CHICAGO — More than an hour before tip-off on Saturday, Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen sounded like he knew what was coming.
He stood in the hallway of the United Center and talked about everything he loved about the Utah Jazz. He talked about how they defended, how they moved the ball, how they executed their sets, and eventually ending by saying: "They got some real tough, physical guys that can put a whack in you."
Boylen knew. His team was just powerless to stop it.
Rudy Gobert smashed a Kris Dunn shot off the backboard that set off a dazzling fast break. The ball bounced to Jae Crowder, who flicked it behind his back up court to Joe Ingles. Ingles quickly bounced it to a sprinting Donovan Mitchell, who finished it off with a high-flying ferocious slam as the Bulls defenders helplessly watched on.
That play just about summed up how things went Saturday at the United Center. The Jazz indeed put a whack on the Bulls, beating Chicago 114-83 to finish off their four-game Eastern Conference road swing. Utah improved to 43-30 on the season and have won six of its last seven games.
The Jazz had a 15-point lead after the first quarter, a 34-point lead at halftime and that made the rest of the game simply academic.
Utah came into Chicago with the loss to Atlanta still fresh. That was a game the Jazz felt they had let get away. They hadn’t come out with enough urgency and made mental mistakes in critical moments. They didn't want that to happen again.
"That loss was a little slap in the face — a little wake-up call," said Gobert, who had a team-high 21 points and 14 rebounds in the win. "I thought our urgency was great tonight. We started the game the right way defensively and that carries over on offense."
Gobert controlled the paint all night — at least for the three quarters he played. He finished with four blocks on the night, and the sheer force that he used to block a couple of the shots sent groans through the Bulls crowd.
"I thought Gobert and their defense shut down the paint," Boylen said. "We were 2-of-16 from three, so obviously we didn’t help ourselves there."
How dominant was Utah in the first half?
Utah’s 70-36 halftime lead was a team record for the largest road halftime advantage. At the break, all 10 Jazz players who had seen action were at least a plus-13 in the game — including Thabo Sefolosha, who played just 5:40 and still somehow had a plus-19. The Jazz had an offensive rating of 142.9 and a defensive rating of 73.5.
"I think we really set the tone," Mitchell said. "We came in communicating and just said, ‘Look we just got to go out there and start strong.' I talked to Ricky (Rubio) before the game got going and he started us off and we took off after that.”
Rubio scored six of his 12 points in the first quarter.
Mitchell said that the Jazz’s game plan was to jump on the Bulls early and then keep them down, and that's just what they did. After Utah's explosive first half, Chicago never made a run that put any sort of pressure on the Jazz.
"Keeping our foot on their throat," Mitchell said. "We emphasized that all year, and tonight really showed that.”
Mitchell finished with 16 points on just eight shots, while Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors both chipped in 13 in a balanced Utah attack. All 13 Jazz players scored on Saturday.
"Tonight was a tough one," Chicago’s Kris Dunn said. "They came through and just smacked us in the mouth and we didn’t respond."
The victory gave the Jazz a 3-1 record on their last true road trip of the season. It’s a good result, but one that Utah coach Quin Snyder isn’t looking too closely at.
“I just want to keep getting better,” Snyder said. “I thought we did some good things tonight, and we’ve got to be able to not have to say we didn’t play as good as we could. We’ve to go to be able to do what need to do."