Well-Rounded Effort Carries Jazz Over Spurs
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz got a well-rounded effort from the entire roster to beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-99 in the first game of a two-game series.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 25 points as he continues to find his offensive rhythm in the absence of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley while Rudy Gobert added 24 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks.
The Spurs saw DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, and Jakob Poeltl return the lineup after missing Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers but it wasn’t enough against the Jazz stellar defense.
Jazz Perform Top To Bottom
Outside of the end of the rotation players who only saw playing time in the game’s waning moments, the Jazz got productive minutes from every player on the roster.
Here’s a quick summary of how each player helped the Jazz get the win.
Bojan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic carried the Jazz offensively in the first half helping to set the tone for the game. The forward scored 17 of his 25 points in the first half to help the Jazz build a 17 point lead at the break.
Rudy Gobert: Rudy Gobert was the game’s best player giving the Jazz 24 points while controlling the Spurs defensively. The Spurs shot a mind-boggling 35 percent (7-20) inside the restricted area thanks to Gobert’s presence.
Royce O’Neale: Just as Bogdanovic set the town offensively, O’Neale set the tone defensively. The forward had two steals in the first quarter leading to an open three and a runout dunk en-route to a five point first quarter.
Joe Ingles: Joe Ingles had me of his less productive games with Mitchell and Conley out and still finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Even after a rough stretch where he air-balled a three-pointer followed by a turnover, he stepped into an aggressive three to push a Jazz lead from 14-17 in the fourth quarter.
Georges Niang: Not Georges Niang’s most exciting minutes during his recent stretch of high-level play, but the forward continued to show his defensive growth helping to hold Keldon Johnson to just six points on 3-10 shooting while knocking down 3-6 threes of his own.
Jordan Clarkson: Jordan Clarkson was arguably the Jazz’s least effective player and still added 16 points. He shot just 7-20 from the floor but added six rebounds and five assists while playing a team-high 34 minutes.
Trent Forrest: Trent Forrest continues to establish himself as a legitimate NBA player in his rookie season. The guard is already an adequate defender in his first season, a skill that will undoubtedly grow with his size and athleticism. More impressively his poise under pressure continues to improve on the offensive end where he’s comfortable probing the defense and taking open shots.
Derrick Favors: Derrick Favors stat line won’t jump off the page, finishing with five points on 2-5 shooting in 17 minutes. However, he grabbed nine rebounds including three on the offensive glass during a dominant stretch in the second quarter.
Miye Oni: After losing his role as the Jazz 10th man in recent weeks to either Forrest or Ersan Ilyasova, Miye Oni brought excellent hustle in 14 total minutes. The guard only recorded one rebound and one steal during his time on the floor, but his energy allowed Quin Snyder to rest Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale for extra minutes in the first half.
With Mitchell and Conley out, the Jazz need big nights from their other stars on the roster, while the rest of the rotation has to find ways to contribute that aren’t typically available. They did that tonight and helped carry the team to victory.
Despite Injuries, Snyder Still Limiting Minutes
With Conley and Mitchell out, Snyder could easily run up the minutes for O’Neale, Bogdanovic, and Ingles to close the season.
However, the Jazz coach has found a way to cover more than 63 minutes of game action without dramatically ratcheting up the playing time for the starters.
Over the last four games without either All-Star guard, Bogdanovic and Clarkson are the only players to average more than 30 minutes per game. Bogdanovic has averaged just 32.1 minutes in Conley and Mitchell’s absence while Clarkson is at 30.2.
While some of it is due to the Jazz having two relatively large blow-outs during the four-game stretch, both Gobert and O’Neale have actually seen their minutes decrease over the last week.
“There’s a potentially a fatigue component,” Snyder said of having to fill the hour’s worth of minutes lost between Conley and Mitchell. “The team itself has to adjust, that’s something that we’re conscious of.”
In addition to balancing minutes, Snyder is actively switching players in and out of his rotation game by game.
In Saturday’s win over Toronto, Ersan Ilyasova played nine minutes while Matt Thomas played five. Against the Spurs, those 14 minutes were played by Miye Oni.
In Friday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns and Wednesday’s blowout win over the Sacramento Kings, no player played more than 29 minutes.
As the Jazz await the return of Conley and Mitchell, it would be easy for Snyder to ride his starting horses ragged to win games down the stretch. So far, he’s managed to juggle his team’s minutes while still owning a 3-1 record.
The Jazz again claimed to the top of the Western Conference standings with their win over San Antonio, owning a half-game lead over the Suns with seven games left to play.
Phoenix will likely retake the lead Tuesday in Cleveland, but the Jazz got help elsewhere in the NBA Monday night.
Entering the night, the Jazz sat just three games ahead of the Denver Nuggets who had won nine of their last ten games and will travel to Utah on Friday night. Had the Nuggets won, they would have returned home to host the New York Knicks before their matchup with the Jazz with still just a three game deficit.
With a win over the Lakers tonight, a win against the Knicks teamed with a Jazz loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, the Nuggets could have trimmed the Jazz lead to just two games entering Friday’s meeting.
Instead, with the Jazz win tonight and the Nuggets loss, the Jazz own a four game lead over Denver with only seven games remaining. Now, even if the Jazz were to go 3-4 down the stretch, the Nuggets would have to go 7-0 to wrestle away the third seed.
If the Jazz are to fall to the third seed, they’re likely to face either LeBron James and the Lakers in the opening round, or Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. If they own the two-seed, they’ll likely face one of the Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, or Golden State Warriors.
While the Jazz are 4-2 against the Lakers and Mavericks this year, both teams are likely to offer a greater challenge in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Jazz are 8-1 this season against the four teams currently slotted to wind up in the play-in tournament, with games left to play against San Antonio, Golden State, and Portland.
With only 12 days left in the regular season, the Jazz have to like their current positioning, and Denver’s loss to the Lakers was a big help.