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Utah Jazz Dominate in Season Opener

Utah’s depth and defense shows vs OKC Thunder in Favors return to Utah

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert takes on former teammate Derrick Favors in season opener
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz decided to start the season by showcasing their depth in an opening night win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and wow, the Jazz have depth!

The Jazz had 6 players score in double figures while also holding the Thunder to just 86 total points on the game.

It did not start out how many expected. If I told you the Jazz shot just 1/6 from three and Donovan Mitchell went scoreless in the first quarter you might be concerned that the Thunder were leading early, instead, the Jazz ended the first quarter up 27-19. So how did they jump out to a lead? Two words, Rudy Gobert.

Gobert absolutely dominated the Thunder this game. By the end of the first quarter, Rudy had already notched 11 points and 5 rebounds. He was everywhere.

It wasn’t just Rudy in the first quarter as Hassan Whiteside got his first minutes as a Jazzman playing the final four minutes of the first quarter. He came out with a lot of energy and on his very first possession, he recorded two blocks. He also had 2 points and 4 rebounds in his first-quarter minutes.

The Jazz showed shades of last year to start the second quarter with an incredible flurry of points. Joe Ingles knocked down back-to-back threes to start the quarter with Jordan Clarkson, affectionately called the Flamethrower, hitting another one shortly after. Gobert continued his dominance by rebounding a missed three and quickly laying it in. The Flamethrower really got going after that as Clarkson was fouled on a three and then had a floater in the lane shortly thereafter.

This whole sequence had Utah put up 16 points in four minutes of second-quarter play to jump out to a 43-24 lead. The game was never really in question from that point on.

That being said, the Thunder did go on runs, one of which came right after the timeout they took to end the Jazz’s scoring flurry. It was a minorly concerning stretch as Gobert exited the game and all of a sudden OKC was getting open layups. Once again, shades of last year, but not in a good way this time. The Thunder went on a 13-6 run to cut the Jazz lead to 12. The Jazz called a timeout and subbed Gobert back in and the Thunder's run came to an end.

The Jazz entered halftime up 54-42 with Gobert (13 points and 13 rebounds) and Clarkson (5/5 from the floor for 15 points) leading the Jazz into the half. The Jazz only shot 5/23 from three but got the job done with their defense finally holding opposing guards such as Lu Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in check.

The second half was all Utah. Second-half Spida Mitchell came out to play. After only scoring 2 points in the first half Mitchell put up 12 points in the third quarter alone. He hit a few threes and also had a beautiful and-1 near the end of the third. He even took out the ref after the and-1 and still got the call!

We all know Donovan can score and he often takes over in the second half, so the most exciting part of Mitchell taking over in the third was actually what he did on the defensive end. He drew a charge on Dort and then stripped Dort of the ball just a couple of possessions later. Mitchell finished the game with two steals and a block, but was very pesky on defense all game and stayed in front of his guy very well. This will be huge for Utah if he can keep this up throughout the year.

Bojan Bogdanovic had a great game inside and out finishing with a game-high 22 points on 10/17 shooting. He was efficient and actually hit the majority of his shots on the inside. It looks like Bogey is starting out the season with his confidence high after the wrist injury held him back for much of last year.

It seemed he did it very quietly, but Joe Ingles put together a fantastic game as well. Ingles shot a blistering 4/7 from three and finished with 14 points. He had the Jazz’s highest three-point percentage this game.

Mike Conley did not have his best game offensively shooting just 4/12 from the floor for 10 points. He did have two steals and played well on the defensive end of the floor while getting four assists as well including some nice lobs to Gobert.

With 4:44 left in the game, the Jazz had taken a 99-77 lead and we started to see some of the deeper bench players get some playing time. Eric Paschall hit his first three as a Jazzman. Rookie Jared Butler also got 9 minutes of playing time this game and he did have one really nice assist to Whiteside, but beyond that, it was a rough night for the rookie as he was 0/5 from the field. He flashed some tools though, so it will come with just a little more time.

Favors did get a loud standing ovation from Jazz Nation and he finished the game 2/9 for 4 points and 9 rebounds. His former teammates also showed him some love.

After Lu Dort had absolutely owned the Jazz the last two times Utah took on the Thunder, Dort was held to 2/10 shooting and only 7 points to go along with 3 turnovers. SGA did score 18, but it was on 7/17 shooting. Very encouraging defense on opposing guards to start out the season.

All-in-all the Jazz did not play their best game offensively and still found a way to blow out the Thunder. They looked great defensively which is very encouraging even if it was against a likely offensively challenged team in OKC. It should be another fun Jazz season. They are a very very good team!

You can catch the Jazz in action again on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings.