by Daniel Olsen
Some games you’re the bug and other times you’re the windshield. In this game, Jazz fans were the bugged ones as they watched poor shooting in the first half and lack of hustle on the glass overall. The Jazz started slow but finished strong to send the game to extra minutes. However, it was not enough to win this Duel in the Desert as the Jazz lost 117-113 in Phoenix Suns arena.
As poorly as the Jazz played, they still found themselves ahead by one point at the end of the first quarter. After the alley-oop dunk by Gobert to start the game, the Jazz went ice cold for four minutes before Jazz head coach Quin Snyder finally called a timeout. At that point, the Suns had gone on a 13-0 run.
As bad as the opening minutes were, the Jazz still found themselves up 21-20 after the end of the first quarter. This was thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic making some shots for the Jazz as well as a timely three by Donovan Mitchell. However, it didn’t ever feel lIke the Jazz established the rhythm that has made them the top team in the NBA this year. The Suns slowed it down and turned the game into a mud fight early.
One player who has been and continues to be a deadly matchup for the Jazz is Chris Paul. He was virtually unguardable as he has a pull-up jumper that stops on a dime. As a diminutive guard, he has learned to lean back and arc his shot over rim protectors such as Rudy Gobert. He is smart enough to not go at Gobert to the rim. He salivates in a one-on-one opportunity against the two time Defensive Player of the Year when beyond ten feet away from the basket.
Derrick Favors should be getting more than 16 minutes in a night. It is true that his role is different this time around with the Jazz than it was last time. However, he was the only one on the Jazz besides Gobert who seemed interested in getting offensive boards. He had a nice tip in shot in the second quarter and finished with two offensive rebounds in his short time. He could possibly take some time from Bojan and have at least 20-25 minutes per night.
When teams put up a bunch of bad shots like last night, they need a garbage man to clean the glass and make second chance buckets. Favors is the garbage man the Jazz need more of.
While the Jazz went into halftime down 11, it was still the best defensive effort they could have played considering they shot 3-21 from downtown in the first 24 minutes. It was a raucous atmosphere as there were plenty of Suns fans in attendance with a few Jazz fans sprinkled around Phoenix Suns Arena. It was a battle between the top two teams in the Western Conference and was televised on the national ESPN broadcast.
While the first half belonged to nobody except maybe Bogdanovic on the offensive end for the Jazz, the second half was all Mitchell. He scored 28 of his 41 points in the second half. The final minute of regulation deserves its own comic book. The heroics of @spidadmitchell will be touched on later in the article.
While Conley had some nice plays, he struggled overall. He was vastly outplayed by Suns point guard Chris Paul. He scored only 11 points compared to 29 from Paul. He did make a nice alley-oop to Gobert in the third quarter and threw up a nice circus shot to once again put the Jazz on top by one at the end of the third quarter.
The odd quarters were won by the Jazz. On a night when they had one of their worst first half shooting games, the Suns were still able to even things out and control this game.
Gobert was tough on the glass as he continued to crash the boards. He did get hit hard enough to make himself writhe in pain in one scary possession in the third quarter. However, he came back in the fourth quarter to help the team rally back. He finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds on the night. The one thing he didn’t have that would have been nice was blocks. The Suns are the top team for a reason and they evolved their game plan to avoid the nearly impossible task of challenging Gobert at the rim.
Fast forward to the final minute. The Jazz were down three as both teams traded missed buckets. With ten seconds left to go, Mitchell knew it was time to put the mask and cape on so he could attempt to save the day. He did, at least for regulation. He stopped on a dime and drilled the three to tie the game up. He then went on the other end and took on the best scorer on the opposing team in Booker. Fans were chanting “M-V-P” every time Booker shot free throws. While he also had an impressive night, Mitchell was the best player on the court. He stopped Booker from winning the game as his tight defense forced the miss.
The overtime result is what it is. The Suns are the first team in the NBA to clinch a series victory over the Jazz. They have lead or at least tied every other series so far. They will look to avoid getting swept when they take on the Suns on the last day of April. For now, the Jazz have no time to sulk. They play the Portland Trailblazers back at Vivint Arena tonight. The game will start at 7 PM Mountain Time.
• Clarkson has scored in double figures in all four games in April. He was the only bench player to score in double-digits against the Suns. He had 11 points.
• Whether they win or lose, the Jazz seem to get their fair share of the pie. The last time they lost by double-digits was to the Golden State Warriors on March 14, 2021.
• The Blazers are coming off a tough 17 point loss to the Clippers. However, that appears to be an anomaly due to franchise player Damian Lillard scoring only 11 points in that loss.
• The Jazz were outplayed in rebounds 61-45 and assists 20-14. It can not be restated enough how fortunate they were that this game even got to overtime.
• In a combined 52 minutes, Mikal Bridges and Royce O’Neale combined for just two points. O’Neale has been struggling at least from a scoring perspective lately while Bridges had an uncharacteristic performance coming off a 20-point outing the game prior.
• Mitchell made 16-35 shots from the field. He made more shots than all of the Suns starters combined who weren’t named Booker or Paul.
• Gobert made both free throws he attempted on the night. So far in April, he has the best free throw shooting percentage of any month this season. He has made 14-18 for 77.8 percent from the charity stripe so far.
Featured image courtesy Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports