For Jazz fans it was the first meeting with Derrick Favors since the offseason. For the rest of the world it was another chance to see Zion Williamson. And Zion did not disappoint.
The touted number 1 overall pick had his way with the Jazz at the rim late in the game. Shooting 9/12 from the field and scoring 26 points, his touch at the basket is as good as any player I’ve ever seen. Rudy Gobert made his life a little more difficult, but he was even able to score over Gobert a few times.
His ability to put the ball in the hoop regardless of who was guarding him was astonishing. He also powered through any defense and would finish each with an and-1. And I’m not exaggerating. He had like 4 and-1’s and at times it felt like the best defense was to just bear hug him. Who in the league can even come close to guarding him?
The Pelicans are going to be a problem and when you look at what Zion was doing, don’t be surprised if they don’t just make the playoffs but maybe even get a decent seed.
Even with Zion doing Zion things, the Jazz looked elite offensively and spent most of the game with a comfortable lead up until the fourth quarter when they rested their starters. Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley both put up 7 assists and Bojan Bogdanovic shot 5/8 from the field and 3/5 from three. There’s just so many weapons offensively for the Jazz and every night there’s a chance for anyone to go off.
Probably one of the most anticipated things was seeing who Quin Snyder would start at the power forward and it was Royce O’Neale. How did it go? O’Neale looked like an elite shooting four going 6/8 from the field and 4/6 from three. O’Neale is such a versatile wing defender and is now shooting the ball with confidence. In a lot of ways, getting O’Neale at the 4-spot is like adding another player because it allows you to play him like you couldn’t in the past. Get ready for a big Royce O’Neale season.
Also, having Royce play at the power forward allows the Jazz to run Joe Ingles as the sixth man. The benefits of that is that Ingles can dominate second units and not have to play more than 25 minutes a night. I don’t know if Ingles will have the numbers for 6th man of the year when this year is over, but he will be as effective as any 6th man in the league. He’s this team’s Manu Ginobili.
Another player who really impacted the game was Jeff Green who shot 8/9 from the field! Green has looked great the last two preseason games and looks like he’s found a nice role playing the 4-spot whether as a spot starter or off the bench. There’s a part of me that is waiting for those times where he might disappear, but so far he’s looked fantastic showing a huge bag of tricks. It feels like because there isn’t a huge burden on him to produce it’s making things easy for him to get easy buckets.
On the whole, the Jazz looked great in the minutes that mattered, leading 102-89 into the final frame when Quin pulled the starters and a lineup of Miye Oni, Joe Ingles, Ed Davis, Georges Niang, and Jeff Green gave up 17 points to Pelicans second stringers plus Zion over the course of about five minutes. The deep benches would battle it out until Jarrell Brantley made the bad decision to goaltend the last shot by Pelicans guard Javon Bess, putting the Pelicans on top.
With each game under their belt, the Jazz will continue to find chemistry and, as long as they can stay healthy, should have no problem meeting the expectations everyone has given them.
Finally, if you didn’t have something to cry about, here’s this.