SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz always had an answer Thursday in their 102-98 win at Chicago.
Down 9-2 to the Bulls early, they rolled off a 12-3 run.
After giving up a 15-0 spurt spanning the second and third quarters, the Jazz went on a 12-0 run themselves.
And when Chicago cut the lead to 3 with just under seven minutes to go, the Jazz responded with a 9-2 surge to help keep the Bulls at bay.
But even after those, they needed one more big answer down the stretch.
Chicago’s Kris Dunn hit a corner 3 with 3:25 left, Wendel Carter made a dunk off a Bulls offensive rebound, and Zach LaVine hit a deep contested 3 as part of an 11-2 Chicago run to tie the game with 1:43 left.
How did the Jazz respond? The same way they had all night.
Bojan Bogdanovic drew a foul and hit two free throws and Rudy Gobert slipped inside and delivered a two-handed dunk. Gobert then halted two LaVine drives in the final Chicago possessions of the game to secure the win.
Utah improved to 22-12 on the season and has now won nine of their last 10 games, including four straight.
“They made a couple of 3s off a couple loose balls, saved one out of bounds and got a dunk,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I think we stayed strong mentally and kept defending and had just enough to win the game.”
Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 19 points, overcoming a poor shooting night by getting to the free-throw line often where he was 9 of 9. Donovan Mitchell had 17 points and seven assists and Gobert added 17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in the win.
“We did as good a job as we have all year of staying together and staying connected on both ends, even when things weren’t easy,” Snyder said.
That might be the biggest thing to come out of Thursday’s game. The Jazz didn’t play their best game. Bogdanovic went 0 of 5 from 3 and had five turnovers, the Bulls were often successful in getting the ball out of Mitchell’s hands, and Utah once again was suspect on the defensive glass — giving up 15 offensive boards.
So no, things weren’t easy. But the Jazz fought through it.
“It’s easy to fold,” Mitchell said. “On the road, the first game of the road trip, right after the new year, down 11, it’s easy to chalk it up and say, ‘Let’s get ready for Orlando.’ But we didn’t. We fought back and we continued to play.”
Utah finished with 24 assists, shot 49% from the field and was 11 of 30 from 3-point range.
After the Bulls opened the second half on a 7-0 run over the first 1:37, Snyder quickly called a timeout. He saw just what he wanted to see during that break. The Jazz were down by 11 and had been blitzed coming out of halftime. They were on the road against a team that uses defense to make games hard. But Snyder saw that his players had the right mentality to respond.
“We came out of that timeout with a great mindset and we made them hard on them,” Snyder said. “I thought we really picked it up.”
The Jazz dominated the rest of the quarter. They went on a 12-0 run themselves to retake the lead and held Chicago to just 12 points over the remainder of the quarter.
Utah needed contributions from across the board. This season, the Jazz’s end-of-game offense has gone through Mitchell. He’s been the closer; the one that not only has made plays for himself but for his teammates. Look through the last ten games, and you’ll find time and time again that Mitchell was the reason why the Jazz pulled out the win.
That wasn’t the case in Chicago. That was because the Bulls did everything they could to get the ball out of his hands. And because his teammates stepped up.
Jordan Clarkson scored 12 points and Georges Niang had 11 to lead a bench unit that provided a key spark. Tony Bradley had six crucial points in the second half, Joe Ingles had 10 assists and Gobert was there at the end to make the defensive stops when the Jazz needed them most.
“Everyone did a little something at a given time to help us win the game,” Snyder said. “On the road, that’s how you win close games.”