by Daniel Olsen
Some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference have come to Utah in February with the sole mission of rattling the Jazz. Philadelphia, the team with the best record on the East Coast, lost the battle to the Jazz by a final score of 134-123 in Vivint Arena.
Since the lone single digit win of February on Super Bowl Sunday, the Jazz have protected their house better than expected. In this four game home stand, the Jazz have outscored opponents by a combined 57 points. Their 9.4 point differential is good enough for first place in the NBA on the season.
The man of the game was 100 percent Jordan Clarkson. He had 40 points on the night which was the second-highest total of his career. He did score 42 points in a triple-overtime loss to Brooklyn in 2019. Considering he scored 40 points in just 29 minutes off the bench, this was definitely one of his best scoring performances ever. Clarkson connected on eight of his thirteen three-point attempts.
While Mitchell didn’t have the most accurate shooting night, he succeeded at penetrating into the teeth of the 76ers defense and finding the open shooters. He was the second punch to the Jazz scoring attack with 24 points. He also tied Joe Ingles for a team-high five assists.
Speaking of Ingles’ assists, his most important dime came four minutes into the first quarter as he found Gobert for a dunk. That pass moved him up the leaderboard as he surpassed Pistol Pete Maravich in franchise assists. Maravich has his jersey in the rafters. Ingles has put himself in great company with his ability to consistently produce for the Jazz. Ironically, Maravich wore number seven and Ingles passed him for seventh all-time in Jazz assists. While that jersey is now retired, Jazz fans will not forget the good that he did for the team. Ingles also chipped in 20 points of his own on the night.
Gobert came just one rebound shy of a double-double. That broke his streak of six consecutive nights with such a stat line. He also finished the night with two blocks and a steal. Gobert and Drummond are in a tight race for possession of the second most rebounds per game. Gobert has 13.4 and Drummond has 13.5. Capela has a slight lead over the two with 13.9 per contest.
Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic both chipped in 11 points each. This meant that the starting five and Jordan Clarkson all finished in double figures. Bogdanovic struggled mightily with his signature three-point shot as he missed all six attempts. He found the bottom of the net on a couple mid-range and inside shots. O’Neale was a different story as nine of his points were on threes. He has been touted as a candidate for one of the All-NBA Defensive teams.
Tobias Harris went off for 36 points with O’Neale as his primary defender in this game. However, it must have been difficult guarding Antetokounmpo on Friday. He also had a Herculean defensive effort on Saturday that included three steals and three blocks. O’Neale has been sacrificing a little offense because of his defensive effort. He was good at both in this game with three steals and more rebounds than anyone not named Gobert.
• The Jazz have now won 23 games this season. 19 of those games were won by double digits.
• Through 28 games, the 1996 Bulls went 25-3, and the Warriors went 27-1 after 28 games. The Jazz are in elite company as they would have the seventh best winning percentage (.821) in NBA history if the season ended today.
• If they can sweep the Clippers this week, the Jazz can have the best 30 game start in the Western Conference since the 2016-2017 Warriors. In that first year with KD, the Warriors started their season 26-4.
• Clarkson was the first player to hit 40 points in under 30 minutes since Sleepy Floyd in 1991.
• Clarkson had a career high eight threes in a game. To put this in perspective, Ingles has hit seven threes in a game four times in his career. He is the career leader for most threes made in a Jazz uniform.
• This is the first time the Jazz have played on President’s Day since February 15, 1999. In most years, this is the day after the NBA All-Star Game. That is why there are usually no games played. The Jazz lost to the Seattle SuperSonics 71-56 in that lockout year.
• The Jazz have now won eight straight games. Last year their longest win streak was ten games but other than that, they did not win more than five games in a row.
Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News