Utah Jazz Revelations: Jazz Light up Thunder
Welcome to the latest edition of Utah Jazz revelations! The concept is simple. The Jazz play a game, I watch the game, then turn around and give you three key takeaways from said game. Really, it’s a three-step process.
No team this season has had more moxie, more pizzaz, more spunk than Oklahoma City.
The ragtag Thunder had scrapped to the top of the West behind pure athleticism, hardnosed defense and exhilarating offensive talent from their young core.
OKC stepped into Salt Lake City last night, winners of three straight and victors in 8 of their last 10 contest.
At 35-15 on the year, they had a chance to secure the #1 seed in the West.
With that goal in mind, unrelentless swagger, and feel-good vibes in Thunder town, who could stop them?
Apparently, the Utah Jazz.
In an exhilarating back and forth 124-117 win, the Jazz had the moxie, the Jazz had the pizzaz, the Jazz had their young core dazzle and delight in route to what may be one of their most impressive wins.
The Thunder were fully healthy, fully motivated, led by as much as 12, had three players with 20 plus points (Gilgeous-Alexander: 28, Williams: 26, Holmgen:22) and it wasn’t enough.
The Jazz moved back to .500, now 26-26, still 10th in the West.
Let’s start unpacking this one:
REVELATION #1: That was the most fun I’ve had as a Jazz fan in a good span.
This isn’t based on statistical analysis or hard-hitting facts, but I feel it has to be mentioned.
You ever have one of those games where you’re sitting on your couch, and can’t help but think “it would be so fun to be there.”
That was last nights win. The crowd was never out of it, even when OKC took control of the game.
It was loud, it was rocking, it was Utah.
The Jazz aren’t world beaters this year, and they typically aren’t, but the faithful continue to support this team like no one’s business.
The Jazz average 18,206 fans per night for an arena that seats 18,306 people.
Every night is packed in the house that Larry built and it echoes through the television.
The last three games that the Thunder played away from home were in San Antonio, New Orleans and Detroit in front of crowds that aren’t known for their ferocity.
I know the noise and intensity made a difference last night.
Look at these big plays in this game, and get a feel for the atmosphere:
REVELATION #2: The Thunder had the better scorers; the Jazz had the better team last night.
Being alluded too earlier, OKC had Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (28), Jalen Williams (26) and Chet Holmgren (22) go off.
All three of those players attempted 13 or more shots and shot incredibly effectively, SGA shot 50 percent, Williams 55.6 and Holmgren at 61.5 percent.
They combined for 76 points, which is impressive for sure.
The downside to that is the rest of the Thunder rotation accounted for 41 points and shot about 38 percent from the field.
No other player for OKC scored more than ten points outside of those three.
Enter the Jazz, who had Lauri Markkanen pop off for 33 points on 12/18 shooting.
Enter John Collins who knocked down 22 points on 9/15 shooting.
How about Keyonte George with 16 whiles being 6/11?
Collin Sexton had 14, Jordan Clarkson had 12.
Utah had six total players scoring in double digits.
The Jazz as a team shot about 4 percent better, had three more assists, and three less turnovers than Oklahoma City. The Jazz also outrebounded the Thunder by 16 total boards.
Those are the stats that demonstrate a more balanced team effort from players 1-10, and it was just enough to slide past the top-heavy Thunder.
REVELATION #3: Lauri Markkanen is a star, but last night he was a superstar.
Keyonte George and Kris Dunn were essential to giving Utah an opportunity to win this game, make no mistake.
Without George infusing the offense and Dunn being a one-man defensive wrecking crew, Utah wouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Dunn and George led the Jazz to the promised land, Lauri Markkanen planted the flag.
There are stars across the NBA, but only a handful who can hit the shots at the end when it matters most.
These clutch players are a rarity, as plenty of stars can put up empty calorie statistics, but being able to convert when the pressure is highest is the most impressive of all abilities.
Markkanen took a step in that direction after last nights gutsy performance.
His 33 points scored is impressive and appreciated, but the way he closed was even better.
Markkanen checked back into the game with under 7 minutes to go in the 4th with a 109-108 lead for the Jazz.
Keyonte George led the offense the remainder of the game, and Markkanen just hung around for a while.
It wasn’t until 1:09 remaining that Markkanen attempted a 20-foot jumper that went through to give Utah a 119-113 lead.
After two free throws sunk by OKC, Markkanen would pop out and drill a heavily contested three from 25 feet out to put the game firmly out of reach with 43 seconds to go.
Markkanen took two shots in the 4th, made them both, and made both of them in clutch scenarios when the Jazz needed a bucket. George, Dunn and Collins provided the wood and nails, Markkanen made sure to hammer it home.
Those two shots were also the last two attempted and made field goals of the 4th quarter for the Jazz, despite other players performing well, Lauri was the guy to put it away.
He didn’t demand the ball, he didn’t throw a fit that he didn’t get the ball, he just took advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself and the Jazz are more complete because of that.
It was a team win through and through. The stars showed up, the rookie balled out, the defense was mostly effective and the Jazz once again look formidable.
Next up, the trade deadline, on the same day the Jazz travel to Phoenix to play the Suns.