Royce O’Neale Is A Game-Changer For The Jazz

Jun 2, 2021, 3:20 PM
Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Among the numerous storylines in the opening round of the playoffs — Donovan Mitchell’s return, Ja Morant’s breakout, Mike Conley’s revenge, etc. — the play of Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale has fallen under the radar.

Through four games, O’Neale is averaging playoff career-highs in rebounds, field goal percentage, and three-point shooting percentage, and has had several memorable moments to help the Jazz take a 3-1 lead.

In game three, O’Neale helped the Jazz get off to a hot start on the road in Memphis by hitting three first quarter three-pointers, part of his 12 point outing for the game.

“I think he’s finding a balance offensively between being aggressive and taking the shot when he’s open, and being a playmaker and moving the ball,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

In game four, O’Neale collected two key rebounds and a deflection in the fourth quarter that helped the Jazz sweep the Grizzlies in Memphis, and return to Utah with a chance to close the series tonight.

On top of a career-high in rebounds, O’Neale’s shooting has been essential for the Jazz in games 2-4.

With one of the most dangerous scoring lineups in the NBA, the Grizzlies are often left having to pick their poison who to leave in the Jazz offense to double team either Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert.

So far in the series, O’Neale is the player they’ve left open, and he’s taken advantage of the open looks.

“If they’re going to help off me, try to make them pay and knock down open shots,” O’Neale said.

After a difficult 1-6 outing in game one, O’Neale has knocked down an impressive 12-22 attempts from the three-point line (61 percent) while averaging 11.7 points over the last three games.

O’Neale’s impact isn’t lost on his teammates.

“He’s a big energy booster for us on both ends of the floor,” Donovan Mitchell said. “Especially for me, when I’m tired, he’s my ear basically saying I worked too hard for you to get tired.”

While the forward has always been tasked with defending the most talented perimeter player on the opposing team, in this series that’s been both Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, he’s also found a way to elevate his game on offense.

“This playoffs, [I’m] trying to take it to the next level,” O’Neale said, “offensively and defensively.”

If he continues to shoot and rebound like this, the Jazz will be extremely difficult to beat in the playoffs.

O’Neale and the Jazz can eliminate the Grizzlies with a win tonight at Vivint Arena. The game tips off at 7:30 pm MT and will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet and NBATV.

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