A far-from-perfect game still ends with Jazz winning by 21 over Hawks


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SALT LAKE CITY — It might be better if everyone just collectively forgot the first half of Thursday's game. In fact, it seemed like it was from a basketball time now pretty much forgotten.

If you like poor shooting, bad ball-handling and no rhythm, you should have loved watching the Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks slog it out for the first 24 unexciting minutes. If you are a normal fan, well, at least that display only lasted for a half.

The Jazz (17-5) weren't at their best on Thursday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, but that didn't seem to matter much. Utah still routed the Hawks 112-91 for their 13th win in the last 14 games.

But this one was a bit different than the other wins before it.

Exhibit A: The 3-point line. The Jazz came into Thursday's contest having made 15 or more threes in 11 straight games. That streak ended against the Hawks, but it wasn't due to poor shooting. Utah was actually pretty efficient from deep, shooting 13-of-27. Those 27 attempts, however, were a season low — seven fewer than the previous low.

"We had more mid-range, non-paint twos tonight than we've had in a while," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

The Jazz won a different way on Thursday. That in itself could be considered a positive. Utah attempted more mid-range shots (going 12-of-29) than threes. And that was just what the Hawks, who were playing without All-Star guard Trae Young, wanted. Yet, the Jazz still won by 21.

"Things got away from us — a lot of catch-and shoot-opportunities and stuff like that," said Jordan Clarkson, who had a team-high 23 points. "But we're prepared."

And that preparedness paid off — eventually.

After a 12-0 spurt in the opening minutes of the game, the Jazz either got bored or the Hawks started implementing more of their game play — or probably a little of both. The result, though, was a far from pretty opening half.

Mike Conley picked up three fouls in the first quarter, Donovan Mitchell missed a two-handed breakaway dunk and Rudy Gobert seemed to struggle to grasp a rebound (the Hawks had seven offensive boards in the first 12 minutes).

Atlanta forced Utah off the 3-point line and the Jazz struggled to finish near the basket — or hold onto the ball or pass to a teammate. It was rough outing.

All's well that ends well, though, right?

"I didn't necessarily think the pressure bothered us as much as we just weren't real precise," Snyder said. "That can happen. I like the fact that we figured it out a little more in the second half."

After scoring just 45 points in the first half, the Jazz erupted for a 35-point third quarter to pull away for the blowout win. Conley, finally free from foul trouble, kickstarted Utah's offense and scored 11 points in the period, and from there the Jazz rolled.

It showed the Jazz aren't a one-trick pony and they don't need to hit a gaudy number of threes to win games (though, they'll be the first to admit that is the preferred method).

"We got all the weapons we need to attack any type of coverage, any type of defense and we're usually able to figure it out pretty quick," said Gobert, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

And a defense that gives their offense time to do that. Atlanta shot 32% from the field and just 40% around the rim. Thank you, Mr. Gobert.

"The biggest thing that coach's been preaching on is getting the stops, because that's just gonna fuel our offense," Clarkson said.

With Utah sitting on top of the NBA standings — the Jazz are a half-game ahead of the LA Clippers — there is more scrutiny even in wins. That's not just coming from fans or media, it's coming from within as well.

"We love to get our wins however we get them, but we're not a team that doesn't hold each other accountable," Conley said. "We're a team that definitely looks at every single detail, every small situation, and look at something for us to fix or a lesson to be learned. Tonight we had plenty of those, plenty of those lessons, plenty of those times where we made mental errors, made mistakes and kind of lacked effort in certain situations."

The Jazz are just playing so well that even on off-nights, they can still blow teams out.

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