Jazz Beat Charlotte, But Lose Conley With Hamstring Injury
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz won their 14th game in their last 15 outings with a 138-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets Friday night.
The Jazz are 2-0 on their current road trip and have won six of their last seven games away from home.
The team was led in scoring by Bojan Bogdanovic who scored 31 in the game, followed closely by Donovan Mitchell who 30 in the victory.
While the Jazz set a new team record for three-pointers made, the team’s attention will be on the healthy of Mike Conley who injured his string early in the second half.
The Jazz Three-Point Generating Offense
The Jazz set a franchise record hitting 26 of their 50 three-points attempts, eclipsing their previous record of 25 set against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 8. The 50 attempts are tied for second-best this season by the team, while the 52 percent is the second-best shooting night of the season outright.
The Jazz became just the third team in NBA history to hit at least 26 threes in a game, marking the fourth-highest total in a game in league history.
The Houston Rockets have hit 26 or more threes four times, Minnesota has done it once, and the Milwaukee Bucks set an NBA record earlier this season by hitting 29 against the Miami Heat.
It’s a nice mark to hit, considering NBA teams are a perfect 13-0 when they make at least 25 threes in a game, something the Jazz have done twice already this year. The Jazz have now hit at least 20 threes in nine games this season, four more than the next best Milwaukee Bucks who have five such games this season.
While the majority of the credit belongs to Jazz shooters, eight of whom hit three-pointers, it’s also a testament to Dennis Lindsey, Quin Snyder, and Rudy Gobert.
In April of 2019, after the Jazz had been eliminated by the Rockets for the second straight season, Lindsey, the Jazz vice president of basketball operations said the Jazz would be looking for snipers at any position to put on the floor.
Since that date he’s added Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson who combine to make 7.5 threes per game entering Friday’s performance against Charlotte.
Credit is owed to Snyder for unleashing the type of offensive design and freedom that allows the Jazz to shoot so many threes, and credit is owed to Gobert who frees up Jazz shooters.
Before the game, Hornets coach James Borrego gave a simple, yet concise breakdown of the Jazz offense that should shine a light on Gobert’s role in the offense.
“They put a lot of pressure on your defense to take away the rim and the three,” Borrego said. “And I don’t know many teams that can take away both the rim and the three from them. There are very few teams that can.”
It’s telling of how terrified teams are of Gobert’s efficiency at the rim that they’re still willing to give up three-point opportunities to Jazz shooters rather than let the All-NBA center get dunks at the rim.
Still, on nights like tonight, the math says Borrego is right.
The Jazz had an offensive rating of 156 on their 50 three-point attempts. For reference, the Bucks have the NBA’s best offensive rating at 118.4, 37.4 points worse per 100 possessions than the Jazz on deep balls against the Hornets.
At that rate, it would make sense to ask all defenders to stay with the Jazz shooters and let Gobert attack your defense in the pick and roll.
Here’s the problem, Gobert had six possessions end in shots or free-throws tonight, and he scored 12 points without missing a field-goal attempt. The Jazz offensive rating was 200 when Gobert finished a possession with a shot, which is 44 points per 100 possessions better than their three-point shooting.
Simply put, the Jazz offense is putting teams in a Catch-22 every night they suit up, and it’s why they’ve got the NBA’s best record.
Jazz Lose Conley With Hamstring Injury
With 6:58 left in the third quarter, Joe Ingles subbed into the game for Mike Conley and the Jazz starting point guard never retook the floor.
Early in the fourth, the team confirmed Conley was in the locker room and would not return due to hamstring tightness in his right leg. After the game, Snyder said he didn’t know much about the injury as he’d only just barely discussed it with team staff.
Last season Conley missed 19 games in the middle of the year after suffering a hamstring strain in his left leg. The guard tried to return after five games, reinjured the hamstring, and missed the next 14.
At this point, the Jazz would be wise to give Conley all the time he needs to rehab from the injury, but his absence was apparent in the victory.
With 2:53 left in the third quarter, Miye Oni subbed in for Donovan Mitchell, the point where Conley usually re-enters the game and the Jazz fell apart. The Hornets closed the quarter on a 14-7 run to trim a 23 point lead to 16 entering the final quarter, before trimming the lead to single digits four minutes later.
The Jazz were able to get the win thanks to their continued hot three-point shooting, but there was very little rhythm to the game after Conley left the floor.
“Mike has a way of being out there and calling stuff and seeing things,” Mitchell said. “We definitely missed that presence on the offensive end, the offensive mind that he has.”
The team suffered a similar fate Thursday night against the Atlanta Hawks when Conley got into foul trouble in the first quarter and didn’t return to the game until the second half.
Conley isn’t the Jazz best player, that honor belongs to either Mitchell or Gobert, but right now he’s as valuable, if not more so than anyone else on the floor and it lends credence to his plus-minus stats leading the league.
The good news for the Jazz is they have the best guard lineup in the NBA and played well last season during the 18 games without him. The team went 15-3 with Mitchell running the point guard position, and the Jazz have yet to lose when one of their guards, be it Mitchell or Joe Ingles has missed a game
The bad news is Conley’s improved play is a big reason the Jazz might consider themselves contenders right now, and an extended absence could shake that confidence.
The Jazz play Sunday in Indiana, and all eyes will be on Conley’s diagnosis ahead of the final stop on the team’s three-game road trip.