Jazz Stars Shine In Win Over Kings

Nov 2, 2021, 11:05 PM
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson stands in front of Sacramento Kings center Alex Len (Photo by Alex ...
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson stands in front of Sacramento Kings center Alex Len (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz leaned heavily on their stars to beat the Sacramento Kings 119-113 and move to 6-1 early in the season.

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley combined for 66 points on an efficient 25-49 shooting while Rudy Gobert recorded his third 20 rebound game of the season as the Jazz stayed unbeaten at home in three contests.

The Kings were led by Harrison Barnes who had 23 points on only 14 field goal attempts but fell short against the Jazz for the second time in their last six games.

Kings Continue Off Nights Against Jazz Backcourt

Kings rookie Davion Mitchell has the nickname “Off Night” because so many opposing players have off nights when they go up against him. That wasn’t the case for the Jazz as their All-Star backcourt carried the team offensively, but it’s been their defensive effort through seven games that should be getting more attention.

In nearly every game so far this season at least one member of the opposing team has had an off night thanks to the Jazz defensive improvements in the backcourt, a major reason the Jazz sit atop the Western Conference Standings.

Here’s a look at the inefficient nights so far from some Jazz opponents.

Game 1 vs. Thunder

On opening night, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Lu Dort managed just seven points on 2-10 shooting after scorching the Jazz for an average of 20.5 points, 1.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in four previous meetings.

Game 2 vs. Kings

The Kings backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell combined for 6-27 shooting and just 15 points including 0-9 from the three-point line.

Game 4 vs. Rockets

Jalen Green and Kevin Porter combined for 4-19 shooting against the Jazz for 18 points and just 1-11 from the three-point line. Last year Porter hung 27 points on the Jazz, his second-highest total of the season.

Game 6 vs. Bucks

Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton combined for 8-21 shooting and 23 points in nearly 60 total minutes on the floor.

Game 7 vs. Kings

In the Jazz second win of the season over the Kings, Fox and Tyrese Haliburton combined to connect on 10-31 shots from the floor and 27 total points as Mitchell and Conley added 66 points for the Jazz.

That isn’t to say the Jazz have been flawless during the season as both the Denver Nuggets and Chicago Bulls had success against the Jazz backcourt (Jazz were without Conley against Chicago) but for a team that was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs because of their porous perimeter defense, this is a step in the right direction.

Here’s what Jazz coach Quin Snyder had to say about the effort from Mitchell and Conley on the defensive end after the game.

“Those two guys defensively have taken a step, they’ve raised their level.”

Conley was of course absent for most of the Jazz second-round loss to the Clippers due to a strained hamstring, and his offensive alone may have been enough to carry the Jazz to the conference finals. But if the Jazz All-Star duo in the backcourt and flip this switch defensively when it matters most, they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs.

Gobert’s Historically Good Rebounding

Rudy Gobert had another 20 rebound game for the Jazz, his third in the team’s first seven games. For the season, Gobert leads the NBA with a total of 123 rebounds, by far the highest total of his career this early a year.

In fact, Gobert’s rebounding to begin the season has been on par with some of the greatest rebounding years in modern NBA history.

The Jazz center is having the third-best rebounding season to open a year since 1976 when the NBA and ABA merged leagues.

“We’ve continued to try to evolve and maximize how we use Rudy from a schematic standpoint,” Snyder said of Gobert’s impressive start to the season. “Where certain things that were maybe adjustments for [individual] games gradually becomes more and more our standard defense.”

Over the last 46 years, only Andre Drummond has gotten off to a better start recording 137 rebounds in 2015 and 131 in 2019 through the league’s first seven games.

Gobert’s 123 rebounds are tied with Charles Barkley who matched the number in 1996, while only Moses Malone and Charles Oakley have crossed the 120 rebound mark.

For reference, no other Jazz player has ever even hit the century mark through seven games on the glass.

Just for fun, it’s worth pointing out that Wilt Chamberlain recorded 225 rebounds through the first seven games of the 1959 NBA season, good for an average of 32 per game. To make the number more absurd, you should recognize that was his rookie season.

Clarkson’s Historically Bad Shooting

While Mitchell and Conley deserve credit for their defense, so too does Jordan Clarkson who has looked more engaged on the defensive end than at any point prior to this in his Jazz career.

That’s been important because the guard is in the midst of the worst three-point shooting stretch in NBA history.

Over the last two games, the defending Sixth Man of the Year is 0-18 from the three-point line, tying former Jazzman Kyle Korver for the worst two-game stretch the league has ever seen.

Prior to Clarkson, only Mehmet Okur, CJ Miles, Trey Burke, Rodney Hood, and Royce O’Neale had attempted at least 10 threes over a two-game stretch without a make.

In total, Clarkson has connected on just 7-30 shots over the last two games for a total of 17 points. Perhaps the guard’s saving grace in addition to his newfound defensive effort, the Jazz are a combined +5 with Clarkson on the floor over the last two games.

The Jazz now head out on another three-game road trip through Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando beginning Thursday night.

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