Before tipoff, the news came that Rudy Gobert would once again sit out the game with a strained calf. Ever since Gobert’s rise to stardom, the Utah Jazz have struggled mightily to defend without Gobert on the court. However, in the most recent few games, Utah seems to have found something on defense.
Tonight, Utah hosted the Orlando Magic. The Jazz jumped to an early lead in the first quarter on the back of a flurry of steals and baskets at the rim. Utah’s defense was dominant, allowing only 12 first-quarter points. Donovan Mitchell led the team early, and it looked like Utah might open up a big lead. The Jazz were creating turnovers and scoring in transition.
For lack of a better description, the second quarter was hilariously ugly. Turnovers and bricks as far as the eye can see. The Magic climbed back to erase the Jazz lead, and the third quarter wasn’t much better. The Jazz had only a three point lead after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was when the Jazz came to play. Royce O’Neale opened it up with a couple of big threes, and then the two big men, Hassan Whiteside and Udoka Azubuike, took over. The Jazz found their offense, and that was all she wrote. Utah won that quarter 37-25.
This one goes to Hassan Whiteside. He owned the boards all night and was the interior presence the Jazz needed when scoring was hard to come by. Hassan finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds, and two blocks.
Runner-up was the other center, Udoka Azubuike, who scored a career-high 12 points, grabbed seven boards, and made some big clutch plays.
Royce O’Neale and Donovan Mitchell deserve shoutouts as well. O’Neale scored an incredibly efficient 14 points (only six shot attempts) and added five assists and four steals. Mitchell led the team in scoring, despite not shooting great. He got to the line a lot, which carried the team through the tough stretches. Mitchell finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, and three steals.
The Jazz have won five straight games, and their next will be against the Rockets on the 14th.