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The evolving identity of the Utah Jazz

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Who are the 2017-2018 Utah Jazz?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Waking up this morning you may be wondering about that strange dream you had where the Utah Jazz beat arguably the third-best team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs, by 11 points when they had their two best players dressed like this on their bench.

No dream, it happened. The Jazz beat the Spurs 100-89 they day after having their rear-ends handed to them by Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-79. So the question is: who is this team?

The Jazz have had a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde complex since about the start of November. They’ve gone from league punching bag to Iron Mike Tyson in the blink of an eye. A lot of that has to do with the two versions of the Jazz we’ve seen: the twins towers with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and the Rudy-less teams that have featured more time with a stretch four on the floor.

The non-Rudy teams have been, at times, offensive juggernauts, and was the team that won seven of eight games and had a point margin of +21 per game in that span.

Jesus Gomez, writing for FanRag made note of how the Jazz have done when not starting two traditional bigs in an article about Derrick Favors’ time as a starting center.

Gobert missed 11 games the last time he was injured. The Jazz managed to win seven of them. The defense wasn’t as good as it’s been with Gobert around, which isn’t surprising. The offense, however, was a buzzsaw. With fewer units featuring two traditional big men, the Jazz rained 3-pointers over opponents. That was the biggest reason why Utah scored at such a high pace.

The other team we’ve seen is the one that has been the punching bag most of the Favors/Gobert lineup teams. For now, we won’t see that team since Gobert has gone down again, but it does leave the question as to how Quin Snyder and Dennis Lindsey will handle this. I’m sure they see the trend. Now we wait for what they’ll do in response to it.

Rodney Hood was great last night. His 29 points led all scorers and the 11 points he dropped in the fourth quarter helped seal the win for the good guys. He showed off an array of skills and shots in a nationally televised game against a solid opponent.

His efficiency wasn’t ideal as he needed 24 shots to get that 29 and was 3-10 from the field. But it was a lot like the nights Russell Westbrook has where he goes 2-18 in the first three quarters but goes off in the fourth to get the W. That’s kind of what Rodney did.

I don’t know about you, but I think I fell in love with Jonas Jerebko after seeing this block.

Rudy Gobert may be the king of blocked shots in Utah right now, but that may be the block of the year for this team. Vicious.

Donovan Mitchell has proven to be key to the Utah Jazz offense. True, they did manage to beat the Spurs without him, but it took a 29-point outing from Rodney Hood to do so. But in the first game the Jazz had without him the entire season, their offense imploded.

Rob Mahoney of SI.com wrote about just how much Mitchell has been woven into the offense of the Jazz in the absence of Gordon Hayward.

So much of Mitchell's role serves to fill the void that Hayward left behind—the need for a versatile, do-it-all creator to connect veteran teammates without dominating the ball. Mitchell has a knack for it. His average time of possession, per NBA.com, is comparable to that of backups like D.J. Augustin, Cory Joseph, and Dejounte Murray, even while playing a full 30.1 minutes per game. There isn't much pounding to his game in his current context; many Jazz possessions whirl through the hands of the other four players before Mitchell finally slices into action.

Speaking of Mitchell, we all know Donovan Mitchell is great. But even his injuries are recognizing the greatness of the rookie phenom out of Louisville.

This isn’t the toe injury that George Hill succumbed to for half of last year. This is a “great” toe injury. #TakeNote