by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Rick Bowmer of AP Photo
Reminders of the Jordan Era
It was shown early that Chicago was going to attack Utah in the paint. In the first quarter, Chicago scored 20 of their 27 points in the paint. Led by starting center Nikola Vucevic (16/9/2), this forced Utah coach Will Hardy to make some in-game adjustments. After allowing the second unit to come in, Hardy noticed that Andre Drummond (10 points, 10 rebounds) was able to score at will and this is where his adjustment came in. Though he has played minimal minutes since Hardy arrived, Udoka Azubuike (2 points, 5 rebounds) was given the opportunity to prove himself. His stat line may not look impressive, but Azubuike led Utah in +/- with +5. Though Chicago continued to score in the paint, Utah was able to keep the game tied 27-27 at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Utah tried to take away the momentum Chicago built. Behind a career-high in points in half from Lauri Markkanen (32/9/1) with 24 points on 9/10 (90%) shooting, the Utah crowd became electric. Also, filled with the great defense on DeMar DeRozan (26/4/6) who only scored four points in the first half. Utah also managed to commit only five turnovers in the first half, where Utah is one of the top teams in committing turnovers this season. With 11/24 (45.8%) shooting beyond the perimeter, Utah goes into the half with a 60-53 lead.
The Windy City of Change
The third quarter looked like Utah had zero answers for Chicago. Between DeRozan and Zach LaVine (20/6/5) shooting 7/13 (53.8%) from the field, they were beginning to look like Chicago was going to run away with the game. Especially since Utah began to put their focus on the three-point shot shooting 5/13 (38.5%) for the quarter. With Jordan Clarkson (8/6/9) unable to make a shot in the quarter on 0/4 (0%) shooting for the quarter, Utah was outscored 33-20 in the third giving Chicago an 86-80 lead.
Utah locked up on defense and locked in on offense in the fourth quarter. Kelly Olynyk (23/4/4) scoring all 23 of his points in the second half along with 5/10 (50%) from three, put Utah on his back. Continuously being the open man and creating plays, Olynyk kept Utah in the game. Even limiting LaVine to a 1/6 (16.7%) quarter gave Utah a glimpse of ending their four-game losing streak. But once again, free throws were Utah’s downfall. Shooting 6/15 (40%) from the free throw line compared to Chicago’s 22/25 (88%) put the game away. Even an Olympic halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the game couldn’t help Utah beat Chicago as they extend their losing streak to five straight games after a 114-107 loss.
Utah will look to end this cold streak against the Los Angeles Clippers (13-9) for their third meeting this season on Wednesday.