Jazz Stars Outshine Celtics For 20th Win Of The Season

Feb 10, 2021, 12:00 AM | Updated: 12:18 am
Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz...
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center on February 10, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz beat the Boston Celtics 122-108 to earn their 20th win of the season. The team has the best record in the NBA at 20-5, matching the 1996-97 Finals team for the best start in franchise history.

Donovan Mitchell had 36 points, nine assists, and four rebounds, while Rudy Gobert added 18 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks to lead the Jazz to victory.

The Celtics were led by Jaylen Brown who had 33 points in his first game back after missing the last two games with a knee injury but ended their five-game road trip with a loss.

Jazz Stars Outshine Celtics

The 2017 draft has four clear stars in Mitchell, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo, and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox.

Fox has yet to make an All-Star game but has a good shot of getting there this year. Adebayo is fabulous, but plays second fiddle to Jimmy Butler in Miami. That leaves Mitchell and Tatum fighting for the title of best player from the ’17 draft.

Mitchell claimed the title after their rookie seasons, then Tatum wrestled it away in years two and three.

Right now, year four is a toss-up, but Mitchell landed a big punch against the Celtics forward in the Jazz win. While Tatum had a good stretch early in the fourth quarter to keep the game competitive, Mitchell’s close to the game was truly special.

Over the final 6:30 of the game, Mitchell scored 10 points, had four assists, one rebound, one block, and one steal, while shooting 3-4 from the three-point line. The All-Star guard scored or assisted on 20 of the Jazz final 21 points to win the game.

“I’m just very fortunate to be in this position where my teammates trust me to go make plays like that,” Mitchell said.

The highlight of Mitchell’s career so far has been his two 50+ point outings against the Nuggets in last year’s playoff, but the way he’s performing right now as the best offensive player on the best team in the NBA is extremely impressive.

He’s the real deal, and he keeps getting better.

Gobert meanwhile was uber-efficient from the floor and saw the return of his plus-minus wizardly. The All-NBA center scored his 18 points on 8-9 shooting and the Jazz outscored the Celtics by 23 in Gobert’s 36 minutes on the floor.

Mike Conley has been great this year for the Jazz and leads the NBA in plus-minus, but if he continues to miss games, don’t be surprised if Gobert overtakes him in the near future. Conley leads the league at +265, while Gobert climbed back into second place in the NBA at +227.

Snyder Deserves Credit For Jazz Start

With the win, the Jazz are tied for the best start in franchise history at 20-5. It’s an impressive run, and the last time the team started this well, they made their season didn’t end until they lost in the NBA Finals.

Before the game, Snyder discussed where his team is compared to where he expected them to be at the beginning of the season.

“The way that we want to play has really been something that evolves over time,” Snyder said. “It’s ironic we have [Derrick Favors] back now, but we had a very different team. We were starting two traditional bigs. As our personnel changed it’s my job to try to adapt how we play to put those guys in positions where they can be successful.”

This is a willingness to adapt that Snyder has that not every coach in the NBA, and it’s the reason why the Jazz have the league’s best record, and why Snyder is the seventh-longest tenured coach in the league.

Some coaches like the New York Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau are known for their ability to build good defenses. Others, like current Brooklyn Nets assistant and former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, have great offensive minds.

In seven seasons in Utah, Snyder has proven he can do both. He helped guide the Jazz through a painful rebuild, turned them into a dominant defensive team, then traded that off to become a top ten offense, before molding the Jazz into a top-five team on both ends of the floor this season.

“Donovan and Joe know our style has evolved and it’s not unique to us,” Snyder said. “There are some things that we feel like if we do, that gives us the best chance for success. And then it’s a question of guys really buying into that and then forming habits, and then trying to do it all the time.”

In addition to his willingness to adapt the Jazz style of play, he’s convinced his players to believe in the things he’s teaching, then execute that vision on the floor.

With a tough gauntlet of games on the horizon and the uncertainly surrounding Mike return, it’s hard to know what the narrative will be surrounding this team by the All-Star break. But at this point, with the team tied for the best start in franchise history, Snyder deserves credit for developing this roster the way he has.

Jazz Need To To Find Minutes For Oni

If there is one thing the Jazz have struggled with so far this season it’s big games from long, rangy wings.

Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant had 55 points in two games against the Jazz this season. Phoenix Suns wing Mikal Bridges had 16 points on 6-9 shooting. Los Angeles Clippers wing Paul George had 25 points.

On Tuesday, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 56 points on 19-40 shooting.

Royce O’Neale is a good defensive player, but the Jazz need a second player with size on the perimeter to help combat the better wings in the NBA, and Miye Oni might be the answer.

Oni frustrated Celtics start Jayson Tatum through the first three quarters of the game with his strength, length, and quickness. Oni hasn’t figured out how to score yet in the NBA, finishing with zero points in nine minutes, but his four rebounds and incredible hustle are an NBA skill the Jazz could use.

While O’Neale is strong, he doesn’t have either Oni’s length or agility to cut off dribble penetration.

Thanks in large part to Oni, Tatum scored just 14 points on 3-13 shooting through the first three-quarters of the game. Tatum’s best stretch of basketball came early in the fourth quarter while he was being guarded by O’Neale when he scored seven points on 3-3 shooting and got into the paint for easy kick-outs to Celtics shooters for open threes.

“He just works,” Snyder said of the second-year wing. “Whether it’s two minutes or three minutes or 10 minutes, Miye is taking pride in what he can do to help us win, and oftentimes that’s taking a matchup.”

Oni’s ability to stay in front of Tatum not only prevented his scoring ability but limited his ability to get his teammates involved.

But it isn’t just wings who have torched the Jazz, high scoring guards have played well against the roster dating back to last year’s postseason against Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets.

Murray followed up his historic series against the Jazz with a 30 point performance in the two teams’ first meeting earlier this season.

In today’s NBA, no team will be able to completely stifle the better perimeter scorers in the NBA but having a few bodies to throw at those scorers helps. Right now the Jazz rely solely on O’Neale and use Oni in spot situations only when a top nine rotational player is hurt.

Oni will keep getting minutes as long as Conley misses games with his hamstring injury, but when he returns, it might be wise to keep him in the rotation. The Jazz will inevitably end up needing a bigger, quicker defender for the league’s perimeter stars as the season progresses, and developing Oni more now will pay dividends before the year is over.

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