SALT LAKE CITY — Mike Conley had his 29-point breakthrough. Bojan Bogdanovic hit a game-winning 3. On Tuesday, it was Emmanuel Mudiay and Jeff Green’s turn to have their first big moment in a Utah Jazz jersey.
It might not have been as cathartic or dramatic as their teammates’ but it led to a Jazz victory against the Brooklyn Nets all the same.
With the Jazz dealing with tired legs and trailing the Nets by eight points heading into the fourth quarter, Mudiay and Green changed the game.
Green opened the quarter hitting a 3. Then Mudiay hit a stepback jumper. On and on it went with Green and Mudiay taking turns leading a Jazz comeback.
The pair scored 19 of Utah’s first 21 points of the quarter (including the first 17), turning what had been a 92-84 deficit into a 105-101 lead.
"At the beginning of the fourth what they did was tremendous," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "That’s not just what you want, but what you appreciate about guys who are coming off the bench; that they can come in and not only make plays for each other, I know Jeff made shots and Emmanuel made shots, but they guarded and they really played for one another."
The points were secondary to the players as well. Both talked about coming in with the mentality to just defend — and then let that lead to offense.
"We were just getting stops and when we get stops, they can’t get set up," Mudiay said. "I think that the second unit is at its best when we are just running with force and trying to make plays for each other."
Added Green: "We just wanted to bring energy. We just wanted to come in and try to affect the game on the defensive end first and then get on transition in open court. And you know, we took advantage of that. We got stops first and foremost, we got an open court and made plays."
Green made three 3-pointers and Mudiay was 4 of 4, making a driving layup and then feasting in the midrange during the key stretch that saw the Jazz jump ahead. Mudiay finished with 15 points with 10 coming in the fourth quarter; Green scored nine of his 13 points in the final period.
"Jeff and Emmanuel being able to make those plays was probably the biggest reason we win the game," Snyder said.
The Nets fought back after the early fourth-quarter run, even retaking the lead for a time. But because of that run, the Jazz had the chance to make the plays down the stretch to get the win.
Without them, Mike Conley’s three-point play with 4:06 remaining doesn’t mean as much. The same goes for Donovan Mitchell’s floater with under two minutes to go. Or Rudy Gobert’s back-to-back go-ahead buckets in the final 1:31.
Those guys brought the Jazz home, but they needed Mudiay and Green to start things off first.
"That effort was a gritty effort when those guys came back in the game," Snyder said. "And obviously, Jeff and Emmanuel put us in the position when we had a chance to win the game."