Tough Jazz Triumph Over Kings Down The Stretch

Oct 23, 2021, 12:09 AM
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gober goes up for a basket against the Sacramento Kings (Photo by Thearon W. ...
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gober goes up for a basket against the Sacramento Kings (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz stayed unbeaten on the season with their 110-101 victory road opening victory over the Sacramento Kings.

The Jazz withstood a physical first half from the Kings that saw Joe Ingles get ejected early in the game after undercutting Sacramento rookie Davion Mitchell, and escaped with their first win of the season away from home.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 27 points while Rudy Gobert scored 17 points and with 20 rebounds, became the first player in team history to open the season with back-to-back 20 rebound games.

Jazz Chemistry Downs Kings Late

After going toe-to-toe with the Kings for most of the night, the Jazz chemistry and experience held Sacramento to just eight points over the final five minutes of the game including two points with the game out of hand.

With the game officials giving the players more leeway to play through contact, the Kings upped their defensive intensity on the floor. The Jazz starters were slow to embrace the physicality which resulted in technical fouls from Gobert and coach Quin Snyder but were buoyed by the team’s second unit.

Hassan Whiteside, Eric Paschall, and two-way guard Trent Forrest provided the Jazz with key minutes among the reserves and helped erase a nine point Kings lead in the third quarter and take an 81-80 lead into the fourth quarter.

“All the guys that came in had to play a physical game like tonight,” Mike Conley said, “and they did such a great job of matching the intensity.”

Led by the physical play of the rookie Mitchell, the Kings were the aggressor for most of the game. But during the most important stretches of the game, it was the Jazz experience and chemistry that carried them to a victory.

[We got] sped up early, not really falling into our actions,” the Jazz’s Mitchell said, “and for us to correct ourselves throughout the game, mid-game on the floor, not during a timeout, not during halftime, in the moment, I think that’s one thing that really stood out to me in our play.”

With several years of sharing the floor together, the Jazz have found multiple ways to opposing teams, and with the edge in experience, they were able to outlast a surprisingly feisty Kings roster.

“Throughout the year this might go down — I wouldn’t say one of our best but one of our biggest because of our perseverance,” Mitchell said.

Whiteside Plays Big Role In Jazz Win

Without question, the role of Hassan Whiteside was one of the biggest question marks for the Jazz heading into the season.

After a miserable year in Sacramento in which the longtime NBA vet found himself on the outside of the Kings rotation looking in, the Jazz asking Whiteside to assume their reserve center minutes seemed like a gamble.

But against his old team, Whiteside looked like a winning bet.

“Although from a minutes standpoint, it’s not heavy minutes, you saw tonight how impactful that role is,” Snyder said of the Jazz backup center, “his plus-minus was through the roof.”

The big man scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds in just under 16 minutes, but most importantly, matched Mitchell with a game-high +18 plus-minus.

Those minutes were important as the Jazz were outscored by nine in Gobert’s 32 minutes against the Kings. The team was just 4-11 last season when Gobert had a negative plus-minus, so a win early in the season when the All-Star center didn’t have his typical impact might be an early sign of improvement for the roster.

“I’m just trying to come in and affect the game however,” Whiteside said. “Whether it’s rebounding or continuing to protect the rim, spreading the floor, even if I don’t get the ball, I’m trying to sprint to get the shooters open.”

Over the last two seasons, the Jazz have struggled when Gobert has gone to the bench. If Whiteside can prevent the team’s defense from hemorrhaging in those reserve minutes as he did against the Kings, he can be a bright spot in the rotation.

Jazz Have Rare Three Day Break

After Friday’s win over the Kings, the Jazz now head back to Salt Lake City where they have three days off before facing the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday at Vivint Arena.

After a year and a half of COVID-19 shortened schedules, the three-day break will be the first of its kind since February 2-4 of 2020.

Last season the Jazz never had more than two consecutive days off outside of the All-Star break and the gap between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs.

During the 2019-20 season, the Jazz had a four-month delay between the league’s suspension in March and the resumption of play in July but didn’t get a three-day break in the Orlando bubble outside of the gap between the regular-season finale and the postseason opener.

The Jazz can enjoy this break heading home after a win and will have another three days between games between November 30 and December 2.

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