Before yesterday’s lackluster performance against the Memphis Grizzlies, the national media was maintaining their hype level for the Utah Jazz in their latest NBA Power Rankings. Week one produced a 1-1 record with a win in Sacramento and a 1-point loss at the buzzer to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Some variance started to emerge, but Utah was still a top-8 team across the board.
Then last night happened. We’ll see how that affects the rankings after the remainder of this week’s games in the next slew of rankings. For now, though, the only ones taking that game into account are the daily-updated analytical models from FiveThirtyEight and USA Today (where the Jazz plummeted to 14 last night) and my own. Let’s get to it.
Joe Ingles, a poster boy for the Jazz’s developmental program after arriving in Utah as a castoff, just keeps getting better. Fresh off shooting 44 percent from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter, the 31-year-old Aussie has opened the season with two of the four highest-scoring games of his career, averaging 24.5 points and going 11-of-17 from deep. He’ll keep getting good looks with the attention paid to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert setting screens. -- MacMahon
Sucks to lose, but the Jazz’s home loss to the Warriors sure was an inspiring loss. Joe Ingles made seven of 11 from 3-point range; he’s become one of the best shooters in the NBA. A healthy Dante Exum can take this team’s elite defense to an even higher level.
If you see Joe Ingles in a fight with a kangaroo, for the love of God, HELP THE KANGAROO!!!
Words can’t accurately describe what Joe was doing to the Warriors on Friday night, and if you didn’t watch it live, you should be slightly ashamed of yourself.
There’s no doubt Utah will be one of Golden State’s toughest competitors this year, but it wasn’t clear just how close the Jazz would be to the defending champs. There’s only but so much to really extrapolate out of one game, but Friday’s contest in Salt Lake City was proof the Jazz want the smoke with any and everybody.
After posting at least 20 in three postseason games last year, these two games might just be the beginning of the Joe Ingles Scoring Bananza potentially taking place this season. Even if that isn’t the case though, Utah has plenty to be hype about.
The offense is putting up points at will without Donovan Mitchell shouldering too much of a heavy workload. Ricky Rubio is making it harder and harder each game for defenders to casually leave him alone behind the three-point line. Jae Crowder and Dante Exum have the second unit looking scary to opposing benches.
And you can’t forget about the 7-footer in the middle of the defense who can turn any offensive threat into a blocked shot and a possession for Utah. Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert haven’t had too much reason to brag about how stifling their defense is sure to be this season, but we all know what’s coming. If one of the league’s projected top defensive teams can also put up 120 points on any given night and take the defending champions to the final buzzer, what is there not to love about that group?
The Jazz were 3-1 against the Warriors last season and came one rebound from knocking off the champs in a wild game on Friday that featured a 47-37 second quarter in which six different Jazz players made 3-pointers. Jazz games have been more about offense than defense, even with Donovan Mitchell shooting just 34 percent and with the starting lineup (which turned things around in the second half of last season) having issues again. Utah shot 31 percent and was outscored by 24 points in less than 18 minutes last week, worse against the Kings (minus-18 in 6.9 minutes!) than the Warriors. Alec Burks and Jae Crowder provided boosts off the bench in the first two games.
Utah’s lone loss was to the Warriors in Golden State on the final play of the game. There are no moral victories in this league, but losing to the defending champs at the buzzer in their building is as impressive a defeat as possible... The perennially underrated Joe Ingles is off to a hot start, averaging 24.5 points, 5.0 assists, 5.5 treys and 3.0 steals, while shooting a scorching 70.4 percent from the floor and 64.7 percent from downtown.
I tried not to overreact to the Grizzlies loss too much. However, what some other teams around the league are doing in combination with that performance led me to drop Utah to 7. At this point, I have them behind the Raptors, Warriors, Pelicans, Celtics, Nuggets and Rockets.
I think this team is closer to the one we saw against Golden State than the one we saw against Memphis, but Donovan Mitchell has got to get going or I’m going to start being more concerned.