Utah Jazz vs. Sydney Kings reactions: What went right/wrong?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 2: Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 2: Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

Overall, the Utah Jazz’s preseason contest against the Australian NBL’s Sydney Kings was an overwhelming success as they came away with a big victory despite some mistakes.

The Utah Jazz have their first victory of the 2017-18 NBA season under their belt and even though it won’t go towards their regular season record, it’s still always nice to log a W. Despite a few lulls on both ends of the floor, overall the Utah Jazz dominated the game and came away with a convincing 108-83 victory over the Australian National Basketball League’s Sydney Kings.

The Kings deserve credit for putting up a solid fight, but at the end of the day, it was pretty clear that they had neither the talent, the athleticism nor the length to match wits with a skilled Utah Jazz team. On the flip side, though, the Utah Jazz obviously weren’t without their mistakes and have several areas in which they can learn and improve going forward as well.

With that being said, let’s take a look at a few areas in which the Utah Jazz excelled and where they could use a little work.

What Went Right?

First and foremost, I must say that I was completely thrilled with Rudy Gobert. His 15 points and 10 rebounds don’t even seem to do justice to just how dominant he was. Sure, he was the biggest guy out there by far and no one on the Kings could realistically check him, but to see him have his typical offensive and defensive presence from last season as if he hadn’t skipped a beat was an absolute joy to behold.

Not only that, but he finished shooting 7-of-9 from the field in what appeared to be a continuation of his highly efficient shooting from last year.

Although he didn’t jump out as much as Gobert did, Rodney Hood also went and quietly had himself a game. He was Utah’s leading scorer with 18 points (in a meager 21 minutes, no less) while shooting an incredible 7-of-10 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. That 18-point mark is a good target for Hood night in and night out, and that kind of efficiency, though nearly impossible to maintain over the course of a season, was thrilling to see as well.

Furthermore, perhaps the most anticipated Jazz player of the offseason, Donovan Mitchell, played extremely well in his NBA Preseason debut. The rookie converted on four of his eight shot attempts for 11 points while going a respectable 2-of-5 from deep and logging a game-high plus/minus of +18.

Despite it being his first game on the floor with his more experienced Jazz teammates, Mitchell simply appeared to fit in right away. It was a great look for him and encouraging for his role on the team. What perhaps impressed me the most was his ability to make the right basketball play with an instinct that seemed to be beyond his years. The following clip is a perfect example of that:

Thabo Sefolosha, Joel Bolomboy and Alec Burks also stood out to me. Sefolosha was pesky defensively, as we knew he would be, but he also was efficient offensively as he knocked down 4-of-5 attempts. Meanwhile, I was quite truthfully surprised to see Burks log just nine minutes, especially since he looked really solid in that small window. He missed a couple finishes at the rim but ended up shooting 3-of-5 from the field and clearly looked more athletic and explosive than he has in recent years.

Although Bolomboy is at risk of being one of the roster’s odd men out, he inserted an enormous amount of energy when he came into the game as he finished with nine points in just six minutes on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from the field which included a made three. He also had an electrifying block which just about sent the ball sailing out of the building.

Aside from individual performances, as a team overall things just fell into place for the Jazz. They were clearly the superior squad and they acted like it, using their length to frustrate their opponent defensively, dominate the boards and turn turnovers into points. Utah’s hot shooting of 60.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from deep certainly helped and their passing was phenomenal, too, as they dropped 24 dimes to handily defeat the Sydney Kings.

What Went Wrong?

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the contest wasn’t without it’s imperfections for the Jazz. There were several opportunities for Utah to seemingly take control, but rather than run away with the victory, they let the Kings hang around. That was of little consequence against such a comparatively mediocre team, but against top-tier NBA squads, the Jazz will absolutely have to take advantages of leads when they have them and never allow teams to claw their way back in.

Part of the reason for the lulls was that the Jazz were clearly experimenting with different rotations, and the starters logged fewer minutes than one would expect in a regular game. However, that still doesn’t excuse the occasional offensive droughts that they went through. Utah’s offense is far and above the biggest concern facing them this upcoming season and they’ll need to find a way to work through those moments when it goes stagnant.

Beyond that, while Utah’s defense overall was solid as they were irritants and kept Sydney’s shooting percentage relatively low, the Kings did get off several open threes. That may not have hurt the Jazz all that much in a preseason setting, but against NBA-caliber squads, that simply won’t fly and it’s something Utah will have to patch up moving forward.

Additionally, while it wasn’t necessarily a back-breaker in this instance, Utah shot just 57.9 percent (11-of-19) from the foul line. For a team that is projected to struggle to put up points, they’ll absolutely have to make it a point of emphasis to get the the free throw line more often and convert at a higher clip.

In terms of individual performances, there simply were a few guys who had a hard time getting going. As much as it pains me to say it, principal among those was Ricky Rubio. Now don’t get me wrong, his impact on the offense was solid and his four dimes were a nice sight to behold, but the fear all of us hold about Rubio was in full force on Monday night as he finished shooting 0-of-4 from the field while logging just three points off of free throws.

Rubio doesn’t have to be Utah’s top scoring threat, but he does have to figure out a way to be some kind of offensive threat beyond just his flashy passing and excellent pick-and-roll management. Ricky certainly has plenty of gifts, but if opponents become familiar with the fact that he can’t and won’t shoot, it’s going to likely shrink the floor for Utah’s offense and make points all the more difficult to come by.

The other guy who left me feeling somewhat discouraged was Derrick Favors. Although he certainly looks more rejuvenated than he did for much of last season, he just didn’t appear all that formidable on either end of the court. He finished with just six points on 3-of-6 shooting and it simply would have been nice to see more offensive assertion out of him.

However, he did play just 17 minutes, the fewest of any starter, and one would assume that he’ll see much more time in regular season action. Not to mention, one of his missed shots was clearly a foul that went uncalled, he did have a very nice block in the game and he finished the contest with the second best plus/minus on the team of +16. Therefore, perhaps my criticisms of Favors aren’t all that warranted as he had more of an impact than met the eye.

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With that being said, though, the Jazz will definitely need to see more out of both Rubio and Favors moving forward if they hope to truly maintain a balanced offense and challenge opposing Western Conference foes.

All in all, this was a good rehearsal and first showing for the Utah Jazz. They should be able to take several of the mistakes they made and apply the lessons they learned from this first game to be even more competitive in their second preseason contest against the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday.

As this Jazz team gets more and more comfortable with one another and continues to tweak the game plan, it’s evident that they’re going to be a deep and exciting group that should have success throughout the preseason and into the regular season as well.