Fresh off the news of his Player of the Week honors, Rudy Gobert led a stifling defensive effort by the Utah Jazz (10 steals and 8 blocks for the team) to crush the Washington Wizards in their first of a 4-game Eastern Conference road trip. Bradley Beal, fresh off his own Player of the Week award, and coming off back-to-back 40 point games (one of them on just 17 shots!), was limited to just 15 points on 4 of 12 from the field. Turns out Utah is pretty good at this whole defense thing.
It feels like this has become a cliche the past week or two, but tonight Utah played one of their best and most complete games of the season on both sides of the ball. Although the Jazz only shot 6 free throws as a team (!!!), they managed to shoot 53.8% from the field, 37.8% from deep, and racked up 35 assists on 49 made field goals.
Scoring 116 points with just 6 free throws is an impressive feat (just the 4th time a team has done so in regulation since 1980), though perhaps more impressive is that Utah held the Wizards to just 95 points in a game that was played at break-neck pace. Washington got to the line 22 times tonight, but were held to 42% from the field and 29.6% from three by Utah’s swarming defense. 9 different Jazz players recorded either a block or a steal tonight.
Before we go any further, I would like to complain, once again, that the Jazz could have drafted Josh Hart AND Thomas Bryant instead of Tony Bradley. I’m still bugged by that pick. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Trevor Ariza took advantage of some Jazz miscues and scored 10 points in the first 6:08 of the 1st quarter, hitting a couple of threes and getting free for some transition buckets off Utah turnovers. Ariza’s 10th (and final) point of the 1st quarter was a three with 5:52 left, putting Washington ahead, 14-13. A couple minutes after that, Bobby Portis drained a 3 to give the Wizards a 17-16 advantage. Utah answered by closing out the quarter on a 15-7 run and never looked back.
Derrick Favors put together an impressive first half (4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in just 12 minutes), but was shut down at halftime due to hamstring soreness (can Utah get a new hamstring specialist, please?). Rudy Gobert and Jae Crowder more than picked up the slack in Favors’ absence, and even Ekpe Udoh put together some quality minutes, including a nice putback dunk and a block.
Jabari Parker made good on his “no defense” stance, scoring 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but playing exactly zero defense. Behold, from Andy Larsen:
Jabari left Ingles wide open, but he missed the shot. Gobert tips out the offensive rebound and...
Looks like Jabari Parker may have only skimmed the scouting report.
Everyone that played tonight for Utah put together a really solid game. Gobert was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field, with a stat line of 14 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. Ingles posted 16/3/4/1 and was a team-high +26 for the game. Royce O’Neale played incredible defense. Jae Crowder was knocking down shots and playing with a controlled energy. Kyle Korver did his usual thing where he punishes defenses for giving him even a sliver of daylight. And, most importantly of all, the team was so good tonight that we haven’t even mentioned Donovan Mitchell yet. He scored 19 points on 8 of 18 from the field with zero free throw attempts - just his 4th game of the season in which he had more points than field goal attempts despite 0 free throw attempts. Even Ricky Rubio shook off his recent shooting slump and hit 4 of his 7 shots, chipping in 8 points and 10 assists.
Games like this are fun to watch, when everything is clicking, everyone seems engaged defensively, and the whole team is playing loose and looks relaxed. Different guys stepped up when needed, and Donovan looked a lot more comfortable with some much-needed and much-deserved offensive help. Joe Ingles blessed us with this moment tonight:
Bradley Beal, another poor sap who got Jingled - as a Jazz fan, it’s weird to see our players get noticed and even weirder to hear opposing team’s fans ooh and ahh when Donovan Mitchell crosses somebody over and they’re anticipating a highlight off-the-dribble three, or hear them in awe of Ingles adding another notch to his belt, or seeing Rudy Gobert body yet another man foolish enough to challenge him at the rim (on either end of the court).
Gobert even showed off some post moves tonight:
Shoutout to Raul Neto and Thabo Sefolosha tonight, who both played really well. Seriously, this entire team kicked butt tonight. (I see you, Niang!) Every Jazz player who saw playing time scored, and 9 different players recorded an assist. It’s not Utah’s biggest win of the season, but it’s good to see Utah get into a rhythm after a recent rough patch.
Hopefully the momentum continues on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks.
Go Jazz and #TakeNote!