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'Ain't nothing changed': Marcus Morris has words for Jazz after they rout Clippers



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The target wasn't Rudy Gobert this time; it was everyone else.

You may remember, the Los Angeles Clippers was the team that knocked the Utah Jazz out of the playoffs last season after winning four straight games, including a 25-point comeback in the clinching Game 6.

After Utah's 124-103 win over the Clippers Wednesday at Vivint Arena — the first meeting between the two clubs since the postseason series — Marcus Morris Sr. made it feel a bit like the series was still going on with some shade thrown toward the Jazz.

A week after Gobert was surprisingly criticized by the Minnesota Timberwolves, his teammates were the ones with the target on their back.

"Yeah, they're still the same team. Ain't nothing changed," Marcus Morris Sr. said. "(Gobert) protects all of them. None of them really can defend. Just funnel it to him and it's tough to — he's a great player and he does a great job of anticipation, staying down, being real solid. So you know who they are."

To be fair, the criticism isn't that off base. The reason the Jazz lost to the Clippers in the playoffs was because no one could help Gobert on defense. But are they different? Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley are no longer injured and the Jazz added Rudy Gay, who has been an advanced stats darling on defense in the last few seasons.

But, yes, the Jazz (20-7) rely heavily on Gobert — and, to a lesser extent, Hassan Whiteside — to protect the rim and cover up their mistakes. Fair criticism, sure; more than fair, really. But, like the attack on Gobert in Minnesota, it was just odd timing.

The Clippers, who were without Paul George and Nic Batum (along with Kawhi Leonard) — were run off the floor late against the Jazz. Utah used a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter to turn what had been a 7-point game into a blowout.

Los Angeles scored only 44 points in the second half and finished with a well-below average 102 offensive rating.

It continued a trend of the Jazz finding themselves more and more on defense. Utah knows it can put up points in a hurry — it has the league's top offense by a significant margin — but it's been about the improved transition defense that has been one of the main catalysts to what is now an eight-game winning streak.

"The correlation between us playing defense and going on runs offensively, it's not one to one, but it's pretty close," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I think our understanding that when we do get stops that we can take advantage of the other end should be an incentive."

During the fourth quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic hit back-to-back transition 3-pointers after the Jazz got a stop; his second 3-pointer put the Jazz up by 17 with 4:46 left in the game.

When Mitchell, who had 27 points, six assists on 10-for-15 shooting in another brilliant performance, was told about Morris' comments, he paused for a second. He opted not to address those exact remarks but he did have a theory on why the Jazz have been the target of some verbal jabs.

"We've done a lot well in the regular season. We are a pretty solid team, now we gotta go out there and prove it and then this will stop," Mitchell said.

In short, Mitchell feels the Jazz are going to be seen as frauds until they prove otherwise. He remembers the same thing happening with the Milwaukee Bucks, too. They were also a great regular season team but were labeled as playoff failures — at least until they were raising the Larry O'Brien trophy this past summer.

That's what it will take, which is why the Jazz aren't getting too excited over their current eight-game run.

"I think this is probably the first time that we don't really care about the winning streak; we just care about getting better," said Gobert, who had 20 point and 17 rebounds in the win over the Clippers. "There might be some games when we play really well and we might not win, and there's gonna be games when we don't get well but we win. So it's all about the mindset and getting better every night."

Utah has been getting better, too. Its transition defense isn't among the league's worst anymore and their current win streak has been full of dominant wins. They've won six of them by 20 points or more and four have come on the road. But for a team that has grown accustomed to winning in the regular season, that doesn't mean much.

"We want to be great. We want to be great at every facet," Mitchell said. "We don't want to just have the best record, it's how can we be great at every single facet of the game. We've got really good games but I can't say we've had a great game. I think we are all holding ourselves to a high standard."

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