Guard Rotation Carries Jazz Past Bucks

Jan 8, 2024, 9:28 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2024, 10:19 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz finished their three-game road trip with a 2-1 record after shocking the Milwaukee Bucks 132-116.

Fueled by 42 combined points from Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson, the Jazz built a 31-point halftime lead and held on to survive a late Milwaukee run.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee who was playing without Damian Lillard.

Jazz Guard Thrive Against Bucks

With the Bucks missing both Lillard and Cameron Payne, the Jazz had a decided advantage in the backcourt heading into the game and took advantage throughout the night.

Kris Dunn scored five points on 2-2 shooting but added 13 assists, four rebounds, and two blocks.

“Kris is a stabilizing force for us,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “He knows that his responsibility on the offensive end when he’s playing is to organize us, to communicate with me, and then when he gets the ball back after setting us up, he has the green light to shoot.”

Dunn was arguably the most consistent guard on the Jazz’s roster after the Mike Conley trade last year, but quickly found himself on the outside of the rotation early this season.

However, he’s replaced Talen Horton-Tucker in the Jazz backcourt and has helped the Jazz reach their recent level of success.

“We’re really trying to use him as a facilitator and organizer with the first group and he’s done a spectacular job,” Hardy added, “13 assists tonight was great.”

Collin Sexton got the Jazz off to a quick start knocking down three first quarter threes and finishing with 19 points, three assists, and zero turnovers in just 18 minutes.

Clarkson was the Jazz’s most consistent scorer through the night pouring in 21 points on 7-14 shooting to go with six assists and a game-high +13 plus-minus.

Finally, rookie Keyonte George also made big shots throughout the night knocking down three first half threes, and opening the fourth quarter with a one-man 6-o run to finish the game with 19 points, six rebounds, and four assists on an efficient 7-13 shooting.

In total, the Jazz guards combined for 64 points, 26 assists, 14 rebounds, and just four turnovers.

Jazz Overtake Warriors In Standings

In one of the more surprising developments of the season, the Jazz have overtaken the Golden State Warriors in the standings 39 games into the season.

Having won 11 of their last 15 games the Jazz now sit at 18-20 on the season while the Warriors are 17-19, and just 5-5 in their last 10 games.

The Warriors’ struggles were unexpected after winning a championship just two seasons ago, but age has quickly caught up to guard Klay Thompson while Draymond Green had struggled to stay in the lineup due to multiple suspensions.

By overtaking Golden State the Jazz sit only a half-game back of the 10th-seeded Los Angeles Lakers for the final play-in tournament spot in the West.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for the Jazz who were 5.5 games back of the 10th seed on December 12 but have quickly made up enough room over the last month to throw their names into the Western Conference playoff race.

After beating the Bucks the Jazz are four games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies who sit in the 12th seed in the West, and learned they would be without Ja Morant for the remainder of the season due to a labrum tear.

The Jazz still have significant work to do if they hope to make the Play-In Tournament, but they’ve given themselves a reason to try over the second half of the season, and that’s not something they could say one month ago.

Nightly Award: Jazz vs. Bucks

The “Experience Over Youth” Award:

Goes to Jordan Clarkson and Andre Jackson who had an enjoyable matchup tonight.. that is, if you’re a Jazz fan.

Jackson was one of the more intriguing players in the 2023 Draft as a dynamite defender at UConn and one of the more NBA-ready players.

Even then, there’s only so much you can learn in college, and facing a proven scorer like Clarkson is an entirely different story.

The Jazz guard repeatedly abused Jackson in the post, off the dribble, and from the three-point line, tricking the rookie with veteran spacing, fancy footwork, and crafty head fakes.

Jackson will stick in the NBA due to his versatility and athleticism, but he was an easy meal for Clarkson in Milwaukee.

Utah Jazz Next Game

The Jazz will face the Nuggets on Wednesday at 7 pm MST in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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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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Guard Rotation Carries Jazz Past Bucks