Bogdanovic And Conley Returning To Form For Jazz

Mar 4, 2020, 9:03 PM | Updated: 9:14 pm
Mike Conley - Utah Jazz...
Mike Conley #10 of the Utah Jazz celebrates(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

MANHATTAN, New York – Bojan Bogdanovic had a nine-game basketball hiatus over the All-Star break, the same as the rest of the players who weren’t selected to the weekend’s star-laden events. Unfortunately for the Jazz, the 30-year-old Croatian seemed to extend his midseason break by a few extra nights as the team returned to play. The Jazz lost their first four games as they returned from time off, and the non-existent play from Bogdanovic was one of the main catalysts. Over his last two games, including the Jazz 112-104 victory over the New York, it appears that Bogdanovic has returned to form. 

Over his first four games to begin the second half of the season, Bogdanovic averaged just 11.5 points, shooting 26 percent from the floor and 17 percent from the three-point line.. Over his last three outings, the Jazz off-season acquisition is averaging 24 points per game, while connecting on 47 percent of his shots from the field, including 44 percent of his shots from three. 

It’s no coincidence the Jazz haven’t lost during Bogdanovic suddenly hot stretch. Examining Bogdanovic numbers for the Jazz this season, there’s nearly a four-point per game difference in the forward’s scoring average in the team’s wins as opposed to its losses. 

In wins, Bogdanovic averages 21.8 points per game and has a true shooting percentage of 62 percent. In losses, his scoring average drops to 18 points per game, shooting a respectable but diminished 57 percent true shooting percentage. 

One of the concerns about the Jazz recent losing stretch against teams instituting a small-ball approach to attacking the Jazz was how easily Bogdanovic was eliminated from the game plan. Smaller defenders were able to close out on the forward quicker than bigger defenders, helping to eliminate his perimeter shots. When Bogdanovic drove, smaller defenders poked his dribble away from him causing easy turnovers. 

Against New York, the Jazz were able to get Bogdanovic involved offensively early in the game by screening primary defender RJ Barrett off of the forward, giving him a more advantageous matchup against the bigger, slower Taj Gibson. 

As teams have adapted in how they defend the Jazz with smaller defensive players, recognizing that Rudy Gobert isn’t a threat to create his own shot, figuring out a way to keep Bogdanovic involved against smaller lineups will be key to the team’s success for the rest of the season. 

Mike Conley’s Improved Play

Just as Bogdanovic has once again found his stride in a Jazz uniform, point guard Mike Conley appears to once again be settling into a rhythm with the starting lineup. Conley contributed 17 points, dished out six assists and turned the ball over just once. Over his last 10 games, since being reinserted into the team’s starting lineup, the guard is averaging 16.5 points, 4.8 assists, just 1.3 turnovers while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 46 percent from the three-point line. 

As a reference point, Conley’s career averages are 14.8 points per game, 5.7 assists, two turnovers, shooting 44 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three. 

Conley has failed to reach a double-digit scoring total just once in his last 10 games, after doing so 10 times in his first 26 appearances with the team. 

It seemed as if Conley was destined to be moved back to the team’s second unit before the Jazz hosted the Boston Celtics on February 26, but a late decision by the team’s coaching staff opted to push guard Joe Ingles to the bench while moving Royce O’Neale into the starting lineup. 

The Jazz have outscored opponents by 32 points in Conley’s 122 minutes since the roster adjustment, his second-best four-game stretch of the season. 

Finishing the Road Trip

The team now travels to Boston to take on the Celtics who beat the Jazz the night Conley was nearly pushed out of the starting lineup. Boston is just 1-2 since facing the Jazz, with losses to Houston and Brooklyn before defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in a closer game Wednesday night. 

The Celtics will be without forward Jaylen Brown who is dealing with a hamstring injury. Former Jazzman Gordon Hayward didn’t play against the Cavaliers and is considered day to day with a knee injury. 

The Jazz finish the road trip Saturday night in Detroit as they face the Pistons on the second night of a back to back. 


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