Jazz Starters Look Ready For Regular Season Vs. Pelicans
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz starters looked ready for the regular season in their preseason home-opening victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Four of the five starters scored at least 15 points, and each player finished with a plus-minus of +21 or better as they casually strolled to a 127-96 victory.
Rudy Gobert scored 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, both game-highs as the Jazz recorded their first win of the preseason.
Jazz Starters Look Ready For Regular Season
After resting during the first two regular-season games, Gobert helped lead the Jazz to an easy victory over the shorthanded Pelicans who were without Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
The Jazz led 28-22 after the first quarter, 63-46 at the half, before coasting to a 30 point lead after the third quarter.
While Gobert dominated at the rim on both ends of the floor, the All-Star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley combined for 33 points on 12-27 shooting.
Conley looked well-rested on his 34th birthday scoring 12 of his 15 points in the first half on 4-5 shooting. The guard rested during the team’s preseason loss in Dallas but quickly regained his rhythm with Gobert against New Orleans.
Though Mitchell struggled to shoot the ball from the three-point line, the guard shined defensively. Mitchell recorded four steals and three blocks in 29 minutes to set the tone for the Jazz on defense.
The first possession of the game he denied an entry pass,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, “that’s great because it shows his mind is engaged because that was a play that we talked about wanting to really help Rudy.”
After proving to be one of the deadliest offensive weapons in the NBA over the last several postseasons, Mitchell hinted that there may still be room to grow on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think he doesn’t realize what you can do defensively if he puts his mind to it,” Gobert said of his All-Star teammate.
Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down his first three of the preseason after missing the first two games with a minor shoulder injury. The sharpshooter finished with 15 points on 5-11 shooting in his first 26 minutes of the season.
Jazz Second Unit Struggles
While the Jazz starters flourished, it’s clear there is work to be done before the team’s second unit full jells.
The bench group struggled to space the floor on offense and gave up looks at the rim on defense as reserve center Hassan Whiteside continues to adapt to his new role behind Gobert.
The veteran big man went scoreless on 0-3 shooting while committing five fouls in 13 minutes in his debut in front of the friendly crowd. Whiteside is still clearly adjusting to the number of responsibilities he’s tasked with within Snyder’s pick-and-roll-heavy system.
“Rudy’s pretty unique,” Snyder said of his superstar center. “Hassan has that same type of length and I think those are plays that I know we want him to make and that he wants to make and is capable of making”
While the Jazz starters will win them a lot of games throughout the regular season, how well the second unit plays when Gobert and Conley go to the bench may determine their overall ceiling.
Jazz Rotation Emerges
Snyder may have tipped his hand as to his rotation in the Jazz third preseason game, sticking to last season’s substitution pattern with Conley and Gobert mirroring one another’s minutes.
The two All-Stars were replaced by Whiteside and Joe Ingles roughly five minutes into the game but returned to the floor to close the first quarter.
Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson replaced Bogdanovic eight minutes into the game while Eric Paschall subbed in for Mitchell with two and a half minutes left in the opening frame.
Paschall’s minutes will likely belong to Rudy Gay once he returns from offseason heel surgery, but the former Golden State Warriors forward made the most of his minutes in his first game at Vivint Arena. The third-year forward scored 14 points on 6-7 shooting and was a bench high +15 in 16 minutes for the rehabbing Gay.
The Jazz were without rookie Jared Butler who missed the game due to a non-COVID illness. In his absence, second-year two-way guard Trent Forrest was the Jazz 10th man but had to leave the game after slipping and hitting his head in the first half.
The team has Tuesday off before returning to action on Wednesday in their preseason finale against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Jazz then open the season on October 20 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.