The first quarter started out a little hairy for the Utah Jazz who came out turning the ball over and missing shots. They were down as much as 12 before they remembered they actually had to win this game if they wanted to lock up the #1 seed. They eventually figured things out and went on a big run and never looked back with a solid win against the hapless Kings, 121 - 99.
Probably the most impressive performance came from Mike Conley. In his second game back after missing time with a tight hamstring, Conley was dishing the ball all over the court with 9 assists in just 21 minutes. Conley shot 3/3 from three and looks ready for the playoffs. You can see with this team the potential they have if Donovan Mitchell can come back and fit in with the guys that have carried them through this late-season injury trouble.
Jordan Clarkson was also really solid for the Jazz. Clarkson was 11/20 from the field and 6/12 from three and looked like the flamethrower from the first half of the season that put himself in prime position for 6MOY. Clarkson’s 33 points led the team and showed just how important he’s been in this stretch without Mitchell and Conley. When he’s played well it’s put the Jazz over the top. The Jazz need good Jordan Clarkson in the playoffs cause that could be the thing that puts them into games and situations no one expected.
Rudy Gobert was his DPOY self. The start to the game wasn’t pretty but once he locked in, he made a complete difference. Gobert had 13 points, 16 rebounds and was a team-leading +36. Time and time again, it’s Rudy Gobert’s presence on the court that gets Utah where they need to be to win. Gobert is a player that raises your floor and the floor he’s given the Jazz is best record in the NBA. With the right talent around him it potentially makes the Jazz title contenders. We’re about to find out if that’s what the Jazz really are.
The Jazz now hold the #1 seed and after the play-in tournament will know better what their path to the finals will look like. But for now it’s important for the Jazz to take the next few days off to get their legs ready and find their focus for a title run that’s more possible now than maybe ever before.
Player of the game (and season)
When Gobert locked in, the game was over. Rudy Gobert is the most unique superstar in the league. He keeps the Jazz in every single game. The Jazz have tooled this team to have 4 shooters around him at all times. They also have a budding stuperstar in Donovan Mitchell who potentially does everything they need on the offensive end.
Gobert will probably never get the respect he deserves because of the small market and that he’s not a flashy wing scorer. But his impact is just as big as anyone in the league. The Jazz didn’t just magically win more games than everyone in the league. They did it because Rudy Gobert made it possible. He’s a top ten player in the league no doubt and if Donovan Mitchell can play at the level he did in the playoffs last year, and the Jazz role players step up? This team can absolutely win a title. But this doesn’t happen if Gobert isn’t on this team. Period.