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Salt Lake City Stars come from behind to beat the Texas Legends

Willie Reed, Tyler Cavanaugh and Naz Mitrou-Long led the Stars to a comeback victory

NBA: Utah Jazz-Media Day Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

For opening night the Salt Lake City Stars invited the Junior Jazz to Vivint Smart Home Arena. Along with games and festivities, Junior Jazz players got to see some exciting basketball!

In the first half it became clear that three players will be contributing to an improved record for the Salt Lake City Stars this season, players that Jazz fans should keep an eye on.

Tyler Cavanaugh

Cavanaugh was fantastic for the Stars. Filling the hole left by Georges Niang, Cavanaugh was lights out from three. In total he scored 35 points with 11/19 shooting from the field and hitting 9/14 from three.

Cavanaugh’s release is quick. His ability to knock down threes helped put up points quick for the Stars when they needed it. His presence on the floor also opened things up for his teammates making it easier for the different Stars guards and wings get to the rim.

After the game, Cavanaugh mentioned that because the Stars run the same system as the Jazz it helped him know what the best ways were to get his shots.

The synergy that Cavanaugh mentioned is very apparent. You can see the similarities between the Jazz and the Stars in culture, talent and style of play. That synergy will help the Stars players improve and also give the Jazz a better idea if a player is ready to be called up. It shouldn’t be surprising that Georges Niang has made such a seamless transition to playing rotation minutes for the Utah Jazz.

Perhaps Tyler Cavanaugh is that next player? Whether it’s with the Jazz or someone else, it’s clear that Cavanaugh will be in the NBA again soon.

Willie Reed

The #1 overall pick in the G-League draft made his presence felt in a big way. Watching Reed play, it’s clear that his best skill is his ability to use his size in effective ways.

Reed is one of the biggest players on the floor and he knows it. Using his size in smart ways, he’s able to grab offensive rebounds and catch lobs. If the Stars can keep Reed near the rim on both sides of the floor, good things will happen. Tonight the Stars did that and Reed put up 31 points and 16 rebounds on 14/20 shooting. That efficiency, and his ability to defend the rim, is a big reason the Stars have started 2-0.

Willie Reed is also fun to talk to. After the game he was asked about his chance to join the Jazz broadcast with Craig Bolerjack and Thurl Bailey and he mentioned how much he enjoyed it.

But that personality seems to also help with the team. He’s a positive presence that cheers on his teammates and keeps a positive attitude. That type of leadership helped the Stars take the lead late in the game and win. It also helped that Reed blocked a bunch of shots at the end.

Naz Mitrou-Long

Even though Mitrou-Long was recently called up to the Jazz, he suited up fo the Stars tonight. For me, I was interested to get a closer look at Naz because he obviously has the interest of Jazz brass.

Naz had a difficult first half where he missed some open threes but turned it around in the second half and was a big part of the Stars getting the win.

Before the season started Coach Schiller mentioned how he wanted Naz to be a knock down shooter on open shots. Tonight he was 1/6 from three. But Naz showed why he has the interest of the Jazz. Late in the 4th quarter he was able to get to the rim with ease and score. If Naz can improve that shooting this season with the Stars, it’s easy to see how he could combine that with his impressive quickness and become a rotation NBA player.

One of the most interesting things in the game wasn’t necessarily related to the players but the officiating. This season the G-League is implementing a challenge system that coaches can use for a call they want reviewed.

Tonight the Stars used one of their challenges and the play was reversed! If you’re like me, you’ll probably remember a couple calls every game that were blatant misses. It causes heartburn and hair loss every game. Tonight, it was clear that a Texas Legends player lost a ball out of bounds but it was called out on the Stars. With this being near the end of a close game it could have changed the outcome. But with a quick 1-2 minute review the call was reversed.

It was great.

It’s exciting to think that one of the biggest frustrations in the NBA could be alleviated soon. When you think of the growing animosity between players/coaches and the officials, it’s easy to see how this could improve those relationships greatly.