Folks, this was an ugly one. The Utah Jazz eked out a win over the Phoenix Suns 96-95 for a 3-1 start. After gaining possession with 7 seconds remaining, Donovan Mitchell drove the lane and was fouled by Devin Booker on a game-winning layup attempt. Mitchell split the free throws, intentionally missing the second to take the remaining time off the clock and seal the one-point victory.
Despite the exciting finish, through three quarters this game set the game of basketball back decades. Neither team could hit a shot, the Jazz were particularly sloppy with the ball and you couldn’t go more than a few seconds without hearing a whistle. Utah and Phoenix combined for 57 fouls and 63 free throws.
Rational Reaction #1: The defense is good but the offense is a problem (Sound familiar?)
Through four games in the 2019 season, the Jazz have yet to give up 100 points. In fact, they haven’t given up more than 95. Utah led the league in defensive rating going into this one and I don’t expect that to change coming out of it. The Rudy Gobert effect remains real, as the Suns missed shots at the rim all night. Phoenix caught fire a little in the 4th quarter, but for the most part Utah kept them in check.
That was imperative because the offense is still a work in progress. The Jazz shot 38% from the floor and 32% from 3. Most problematic were the 23 turnovers. For the second road contest in a row, Utah finished with 20+ turnovers and the Suns were able to get 18 points off of those. Many of them were live ball, above-the-break turnovers created by lazy passes.
The offense was bailed out tonight at the charity stripe, where Utah hit 32-of-39. Especially of note was Gobert’s performance from the line: 11-of-12. Rudy finished with a James Harden-esque 15 points on 4 shots.
Rational Reaction #2: The Jazz need Dante Exum back
Foul trouble meant Mike Conley was only available for 20 minutes tonight, and most of that came in the end of the third quarter and in the fourth. That meant Emmanuel Mudiay was in line to play 17 minutes, and his performance left something to be desired. Since his solid opener, Mudiay has often played out of control and his shot has been M.I.A.
Quin Snyder doesn’t have a lot of other options though, as Mudiay is currently the only bench point guard who has played at the NBA level. Nights like tonight leave the residents of Exum Island wringing their hands, biding their time until Dante’s triumphant return.
Overreaction #1: Bojan Bogdanovic is Utah’s best player
This might be a stretch as a general statement, but tonight it’s not a stretch at all. Bojan’s shooting was an absolute saving grace for the Jazz in a game where not much else was going right.
Bogey finished 4-of-8 from behind the arc en route to potting 29 points, but his game went far beyond that tonight. He showed a little of everything, including making his presence felt on the defensive end with 2 steals and a block.
We know Bogdanovic can hit a 3, but his highlight reel in this one included a thunderous dunk.
And this and-one that gave Utah a lead down the stretch.
It’s nice to have a team with a multitude of offensive options. In this game, Bojan Bogdanovic was the best one.
Overreaction #2: The Jazz made a mistake swapping Ricky Rubio for Mike Conley
We are four games into the season and Mike Conley still looks broken. As I mentioned, foul trouble was a big problem for Conley this time around; he couldn’t really get on the court for a sustained period until the fourth quarter.
When he was on, though, it was still a rough time. Conley finished this one with one point on 0-of-7 shooting with one assist and three turnovers.
On the other end, the ghost of Jazz point guard past had a much more productive game. Ricky Rubio, playing his fourth game in a Suns uniform, neared a triple double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He was 4-of-9 from the floor, including a couple of huge shifty layups in the fourth quarter to keep Phoenix above water.
Conley is still trying to jell with his new team, but Rubio is making a big impact with his.
Underreaction: The Suns might be... Good?
This was a tough outcome for the upstart Suns to drop them to 2-2 on the season, but you can see that team coming around. The Suns have a win over Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers and their two losses have come by a combined two points.
Phoenix has finally come upon some veteran leadership to place around Booker’s next-level scoring ability. Guys like Rubio and Aaron Baynes can be a guiding force for a young squad. Don’t be surprised if the Suns hang around the playoff picture for the majority of the 2019 season.