Jazz Earn Professional Win Over Magic
The Jazz were led by 31 points from Donovan Mitchell who made his impact felt to help the Jazz pull away in the second half.
The Magic got 34 points from All-Star Nikola Vucevic but weren’t able to keep the game close as they trailed by double-digits for all but 34 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Jazz Avoiding Bad Losses
It’s hard to argue that the odds were stacked against the Jazz entering the night, as the Magic were without starting point guard Markelle Fultz, small forward Jonathan Isaac, and power forward Aaron Gordon, but it wasn’t exactly a great design for an easy Jazz victory.
Last night, the Jazz suffered a tough loss in Miami that went down to the wire and had an immediate turnaround in Orlando less than 24 hours later. To make matters worse, the Jazz entered the game without Mike Conley who got the night off to help with the recovery of his injured hamstring.
Meanwhile, Orlando had the previous day off after suffering a blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Jazz were still favored to win the game, and they made it look easy, but looking across the NBA on any given night, it’s easy to see that no win is easy in the NBA.
Just tonight, the 13-20 Cleveland Cavaliers beat the 22-11 Philadelphia 76ers and the 15-16 Dallas Mavericks beat the 22-11 Brooklyn Nets.
Seemingly every night, there’s a major upset in the NBA, and somehow, the Jazz are never on the wrong side of it.
Looking back at the season, the Jazz have lost to the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Of those seven, only three of those teams are below .500 (including the Heat who will surely end the season as contenders in the East) and only one is a non-playoff team. While the Jazz have been favored in some of their losses this season, with the exception of their home-opening loss to Minnesota, the Jazz haven’t had what could be considered a bad loss.
Losing to Orlando on the second night of a back-to-back, after a tough loss in Miami, and without Conley in the lineup would have made sense. But the Jazz aren’t losing games like that, and it’s a big reason they’re 20 games over .500 for the season.
Mitchell Flipped The Switch Against Orlando
This was a professional win for the Jazz. For the reasons mentioned above, and for the manner in which they won the game.
They opened the game rather lackadaisically scoring just 22 points in the first quarter and they led 54-50 at the break. For the league’s fourth-best offense, it wasn’t anything worth writing home about.
But Mitchell approached the game with a type of professionalism that isn’t there in every fourth-year player. In fact, there are players that go their entire careers without showing Mitchell’s current level of poise.
The All-Star guard scored just six points on 1-6 shooting in the first half and had as many turnovers as assists.
Then, with the team unable to pull away from the Magic over the first 24 minutes, Mitchell casually took the game over in the second half and carried the Jazz to an easy win.
Over his final 18 minutes of floortime, Mitchell scored 25 points on 9-13 shooting including 4-6 from three. He added four assists to just one turnover and scored seven of the Jazz final nine points before Quin Snyder pulled the starters with 1:17 left to play.
“I thought this is one of Donovan’s best games of the year,” Snyder said after the win.
Having played 36 minutes the night before, many of the Jazz players were tired against the Magic, with both Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert admitting as much.
Instead of burning his energy to start the game, Mitchell preserved it for when the Jazz needed it most and used it to blow the Magic out in the second half.
“I just went out there and just tried to find ways to make the right play each time,” Mitchell said of his performance. “I think that was the biggest adjustment going into halftime and I think everything else kind of took care of itself.”
Earlier this week in the Jazz victory over the Los Angeles Lakers I wrote about Mitchell’s evolution of not forcing things on a national stage. Against the Magic, he showed that he can pace himself for when his team needs him most, and it will continue to pay dividends for the team.
Finishing The Trip
The Jazz now head to New Orleans Monday for a game against the Pelicans and finish the first half of the regular season against the 76ers.
Regardless of their close, the Jazz are guaranteed the best record in the NBA at the break and will be in single-digit losses even if they lose out.
The Jazz have the best home record in the NBA at 15-2 and are tied for the second-best record away from home at 12-5.
With the easiest record left to play this season, the Jazz have to like how they’ve positioned themselves and can improve their standing atop the league over the next half week.