SALT LAKE CITY — Of course, Quin Snyder wanted to talk about defense.
Donovan Mitchell may have just put up 33 points and 7 assists to lead the Utah Jazz to a 106-93 comeback victory over the Orlando Magic. But the Jazz head coach didn’t talk about one of Mitchell’s nifty drives or his continued 3-point accuracy or his masterful playmaking in the second half. He wanted to talk about his defense.
“The significant play when Rudy did a great job of being up in pick-and-roll … it was Donovan’s rotation on the backside,” Snyder said “He came right over and was there and the same play, he was a jet going down the court. Those two things are linked — there is no question.”
And no question that those types of plays were the reason the Jazz could forget about an ugly first half.
The Jazz trailed by as many as 21 points in the opening half, and they looked lost at times playing without their top two point guards. It was not the welcome home the Jazz were looking for.
“Over my years in the NBA, the first game back from a long road trip is always a bit of a trap game,” Kyle Korver said. “I think you are just excited to be home and expect things to kind of happen.”
The Jazz went into halftime trailing 63-46, but they weren’t greeted by a firey head coach. Instead, Snyder was calm and collected, understanding that his team knew full well what they needed to do to get back into the game.
"We turned our mentality to getting stops, and from that point on, letting our defense dictate the tempo of the offense," Jae Crowder said. "Once we got into those guys and made it tough, we were able to get some momentum on offense and some shots were able to fall."
Utah outscored the Magic 32-12 in the third quarter to take the lead entering the fourth. The comeback was led by Mitchell, who was simply spectacular after halftime, but it was also led by the Jazz’s suffocating defense.
“Our mindset changed,” Rudy Gobert said.
That much was obvious. Almost every shot was contested (and often by a pair of Jazz players), the Jazz got back in transition and their rotations were spot on. Orlando was held to 39.8 percent from the field.
But it always helps when you make a few shots. And Mitchell made more than a few.
Mitchell went 12-for-21 from the field and 4-for-7 from 3, as he led the second-half scoring charge. And the Jazz as a whole came alive offensively around him. Joe Ingles had 16 points, Gobert had 12 and 14 rebounds, and Utah shot 49 percent as a team.
"This group, what they did, given the fact that we were down and the way we started, is pretty impressive,” Snyder said. “This is a heck of a win for our team. Everybody, just the way we came back and battled."
The Jazz improved to 21-21 on the season in the win.
"Y’all don’t really understand how tough it is"
Raul Neto started his first game of the season after going from third-string point guard to starter in the manner of three games.
He finished with 10 points, 3 assists and a team-high plus-22 in the win.
“Y’all don’t really understand how tough it is to go from not playing much to being in the starting lineup,” Mitchell said. “That’s huge the way he gets guys involved.”
Neto’s fastbreak layup in the third quarter gave the Jazz their first lead of the game.
The Jazz host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at Vivint Arena. LA will not have LeBron James.