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Donovan Mitchell drops 35 to defeat the Portland Trailblazers

Jordan Clarkson’s debut was mixed, but it’s his first day on the job.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz were able to bounce back from their disappointing loss in Miami that also coincided with trade fireworks tonight with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers (121-115). It required fending off a big comeback from the Portland Trail Blazers who came back from 23 down to make this game a coin flip in the final two minutes. Luckily stout defense from Rudy Gobert, great playmaking by Donovan Mitchell, and some quick thinking by Royce O’Neale allowed Utah to put the game away for the good guys.

Jordan Clarkson was 4-12 in the game and wasn’t bad considering he only had a shoot around to get comfortable with an offense in which Mike Conley said a PhD is required. However, Clarkson was on the court when the big run went on, but Rome wasn’t built in a day nor was it torn down and rebuilt in three. Same goes for the Utah Jazz reserve unit.

Rational Reaction #1: Clarkson already adding to this team

Adding a shot maker, and subtracting a poor-fitting veteran seems to have helped the Jazz already. Even considering Jordan Clarkson does not know the Jazz system on offense or defense, the change in rotation allowed the Jazz to hold onto leads that the started gained over Portland. At least, it worked during the first three quarters. The rotation change allowed Donovan to play a more facilitating style with the second unit, instead of shouldering the burden of creating the entire offense. This kept Don fresher throughout the game for when we needed him most.

The goal for this bench should be to have a +/- of 0 to -2. Our starters are dynamic enough to go on runs against any lineup in this league. Holding onto those points is their job, and they will be much more capable of doing this with an added offensive punch. Teams are much more consistent when the results depend primarily on the play of the starters. Considering the lineup that lost the lead tonight consisted of the starters plus Clarkson, who does not know the offense or defense yet, giving up the 23 point lead was as much on the starters as it was on Quin. A substitution should probably have been made, but things worked out in the end. And man, that Gobert block on Damian Lillard to seal the game was something else.

Rational Reaction #2: The Jazz have the star power to beat anybody

The Jazz have the star power to beat anybody. This team is coming together and starting to look like the team we expected. There is still a lot left to prove—we still need to show the capability of beating a healthy Lakers and Clippers—but the schedule is no longer holding us back. Bojan Bogdanovic looks like he is fitting in well with this squad. When Conley heals, re-introducing him to a group that is already gelling will be much easier than figuring everything out at once. There is an emerging identity, and players have a budding familiarity with one another that was missing earlier this year.

The stars and leaders of this team are stepping up, and the chemistry is improving rapidly.

Overreaction #1: The Jazz have course-corrected, and are playoff-focused

The Jazz are playing like an entirely different team after putting some space between them and their tough schedule through November and early December. The personnel changes the front office made this week look like they may have fixed some major weaknesses on the Jazz bench, and set Utah on a path to real contention.

An added benefit of bringing in Clarkson and Tucker is that we maintain our flexibility. If the Jazz don’t quite look good enough to contend come February, the front office still have room for another course correction or two to make any necessary tweaks.

Overreaction #2: Donovan is an all-star.

With 16 points in the 3rd quarter, Donovan put the Jazz up for good. Though the lead was given up, Portland never led once during tonight’s game. Donovan finished the game with 35 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and a +/- of +12. This now puts him at an average of 24.8/4/4.6/1.2stl. That deserves an all-star appearance in itself. If Donovan can put the Jazz into a top three seed, he deserves to at least an honorable mentioned in the conversation of MVP. He may not be putting up triple doubles, but the value he produces on both sides of the court rivals that of some of the best players in the league.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Underreaction #1: Joe Ingles started it all

Joe Ingles is the undisputed glue guy for this team. When he plays well, it opens up so much for the stars. Joe is a player that makes everybody around him better. His influence is palpable when his shot is falling. It allows Rudy to get easy dunks, it frees Donovan up for drives, it generates open looks for Bojan, and we got a taste of what it looks like when this team is firing on all cylinders. It all started with a few 3’s made by Joe Ingles.

While there may be stretches or entire nights where Joe’s shot does not fall, he always has another way to impact the game. Joe is among the best defenders on the team, best passers on the team, and best leaders on the team. So this one goes out to Jinglin’ Joe.