the free-throw line where he made 9-10 attempts.
“I didn’t play for the whole second quarter,” Bogdanovic said of his early foul trouble, “So I basically started the game in the third quarter, so I was kind of cold.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 24, 2019
Rudy Gobert set a season-high rebounding mark, nabbing 20 boards while adding 18 points and five blocks. The Jazz outscored the Heat 50-46 in the paint because of Gobert’s effort on both sides of the floor.
The Heat were led by 20 points from Jimmy Butler but were most effective with their second unit on the floor. Tyler Herro scored 17 points, including nine fourth-quarter points to secure the victory.
.@kristenkenney asked Donovan Mitchell about Tyler Herro's big 4th quarter and Donovan held himself accountable. #TakeNote
"He kicked my a** three straight possessions. Credit to him" pic.twitter.com/7yekdmMu7s
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) December 24, 2019
Joe Ingles continued his superb play since moving into the starting lineup. Ingles scored a season-high 27 points on 9-16 shooting and 7-12 from three to keep the Jazz afloat during the first half. Ingles has scored in double-digits in seven of his nine outings since moving into the starting lineup with Conley injured and has twice scored 23 points or more.
Joe 6-9 from three 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/cVZcI6vLni
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 24, 2019
Ingles had scored in double-digits just seven times all-season in his role off the bench.
The Big Picture
The Jazz had won five straight games heading to the Miami loss and clearly felt that as an organization, they had narrowed down the cause of their issues off the bench. Exum had become a non-rotation player behind the quickly improving Emmanuel Mudiay, while neither Jeff Green’s effort or impact was improving with the bench.
Green seemed like an ideal frontcourt player alongside Ed Davis for the Jazz second unit with his ability to spread the floor, and make plays in transition. Instead, it appeared Green’s focus often wandered during his time on the floor, and when his shots weren’t falling, he was completely unable to impact the game. According to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Green was the 10th worst player in the NBA heading into the night in Miami.
Tucker will come in and compete with Juwan Morgan and Jarrell Brantley minutes at the power forward position with the second unit, but the focus should be on Clarkson as a go-to scorer off the bench.
The Jazz will like debut their newest acquisitions Thursday night when they return home to face the Portland Trailblazers, assuming Clarkson and Tucker can clear physical exams.
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