A win is a win and the NBA doesn’t award extra W’s for style. The Utah Jazz (2-1) will appreciate that fact after trailing Oklahoma City (1-1), a projected lottery team, for the majority of their Monday matchup before a fourth-quarter surge gave the visiting Jazz a 110-109 victory.
The Thunder led by as much as 12, aided by the Jazz shooting just 4 of 16 from three in the first half and OKC going 10 of 22 from deep in the same span. Al Horford, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort were firing on all cylinders from 3-point range in that opening half.
Speaking of Dort, he continued the tradition of guards having career nights against the Jazz. The undrafted second-year guard set a new career high with 26 points, tying a career-best with five made 3-pointers.
Utah’s second half was considerably more efficient on offense than the first half. They turned a decent 44.7 first-half shooting percentage into a 56.4 percent effort in the second, which included flipping that 4 of 16 mark from deep into 9 of 20.
That offensive push helped, but the defense didn’t quite keep up. Every time Utah closed the gap or even took a slight lead, OKC pushed back ahead and had a 100-93 lead with 7:31 left. At that point, Utah finally put it all together on both ends, outscoring the Thunder 17-9 in the final seven-and-a-half minutes of the game.
The Jazz nearly managed to blow their late surge by losing a 108-104 lead with just under three minutes to play by going down 109-108 with 1:04 on the clock. But Mitchell came through with a game-winning floater to give Utah its final and ultimately decisive lead.
the bucket that iced the win #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/Y8bWmMkee0— utahjazz (@utahjazz) December 29, 2020
This is a really tough decision. Statistically there are several deserving guys. Utah had three players score 20+ points — Bojan Bogdanovic (23), Mike Conley (20) and Donovan Mitchell (20) — plus Jordan Clarkson did his thing with 16 off the bench and Rudy Gobert had a solid 12 and 10 with four blocks.
After a little filtering, there are still three great finalists for tonight, the three 20-point scorers though all three are in line for the game ball for reasons entirely other than crossing the arbitrary 20 point mark.
Conley’s is the simplest. His 20 points came alongside 10 rebounds and nine assists for the near triple double. He was also the most efficient and consistent on the evening for Utah, going 8 of 15 from the field overall and only having two turnovers. He was also pretty much the only one to really show up on offense in the first half, scoring 13 on 6 of 10 shooting plus five dimes.
Bogdanovic’s bid comes from having 14 of his 23 points in the third quarter alone plus a 3-pointer that cut OKC’s lead down to two, 100-98 with 6:43 left in the game. But that’s where Mitchell made his move, scoring the final 12 points for Utah, including the ultimate game-winner with 7.0 seconds on the clock.
In the end, Mitchell will get the nod from me because despite a very yikes shooting night (8 of 23 overall, 2 of 10 from three), he did what stars do in the clutch — score no matter how the first three quarters went. He entered the final seven minutes with a 3 of 14 shooting night at his back and proceeded to go 5 of 9 the rest of the way plus 2 of 2 at the free throw line.
Who should be the game MVP?
This poll is closed
Mike Conley (Near Triple-Double with 20p, 10r and 9a)
Donovan Mitchell (Scored final 12 points + game-winner)
Bojan Bogdanovic (14 third-quarter points)