Five straight losses, and now three straight wins. This is life in the NBA.
The Utah Jazz (35-18) finished off the Dallas Mavericks (32-22) 123-119 on a night when the Mavs were missing their MVP candidate as Luka Doncic sat with an ankle injury. It was close to a wire-to-wire victory with the Mavericks not leading after mid-way through the first quarter. Utah took good shots, moved the ball and played smart, fundamentally sound basketball on both ends of the floor. That’s basically the opposite of what was happening during that five-game losing streak.
Rational Reaction #1: This was the kind of game the Jazz desperately needed
This game felt a little different than the previous two wins. Against the Blazers it was controversy galore as the officials missed a Rudy Gobert goaltend that secured Utah’s win. Against the Rockets Sunday night, the Jazz needed Bojan Bogdanovic to play hero and hit a tough 3-point shot at the buzzer for the win.
Tonight was more of a subdued, controlled game. The Jazz were mostly stable as they took this one, leading by 20+ at points in both halves. The Mavericks made their runs, at one point cutting the Utah lead to 3 points in the third quarter, but the Jazz weathered the storm and counterpunched at just the right moments to ensure this one was never in too much doubt.
Rational Reaction #2: The bench showed out and Emmanuel Mudiay stayed ready to contribute
The starters were adequate tonight. The bench was tremendous. The Mavericks were straight up punked by the Jazz reserve unit in this one. Every bench player was a positive in +/- tonight. Jordan Clarkson led the way with a team-high +17 on the floor in 31 minutes. More on him later.
Georges Niang offered a little of everything, hitting a 3, throwing a gorgeous oop to Tony Bradley and even throwing down a dunk. Speaking of Bradley, he was a beast on the glass, finishing with 7 boards but 6 (SIX) offensive rebounds. The Mavericks got 4 all night. Bradley was also tremendous finishing at the rim.
Most impressive to me, though, was Emmanuel Mudiay’s game. As Mike Conley sat the back end of the back-to-back to manage a knee injury, Mudiay’s number was called for the first time in four games and, boy, did he deliver.
Mudiay started the night with a quick five points in the first quarter. He only played 15 minutes but his time in the second half was the most important minutes of the game. Mudiay combined with Clarkson to stymie the Mavericks third quarter run after they had cut the lead to 3, a series of plays that included this gorgeous and-1.
By the time Mudiay checked out with 7 minutes remaining in the game, the lead was back up to 15. He finished the night with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal and was a +12 on the floor. I can only imagine how tough it is finding your rhythm when you’re going stretches of games without playing, and Mudiay should be appreciated for what he did tonight.
Overreaction #1: Jordan Clarkson is the sixth man of the year
I’m not even sure if this is an overreaction at this point. Clarkson finished with 25 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and a block. This guy has been doing this on a nightly basis since he arrived in Utah after the trade, and it’s entering Jamal Crawford territory.
In 22 games with the Jazz, Clarkson is averaging 15.6 points. In his last 6, he’s up to 21.3 points and is shooting 49% from 3. He’s been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Jazz bench and if he keeps it up those could be sixth man of the year numbers.
Overreaction #2: The Jazz are back
I’m not quite there yet after watching this team trip over their own feet for five straight games, but this is a start. A win is a win, especially on the second game in two nights, but Dallas was missing Doncic. They’re now 5-6 without him on the season. Considering the losses the Jazz have to shorthanded teams lately, though, you’d be foolish to overlook this one.
A major plus: Rudy Gobert was back to doing things like this.
Underreaction: Bojan Bogdanovic hit Kristaps Porzingis with the most disrespectful move of the year
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) February 11, 2020
CHECK OUT BOJAN BOGDANOVIC GOING BETWEEN THE LEGS OF PORZINGIS AND KEEPING THE DRIBBLE
we're dead pic.twitter.com/8IgV8qocA3
Let’s be real. This added nothing to what Bogey was trying to accomplish on this play. It just sounded fun so he went ahead and did it. Because he could. And bless him for that.