by Daniel Olsen
The Super Bowl, Valentine’s and Presidents Day came and went, and yet the Utah Jazz stayed undefeated for the first nine games of the month as NBA fans fell in love. It came to an end though, as the Clippers handed the Jazz a 116-112 loss.
It was first loss of the month and second of the year for the Jazz. The Clippers sent a message from the start that they were a different team when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George take the court. While the Jazz did beat the Clippers on New Years Day and two nights prior, this LA team proved that they won’t be an easy out in the playoffs. They aren’t ready to give up on catching the Jazz and Lakers in the standings just yet.
With the loss, the Jazz drop to 24-6, which still gives them a five game lead over Portland in the Northwest Division and a two game lead over the Lakers in the Western Conference. The Clippers sit just a half game behind the Lakers. Unless the Jazz really start to struggle, they should either lead or tie for the best record in the west at the All-Star break.
In his first time back in six games, Conley never missed a beat as he contributed 16 points. He came to score and did just that on 45 percent from the field. While he didn’t contribute any assists or rebounds, he was just getting his legs back. He can be pardoned for this game but he will need to facilitate to give the Jazz the edge they need.
Mitchell had a team high 35 points in the close loss and looked great throughout the night. While he did cause some eyebrows to be raised at the intentionally missed free throw at the end, he did overcome adversity throughout the game. With the pesky Patrick Beverley on him, he picked up two early fouls and struggled to shoot. However, he erupted for 29 points in the second half to become the first Jazz player since Karl Malone to score at least 25 points in a half 10 times.
Bojan Bogdanovic struggled in the opening minutes with a few awkward mid-range misses. However, he found his stroke with a 23 point performance that included 80 percent from the three point line. The Jazz had a rough night by their standards from three as they shot 12-34 from long range.
The other starters struggled as Gobert and O’Neale combined for eight points. Although Gobert had 15 rebounds and three blocks, he didn’t get enough shots at the rim. That is something the Jazz need when the threes aren’t falling. O’Neale had a goose egg in the points column which hurt for a Jazz player that played a team high 37 minutes.
Clarkson looked every bit like the Sixth Man of the Year candidate he is with 19 points off the bench. While he struggled with making just 1-7 shots from the three-point line, he got his inside game going. The white headband is still making magic happen off the bench even though it didn’t result in a win.
The Jazz will have a few nights off before they host the Hornets and Lakers. The boo birds will be in full swing in Salt Lake City as the Hornets have one of the most hated former Jazz players in Gordon Hayward, and the Lakers are one of Utah’s most heated rivalries.
• Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined to go just 1-8 from three. They also combined for just 2-11 from the three in a 129-115 win over the Knicks to close out January.
• The Jazz are still 2-1 over the Clippers in the season series which is the same record they had over this team last season.
• The Jazz scored 37 points in the fourth quarter and 17 came from Donovan Mitchell.
• The Jazz also allowed 37 points in the fourth quarter, which is the most points they’ve allowed in any quarter since they allowed 37 to the Heat in the fourth quarter of a Jazz blowout.
• The Jazz were out-rebounded 45-38. That pales in comparison to the 58-55 advantage they held over the Clippers in the Wednesday matchup.
• The Jazz are now 11-4 against teams in the Western Conference which is the same record the Clippers have.
• In all six losses this season, the Jazz have not had more assists than their opponent.
Featured image courtesy Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press