Outside of the obvious “W” in the box score, this game was full of little wins for Utah.
Before watching this game, writing this one in as a “schedule loss” wouldn’t have been a wild take in the slightest. After all, beating any NBA team three times in a row is difficult. And after all, the players on the Jazz are human and are still likely shaken up from what could have been a severely life altering, or worse yet, life ending plane accident. This game, played sans Donovan Mitchell (personal reasons), would have been just about one of the most acceptable losses in recent memory. Hell, after an experience like that, I’d have difficulty going outside for a while, let alone playing in a professional basketball game.
But even through all of that, the Jazz won.
In the first half, Bojan Bogdanovic got off to a great start from downtown (hallelujah!) and threw some fantastic passes out of the post. This has been a common occurrence for him these past few games and it is amazing to see. He ended the night with 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Mixed in with some great defensive rotations, this might be one of Bogdanovic’s best all-round games in this season.
We also saw Miye Oni, arguably one of the best 10th-11th men in the NBA (yeah I said it!), come out and prove why he should be a rotation player on this team in the near future. While his stat line of 3/1/1 isn’t going to drop any jaws, his defense and effort were absolutely stupendous. Every time Oni touches the floor, he plays hard, makes few mistakes, and hounds players on the defensive end. He’s got a future on this team.
Finally, Mike Conley was a major reason why Utah won the game. He finished with 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. The whole night, Conley was Utah’s steady hand. He picked apart Memphis’ defense through the pick in roll with Rudy Gobert (it goes without saying that Gobert played great) and gave the Jazz a couple of buckets when it mattered most. Obviously he has looked so much more comfortable this season (all-star selection and all), but on nights like these, I think we truly see how important he is to this Utah team. Outside of Joe Ingles, I don’t think the Jazz have a player as composed as Conley. Mitchell is working on getting to that point, however, Conley seems, by-and-large, unfazed by any situation.
This is one of my favorite wins of the season. Memphis is a tough basketball team and Ja Morant is absurd. Tonight alone, he made 4-5 impossible shots that had me questioning reality. His ability to take contact while mid-air, keep the ball controlled, and finish with touch is mind boggling. He ended the night with 36 points and 7 assists. Morant’s supporting cast played some good ball as well but were simply outplayed by Utah in the end.
While the box score will simply show this game as win 36, I think the meaning of it transcends that number. This game reflects how far the Jazz have come in the last year and shows how mentally resilient they are. Some moments, if not all, are more important than basketball. Experiencing something as jolting as a freak plane malfunction isn’t something you just jog or sleep off. It is a serious moment where a person can get understandably lost in the “what ifs” of life. Like all of us watching, these people are either husbands, fathers, brothers, or in general, really important people to someone else in their lives. This moment is undoubtedly weighing on their minds and for them to come out and play so hard is truly impressive.
I’m proud of y’all. #takenote