After a disappointing loss in Phoenix just one night earlier, the Utah Jazz hosted the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night. These two teams are very familiar with each other, and tend to have many back-and-forth battles each season. Tonight’s game seemed destined to go the same way.
The first quarter was a boxing match, with each team taking turns swinging. Donovan Mitchell came out of the gate on fire, as he has for much of this late stretch of the season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum countered with some tough jumpers, and the two teams traded small leads. The Jazz took a 30-29 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter brought more of what has been ailing the Jazz recently. Missed three pointers. Utah, one of the best three point shooting teams in NBA history, has been experiencing a severe drought from beyond the arc. When they can’t make shots, the opposition get’s to go against a Jazz defense that isn’t set, giving them easier buckets. This compounds as the Jazz offense is far less effective after the opponent scores. Portland, predictably, went on a run. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell did what they do though, and went on a small run to get the score close going into half time.
The Utah Jazz are a third quarter team. I don’t know what causes it, but Quin Snyder is almost always able to whip up some magic during half time, and the Jazz just kill teams in the third quarter. Tonight was one of the best examples of that. Utah won the third 40-19, and effectively blew the game open. Donovan Mitchell was unguardable, finding his spots and hitting everything. Rudy Gobert was a force on both ends of the court, and the Jazz just found their rhythm. Just as the negative outcomes can compound and lead to big runs for the opponents, positive outcomes compound for the Jazz. All season long we’ve watched Utah pull off massive runs in short time spans. When they make shots, they get stops. When they get stops, they make shots. That’s when the Jazz are fun to watch.
The fourth quarter featured the Jazz tending a large lead until it was time for the young guys to log some minutes.
Some notable stats from tonight:
Rudy Gobert tallied 21 rebounds tonight, his fourth game with 20 or more boards on the season, most in the NBA.
Derrick Favors scored seven points, moving him just past Mehmet Okur for 10th on the Utah Jazz all-time scoring list.
Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points tonight, bringing his season average to an even 26.0 per game. Since the All-Star break, Mitchell is averaging 28.9 points per game with an elite 60.9 True Shooting percentage.
Donovan Mitchell was in MVP mode again tonight. There’s a visible difference between an efficient and an inefficient Mitchell. Efficient Mitchell looks in control, unhurried. He makes reads based on the defense, and reacts to them. That was how Donovan Mitchell looked all night. That’s how he has looked for over a month, really. Mitchell finished the game with 37 points (on 25 shots), five rebounds, and four assists.
Shoutout to Rudy Gobert, who also had a ‘Game MVP’ type of game, putting up 18 points and 21 rebounds, while shooting 6-9 from the field.
The Jazz are now 39-13, and have won 23 straight home games. Their next four games are at home, starting on Saturday against the Sacramento Kings. On to the next one.