Mitchell, Conley Carry Jazz Over Celtics In Clutch
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz downed the Boston Celtics 137-130 in arguably their best win of the season.
Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points for the Jazz and was huge down the stretch as the team fended off a feisty Celtics team fueled by 37 points from forward Jayson Tatum.
With the win, the Jazz moved to 15-7 on the season as they head out on a critical four-game road trip across the Mid-West and East Coast.
Second Most Threes In Jazz History
It was far from a pretty performance from the Jazz who gave up a season-high 130 points while turning the ball over 19 times.
Boston turned the ball over just six times which made it difficult for the Jazz to get out in transition and find easy baskets.
However, the Jazz earned the win thanks to knocking down 27 threes, the second-most in franchise history.
They opened the game with nine made threes on 13 attempts and built a 13 point lead in the first quarter, but allowed the Celtics to close the lead to just three at halftime due to careless giveaways.
Boston took advantage with 31 points off those turnovers, but the Jazz repeatedly knocked down threes to keep the Celtics from running away with the game and ultimately escaped with the win.
“We got a lot of good looks,” Mitchell said after the game. “The only thing that let them back in the game was our turnovers, we did a lot of things well, but our defense let them get back.”
It’s not the ideal way to win games, and 41 points were far too many to allow in the third quarter to a team playing without their second-best player in Jaylen Brown, but the team made shots when it needed to, and that’s a reverse of course from early in the season.
The Jazz franchise record for made threes came last season when they knocked down 28 against the Charlotte Hornets.
Royce O’Neale Fits Back In Perfectly
Royce O’Neale returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with an ankle injury and gave the Jazz significant minutes on both ends of the floor.
Joe Ingles had given the Jazz a tremendous spark over the last two games filling in for O’Neale in the starting lineup, but the team got exactly what it needed from the defensive-minded forward against the Celtics.
“That bell keeps ringing and he keeps answering,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of O’Neale’s performance. “What he’s given us in terms of his toughness defensively and he’s been really consistent and really opportunistic making his shot.”
O’Neale scored 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out five assists in the win. Though Tatum scored a game-high 37 points, O’Neale was the Jazz only defender who seemed to challenge the Celtics forward on the perimeter.
Ingles moved back to the bench and was too passive in the first half of the game going scoreless over the first two quarters
However, the Australian was more aggressive in the second half scoring nine points on 3-3 shooting from downtown to help an otherwise tough performance from the Jazz second unit.
The Jazz need Ingles to be one of the league’s best bench players if they want to contend in the playoffs, and the last three games have been a positive on that front.
Mike Conley had a massive game scoring 29 points including a perfect 7-7 three-point performance. The guard is shooting 47 percent from three for the season and has made big shots all year long.
The Jazz avoided a third letdown in the last six games by not letting the Celtics erase a late lead. The Jazz led by seven points with under two minutes to play but Boston quickly trimmed that to two on a Tatum layup.
But, instead of collapsing, the Jazz answered with a massive Conley three that pushed the lead back to five and clinched the game.
Conley said the Jazz had simplified the offense late in games over the last week after the blown leads to make sure the ball is in the hands of the right players.
It worked, as neither Conley nor Mitchell missed a shot over the final six minutes of the game, scoring 24 combined points on 7-7 shooting and 5-5 from the three-point line.
When Is Rudy Gay At His Best?
It’s still been only eight games for Rudy Gay in a Jazz uniform, but a clearer picture is starting to emerge on what he can offer the team at his best.
Gay was averaging 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.4 assists entering Friday’s game against the Celtics, and added six points and four rebounds in the win.
On the offensive end, Gay functions best in the Jazz offense primarily as a floor spacer who can get incredibly hot from the three-point line while also finding cutters attacking the basket.
The forward leads the Jazz in three-point shooting so far this season connecting on a career-high 49 percent from the floor while taking 4.9 attempts per game.
What’s most remarkable is Gay has knocked down at least 50 percent of his threes in four of his eight games so far this season and has games with five fakes, four makes, and two games with three made threes in limited opportunities.
He already has more games with four-plus made threes this year, after having only one last season. And he seems likely to eclipse the 16 games with at least threes last year in relatively short time.
In the Jazz’s last game, Gay attempted 10 threes, a feat he’d only accomplished twice before, and hadn’t done since 2008.
I asked Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, who coached Gay in San Antonio, what he thought the veteran did best, and here’s what he had to say.
“He’s an all-around scorer, mid-range post-up, transition, and with Utah emphasizing shooting threes and getting to the basket, he’s probably doing less in the mid-range than he was doing in the past, but he’s a capable shooter and scorer, and a veteran presence and scoring punch they need off the bench to go with Clarkson.”
Ironically, what Gay has done best with the Jazz is a lot of what Georges Niang did last year, he just brings more experience, a bigger frame, and a little more confidence looking for his shot.
He’s also a bigger body down low, and the Jazz have enjoyed having him in the paint on defense to help clog up the lane alongside either Hassan Whiteside or Rudy Gobert. But, he’s prone to be exposed for his lack of lateral speed this late in his career, something Boston relied on heavily throughout the night.
Gay’s role will continue to develop, but for now, a lot of what he does well offensively mirrors what the Jazz got from Niang last season, only with more size on the defensive end.
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