Jazz Pass Final Preseason Test Against Bucks
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz proved they were up to the test in their final preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Jazz downed Milwaukee 124-120 to finish the preseason with a 2-2 record, but more importantly, saw growth from early in the preseason to Wednesday’s finale. No Jazz starters played in the second half of the game, but after a strong first half showing against the defending champs, they didn’t need to.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 14 points to lead all Jazz starters through two quarters while Donovan Mitchell added 13 and Mike Conley added as the Jazz led the Bucks 63-61 at the break before handing the game over to the reserves
Jazz Starters Show Plenty Against Bucks
The Jazz starting lineup picked up where it left off Monday after dominating the New Orleans Pelicans, though Wednesday’s showing was more impressive.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer ran with the same starters that carried Milwaukee to the NBA title last season minus PJ Tucker who now plays for the Miami Heat.
The Jazz regulars shot 47 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the three-point line while attempting 25 deep balls in 24 minutes.
“There are things that we could definitely improve on and work at,” Mitchell said after the win. “But we did a lot of good things this preseason, I think we saw a lot of things we can be really good at.”
Conley and defending Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson each knocked down four threes in the first half while Mithell and Bogdanovic combined for three makes to carry the Jazz offensively.
Outside of six turnovers from Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz offense was crisp moving the ball leading a potent offensive attack.
With the Jazz banking on chemistry to take them to the next level this season, the team’s showings at home over the final two preseason performances were a promising sign for Quin Snyder’s group.
Jazz Second Unit Holds Own
Though the second unit was missing a significant piece in Joe Ingles who rested for the third time in four preseason games, the group held their own against Milwaukee.
Clarkson led the team in scoring with 18 points but got help in the backcourt from rookie Jared Butler who impressed in a third straight outing for the Jazz. Butler finished the preseason leading the Jazz in both scoring average at 18 points per game and assists with 4.3 per outing.
Unlike some younger players across the NBA who have gotten their feet wet late in games during the preseason, Butler has done the majority of his scoring against proven NBA veterans like the Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic, and the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday.
“You’ve just got to jump in the water and you’re with a bunch of sharks,” Butler said of his first taste of the NBA, “you’ve got to see if you’re a shark or not.”
The guard has already drawn praise from Coach Snyder and his more veteran teammates for his preseason play, a trend that continued as the team now turns its attention to the regular season.
“He’s coming along well and doing a really good job,” Mitchell said. “He’s going to be really good.”
While Butler’s play was important, reserve center Hassan Whiteside’s growth in the final game of the preseason may pay more dividends, at least early in the season.
After a scoreless outing against Dallas, Whiteside bounced back with a seven point, five rebound, two block performance in 16 minutes.
“I thought Hassan was really good defensively,” Snyder said. “He really competed so I was happy with that.”
Whiteside has the tough task of keeping the team’s interior defense afloat when Rudy Gobert steps off the floor but looked like a capable replacement against Milwaukee.
Capping off a strong preseason, second-year forward Elijah Hughes chipped in 12 points on 3-4 shooting from the three-point line. Hughes finished the preseason connecting on 43 percent of his three-point shots, a crucial step in his development within the Jazz system.
The forward likely won’t see the floor much once the regular season begins, but his preseason shooting and hustle were significant signs of growth from year one to year two.
“If you can just defend and run the court, you’ll end up like Royce O’Neal,” Snyder said, “and he’s starting.”
The Jazz now have six days between their preseason finale and the regular season opener when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 20.