SALT LAKE CITY — To be blunt, there have been times when Emmanuel Mudiay has been hard to watch: the bad shot selection, the seeming disinterest in running sets, the hero-ball moments. There have been some rough moments.
When the Utah Jazz signed him this summer to a minimum contract, it was lauded as being a low-risk, high-reward deal. But with how he — not to mention the rest of the Jazz bench — has performed, the risk no longer seemed that low.
On Wednesday, in Utah’s win at Minnesota, Mudiay flipped the narrative.
He used his speed to get into the teeth of the defense, and then instead of settling for a shot he passed out. It was rare he settled for midrange jumper (and when he did it was usually justified). It wasn’t the first time he had done that this season, but it may have been his most consistent run of good play.
His final stat line: 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, two assists and a team-high plus/minus of plus-15.
“I think, if anything, he set the tone,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “The way he was getting in the lane but also making plays for other people.”
The good thing for the Jazz on Wednesday was that Mudiay wasn’t the only player off the bench that had a positive impact. All four members of the bench who saw action against Minnesota — Mudiay, Jeff Green, Georges Niang and Ed Davis — finished with a plus/minus in the double digits.
That’s a stat that usually has a lot of noise, but when those four all played in what ended up being Utah’s third-most used lineup against the Timberwolves, it’s a pretty good indication of how things went when they were on the court.
“(The bench) played well tonight,” Snyder said. “Just gotta find consistency. I thought they competed as much as anything. A lot of emotion. Georges knocked some shots down. I thought Ed was good defensively. Jeff took a matchup.”
Consistency has been a problem for Utah as a whole, and not just from the bench unit. Against the Wolves, the Jazz moved the ball like they have rarely done this season, and there was a feeling in the Utah locker room following the game that this could be the start of a turnaround.
But the team knows it’s just one game.
“We have to do it on a consistent basis, but it's a good start,” Donovan Mitchell said.
That can be said about the ball movement, that can be said about the energy and focus, and that can be said about the bench. For the Jazz to truly turn the page over the stretch that saw them lose six of eight games in pretty convincing fashion, it’ll take more than one performance.
“We played very well,” Mitchell said. “But it is one game.”
Luckily for the Jazz, they do have a stretch of games where they should be able to gain some momentum. They play Golden State at home on Friday and then get a three-day break before playing the Orlando Magic, also in Salt Lake City. They then start a three-game road swing with games against Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami.
It’s a stretch that should help them find that much-needed consistency — or one that could end up being revealing.
Mudiay set the tone on Wednesday. On Friday, the Jazz will see if he can do it again.