New Look Jazz Abuse Trailblazers Perimeter Defense In Victory

Dec 27, 2019, 12:47 AM | Updated: 9:27 am
Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz...
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) comes off the court with praise from Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – If the Portland Trailblazers asked Santa Claus to deliver perimeter defense on Christmas morning, they were left with a lump of coal, and the Utah Jazz were more than willing to take advantage of the jolly fat man’s oversight in a 121-115 victory. 

The Story

The Jazz guards abused the Trailblazers defense from start from the opening tip to the final whistle, combing for points 74 points on 28-50 shooting, and improved their record to 19-12 on the season. 

Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell did the majority of the damage against Portland, combining for 61 points. The two took turns dominating quarters, as Ingles had 17 first-quarter points while Mitchell chipped in 16 during the third, including scoring the final 10 points of the quarter to build the Jazz lead up to 20 points. Ingles finished the game with 26 points, Mitchell had 35. 

“I thought Joe just came out really aggressive, which was good to see,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of his starting backcourt, “When you have two players, both have a hot hand, it impacts the defense one way or the other.”

The Jazz starting backcourt wasn’t the only group to abuse the Blazers matador defensive approach. New Jazzman Jordan Clarkson added nine points in 20 minutes off the bench, while reserved guard Emmanuel Mudiay scored four for the Jazz. 

The Trailblazers have one of the smaller backcourts in the NBA between Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Anfernee Simons, none of whom stand above 6’3 inches tall, and aren’t known for the defensive prowess. The Jazz were able to exploit mismatches against the Trailblazers, even when larger players switched onto Jazz playmakers. 

In a flashback to the 2017 NBA playoffs when the Jazz faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mitchell repeatedly took Carmelo Anthony off the dribble, scoring at will with a series of floaters, layups, and step backs to build the Jazz 20 point fourth-quarter lead. 

After the Trailblazers cut the lead to just one point, the Jazz went back to attacking Portland off the dribble, and quickly rebuilt a five-point lead. Mitchell scored on a floater in the paint, followed by a Joe Ingles slow-footed lay up, and Portland was never able to even the score. 

The Game 

Much of the excitement entering the night revolved around the addition of Clarkson, who Snyder said would get thrown into the fire in his first game with his new team. 

Clarkson received a standing ovation from Jazz fans in his first appearance, replacing Ingles with 4:05 left in the first quarter. The sixth-year guard made his first field-goal attempt in a Jazz uniform, a late shot-clock runner over Lillard that caught the back of the rim and dropped in. Clarkson connected on four of his first seven attempts, before missing his final five shots of the game. 

“You can tell he wants it,” Snyder said of Clarkson, “There’s a hunger about him, and he plays with a level of confidence that we need.”

The former Missouri guard will be counted on to provide the team with a scoring punch off the bench that the team has been missing for most of the season. Those struggles lead the Jazz to trading for Clarkson. 

“I didn’t have practice this morning or shoot-around,” Clarkson said, “It was a good game, I got a warm welcome from all the fans, it was nice, I love the energy here.”

After building a 20 point lead entering the fourth quarter, the Jazz were on the wrong side of a 26-7 run led by McCollum. The Lehigh product scored 17 of his 25 points in the final quarter, knocking down 7-10 shots from the floor, and 2-3 from three. The Trailblazers scored 39 fourth-quarter points, once again preventing the Jazz from maintaining a comfortable victory for a full 48-minute game. 

While the Jazz offense carried them through the first three quarters, it was Rudy Gobert’s defense late in the game that turned the outcome in the Jazz favor. In the final 1:50 of the game, Gobert saved a rebound from falling out of bounds, tapping it to Bojan Bogdanovic instead who made a buzzer-beating three-point shot to put the Jazz up 112-107. 

Two possessions later, Gobert smothered Lillard on the perimeter, forcing an awkward jump pass to Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was forced into a desperation three-point shot over the 7’1 Gobert which fell 10 feel short of the basket. 

Gobert sealed the game with by blocking Lillard reverse layup which fell into the hands of Bogdanovic who scored the games final two points from the free-throw line. The Jazz center finished the game with 16 points, connecting on all seven of his field-goal attempts. Gobert added 15 rebounds for his 23rd double-double of the season. 

Bogdanovic added 16 points and four rebounds. 

The Big Picture

The Jazz have won six of their last seven games, and remain just three games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the third seed in the Western Conference. 

Ingles scored 20 points or more for the third time during the Jazz recent hot stretch of play after failing to break the 20 point mark in any of his first 24 games of the season. Ingles has likely solidified his spot in the starting lineup, even when Mike Conley returns from injury. 

Conley missed his eighth game in the Jazz last nine outings but was on the floor shooting before the game. Assuming the role of point guard, Mitchell has averaged 5.2 assists and scored 30 points or more four times in 10 games.

Without Jeff Green who was waived Monday night, the Jazz bench consisted of Mudiay, Clarkson, Georges Niang, and Ed Davis. Tony Bradley got an emergency three minutes of play when Davis found himself in foul trouble in the first half. The bench was a combined -29 on the floor, similar plus-minus numbers to what the second unit had achieved before Monday night’s moves. 

The Jazz travel to Los Angeles to play the Clippers Saturday night.

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