Mitchell, Gobert Connect As Jazz Beat Lakers
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz finally snapped their five-game losing streak, handling the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers 122-109.
The Lakers were without LeBron James and Anthony Davis while the Jazz saw Bojan Bogdanovic and Danuel House Jr. return to the lineup together for the first time since March 12.
Donovan Mitchell poured in 29 points and seven assists while Rudy Gobert added 25 points and 17 rebounds in the win.
Jazz Feed Gobert, Get Good Results
The Jazz made a point to get the ball to Gobert as often as possible when he was matched up against smaller Lakers defenders and he took advantage throughout the night.
Gobert scored 25 points, his most since March 2, and needed just 11 field goal attempts to do it.
Three of Gobert’s baskets came on Mitchell assists as the guard looked to be making a point to get his All-Star teammate the ball when he drew smaller defenders of offense.
“When they went small I had a few opportunities to just get it down low and then see what happens,” Gobert said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work so when I get the ball down there, I show that good things can happen.”
Last week in Charlotte, the Hornets routinely switched guard LaMelo Ball onto Gobert while trapping Mitchell or Mike Conley with the ball and the Jazz were unable to capitalize on the mismatch.
At points, the Jazz guards failed to find Gobert and at others, the star center blew his opportunities.
In the playoffs, the Jazz will inevitably see more teams switch smaller defenders onto Gobert and both he and the guards have to punish their opponent for it.
Against the Lakers, it worked, and the Jazz will need that to be the consistent outcome to take the next step on offense.
Hernangomez Over Gay
With the Jazz starting lineup back intact for the first time since March 9, Snyder had to make a decision on what to do with the team’s second unit players who have gotten bigger-than-expected opportunities over the last month.
Against the Lakers, Snyder opted to play the recently acquired Hernangomez over Gay even with the veteran healthy.
The Spanish forward scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds, and added three assists in 19 minutes off the bench.
After the game, Snyder didn’t directly explain his decision to keep Hernangomez in the rotation but may have hinted at how the Jazz plan to use Gay going forward.
“I think he gives us a higher ceiling because of some of the things he can do because of his size,” Snyder said of Gay. “His ability to defend the post against guys that aren’t bigger than him — he’s been shooting the ball and he can score in the post. There’s a lot of things that that Rudy does that we value.”
However, against a smaller Lakers team that relies less on scoring in the post, Snyder went with Hernangomez whose lateral quickness significantly outmatches Gay on the perimeter at his point in their careers.
Additionally, Hernangomez has been a far more efficient scorer than Gay with the Jazz this season knocking down 47 percent of his field goals and an impressive 41 percent of his three-point attempts.
Gay had recently shown signs of improvement with the Jazz having averaged 9.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over his last seven games while shooting a much improved 50 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three, but Hernangomez’s energy level off the bench has been a breath of fresh air for a stagnant roster.
“It’s just effort, his intensity, defending, running, shooting, spacing, he’s doing everything,” Mitchell said of Hernangomez. “Especially for a guy that just got here, not really knowing our offense and he’s starting to figure things out and he’s a hooper. He’s been a big plus for us.”
I’d be surprised if we’ve seen the last of Gay in the Jazz rotation this season, and postseason matchups will likely determine who gets most of the minutes at the four off the bench.
But against the Lakers Hernangomez
The Jazz 15th Roster Spot
The Jazz may have an interesting dilemma ahead of the playoffs regarding how they want to handle the final open spot on the roster.
Trent Forrest has been a steady part of the Jazz rotation throughout the season, and seemed like an obvious choice to have his two-way contract converted to a traditional deal in order to make him available for the postseason.
However, Forrest suffered a concussion in Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and there’s no certainty on when he might return.
When asked about Forrest before the game, Snyder said, “we’ll get him back, hopefully, soon.”
There are only 10 days left of the regular season, and 16 days until the playoffs start which ideally should give Forrest ample time to return from the injury, but there are extenuating circumstances that might make that difficult.
First, this is Forrest’s second concussion this season, having had a scary injury when his head bounced off the floor in a preseason game in October. The Jazz have no reason to rush the guard back from an injury, especially one as serious as a concussion.
Second, the Jazz guard rotation is the deepest on the roster. Mitchell, Conley, and Clarkson will already get the lion’s share of the minutes in the backcourt, and Snyder can turn to both Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jared Butler if need be.
In addition to the Jazz having terrific backcourt depth, they’ve suddenly found themselves very thin in the frontcourt with Udoka Azubuike lost for the season with an ankle injury, and Hassan Whiteside who the team announced has a bone spur fracture in his foot.
The Jazz have Greg Monroe signed to a 10-day contract to fill in for Whiteside, but if there are fears that the injury could linger, the Jazz may want to have a third true big man on the roster in case the pain in Whiteside’s foot causes him to miss additional games during the playoffs.
Against the Lakers, Monroe was serviceable scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds in 12 minutes on the floor.
If the Jazz were to choose to sign Monroe, they’d have a full 15-man playoff roster, and there’d be no room for Forrest to return.
For now, Forrest still ought to have the inside track to earn the final playoff roster spot, but it’s one more storyline the Jazz must solve before the end of the regular season.
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