SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz bounced back from a rare loss by beating the Orlando Magic 124-109 Saturday. Here are the talking points from KSL.com commenters after the contest.
"At this point in the season, I am more concerned with how they respond to losses than I am of the loss itself. Second night of a back-to-back after losing on the first night. This is a good response." — TheHollows
Immediately after the game Saturday, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said: "We're not allowed to be tired."
A few minutes later, Utah forward Joe Ingles had the following response: "I don't care what he said, I was tired."
Back-to-backs are difficult. Road ones are even more difficult, and those have been made even more difficult in the time of COVID-19 protocols. The Jazz didn't get into Orlando until around 3 a.m. Saturday morning and had to be awake in the morning in order to take COVID-19 tests. So, yeah, there were some heavy legs and some wandering minds come game time.
Through one quarter of play, the Jazz had just 22 points, were 10-for-25 from the field and 2-of-11 from 3-point range.
"I mean, I'm sure you guys have all been tired going to work one day or you've had a late night or the kids keep you up, there's so many situations," said Ingles, always the common man. "I'm used to being a little bit tired, so it's all good."
Rudy Gobert admitted feeling a little sluggish early, but as the game went on his energy levels picked up. He wasn't alone: After halftime the Jazz shot 63.2%, scored 70 points and led by as many as 19.
"In those games you have to make sure that we have our heads, and we have to make sure that we communicate even more that we are moving the ball even more and we have a deep enough team to know to still play a very high level of basketball on both ends," Gobert said.
Every team is going to have tough turnarounds when the schedule isn't too kind. The key, Ingles said, is not allowing the tired legs to stop you from playing the correct way. In that sense, Snyder was right: Utah isn't allowed to be tired. The Jazz looked dead on their feet at times, but that didn't mean the offense was going to be less aggressive or the defense was going to be changed.
"We just go into it and try not to use that as an excuse," Ingles said. "I think if you start talking about it and thinking about it then you automatically are going to come out a bit slower and a step behind. We did that but we were able to overcome it."
"Nikola Vucevic, 34 pts. had his way with Rudy. How about putting a hand in his face Rudy!" — Amy S.
Vucevic does pose a major challenge. He's a true pick-and-pop big (41% from 3 this season) with excellent footwork. That means that Utah's preferred drop big defense doesn't always work. It asks a lot of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors to help stop drives and then get out on a popping big man. But Gobert at least didn't have much a problem.
Sure Vucevic had a big game, but he didn't really have one on Gobert.
According to NBA.com, Vucevic scored just 13 of his 34 points when Gobert was his primary defender. He shot just 5-of-14 from the field and just 2-of-10 from inside the 3-point line — so it's safe to safe to say Gobert got a hand up most of the time.
As for everyone else — that's a different story.
Vucevic feasted on anyone that wasn't a 7-foot-1 two-time Defensive Player of the Year. When not guarded by Gobert, Vucevic scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting and was 6-of-8 from inside the arc.
In the end, though, Vucevic shot 14 non-restricted area twos. Those are shots the Jazz are happy to give up — even to an All-Star big man. Those shot give Utah a big math advantage: If the Jazz are taking shots at the rim and from 3 (which they were), the Magic would have to be nearly perfect from midrange on the number they put up to keep pace. They weren't. And they didn't.
"They're the best team in the NBA and we're not exactly there," Vucevic said.
That about sums it up.
"We definitely would not have the best record in the NBA without Clarkson, the guy is unbelievable, and exciting to watch!!" — FostDawg
Jordan Clarkson had the highlight move of the night when he dropped Michael Carter-Williams with a spin move on his way to a finger roll layup. While Clarkson struggled from 3 (he was 2-of-9), he still finished with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds for a pretty well-rounded night.
Jordan Clarkson spin-cycle! 🌪️ pic.twitter.com/GsLIFa0JAP— NBA (@NBA) February 28, 2021
And he won the battle of the top bench scorer in the West vs. the top bench scorer in the East. Clarkson outscored Terrance Ross, 18-10.
At this point, Clarkson is no-doubt the Sixth Man of the Year (and if voting happened today, it would be a surprise if he wasn't the unanimous selection), but how does Clarkson fare in losses vs. wins? Let's take a look.
Wins: 18.7 points, 45.6% shooting, 37.9% from 3 on 9.0 attempts
Losses: 15.9 points, 42.0% shooting, 33.3% from 3 on 7.3 attempts
Actually, those are some of the more consistent stats between wins and losses among Utah's high-volume shooters. Donovan Mitchell, for example, is shooting 41.3% from 3 in wins vs. 30.2% in losses. The same drop can also be seen from Mike Conley (45.3% in wins; 29.5% in losses).
It's no surprise that when those guys hit, the Jazz are more likely to win. But, yes, Clarkson has been a big part of Utah's run to the top of the standings.