Utah Jazz: NBA’s best 9-man rotation now on full display

Utah Jazz (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports) /

With the top nine Utah Jazz players all healthy, playoff magic is building.

At halftime of the Utah Jazz’s eventual 141-129 Game 2 home win on Wednesday night to tie the opening-round playoff series against the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies, nine Jazzmen had seen the court.

They led, 74-54.

Clearly, aside from maybe the unbelievable performance by Donovan Mitchell in his first taste of action in 40 days — to the tune of 14 points with a 3-for-6 clip from deep entering the break after finally returning from his right ankle sprain — the most impressive sight from the first 24 minutes was just the widespread attack in general.

Somehow, the Jazz picked up right where they had left off back on April 16 when Mitchell went down with his injury.

Utah Jazz poetry in motion

Indeed, the first half was exactly the type of across-the-board postseason beauty that Utah Jazz fans had been hoping to witness from a group that, for the first time in franchise history, finished the regular season with the outright best record in the NBA at 52-20.

At the half, there were points on the board from each of the nine Jazzmen who had played. That collection consisted of starters Donovan Mitchell (14 points at the time), Bojan Bogdanovic (14), Rudy Gobert (nine), Mike Conley (seven), and Royce O’Neale (two) plus reserves Joe Ingles (12), Jordan Clarkson (eight), Georges Niang (five), and Derrick Favors (three).

No matter the combinations, every Jazz lineup was crisp. In addition to the individual point totals, there were all the following signs of utter rotation-wide versatility through the first two quarters:

  • All but one of the nine had a rebound to their names.
  • All but two had an assist.
  • All but three had made a three.
  • All but two had earned a trip to the foul line and made at least one free throw, contributing to three Memphis starters picking up three fouls apiece and the visitors tallying 16 fouls in all before entering the locker room.
  • None of the nine had more than one turnover, and they had only five combined at the time against a Memphis squad that led the NBA this season at 9.1 steals per game.
  • Because all but one of the nine had committed at least one foul at the half, thereby spreading them out relatively evenly with only one Jazzman sitting on three, no one on the home side faced serious foul trouble.

Sure, in the third quarter, the Jazz faltered a bit, particularly on the defensive end (see: Ja Morant’s career-high 47 points for the game, including 13 in the third and then 12 in the fourth). But Mitchell & Co. never allowed the Memphis Grizzlies to quite climb all the way back.

Utah Jazz perseverance adding up to complete excellence

Clarkson manufactured timely buckets toward the end of the third. Gobert finished strong around the basket to set the tone in the fourth. O’Neale drained a trio of 3-pointers down the stretch to seal the deal.

This isn’t to mention all the various heroics from others in between:

True, Mitchell was obviously remarkable under the typically rust-covered conditions. The two-time All-Star wound up with a team-high 25 points while shooting 8-for-19 from the field, including a 5-10 mark beyond the arc, and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. He also had three rebounds, one steal, and only two turnovers in 26 minutes of action.

ALSO READ: Predicting Donovan Mitchell’s production in Game 2

That said, what’s even more impressive is that the Utah Jazz set a new franchise playoff record with 141 points despite only 25 points from their leading scorer.

By the end, seven of the nine in the rotation each totaled at least 14 points. Efficiency-wise, the genuinely unselfish pack combined to knock down 19 shots from downtown, equating to nearly 50 percent of its 39 attempts, and went 49-for-90 overall from the field (54.4 percent).

Perhaps the greatest indicator of Utah’s ability to showcase unrivaled chemistry and non-stick ball movement, though, was its whopping 28 assists for the game, led by Conley with 15.

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Simply put, the Game 2 product was in-sync, clutch-mode basketball at its finest. Once again, all the Utah Jazz faithful have every reason to keep the faith that far more significant franchise firsts are still in store for this oh-so-fun-to-watch bunch.