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Jazz defense paves path to 17th win of the season

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Rocky offense to start mattered little as the Jazz relied on their defense en route to a 21-point blowout of the Hawks

NBA: Utah Jazz at Atlanta Hawks
Rudy Gobert was pivotal to the 7th best 1st half defensive outing this season by shutting down the paint
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz are all smiles tonight as they defeat the short-handed Atlanta Hawks 112-91 behind a superb defensive outing.

The Hawks entered the game very short-handed with star Trae Young and rotation staples DeAndre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovic out for the contest. Given the rotational shakeup, Jazz were in for a unique game script.

The Hawks played the Jazz extremely tough in the first half by crashing the offensive boards, playing physical on the perimeter, and putting their hands in passing lanes.

Utah committed 10 turnovers, only attempted 12 shots from deep (tied for the lowest first half 3PA of the season), and only went to the free throw line 6 times. The Jazz were flustered.

In fact, Atlanta held the Jazz to a 90.0 ORTG, the 3rd worst offensive first half the Jazz have had all season. Given such a game script, Jazz must’ve been in trouble, right?

Au contraire, while Atlanta gave the Jazz offense fits, Utah countered with the 7th best defensive first half of any team all season. Utah’s defense allowed an ORTG of just 74.0.

The Jazz locked down the Hawks from the opening tip, allowing just 40% shooting at the rim. Without Trae Young, Atlanta needed big games from their frontcourt. Utah shut that down right away, allowing Clint Capela and John Collins to shoot a combined 9-30.

Despite a defensive slug-fest, Utah lead by 8 points at the half thanks in part to the scoring of Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic. They combined for 25 of Utah’s 45 first half points.

Per usual, adjustments were made at the break and Utah proceeded to blitz the Hawks on both ends.

The Jazz are the 2nd best team in 3rd quarter point differential. Tonight, they ballooned an 8 point lead to 17 points by the 4th, thoroughly distancing themselves from Atlanta.

Let’s check in on some key stats of the game for the Jazz:

ORTG: 114.3 (62%tile)
DRTG: 93.8 (93%tile)
eFG% Advantage: +18.9%
TOV% Advantage: -2.9%
OREB% Advantage: +0.1%
FTArate Advantage: -6.2%

In short, the Jazz dominated the shot on both ends and were competitive in every other area.

Other “note”-worthy game highlights:

  • Jazz struggled with focus issues in the first half. Poor passes, disjointed offensive sets, and lack of timing aided the intense Atlanta defense early.
  • Mike Conley played limited first half minutes with 3 early fouls; he proceeded score 11 points on 7 shots in the 3rd quarter.
  • Utah’s streak of 15+ 3PM per game comes to an end as Jazz make just 13 tonight; their 11 game streak is a new league record.
  • Donovan will definitely make “*something* *something* A Fool” after blowing a routine cherry-picking dunk in the first half.

MVP

Bojan Bogdanovic

The Utah Jazz were aided in a big way offensively thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic, who ended the night with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Atlanta Hawks
Bogdanovic bucked a concerning season trend by scoring efficiently at the rim against the Hawks
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Bogey played a really unique game tonight. Instead of bombing away from the perimeter, Atlanta ran him off the 3P line, only allowing him to shoot twice from distance. Instead, Bogdanovic got the the rim and was extremely efficient.

Prior to tonight’s contest, Bojan has had his worst shooting season at the rim: just 48%. Bogdanovic had never shot below 58% during any other season of his career. With Atlanta funneling him to the hoop, he went 5-7 at the rim and 8-10 in the paint overall.

This is a massive deal for Bogdanovic, whose true threat is to punish a hard close-out or high defender by finishing at the rim off the dribble. Hopefully this gives him the confidence he needs to bring his efficiency up at the rim.