Here’s the Jazz since December 11: Win 19 of 21. Lose 5 straight. Win 4 straight. Lose 4 straight. And now, 3 straight wins.
Utah (39-22) took their third straight against the New York Knicks (19-43) 112-104 and are perhaps starting to resemble the team we saw earlier this season. Outside of a sketchy stretch to start the third quarter when the Knicks cut the lead to 3, this one was never in much doubt. It was a wire-to-wire win and by the mid-point of the fourth it was put away.
Rational Reaction #1 - Bogey back
You won’t find a Jazz player who fell into more of a coma coming out of the all-star break than Bojan Bogdanovic. In the 4 losses he averaged 11.5 points per game, but his shooting was abysmal: 26.8% from the floor and 17.6% from 3.
In the previous two wins Bogey hit 21 and 28 points. Tonight, he scored 23 and the efficiency was good: 7-of-15 from the floor, 3-of-8 from 3 and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Those numbers were even better before he missed a few shots in garbage time. Bogdanovic is crucial to this team’s success as a high-level scoring option. Him getting back online is important.
Rational Reaction #2 - We need to see this Jazz team against some playoff contenders
This was Jazz basketball. The assists were up, 26. The turnovers were down, 11. They didn’t live or die by the 3, shooting only 28.6% but still securing the victory. Most importantly, though, the defense was there. Utah didn’t allow New York to break 30 points in any quarter.
I know, the Knicks are bad, but regardless of the competition, the effort was there. That’s what’s been missing so often when Utah goes up against the tougher teams in the league. The players moved their feet and had active hands, forcing the Knicks into 13 turnovers.
The Jazz will have a chance to re-enforce some of these good habits against a contender the next time out, visiting Boston to take on the Celtics. Padding wins against lottery competition is fine, but we need to see it against higher quality.
Overreaction - The Jazz are still hopeless against a stretch big
Whenever this game got close, it was because Julius Randle and Bobby Portis were hurting them, often from outside. Randle scored 32 points and was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Portis finished with 21 and was 3-of-4 from 3, notably abusing Tony Bradley who was slow to close out to him. The Knicks only hit 7 3-pointers tonight, 5 of them came from the big men.
Underreaction - Under the radar, Donovan Mitchell is flipping the switch
The Jazz were drop dead awful for a week coming out of the break, but you wouldn’t know it looking at Donovan Mitchell’s numbers. In the 6 games previous to tonight, Mitchell was averaging nearly 28 points per game, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. He’s been shooting 41% from 3.
Tonight, Utah didn’t need any second half heroics from their all-star, but he still racked up 23 points despite a cold 1-of-7 night from 3. Maybe most importantly, Donovan dished 8 assists and turned the ball over only twice. That’s nice to see after seeing some turnover issues, especially before the break.