Kris Dunn Sparks Jazz In Win Over Spurs
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz opened up their two-game series against the San Antonio Spurs with a 118-102 win at Vivint Arena.
Lauri Markkanen scored 27 points while newcomer Kris Dunn added 15 off the bench.
With the win, the Jazz improved their record to 31-31, and have won back-to-back games coming out of the All-Star break.
Can Kris Dunn Stick With The Jazz?
While Markkanen led the Jazz in scoring, it was Kris Dunn who allowed the team to find an offensive rhythm in just his second game on the roster.
Dunn finished with 15 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds on 7-13 shooting and didn’t turn the ball over in 23 minutes.
The question now is whether he can stick with the team for the rest of the season.
The veteran guard proved that he’s a dangerous scorer when he attacks the paint in his Jazz debut on Thursday (11 points, 5-10 FG), and showed off his point guard skills in the win over the Spurs.
Dunn’s speed and ball handling allow him to beat his defender off the dribble, while his floater has been a reliable weapon in his initial outings with the Jazz.
back-to-back buckets 🪣
he's gettin’ it dunn. pic.twitter.com/TPYr1UxOK3
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 26, 2023
Then, as the defense adjusted to limit Dunn’s scoring, he showed off his point guard instincts finding the Jazz floor spacers for open threes and easy cuts to the basket.
It’s the type of natural playmaking that the Jazz haven’t gotten consistently from Jordan Clarkson, Talen Horton-Tucker, or Collin Sexton when they’ve adopted the backup point guard minutes behind Mike Conley. And one they could use when the offensive finds itself out of sorts.
“I’ve got to give credit to the coaching staff my teammates, they allow me to be comfortable out here,” Dunn said after the win. “They’ve helped me each and every day since I’ve been here.”
While the scoring and playmaking are key to his role on offense, it’s his ability to pressure the ball on defense that might be his best skill.
Dunn has elite instincts defensively on the perimeter as he regularly pokes balls away and challenges jump shooters as the primary defender.
“He gives us somebody who can really guard the ball at the point of attack and that’s something that we’re trying to pride ourselves on here,” Will Hardy said after the team signed Dunn on Wednesday.
He also navigates screens well and shows a knack for rebounding, two of the Jazz’s major weaknesses this season.
“I gotta give credit to the coaching staff and my teammates. They allow me to be comfortable out here.”@KrisDunn3 on the 🎤 with @buckleupboler and @bigtbailey for the #WalkoffInterview #TakeNote | @lhmauto pic.twitter.com/7TnQ7fedWT
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 26, 2023
With only 12 full-time players on the roster, the NBA requires the Jazz to bring that number up to 14 in the coming weeks.
Even prior to Saturday’s performance against the Spurs, Dunn was likely to sign a second 10-day contract with the Jazz late next week. After his near triple-double, he’s made a serious case to stick with the team through the end of the season, if not longer.
Are The Jazz Making The Playoffs?
As they’ve done all season, the Jazz are once again in position to make the year-end play-in tournament and could threaten for a guaranteed playoff spot.
With Saturday’s win the Jazz are now tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors for the seventh-best record in the West at an even .500.
And, they sit 1.5 games back of the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks for what would be a guaranteed playoff spot in the West at season’s end.
Here’s a look at how the schedules stack up for those four teams, and the 10th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans who sit a half-game back of the seventh seed heading into the final 20 games of the year.
Jazz Schedule: 9 home games, 11 road games
Average Opponent Win Percentage: .508, 14th-toughest in the NBA
Timberwolves Schedule: 7 home games, 13 road games
Average Opponent Win Percentage: .520, 4th-toughest in the NBA
Warriors Schedule: 11 home games, 11 road games
Average Opponent Win Percentage: .513, 9th-toughest in the NBA
Mavericks Schedule: 11 home games, 10 road games
Average Opponent Win Percentage: .480, 5th-easiest in the NBA
Pelicans Schedule: 11 home games, 11 road games
Average Opponent Win Percentage: .470, 2nd-easiest in the NBA
The Timberwolves have the most lopsided and difficult close to the season playing 13 of their next 20 games away from home, though only seven of their final 20 games are against teams likely to finish with a guaranteed playoff spot.
The Jazz similarly will play more road games than home games, including eight against likely playoff teams.
The Warriors have a balanced schedule splitting their remaining games equally at home and away, though their 10 matchups against likely playoff opponents is more than both the Jazz and Timberwolves.
The @utahjazz are now tied for the seventh best record in the West, 1.5 games out of the sixth seed and a guaranteed playoff spot.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) February 26, 2023
Dallas has the easiest path to the playoffs with more home games than away and only seven games against the top six seeds in either conference.
The Pelicans meanwhile split their remaining 22 games evenly between the road and at home, but have nine games against likely playoff teams, including five of their last six games of the season.
At this point, with just 20 games remaining in the season, the Jazz are probably more likely to make the play-in tournament than not, barring a sudden downturn in performance.
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Jazz Next Broadcast
The Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs will face off again at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.
Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.
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