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Bojan Bogdanovic shows he's still clutch as Utah survives Detroit rally

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates after guard Jordan Clarkson (00) hit a 3-pointer during the game against the Detroit Pistons at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” Where have we seen it before? Late in the game with the score close, Bojan Bogdanovic with a 3-point look.

Bogdanovic might have had an up-and-down start to the season, but the Jazz found out one thing on Tuesday: He is still clutch.

Without Bogdanovic, Utah may have been answering a much different question following their 117-105 win over Detroit. The Piston had cut a 28-point lead down to just 4 with two minutes remaining, and the Jazz were suddenly in danger of seeing a blowout win turn into an embarrassing loss.

Cue Bogdanovic.

The veteran forward drilled back-to-back threes β€” one coming with 1:25 left and the other with 48 seconds remaining β€” to put the game on ice. Even a Bogdanovic miss in the final minute turned into an emphatic put-back slam by Royce O'Neal as Utah ended the game on a 8-0 run.

"I think that my confidence is a little bit better right now," said Bogdanovic, who had 18 points and was 4-of-8 from the 3-point line. "I got more shots, more threes the last couple of games, so there's no big change for me. I just have to be ready and shoot and no matter what percentage I'm shooting."

That percentage is suddenly pretty good. Bogdanovic is shooting 55% from three in the last three games as he's helped Utah break an NBA record with 11 straight games hitting 15 or more threes (the Jazz were 16-of-42 on Tuesday with Bogdanovic's late threes putting them over the mark).

But the question was: Should the Jazz have needed some late-game heroics in a contest they led by nearly 30?

Jordan Clarkson was adamant nothing was different after Utah's 11-game win streak was snapped. The mood in the locker room, the vibe around the team, how the Utah Jazz played? All of it was the same.

"I don't think we were expecting to go 68-4 this season," Clarkson said.

So no reason to hang their head over a loss, right? And Utah immediately made a strong statement against Detroit.

The Jazz (16-5) jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game and eventually took a 28-point lead. They looked like the team that steamrolled the league for the better part of a month. Their transition offense was blistering and their half-court defense held the Pistons to an offensive rating of 48.

But not everything was the same. During the 11-game streak, the Jazz rarely allowed teams even a glimmer of hope late in games. That wasn't the case against Detroit. The Pistons outscored the Jazz 28-15 in the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter to set up a near-disastrous result.

"We got a little stagnant, shots weren't falling, they made a run," said Donovan Mitchell who led the Jazz with 32 points, with only 2 points coming in the final period.

It wasn't just missed shots, though. The Jazz stopped running out in transition, which led to more difficult looks. They were beat to rebounds and seemed content to slow the game down. It was the exact opposite of what had gotten them the lead, and so many other leads this season (Tuesday's game was the 12th contest this season Utah has led by at least 20 points).

In short, Utah look like it simply wanted to run out the clock.

"I think we start to slow down, we start to get into a position where we just want to take care of the ball," said Mike Conley, who had 20 points and five assists. "We want to iso a little bit more, we want to just get into our spots. There's times for that. I think in games like this where we have big leads, we have to continue to to play fast, continue to move the ball and continue to get stops like we were doing and not solely rely on and kind of revert to get the ball in Don's hands or my hands or anybody's hands just to create opportunities."

So it's not really shocking how Bogdanovic's threes came to be: the Jazz ran again. Conley zipped into the lane after a Detroit miss and kicked it out to Bogdanovic for a three. On the next one, it was Royce O'Neale who broke into the lane before dishing it to Bogdanovic.

"They made a hell of a run and we had a hell of a counter," Mitchell said.

That counter was simple: They played like themselves.

The game was a welcome back for many fans as the Jazz upped the seating capacity from 1,500 to nearly 4,000 by opening up the upper bowl. But not all was back to normal for those fans. Instead of the distinct baritone voice of Dan Roberts shouting "How 'bout this Jazz?" through the PA, those fans heard Jazz emcee Tony Parks.

Roberts missed the game due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. It was just the seventh game in 42 years that Robert has missed. He is the longest-tenured PA announcer in the league and the only one the Jazz have ever employed. Roberts' son, Jeremy, said on Twitter that he father is expected to be back in his normal chair for Utah's next home game next week.

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