The Utah Jazz look a little like they’ve figured things out.
Against the Golden State Warriors, who were on a 9-game winning streak coming into this game, the Utah Jazz looked superior in every way in an impressive 111-85 win.
The story of the game was Donovan Mitchell who had a near triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. Mitchell’s shot wasn’t falling early so he looked for other ways to help his team win and nearly got the triple-double out of it. It’s just another sign of Mitchell’s development as he’s learned to contribute in so many ways on the floor. The sky is the limit with Mitchell who improves every season.
It wasn’t just Donovan Mitchell who had a near triple-double. Hassan Whiteside had 9 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 blocks. Whiteside looked like a man possessed as he went hard on every possession. When Whiteside is as engaged as he was tonight he can be a terror inside. Tonight was the first night in some time where you could see the potential of this Jazz team and why they are still contenders. They may not be on the top of the list but this Jazz team can play with the best of them. It just requires an effort like they got tonight. Speaking of effort, this might have been the best defensive game of the season for the Jazz. Utah held the Warriors to just 85 points and the lowest amount of points in the paint in Steve Kerr’s entire tenure as coach (according to ESPN). If the Jazz can get this type of defensive effort, with the offense they’ve produced all season, maybe they become that dark horse contender once again. It’ll take some more defensive options, but it’s not hard to see.
Another player that deserves a huge shoutout is Trent Forrest who was absolutely brilliant in his time on the floor on both ends. Forrest had the lion’s share of possessions guarding MVP candidate, Steph Curry, and Curry shot 5/13 from the field. That’s a combined effort of the Jazz’s rim protection from Udoka Azubuike and Hassan Whiteside, but Forrest was a revelation defensively. He was only credited with 1 steal but Forrest blew up multiple plays like the NFL nose tackle who doesn't get the tackle or the sack but created the opportunity with penetration. Hey, the Super Bowl is coming up and I had to get something in there, right? Anyways, Forrest is becoming a vital part of this Jazz team and the Jazz need to lock him up for years to come because he’s looking like a major part of the future.
Finally, It’s important to give Udoka Azubuike credit for what he’s done as a starter for the Jazz. He only had 19 minutes but they were great minutes. Whiteside deserves a lot of love for what he did, but Azubuike was in the right spots all night and impacted the game again. What has looked like a painful miss in the draft is starting to look like a rotation player and the Jazz have to be very happy with what they’re seeing.
All in all, it was a great win for the Jazz who have not had a signature win all season. Tonight they got that and have a chance to build on what they’ve done even more. Can they keep this culture of defense and effort going when Rudy Gobert returns? If they can, look out for the Utah Jazz.