The game against the New Orleans Pelicans felt like a scheduled loss. The game was the second night of a back to back, Jazz’s starters had played too many minutes against a very weak Golden State Warriors team the night before, an evacuation disrupted a lot of people’s schedules after the game, and to make matters even worse, Rudy Gobert was out with an ankle injury. This had all the makings of a scheduled loss for Utah. Until Utah’s offense finally showed up for four full quarters. Utah’s offense isn’t fixed by any stretch of the imagination, but there were some VERY promising signs.
Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell finally appear to be scratching the surface on their potential as a backcourt. Despite Conley’s struggles, the best two man lineups for the Utah Jazz are with Mike Conley. The second best lineup is Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. The best lineup is Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. It has a Net Rating of +12.9 in 340 minutes of time. Last game it was a +11.9 with an offensive rating of 132.3.
The Tony Bradley show may not be cancelled after all. Tony Bradley was actually pretty good last night. Tony Bradley had a defensive rating of 100.0 while on the court. That’s not bad and he left the game with a positive net rating. He had 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block in only 21 minutes. Tony Bradley getting thrown into the starter role with Gobert out helps him see how to roll with high level starters. That type of experience could prove invaluable once he has to move back to the bench when Gobert is healthy.
The defense last night wasn’t Rudy Gobert-caliber, but it wasn’t bad. Having Gobert not out there probably was a brutal reminder of how much he does on his side to make the rest of the team look great on that end of the floor. It isn’t bad to have the Jazz team be reminded every once in a while of how much of a burden Gobert is carrying every single game defensively. That experience also is invaluable. If Utah plays defense with the same intensity as last night with Gobert, that’s a defense that is championship grade.
Mike Conley only had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists while shooting 2 of 9 from the field, but it somehow felt like one of his most in control games of the season. That may be a lesson for us all to take in. With two volume scorers like Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley’s role is SIGNIFICANTLY different than in prior seasons. But his threat of shooting the long ball, ability to get to the line, and playmaking will be the things we judge him on moving on. That’s not to say he won’t have monster games, it’s just Conley recognized last night that other players had the juice. Mike fed them the rock and let them do work.
While these are all great signs, Utah needs to have a game WITH Rudy Gobert in which they roll all four quarters with the offense just rolling. That still hasn’t happened. Maybe the time without Rudy will allow Utah to step up and be a different team once Rudy is back to full health—whether that’s tonight or Wednesday. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and makes a person work harder. Utah could reap some unseen rewards from Gobert’s absence.