The Utah Jazz are on a three-game winning streak, and if that doesn’t sound impressive, consider the fact that they’ve won nine of their last 10 games. Also, fun fact: The Jazz have more wins in 2019 so far than any other NBA team! What? With a record of 29-22, the Jazz are tied at sixth in the West with the San Antonio Spurs and just three games away from the Oklahoma City Thunder who are in third place right now. It’s nothing crazy, but it’s a big leap for the Jazz. And lest we forget, they’re also three games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers. Last week, Jazz fans’ postseason hopes got a big boost with their defeat of a highly-ranked Denver Nuggets team too!
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On Sunday, the Jazz went 15 of 29 from beyond the arc against the Minnesota Timberwolves and they scored an absurd 72 points in the second half. Yeah, that second-half momentum is what propels the Jazz past the opposition. It looks like they’re really coming into their own. But can they keep it up?
Rising star Donovan Mitchell just scored 29 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He said a switch just flipped after he missed a free throw off a technical foul by the opposition’s Karl-Anthony Towns and that propelled him into action. As a rookie, he’s scored over 24 points in the last 12 games… yeah, in a row. That’s a stat that no other Jazz player in history can claim! The 22-year-old guard is on a ridiculous streak and his other numbers follow suit as well. Since the New Year, Mitchell is averaging 28.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He’s shooting 45.1% in field goals and making 41.4% of his three-point shots. Maybe he wasn’t kidding when he tweeted “New year, new me” on December 31st…
After the game against the Timberwolves, Mitchell said, “Even though I missed [the free throw], it was one of those things where my teammates want me to keep being aggressive. When you have teammates that back you like that, it’s awesome. It makes it easy.”
Before the new year, he wasn’t attacking the rim, going for dunks, or getting to the free throw line that often. Well, Mitchell has turned that ship around. Since January 1st, he’s attempted 6 dunks and he’s averaging 6.9 free throw attempts per game. Oh, and he makes 80% of those foul shots, which creates a nightmare for defenders.
The other key component of this Utah Jazz team is Rudy Gobert who’s playing at an All-Star level this season. Well, not technically – he’s been listed as one of the biggest snubs of the 2019 NBA All Star Game, but you get the idea! The 7’1” center out of France averages 15 points, almost 13 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. He knows he’s a threat too. According to Gobert, “This year, every team had the game plan for how to try to negate my impact… I think I’ve gotten a lot better this year defensively being able to close out to shooting bigs but still being able to protect the rim.”
Overall, Gobert is just a great player – the Jazz are a better team offensively and defensively when he’s on the floor. He’s an excellent pick and roll man and one of the best when it comes to setting screens. He’s also top five in the NBA in offensive rebounds and he’s got a field goal percentage of 49.2, one of the highest for high-use players like him.
Other Key Playmakers
Gobert pairs up well with Derrick Favors, the team’s power forward who’s currently averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds per game. But when Jae Crowder gets on the court with Gobert, the Jazz are even more magnificent. Crowder is averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds per game. Crowder is tough and he’s not afraid to dunk the ball or get in the opposition’s face either.
Kyle Korver, who the Jazz acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season to give them a much-needed boost, is another player who’s worked out well for this team. He played for the Jazz from 2007 to 2010 and just after his return this year, the Jazz broke the franchise record for the most three-pointers scored in a game. There’s no doubt he had something to do with that feat. The 37-year-old has been contributing around 11 points per game since January.
Don’t forget about Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio either. He’s putting up close to 13 points and six assists per game while shooting 40%. Playing with the Jazz over the past two years has transformed him into an essential player of sorts. BTW, he nabbed 18 points and eight assists in that Timberwolves game.
Unfortunately, backup point guard Dante Exum is still out for a while due to a sprained ankle.
As the February 7th trade deadline approaches, the Jazz might just be on the hunt for a critical third piece to play alongside Mitchell and Gobert. Maybe a shooter that can play some defense? A big man like Nikola Mirotic of the New Orleans Pelicans, perhaps? Word on the street is that they may also be interested in Mike Conley of the Grizzlies or Otto Porter of the Washington Wizards. Jrue Holiday might’ve been in the mix too until all of this Anthony Davis news came out; now we think the Pelicans will want to hold him close. But we’ll keep our ear to the ground…
For now, don’t give up on the Jazz. They’ve got a couple of star players like Gobert and Mitchel who’ll make sure they stay in the competition.
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