In a game that went straight down to the line, the Jazz squeaked on by with a 110-105 victory in one of the closest games for the Jazz so far this season. Ricky Rubio sealed the deal in the final possessions with four consecutive free throws made to end the game.
It was clear that the Jazz were on the back end of a back-to-back, after a very dry 13-point first quarter. The Jazz were battling fatigue and dug a hole, consequently facing an uphill battle for the remainder of the game. But once Utah got a feel for Detroit, they went ahead to outscore their opponent in each of the three following quarters.
Each time Utah made a run, Detroit would hold them off with a run of their own. At some points it felt like the Jazz may never even take the lead. But like true fighters, the team rallied after each blow and came back stronger.
Dante Exum stepped on Derrick Favors’ foot after just 8 minutes of play, and sustained a nasty sprained ankle. He walked to the locker room and didn’t come back for the remainder of the game. Stay tuned for updates on the situation. Raul Neto stepped up to the plate and had a solid game in Dante’s stead. While Raul only had 4 points and a steal, he played some important team defense and ended the game with a +/- of +5.
With Dante’s injury and some foul trouble to Rudy (two fouls in the first quarter, and a third before halftime) and Joe (five fouls near the beginning of the fourth quarter), Quin had to go deep into his bag of tricks to cobble together rotations on the fly, and after the first quarter, this seemed to work well. Multiple players had key plays when we needed them most. Kyle Korver immediately hit two huge threes in the fourth quarter to extend the Jazz’s lead when Ingles was subbed out. Thabo Sefolosha had a quietly stellar night, with 2 steals, and the team high in +/- with +13. The team’s overall defense was keyed in, ending the game with a solid Defensive Rating of 101.9 points per 100 possessions.
The Jazz are now sitting at 20-20 on the season. The Pistons are now 17-20. Each game against sub .500 teams will carry with it extra weight for the remainder of this season. Utah’s schedule may be easier when compared to November and December, but as we saw tonight, there will not be many freebies.
Stats of the Night
The Jazz won this game in spite of Blake Griffin going off for 34 points on an extremely efficient 61.9% from the field and 3/7 shots made from behind the arc. He got relatively close to a triple double, with 10 rebounds and 5 assists to tag onto his impressive night. Andre Drummond was his usual self, putting up an efficient 15 points on 70% shooting, and grabbed a whopping 18 rebounds on the night. Reggie Bullock, breaking new grounds with his new dreadlock unicorn horn hairstyle, must be onto something as he made five threes on the night with 62.5% 3pt%, ending the game with 19 points.
Donovan Mitchell was the difference-maker tonight. Spida went off in the second half, after just two-points in the first half. He ended the game with a stat line Andrei Kirilenko would’ve been proud of, with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 1 blocked shot. He shot 47.6% from the field, shot 33.3% from three, and made 5/6 of his free throws. As mentioned earlier, Donovan had one of his signature clutch games. In the fourth quarter alone, he notched 12 points on 62.5% shooting. He had a fourth quarter Offensive Rating of 136.0, with a Defensive Rating of 103.8 to boot. Donovan has surprisingly met quite a bit of scrutiny in his sophomore season, although he proves time and time again that he is exactly where he should be on his road to stardom. Tonight was a statement of greatness.
I have said before that good teams overcome tough schedules. Tonight, the Jazz were on the back end of a back-to-back, with multiple issues that could have been excuses for a loss tonight. Fatigue, foul trouble, Dante’s injury, some relatively unfamiliar lineups, etc. But the Jazz showed their mental toughness, pulling themselves together and executing in such a way that brought this game back within striking distance. This was no small feat, and it was not “just” a win against a worse Eastern Conference team. We could have written this game off to the schedule as well, but the Jazz were able to find the drive within themselves to pull this one out. This is the drive that we saw last season. This is the drive we will need to see for the remainder of this season if we want to have a spot in the playoffs. This is the drive that will win us playoff games, and maybe someday a championship. So here’s to this team overcoming obstacles that they would not have surpassed a month ago. Utah is getting better with each game. Now let’s not allow it to go to our heads.
The Jazz will have one day off before facing the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. Keep your eye on SLCDunk.com for your game coverage needs, and have a wonderful morning/afternoon/evening whenever and wherever you are in the world.