Shorthanded Jazz Crush Mavericks

Jan 27, 2021, 10:03 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz won their 10th straight game with a 116-104 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

The Jazz were led by guard Jordan Clarkson who scored a season-high 31 points as the team was tasked with playing without the injured Donovan Mitchell who missed the game with concussion-like symptoms.

Joe Ingles started in Mitchell’s absence and finished with 21 points on seven made three-pointers.

The win moves to the Jazz past the Los Angeles Lakers atop the Western Conference standings, and have the best record in the NBA at 14-4.

Rudy Gobert’s Loud Double-Double

Last night we wrote about Gobert’s quiet dominance against the New York Knicks in which he had a 19 point, 18 rebound double-double. It’s hard to imagine a player doing that quietly, but that’s how it felt with so many other storylines for the Jazz.

Against the Mavericks, Gobert again recorded a double-double, though the stats were far from quiet.

Gobert dominated Dallas en route to a 29 point, 20 rebound night, with three blocks to boot. The Mavericks had no ability to stop Gobertrolling to the rim where he easily finished over the smaller Dallas frontcourt or cleaned up his teammates’ misses for putback dunks.

The Jazz center finished with six offensive rebounds and connected on 7-11 of his free-throw attempts.

“I think I just went with the flow of the game,” Gobert said. “My teammates Joe, Mike [Conley], everybody ready did a good job looking for me.”

Equally impressive was Gobert’s performance on the defensive end. Luka Doncic is one of the best scorers in the game averaging more than 27 points, but shoots just 28 percent from three, meaning he does most of his damage in the paint.

Gobert’s presence throughout the night stimied the Mavericks who shot just 54 percent in the restricted area.

Kristaps Porzingis is one of the more versatile big men in the NBA, and ideally would be a difficult matchup for Gobert. Instead, he finished with 18 points on 8-18 shooting, and Dallas was outscored by 24 points when he was on the floor.

Filling In For Mitchell

Outside of his game against the Knicks, Mitchell has been one of the best players in the NBA during the Jazz win streak.

The All-Star guard was averaging 27.3 points, five assists, and 4.3 rebounds during the first eight games of the Jazz win streak, and there was a real question about how the Jazz would handle playing without him.

Thanks to Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson, the Jazz didn’t miss a beat.

Ingles finished with 21 points, eight assists, and four rebounds in the victory. Clarkson meanwhile added 31 points, 22 of which came in the first half to carry the Jazz to a 21 point half time lead.

“We’ve had injuries and different things and guys have had to step up and play bigger roles or different roles,” Ingles said of the Jazz season. “The funniest thing about being on a team like that is that there’s obviously no ego involved in it. We love playing together.

Before the game, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had this to say about the Jazz playing without Mitchell.

“This is one of the most tied together teams with a very efficient, high functioning system,” Carlisle said. “This is the kind of NBA team that can absorb the loss of a player like Mitchell, particularly on a one-game basis, and still play at a high level.”

He was right. The Jazz may have missed some of Mitchell’s willingness to shoot the three, as they finished with 35 attempts on the evening, seven fewer than they have averaged during the win streak, but they more than made up for it in efficiency between Ingles and Clarkson.

The Jazz don’t want to go long stretches without any of their backcourt players, but they went undefeated in the four games Ingles missed while he dealt with Achilles soreness, and are now 1-0 without Mitchell.

Missed games are going to play a big role in the NBA this season, and the Jazz have shown a unique ability to navigate those missed games in their backcourt through the first quarter of the season.

Morgan Over Azubuike

With Favors out, Snyder chose to play second-year big man Juwan Morgan as the Jazz back up center, rather than rookie Udoka Azubuike.

It’s not an enormous surprise based on Snyder’s history as the Jazz coach has generally preferred to play experience over youth and has little regard for draft position in his rotational decisions.

Morgan proved his value for the Jazz last year in the Disney bubble playing valuable minutes in the team’s first-round series loss to the Denver Nuggets when then-reserve Tony Bradley proved too immobile to provide postseason minutes.

Morgan proved his value again in the second quarter as the Jazz relied heavily on a zone defense with a small frontcourt playing alongside Georges Niang, as the Jazz were able to easily pass of Mavericks players from zone to zone leading to long, difficult offensive possessions for the Dallas bench.

If Morgan is the better player at the moment, which Snyder’s rotation would indicate it further begs the question why the Jazz used a valuable first-round draft pick on a player like Azubuike who is going to struggle to crack the lineup ahead of an undefeated second-year big man, much less Gobert and Favors?

The Jazz first-round pick is now -57 in 11 appearances for the Jazz, including the 1:34 seconds he played to close out the win over the Mavericks. He’s yet to have a positive-plus night in any of his appearances.

The Jazz haven’t needed the contributions of any rookie so far this season, but with strong starts to the careers of Immanuel Quickley, Payton Pritchard, Desmond Bane, and Xavier Tillman, all of whom were drafted after the Jazz initial option to make the 23rd pick in the draft, the Azubuike selection continues to be a curious move.

The Jazz and Mavericks will complete their two-game series Friday at 8 pm MST at Vivint Arena.

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