It was an important game because another loss might have meant getting scarily closer to a possible play-in game. This win ensured they did not, but it meant a lot more than that.
The Jazz have been in serious turmoil for months now, but especially recently. Before tonight they had been 1-6 in their last 7 games with the #14 offense and #26 defense in that span. They were just plain bad. With multiple days of rest in-between, a player’s meeting, a long, angry defense of the team from Quin Snyder before the game, the Jazz looked more like themselves, and did something they haven’t done much of against good teams this season, they won. And there were specific things you could point to explain it.
Rudy Gobert had a big night with 22 points and 21 rebounds going 12/18 from the line. That’s 18 free throws! But Gobert wasn’t the only dominant center. Hassan Whiteside had 14 and 10 going 7/10 from the field with 4 blocked shots. The Jazz have a serious advantage guarding the rim when Whiteside and Gobert are playing at their peak.
Mike Conley was fantastic again. Conley mostly shared the floor with Rudy Gobert and that duo is looking more and more like it did last season. Conley was 5/11 from the field and 2/4 from three with 8 assists, 4 of those going to Gobert. When Conley is playing like this, it provides a serious offensive weapon that the Jazz desperately need. Donovan Mitchell, who had a bad shooting night going 6/24, made a lot of winning plays with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. He also only had 1 turnover. It’s why Conley is such a big part of what they do. When the shot isn’t falling for Mitchell, having Conley is a huge luxury.
But the duo that deserves maybe the most credit were Danuel House and Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson and House both were a team-leading +17, and it showed. Clarkson was 7/13 from the field and 3/8 from three. He had 5 impressive assists along with 5 rebounds. It’s hard to understate just how good Clarkson was. There were points where the teams' energy was down and the leader of the Good Vibe Tribe came through in a big way.
Now, let's talk about Danuel House. In their game against the Golden State Warriors, the late lead that was given up coincides almost exactly with when House was benched. House was big in that game and he was big in this one. Quin Snyder almost made the same mistake again tonight. Midway through the fourth, with House having had a big impact again, Snyder put Royce O’Neale in the game and he had a few rough moments. The good news is this time, Snyder put House right back in, and it absolutely saved the game. House hit a big three and made multiple hustle plays that truly saved the game. For example, with minutes left and the Grizzlies driving in transition, House sprinted back and bothered the transition.
It’s plays like this that the Jazz have sorely missed. This is not going to show up on a stat sheet other than a missed field goal attempt by Tyus Jones. But this was as big a play as any. It wasn’t a situation where you need to euro-foul, it was old-school hustle and grit. This is one of the things the Jazz have missed all season and it’s something that may just be the thing that helps them advance in the playoffs. House just needs to be on the floor.