It’s been a week or so since the Jazz dropped five games in a row. All losing streaks are painful but this 5-game skid included losses to the Rockets and the Nuggets hurting the Jazz’s potential seeding in the playoffs. It really hurt.
But with a big shot (Bogdanovic’s game winner against the Rockets) and a little luck (a non call on a goaltend against the Blazers) Utah finds themselves on another win streak and set to take another jump in the standings.
It won’t be an easy start after all star break. When Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell return they’ll immediately find themselves playing three games in four nights including a back to back against the Spurs and Rockets.
No easy task but there are reasons to be optimistic the Jazz can win regardless of the difficulty of their opponents.
Mike Conley looks like Mike Conley again
In his 4 games since being moved back to the starting lineup, Conley has been on a tear.
On top of Conley’s improved shooting, Quin Snyder has also adjusted his substitutions. Snyder has changed from playing Donovan Mitchell as a primary playmaker with the bench and now gone with Mike Conley. It’s worked really well.
Mitchell will continue to grow as a playmaker as his career continues but right now it appears the bench unit is thriving with a more polished playmaker in Conley. He is setting up his teammates and making shots. He’s also attacking weaknesses and finishing at the rim.
Conley has missed the last few games for precautionary reasons and illness, but there’s no reason not to expect this type of play when the season continues.
Donovan Mitchell is out of his slump?
Mitchell’s numbers weren’t quite at the level they’ve been during his all-star season.
He also looked out of sync on the floor making uncharacteristic passes and turnovers that cost the Jazz valuable points in games they lost by single digits. Perhaps Mitchell was slumping because of his all star nod or maybe he was nursing an unknown injury. Whatever it was, he wasn’t quite right.
But in the last four games Mitchell’s numbers have ticked back up again.
Sometimes the NBA is pretty simple. Did your best players play well? If they did, you likely won. If they didn’t...
What’s also nice about this is it looks like the Jazz are also finding more chemistry with Conley on the floor. Obviously chemistry looks better when players are shooting 50% from three, like Conley is doing in his recent stretch as a starter, but Conley looks more comfortable in the offense and the other players seem to be finding their groove alongside him as well.
Jordan Clarkson has been a revelation
In his last 8 games Jordan Clarkson has been the best 6th man in the league.
Shooting 50% from three and 55% from the field, Clarkson has been roasting second units. And these are the second units of playoff teams.
The Clarkson trade looks better every day and he’s one of the main reasons the Jazz bench has gone from weakness to strength.
Clarkson is going to be a godsend for the Jazz in the playoffs as well. Currently, the Jazz are clearing the floor for him and allowing him to go to torch second unit defenders. With playoff basketball everything tightens up and you need players that can score even when opposing defenses blow up your set. What’s exciting is how much Clarkson thrives within chaos. He takes advantage of any sliver he gets and gets a basket.
Performances like the ones Clarkson is putting on are the things that can win you a game during a 7-game series and a few extra games during the season. Having Clarkson come in and gain you a 4-5 point lead off the bench is what takes a great team to championship contender.
To advance in the playoffs the Jazz are going to need these positive trends to continue. but right now there’s no reason to believe all of this won’t continue. Someone has to come out of the western conference. Why not the Jazz?