Especially considering that it was on the second night of a back-to-back, the Utah Jazz logged a solid win on Sunday evening in Dallas.
The Utah Jazz remain undefeated on the road as they earned their third straight victory on the current trip and the fourth road win of the season on Sunday night against the Dallas Mavericks. The game wasn’t always pretty, but ultimately Utah came out on top. In an 82-game season, and especially on the second night of a back-to-back, sometimes that’s all you can ask for.
The Utah Jazz prevailed over Dallas by a score of 113-104. Utah led for the majority of the game, but the Mavs gave them a few scares including a momentum-shifting fourth quarter run that made things look a little dicey. Fortunately, once all was said and done, the Jazz simply weren’t to be outdone and put together a pretty complete game. As such, let’s take a look at what went right on Sunday evening, as well as a few things that will need tuning up moving forward.
What Went Right?
The thing that stands out the most to me was the second consecutive dominant performance by Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Dallas simply had no answer for the Stifle Tower and he made them pay on both ends of the floor. Despite picking up some quick fouls, Gobert put together one of his best performances of the young season, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 16 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
He looked every bit the Defensive Player of the Year we’ve expected him to be, but also the All-Star that Jazz fans all are certain he can become. Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell didn’t have an astounding night, but he was solid, putting up a pedestrian (by his standards) 20 points on 52.9 percent from the field. Unfortunately, he failed to convert on a 3-pointer on three attempts, but it’s hard to nitpick when he was otherwise so effective.
Beyond Utah’s pair of stars, the next leading scorer was Jae Crowder, who had a sensational night as a starter in place of the injured Derrick Favors. Crowder finished with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added six boards. Much like Donovan, though, Jae struggled from deep going just 1-of-5. Not only that, but he ended the game with an injured ankle, but we’ll touch more on that in a bit.
Last of all, while Utah’s starters had some rocky moments as a group (more on that in a second), the team was very much elevated by the stellar play of their role players off the bench. More than anyone, two quite surprising players are the ones that stepped up – Georges Niang and Grayson Allen. And nope, you didn’t misread that.
Niang has looked sensational in his brief stint as a rotation player for the Jazz, and he proved that further tonight. Although Thabo Sefolosha was available to play after serving his five-game suspension, he didn’t even get a chance to see the floor because Niang has been so solid and continued to be yet again on Sunday night.
Georges is simply an amazing shooter, no doubt about it, and he showcased that skill in full force Sunday evening. He went 4-of-5 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep to finish with 13 points in just 13 minutes. Quite an impressive line for the guy many presumed would merely be Utah’s 15th man. Spoiler alert – he’s turning out to be much, much more than that.
Finally, Grayson went a perfect 3-of-3, including a made three, for 11 points in just 12 minutes of action. As sad as it is in some ways, and although it could still change, it’s looking like Alec Burks‘ promising start is already coming to a swift end and that Allen may very well be replacing him in the rotation pretty steadily moving forward.
Aside from the efficient shooting of Allen and Niang, the pair were also a combined plus-22 on the night, as the minutes they played were extremely impactful in establishing and stretching the lead. Meanwhile, plus-minus god Ekpe Udoh was back to his divine ways by posting a mark of plus-11 and despite the poor shooting night, Dante Exum was a plus-13.
Although it would be nice to see the starters get more in sync, there’s no denying that Utah’s depth is an enormous and incredible luxury.
What Went Wrong?
I’ve obviously already alluded to a few things, so let’s dive right in, shall we? Although overall this was a good performance and the Jazz played well, it was troublesome to once again see lineups with Mitchell and Ricky Rubio struggle. The starting backcourt pair was a combined minus-12 on the night.
Mitchell made up for that with solid play, but after an incredible game in New Orleans, Rubio appeared to come back down to earth in a big way. He finished with just six points on 2-of-9 shooting to go along with the poor plus-minus. On the bright side, he did notch eight assists and only one turnover, which was instrumental to Utah’s offense.
However, it’s obvious that there are still some hiccups with Utah’s starting group as Rudy Gobert also finished in the negatives in terms of plus/minus. A stellar bench and a lackluster opponent in Dallas made it such that Utah could still get by nonetheless, but it’s something that needs to be repaired sooner rather than later as the Jazz face some tough challenges in the not-so-distant future.
Lastly, aside from the Derrick Favors injury heading into the game, the injury bug reared its ugly head once again as Jae Crowder went down after he landed on an ankle late in the contest. In post-game interviews, Crowder said that it was a mild ankle sprain that had him as day-to-day, but he seemed optimistic that he’d be alright and ready to go by the game against Minnesota on Wednesday.
Let’s hope that such will be the case, but whether it is or not, it was still a definite negative to see a Jazz team that has mostly been healthy up to this point lose both their starting and backup power forwards to injury. If Crowder does indeed miss time, the Jazz will be forced to rely even more heavily on early standout Georges Niang who has been a definite bright spot in the league thus far.
With both good and bad elements of the contest against Dallas being taken in stride, it was a solid win for the Jazz. However, they still have room to continue to expand and grow as the season moves forward. Utah will be in for a tough challenge as they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday in their final game of the four-game road trip before heading back home to face a Memphis Grizzlies team that shocked them at home in the third game of the year.
Utah has looked much-improved from how their first three games of the 2018-19 campaign ended up, but I still have a feeling that they haven’t even scratched the surface of their immense potential this year.