by Daniel Olsen
As one popular meme in the last year showed, how it started isn’t always the same as how it’s going. Such was the case for the Jazz, who fell behind big early and then came back to take a commanding lead. The Jazz would also survive a late combine attempt by the Thunder with a 106-96 victory.
The Jazz started off cold as the Thunder reared its ugly head early on. Their presence was as daunting as the 70 mph winds that swirled along the Wasatch Front. At one point in the first quarter, they lead the Jazz by 17 points. The Jazz weren’t terrible on offense in the first quarter as they made 40 percent of their threes. Their defense was just bad. Either that or some guy named Lou Dort decided to have a career night.
One guy on fire from the tip was Georges Niang. He was sizzling with four three-pointers in the first quarter. From now on, he should only take threes. He made almost half of the shots from downtown that he attempted on the night. He made the last shot of the quarter to cut the deficit to single digits. As poorly as the Jazz shot early, it was a huge win to only be down 31-22 at the end of the first frame.
Conley set the tone early in the second quarter as he made a few three-point daggers. The impressive part is that they were contested. He shot right between the eyes of his defender and made the Thunder’s attempts to guard him look futile. The only problem was after his second three-point splash, some guy on OKC went down and answered with a three on the other end.
The Jazz defense overall played better as they held the Thunder to just 22 points in this second quarter. They also had a monstrous 33-point quarter of their own to take a two point lead going into the half.
In the third quarter, Mitchell had the moves to help the Jazz start the quarter on a 12-0 run. Arguably the best play of the game was when he hit a step-back three to put an exclamation point on this run. He also did a fabulous job of drawing contact on fouls. On one play he hooked his arm into the defender. He hasn’t reached a ridiculous James Harden status of hunting for foul calls every play, but he will get more of those calls as he continues to rise in stardom. Free throws have helped him score more points lately.
The storm from the Thunder almost seemed to be calmed down, but they went on a furious run in the fourth quarter. The Jazz were fortunate that the run came a little too late. However, it was still impressive to see the comeback attempt from this young OKC team. One thing that clearly wasn’t working was trying to go at Gobert at the rim. He just stood there waiting for their senseless pump fakes and attempts to score. He finished just three blocks shy of a triple double so he should deserve some credit on the night for the defensive improvement.
With Clarkson, O’Neale and Ingles out, the bench was relatively quiet. They had chances, but ultimately the guys normally at the end of the bench couldn’t score. That allowed the opposing team to get back into the game. The starters had to come back in and save the day. One bench player that shined above everyone was Jarrell Brantley as he had ten points. On one play, he caught the ball mid-route and made an explosive move at the rim for a lay-up. Matt Thomas was the only other bench player to score as he had five points on the night.
The Jazz maintain the 1.5 game lead over Phoenix after this on-fire Sun team defeated another literal hot team by 20 points: The Miami Heat. The Jazz will get a much-needed two days of rest before hosting the Indiana Pacers on Friday at 1 PM Mountain Time. The game will be broadcast on NBA TV.
• Gobert had seven blocks which is the second time he has recorded at least that many this season.
• Bogdanovic continued his hot shooting to lead the team with 23 points. This is the first game since the Mavericks last Monday that the scoring leader for the Jazz wasn’t Mitchell.
• Although Mitchell didn’t score as much as he had been lately, he had his most efficient shooting night from three since the Orlando game (6-7). He made 44.4 percent of his attempts against Washington (4-9).
• Conley had a career high 14 assists. That’s a team high for this year as well.
• The Jazz nearly doubled the assist output of the Thunder as they dropped 24 dimes compared to just 13 by OKC.
• Niang made a team high six three-pointers. All of his shots on the night were from beyond the arc.
• The Jazz are undefeated in their two home games against the Thunder this season. They survived a one point win in December. The Jazz will play their penultimate game to close out the season series in OKC on Friday, May 14, 2021.
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images