Bogdanovic Continues To Quietly ‘Will’ Jazz To Victory

Jan 2, 2020, 10:07 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2020, 12:24 pm

CHICAGO, Ill. – The Utah Jazz got clutch play from Rudy Gobert in Chicago and beat the Bulls 102-98, but an unsung hero for the team has quietly kept the offense afloat.

The Story

Rudy Gobert deserves the game ball in the Jazz victory Chicago, thanks to multiple defensive stops against the Bulls late in the game. Gobert gave the Jazz a four-point lead with one minute remaining on a brilliant dunk over the Bulls defense, then stopped two Zach Lavine layups in the final 22 seconds of the fourth quarter to give the Jazz their fourth straight victory. 

Gobert’s chemistry with Joe Ingles over the last 13 games with Mike Conley has been crucial for the Jazz recent streak of high-level play.

But while Gobert’s late-game heroics will be what was most remembered from the victory, another Jazzman continued his run of unheralded play and put the team in position to win their ninth game in their last 10 outings. 

It came from Bojan Bogdanovic.

It’s rare when a player leads his team in scoring and can be thought of as unheralded, but that was the case from Bogdanovic, who scored 19 points despite missing all five of his three-point attempts and shooting just 5-13 from the field. 

These types of low field-goal percentage, high total point performances are becoming the norm from the sixth year veteran. 

Over his last 13 games, Bogdanovic has shot better than 40 percent from the floor just three times, and still, he’s scored in double digits in each outing. Only once in the stretch as the Croatian forward finished the game with more field goal attempts than total points. 

The key to Bogdanovic’s efficient outings aren’t solely dependent on his ability to knock down the three-point shot, where he’s making just under 40 percent of his deep balls over the stretch. His best weapon has been his ability to get to the free-throw line in large numbers and knock them down at a blistering rate. 

Including his 9-9 performance in Chicago, Bogdanovic has made 73-79 free-throws over his last 13 games, good for 92 percent on six attempts per game. Currently, no player in the NBA shoots more free-throws per game at a better percentage than the Jazz free-agent acquisition has over the last 13 outings. 

When the Bulls trimmed the lead to 84-80, Bogdanovic scored eight of the next 10 Jazz points to put the team up 94-85 and scored 10 of the team’s final 18 points. 

Even on nights when Bogdanovic isn’t knocking down threes, his ability to get to the free-throw line has kept the Jazz offense afloat, and it’s an additional wrinkle to a rapidly improving offensive attack. 

Bogdanovic is averaging 20.3 points per outing over the last 13 games. 

The Game

It was a see-saw battle for most of the night in Chicago, as the Jazz and Bulls traded runs from the opening tip to the final whistle. The Bulls jumped out to a 9-2 lead, which the Jazz answered with a 9-0 run of their own. 

Between the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third, the Bulls flipped a 46-41 lead for the Jazz into a 58-47 lead with 10:23 left in the third quarter. The Jazz answered with a 12-0 run of their own to retake the lead 59-58. 

“We came out of that timeout with a great mindset,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, “We made things hard on them.”

The Jazz turned the once 11 point deficit into an 11 point lead, with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter thanks to back to back baskets at the rim from reserve center Tony Bradley. 

“We had a lot of lifts, Emmanuel [Mudiay] came in and gave us some really good minutes,” Snyder said, “And Tony Bradley as well, he was able to rebound the ball and finish at the other end.”

Bradley finished with six points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in 12 minutes on the floor. Most importantly, Bradley committed just one foul during the game, allowing him to stay on the floor.

The Bulls would again tie the game at 96 with an 8-0 run between the 3:25 mark and 1:43 mark of the fourth quarter. The Jazz would close the game on a 6-2 run to win the opening game of their three-game road trip. 

“It’s easy to fold on the road, the first game of the road trip, right after the new year,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said, “We were down 11, it’s easy to chalk it up and say alright we’ll go get ready for Orlando. We stuck in it and fought back and continued to play.”

Mitchell finished the night with 17 points, seven assists, and four rebounds again playing lead guard in the absence of Mike Conley. Conley has missed 12 of the Jazz last 13 games with a hamstring strain and won’t appear in any of the team’s remaining games on the road trip as he hasn’t traveled with the team. 

The Bulls were led in scoring by LaVine who had a game-high 26 points, but took 26 shots to get there, and missed his four final attempts of the game.

The Big Picture

The Jazz pulled into a tie with the Dallas Mavericks with their win over Chicago at 22-12 on the season, and are now an even 9-9 on the road. Good teams win a lot at home and can beat enough teams on the road to hover around .500 and get to 50 wins on the season. Right now the Jazz are a good team, but have won five of their last six on the road and could approach great team status if they continue to win away from Salt Lake City. 

All-Star voting opened over the Christmas holiday and both Mitchell and Gobert will have a great case to get there. Mitchell’s highlight-reel play and big numbers likely give him the best odds of making the team, but Gobert’s importance is impossible to overvalue. 

“I don’t think anyone will ever realize how valuable he is to this team,” Reserve Jazz forward Georges Niang said of Gobert, “He’s just a big man down there that is just protecting the rim and anchoring our whole defense. We go as he goes especially on the defensive end.”

Bradley has fully replaced Ed Davis as the reserve center for the Jazz. It must have been a tough realization for the Jazz that the three rotation level bench players they signed this summer (Mudiay, Davis, and Jeff Green) weren’t working out, and changes had to be made. To the team’s credit, they waived Green and have no sidelined Davis in favor of younger more unproven players and it’s one of the main reasons for the big win streak.

If Bradley can continue to give the Jazz what he did against Chicago, he’ll be a big boost for a roster that has been desperate for consistent performances from the front-court reserves.

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