The Utah Jazz were able to finish out their preseason schedule out on a high note, defeating the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks in their final tune-up before the regular season begins. The game was back and forth until the final minutes, where the end of the Jazz bench was able to put together a 26-14 run to finish the game and take home a 4 point victory.
Playing with their full rotation minus Joe Ingles and Rudy Gay, Utah’s starters came out hot on the offensive end, lead by their two star guards in Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. The duo combined to put up 21 points in the first quarter alone, including 4 3-pointers.
The Jazz offense looked regular season ready, with excellent ball movement all around the floor and a bevy of made jumpers. Even Rudy Gobert got into the action with a made free throw line jumper at the end of the first quarter, to the surprise of everyone watching.
Despite the Jazz offense getting off to a hot start the Bucks were largely able to match them, with reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scoring 21 points in just 20 minutes of action. Utah actually did a really good job of limiting Giannis at the rim (particularly when Rudy was in), but he was able to get a few contested jumpers to fall and there was really nothing the Jazz defenders could do to stop that, outside of Hassan Whiteside rejecting one of them.
Newly drafted rookie Jared Butler impressed yet again tonight, finishing with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals on 58% shooting in 22 minutes. This was just another strong outing for Butler, who finished the preseason scoring 16+ points in every game he appeared in. Beyond the stats, Butler has looked extremely poised and confident, which are two rare traits for a rookie guard to have.
It could take him a while to carve out a consistent role in the rotation with how much depth Utah has at the guard position, but the kid has the chance to be special. Not many players his age have the tools and mentality he possesses.
Another encouraging takeaway from tonight’s game was the play of Hassan Whiteside, who was able to bounce back after a rough showing in his last game against the Pelicans. He finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 17 minutes of play. Even outside of the 2 blocks there were a few other shots that Whiteside effected at the rim, using his massive size and positioning to intimidate opposing players. He really is the only player in the league that can come in off the bench behind Rudy without sacrificing any length around the rim.
Inconsistency has been a theme throughout Whiteside’s career, but he looked engaged on both ends tonight and in turn had a really good performance off the bench. If he can keep up this level of play into the regular season (and eventually on to the playoffs), it definitely looks like he has a chance to be an upgrade over what Utah got from Derrick Favors last year.