For the seventh straight outing, the Utah Jazz came away victorious. On Wednesday, they trounced the 10-27 (now 10-28) New York Knicks by 24 points, 128-104. Bojan Bogdanovic maintained some of his scoring form from New Orleans and put home 20 points. Emmanuel Mudiay matched that 20-point total coming off the bench to tie Bojan for the team lead and set a new season high for himself.
Utah had this game just about in the bag early in the contest thanks to a 39-point first quarter where the Jazz shot 68.4 (14-20) percent from the field, assisting on 10 of the 14 made baskets. A 33-point second quarter helped hand Utah a 72-53 halftime lead. When all was said and done, Utah made 54.4 percent of its total attempts, it’s sixth-best mark of the season.
Rational Reaction #1: The Joe Ingles/Rudy Gobert pick and roll is an unstoppable machine
Just look at this play and tell me I’m wrong.
This very well could play a factor into why Ingles struggled early in the season. He spent more time with the reserves and Ed Davis/Tony Bradley instead of the pick and roll monster in Gobert. Last year, Ingles did this very same thing with Derrick Favors, even when the lineup featured more backups. He was successful with it, but when robbed of a sidekick in the PnR, he had nowhere to go for the early part of the year.
Having Gobert alongside Ingles should probably be a lineup requirement at this point.
Rational Reaction #2: Utah’s bench scored in bunches
If there’s one negative to the bench’s performance tonight, it was the plus/minus. It looked a lot more like the pre-Jordan Clarkson days. Three of Utah’s starters — Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale and Gobert — were +30 or better with Ingles at +23. The reserves, meanwhile, were much further back. Of the four Jazz bench players who played at least 10 minutes, only one, Emmanuel Mudiay, had a positive plus/minus (we’ll get to him in a minute).
However, the scoring brought by the bench unit made up for whatever deficiencies led to the less-than-ideal plus/minus stats. The reserves finished with 57 points, led by Mudiay’s 20 and followed by three other reserves who reach double figures. Tony Bradley had 12 points and Georges Niang and Jordan Clarkson each pocketed 11.
This wasn’t a perfect night from the bench, but it did plenty to help Utah earn a 20-point blowout and some extra minutes for the reserves to the reserves.
Overreaction: Mudiay isn’t irrelevant yet
Since Clarkson has taken over the Utah bench, Mudiay’s days have felt numbered. The role taken by Clarkson, a scoring bench spark, was probably meant to be Mudiay’s when he signed with the Jazz. However, many of the same things that plagued Mudiay in Denver and New York, followed him to Utah.
Inconsistency and questionable basketball IQ hindered his ability to truly become a legitimate bench scoring threat. For now, with Mike Conley still out, Mudiay hasn’t been pushed completely out of the rotation. But Conley’s return may herald the end of Mudiay’s time in the primary rotation.
Games like Wednesday’s, however, prove that Mudiay is at least capable of filling the role he came to Utah to fill. He’s erratic at times, but when he manages to control those less-ideal tendencies but retains his aggression, there’s great value in the scoring that ensues. Whether or not he can consistently put together performances like this is another story.
Under-reaction: The Jazz are one game out of second place in the Western Conference
Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that Utah is so, so close to being second in the Western Conference standings seems all too easy to miss. This proximity to the best in the West is the direct result of Utah’s winning streak. Although, it’s worth remembering that the Jazz are currently red hot, but they’re also baking a really easy schedule right now. These winning ways will get a true, grinding test soon enough. But for now, enjoy how good the Jazz are playing.