Rookies, Two-Ways Help Jazz Overcome Snyder, Hawks

Mar 15, 2024, 11:03 PM | Updated: Mar 18, 2024, 2:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Playing without Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, and Kris Dunn the Utah Jazz overcame the Atlanta Hawks with a 124-122 victory.

Keyonte George led the Jazz with 25 points, five assists, and four rebounds.

The Hawks were led by Dejounte Murray who scored 33 points.

Youth Carries Jazz Over Hawks

With three key rotation players out of the lineup, the Jazz started all three of their 2023 first-round picks while mixing in their three tw0-way players, all of whom played at least 12 minutes.

George carried the Jazz with his fourth 20-point game in his last five outings. The rookie only failed to break the 20-point mark in last Monday’s win over the Washington Wizards when he left the game in the first quarter due to illness.

Brice Sensabaugh scored in double-digits for the third time in his last four outings recording 14 points on 5-9 shooting, despite missing all four of his three-point attempts.

Taylor Hendricks returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with a sprained toe and recorded three points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Most surprising was the play from Johnny Juzang and Micah Potter who have spent most of the season suiting up in the G League with the Salt Lake City Stars.

Both players set career highs with Juzang scoring 19 points on 7-11 shooting including 5-8 from the three-point line.

Potter recorded 11 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting in 14 minutes.

“Micah is solid as a rock — understands the game plan, good shooter, good rebounder, physical, tough,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Johnny, obviously tonight he got to show his offensive skill set. He’s worked really hard on his catch and shoot three ball.”

Jason Preston also recorded two points, two rebounds, and two assists in 12 minutes.

Jazz Standings Watch, And Importance Of Wins

For those closely watching the Jazz in the standings, Friday’s win over the Hawks could have a significant long-term effect on the outcome of the team’s 2024 first-round draft pick.

With the win the Jazz and Hawks are now tied in the standings at 29-37, and share the 10th-worst record in the NBA.

That means if the regular season were to end today, the Jazz and Hawks would share the same odds of moving up in the lottery, and if neither team moved up into the top four picks, a coin toss would determine who picked ninth, and who picked tenth.

For those hoping to see the Jazz tank games to avoid conveying their top-ten protected first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder, this could be one of the most costly wins of the season.

However, Hardy offered a unique outlook on the team’s win, just their third in the last 14 games.

“There’s a beat down mentally and emotionally that comes with losing a bunch of games in a row,” Hardy admitted. “There’s not very many people in general that have any perspective on the context of a situation. It’s wins and losses and if you win, you’re great. And if you lose, you’re awful.”

While the Jazz’s young players have enjoyed added playing time, the weight of losing wears on a team over time. The veterans lose opportunities to see the floor, while less proven players audition for their next contracts.

“These guys take a beating, it’s not necessarily fair, but it comes to the territory,” Hardy added. “So I think opportunities to win and show everybody that the work is paying off and that you are capable of winning is really important.”

With 16 games remaining, the Jazz have the third toughest remaining schedule while the Hawks have the sixth.

Quin Snyder On Will Hardy, Hardy On Snyder

Before Friday’s game Snyder and Hardy, who have a previous relationship dating back to their time together in the San Antonio Spurs organization discussed what they admired about one another as coaches.

“Quin is an elite offensive mind from a spacing standpoint,” Hardy said of his predecessor. “I think he understands statistics and is able to apply them to his team style of play on both sides of the ball. You see it reflected in things like shot selection over the years.”

Snyder’s teams in Utah were consistently among the best offensive units in the NBA. The Jazz ranked top-10 offensively in each of his final three seasons in Utah, including owning the top ranking in the league in 2021-22.

“I’ve always felt like his teams were eliteness facing the floor and with that, they were always able to generate really good shots,” Hardy said.

While Snyder was leading the Spurs G League affiliate the Austin Toros, Hardy was beginning his career as an assistant coach in San Antonio.

“He’s always been bright and he’s always been just a great human being and I’m happy for him what he’s doing here,” Snyder said of Hardy. “I think he’s a terrific coach, he’s not afraid to be who he is whether it’s tactically or schematically. I’m wishing well and glad that they’ve got such a great coach here, I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Jazz Face Gobert, Conley, Timberwolves

After welcoming Snyder back to the Delta Center on Friday, the Jazz will host another familiar face in Rudy Gobert and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

The Timberwolves roll in Utah having lost three of their last six games, including two of their last four since Karl-Anthony Towns suffered a meniscus tear.

With their recent slump, the Timberwolves now sit 1.5 games back of the top-seeded Denver Nuggets and a game back of the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

Gobert is having a bounce-back season in Minnesota averaging 13.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks while leading the Timberwolves to the top-ranked defense in the NBA.

The former Jazzman is a lock for the All-Defensive First Team and the odds-on favorite to win his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award.

Conley is averaging 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds and just signed a two-year extension to stay in Minnesota.

The Jazz and Timberwolves will face off again on Monday in their final meeting of the season.

The Jazz will host the Timberwolves on Saturday at 7:30 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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Rookies, Two-Ways Help Jazz Overcome Snyder, Hawks