We can't believe it either. The Utah Jazz are now winners of five straight after a 120-111 win over the NBA's best defensive team, the San Antonio Spurs. This was a game most—us included—didn't give the Jazz much of a chance of winning. This game was on the backend of a back to back, Donovan Mitchell was out with flu like symptoms, and the Jazz didn't get into San Antonio until about 5am this morning. Despite all that the Utah Jazz lead after every quarter and controlled much of the game. Maybe the Jazz should always play sleep deprived—please don't.
Ricky Rubio was amazing. One game after Donovan Mitchell has his second 40 point game of his career, Ricky Rubio follows it with a career high in points with 34 points, 9 assists, and 3 rebounds. He was on fire from deep and looked like an offensive force. He is really settling into the Jazz's offense and learning how Snyder's offense works. Any thoughts we had of Rubio being a bad fit for Utah are going out the window with the stretch he's having right now. He also was a +15 when he was on the court.
While Ricky Rubio had a career night, the other Jazz rookie, Royce O'Neale, was the one to put the game away. The Utah Jazz had led most of the night by double digits. Late in the fourth quarter it looked like it was all falling apart. The San Antonio Spurs were going on a run and it looked like the back to back layover nightmare from Phoenix was finally taking its toll ... then Royce O'Neale happened. Royce O'Neale came through with a big time steal and dunk on the other end to put the game again out of reach for San Antonio. The play took the San Antonio crowd out of it and pretty much sealed the game for Utah.
If Donovan Mitchell wasn't having one of the most unique rookie seasons of any guard since Michael Jordan, Royce O'Neale would have a lot more buzz from the Beehive State. O'Neale finished the game with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals while shooting 4 of 4 from three. The kid had a game in one of the toughest places in the association to play. This wasn't the worst defense in the league Phoenix Suns, no, no. This was the best defense in the league San Antonio Spurs.
The Utah Jazz are now 24-28 and only 3.5 games out of the eighth spot in the NBA playoffs. The teams ahead of Utah, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Pelicans, have an uphill battle for the rest of the season. The Clippers look like they're in fire sale mode, the Denver Nuggets now get to face a difficult schedule and see what Utah had to deal with in December, and the New Orleans Pelicans are battling injuries and integrating Nikola Mirotic into their roster. The road is open to getting back into the playoffs and possibly into the 7 spot if Utah continues to gel.
I am still stunned that the Jazz won this game. This was a textbook scheduled loss and the circumstances of arriving into town EXTREMELY late and down your best player just added to it. This team played with heart and dominated from beginning to end. This Utah Jazz team is on a different level right now. Whether it can last is debatable, but what isn't debatable is this is fun as h*ck.
The Utah Jazz continue their road trip in New Orleans against the Pelicans on Monday at 6:00PM MT. This is a perfect chance to catch up to the Pelicans in the standings.
Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors continue to play amazing together. They combined for 25 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. I'm starting to get to a point where I'm nervous for Utah to trade Derrick Favors.
Rodney Hood made his return to the lineup with 5 points on 2-5 shooting in 16 minutes. He still looked like he was feeling the ill effects of his injury.
Raul Neto—HOWLS ATTRACTIVELY—played spectacularly off the bench. In the 4th quarter his stellar defense earned him a lot of minutes at the shooting guard spot. Defensively he was a beast. He finished with 12 points and 3 assists while getting to the line for six attempts and making all of them.
Alec Burks didn't have the best game shooting but he had some key rebounds. He finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Outside of LaMarcus Aldridge, the San Antonio Spurs didn't get much out of their players. Looking at the San Antonio roster, they actually don't cause fear for this long time fearful Jazz writer. They look a lot like Utah, battling through injuries while relying on veterans, undrafted players, and unsung heroes to grind out wins. Gregg Popovich is coaching the h*ck out of this team, they just didn't have it tonight.
Also the basketball gods smiled down upon us and gave us these guys during the broadcast. We made a gif of them. You're welcome.