Over the course of the last week or so, much of the narrative surrounding the Utah Jazz was that the upcoming stretch of tough games would prove who they were. Well, after wins over the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, the Jazz had yet another difficult test in the Milwaukee Bucks.
Joe Ingles, who was starting in the place of injured Mike Conley, came into this game looking to jingle some fools. He started hot, scoring the first nine points for Utah, coming off three shots from beyond the arc. He then followed those up with a pick and roll pocket pass to Rudy Gobert, who unloaded a ferocious dunk right in the face of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Joe finished the first half with 20 points, teasing to Jazz fans everywhere that he may get a new career high. Jordan Clarkson came off the bench and immediately scored three points off an and-one. As soon as that went down, everybody knew he was gonna go off. And go off he did. Clarkson had the floater working on all cylinders, and he was even making some nice passes.
Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis kept the Bucks close with their shot making. Antetokounmpo was instrumental himself, although not through his scoring. He scored only two points in the first half, but still contributed with stellar defense, strong rebounding, and some great passes to shooters. Royce O’Neale was the primary defender on Giannis for much of this game, and especially in the first half, he was very effective. Royce gives up a lot of size in that matchup, but he worked and worked on every possession to make life difficult for the back-to-back MVP. It was clear that Quin Snyder’s game plan was to do everything possible to stop Giannis from getting to the hoop. It’s a very tall task, but one that the Jazz were succeeding in during the first half.
Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert were owning the paint on both ends of the court. This was the first time this year that we saw the “Wasatch Front” play extended minutes together. Those minutes went as they tend to. The Jazz defense was impenetrable, while it’s offense was somewhat awkward. When Gobert and Favors saw the court individually, they both were dominating. Gobert was shutting down the paint to the Bucks on defense, and getting dunks or free throw attempts on offense.
The Jazz were sharing the ball really well tonight. Take a look at this absolutely ridiculous possession.
The Jazz led 69-52 at half time.
The early part of the third quarter was when Utah was pushing it’s lead up over 20. Gobert was dominating, Donovan Mitchell was facilitating, and the Jazz were having fun.
As the quarter went on, Milwaukee did what great teams do. They went on an extended run. Antetokounmpo can’t be held back for long. In this second half he showed why he has won two MVP awards. He attacked the basket relentlessly, showing off his incredible physical gifts. The man can just dunk from anywhere on the court.
As the Bucks clawed their way back into the game, Jordan Clarkson, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert took over for Utah. Clarkson continued to get into the lane and hit floaters, and occasionally made nice passes out of his drives, like this one to Gobert.
Joe Ingles jingled everybody who thought he might set a new career high. We should all know by now, he gets to exactly 27 points and stops scoring. My theory is that it’s out of respect for Rudy Gobert. The Bucks put up a strong fight, winning the third quarter by three points and keeping the fourth quarter even, but the Jazz weathered the storm and kept the lead in the double digits.
Jazz led by double digits for the final 26:32 of the game and led the final 44:52— David Locke (@DLocke09) February 13, 2021
Utah Jazz win 129-115.
Rudy Gobert: 27 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, 9-12 field goals
Donovan Mitchell: 26 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 13-14 free throws
Joe Ingles: 27 points, 5 assists, 7-9 three pointers
Jordan Clarkson: 25 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds
Tonight marks the first time in franchise history that four Utah Jazz players have scored 25 or more points in the same game.
Although there are four legitimate candidates tonight, Rudy Gobert is the easy choice. Anybody watching this game can see why he deserves to win another Defensive Player of the Year. He was scaring Bucks away from the hoop all night. He was blocking Khris Middleton three pointers, he was grabbing rebounds, and, oh yeah he was scoring 27 points as well. Rudy owned the paint on both sides of the court tonight, and that’s really hard to do when you’re going against the Greek Freak.
The Jazz continued their dominance tonight, bringing their record up to a franchise best start of 21-5. Enjoy this time, Jazz fans. This may be the best that the Utah Jazz have ever played.