Balanced Attack Leads Jazz Over Rockets
The Jazz were without Donovan Mitchell for the third straight game but had six players score in double-figures led by Jordan Clarkson who finished with 22.
The Rockets have now lost 34 of their last 38 games to move to 15-44 on the year and would have guaranteed themselves a top-five pick in July’s NBA draft if the regular season were to end today.
Jazz Balanced Scoring Without Mitchell
Six players scored at least 11 points for the Jazz against the Rockets, led by Clarkson who scored 22 points, and Joe Ingles who added 21.
The two Jazz guards have each upped their scoring numbers with Mitchell out of the lineup as both players have scored at least 20 points in three straight games.
“We take pride when someone’s out,” Ingles said. “When someone’s out we have to all step up and play better.”
Mitchell is the NBA’s ninth leading scorer at 26.4 points per game while averaging the fourth most field-goal attempts at more than 20 per game. While he’s out of the lineup, the burden to carry the offense has been distributed equally throughout the rotation.
Though Bojan Bogdanovic scored just 14 points on 13 shot attempts, he discussed the team’s varied offensive attack.
“We are really playing great basketball,” Bogdanovic said. “Moving the ball, every other day we are ending up with five or six players with the same number of shots.”
Against Houston, four Jazz players attempted at least 11 shots and no player attempted more than 18. But just because the team’s shots are more evenly distributed doesn’t mean the team is happy to play without the All-Star guard.
“I can’t wait to have him back,” Ingles said. “It means I get to play three or four less minutes — stay fresh.”
Mitchell is set to be re-evaluated for his sprained right ankle this weekend as the Jazz prepare for a home-and-home series with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mike Conley’s Assist Streak
Mike Conley is in the midst of the best passing stretch of his career. The veteran guard scored just 11 points on 12 shots for the Jazz but dished out 13 assists extending his streak to four games of handing out double-digit assists.
Despite competing in his 14th NBA season, Conley had only previously handed out at least 10 assists in three straight games.
The former Memphis Grizzlies guard credited his Jazz teammates for allowing him to reach the mark.
“I’ve never really been a part of a team like this in my career so this is a unique situation,” Conley said. “I think guys are shooting the ball so well. There’s a lot of space with Rudy [Gobert] setting screens and rolling, I’ve got a lot of options.”
Perhaps most impressively is that Conley has just eight turnovers over his last four games compared to 47 turnovers.
Surprisingly, Conley’s scoring average has dipped from 16.3 points per game to just 12.5 points per game in Mitchell’s absence, but his ability to initiate the offense has increased.
“With Donovan out, I have the ball a bit more so I’m able to dissect and play the game and be the man I know I can be,” Conley said. “That’s a credit to our team and coaching staff and the system.”
Perhaps most impressive about Conley’s performance against the Rockets was his staggering plus-minus. The Jazz outscored Houston by 46 points in Conley 25 minutes on the floor, the second-highest plus-minus in team history, followed closely by Gobert’s +44 against the Rockets.
Snyder discussed the dynamic duo after the victory.
“I think the more they’ve played together, they get to know each other,” Snyder said. “You enjoy playing with someone like when they’re making plays for each other.”
Jazz Not Getting Helps From Suns
If the Jazz were expecting to make significant distance between themselves and the Phoenix Suns during Phoenix’s tough Eastern Conference road trip, someone forgot to inform the Suns of their plans.
While the Jazz have upheld their end of the bargain beating the Los Angeles Lakers and Rockets to close their three-game road trip with a winning record, the Suns have opened their five-game east coast gauntlet with a perfect 2-0 record.
The Suns beat Milwaukee on the road in overtime on Monday and downed the Philadelphia 76ers 116-113 on Wednesday.
The Jazz have one of the easiest schedules remaining while the Suns have one of the most difficult, but those numbers will shift when Phoenix returns home from their five-game road swing.
The Suns still have stops in Boston, Brooklyn, and New York, all of whom are headed for the playoffs in the East, but with even one more victory along the way, they would have to consider it a successful road trip and have kept the pressure on the Jazz to win the games they should against lesser opponents.