Nothing like a lengthy road trip to right all of a team’s wrongs, right? That’s how it usually is, right? No? Well, that’s how it was for the Utah Jazz last week. After their worst performance of the season in a home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Jazz hit the road and have taken care of two Western Conference playoff contenders in Houston and New Orleans. They wrapped the week 3-1 with a win over the Dallas Mavericks on the second night of a back to back. Rudy Gobert is a monster, Donovan Mitchell is back to Donovan-ing and last week’s concerns seem to have taken a back seat for now, but let’s see what the national media has to say.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert is averaging a career-best 17.7 points per game and leading the NBA in field goal percentage (75.0) and screen assists (6.2 per game, per NBA.com/Stats). “I want to show that I’m not only a defensive star,” Gobert said after totaling 47 points in Utah’s back-to-back wins over the weekend. “I can be a star offensively, too.” -- MacMahon
There was a good bit of worry over Donovan Mitchell’s sluggish start to his sophomore campaign; he shot 34.4 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from 3 during the first three Jazz games. Then came his 38-point game at Houston. He’s all right, and so are the Jazz, who on Saturday became the first team to beat the New Orleans Pelicans this season -- and did so in New Orleans.
The loss to the Grizzlies was a harsh wake-up call for Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz offense, and they responded well. Utah is currently 3-0 on a road trip that started with Mitchell’s 38 in Houston. The Jazz’s undefeated record on the road is probably the main thing to keep in mind with this team as the season goes on. They already have a great home court, but the better their game travels on the road, the better shot they have at coming for the Warriors.
The Jazz were without Derrick Favors (knee soreness) in the second game of their first back-to-back on Sunday in Dallas. But their lineup with Jae Crowder in Favors’ place has played more minutes and has been much more successful than their regular starting group. Of course, Crowder turned his ankle in the final seconds on Sunday and it was the remaining reserves that made a difference (Grayson Allen was a plus-17 in less than 13 minutes) as the Jazz improved to 4-0 on the road. Though they were a decent 20-21 on the road last season, they started 3-17, not picking up road win No. 4 until Jan. 10. After shooting worse than 40 percent in his first three games, Donovan Mitchell has shot better than 50 percent in the last three, with Rudy Gobert adding 48 total points (on 20-for-26 shooting) in the weekend back-to-back.
After a disappointing loss to the Grizzlies last Monday, Utah bounced back to close out the week with three wins, including victories over the Rockets in Houston and the Pelicans in New Orleans. Rudy Gobert was simply dominant this past weekend. In a pair of back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, Rudy scored 48 points (on 20-of-26 shooting), grabbed 30 rebounds, and blocked seven shots.
The Rockets were missing Chris Paul and the Pelicans Anthony Davis, but nevertheless Utah looked impressive in taking down two teams I had ahead of them in the rankings. Donovan Mitchell netted 38 in Houston and the collective reaction was “FINALLY there’s Donovan!” Since then he’s quietly and efficiently put up 22 and 20. This is just where we’re at with Spida now. He can get 20 in his sleep.