The question of whether the Utah Jazz would finish their 2018 preseason slate undefeated was answered mere minutes into Thursday night’s 132-93 rout of the Sacramento Kings.
As for whether that means anything, well, that remains to be seen.
Utah led by 29 points after the first quarter, by as many as 38 points before the break, and by as many as 44 in the second half. So noncompetitive were the Kings that the analysis from the Jazz’s television play-by-play team delved into LeBron’s Lakers, the Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota and the merits of rap music within the opening minutes of the third quarter.
Regardless of the quality of the competition, though, Utah played arguably its best half of the season.
Rudy Gobert finished with 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line. He added seven rebounds. All before halftime. As a team, Utah hit 62.5 percent of its shots from the field in the first half.
The win wrapped the Jazz’s 5-0 preseason. Utah opens its regular-season schedule next Wednesday, also in Sacramento.
After the Jazz’s starters registered a lackluster defensive effort on Sunday in Portland, they were keen to have a better showing on Thursday. And, indeed, it was a totally different story against the Kings.
Sacramento shot just 27.1 percent from the field in the first half. With the Jazz resting every starter after halftime (save for brief Derrick Favors appearance), the Kings did bump that to 34.4 percent by game’s end.
“We wanted to make a statement defensively,” said Favors, who totaled 11 points and 12 rebounds. “We definitely wanted to be sharp for the regular season.”
“We turned it up,” Donovan Mitchell concurred. “That’s where we need to be all year.”
The Jazz finished with a 51-34 advantage in rebounds, and out-assisted the Kings 32-19.
Meanwhile, Utah got encouraging offensive performances from all over its roster.
Mitchell had 13 first-half points, shooting 4 for 6 overall, and 3 of 5 on 3-pointers, while appearing to leave behind — at least for one night — the suspect shot selection that had plagued him in previous games.
Alec Burks continued his strong run of play, coming off the bench to total 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Rookie Grayson Allen kept up his hot hand, hitting another pair of 3-pointers and finishing with 14 points. And backup point guard Dante Exum again displayed his improved court vision, putting up six assists to go along with six points.
The Jazz shot 60 percent from the field for the game.
Utah also maintained its trend of being increasingly prolific from behind the arc. The team shot an exceedingly efficient 46.7 percent from deep, but perhaps more telling and more important is that they did so on 30 attempts from 3-point range.
Jazz fans wondering how much the preseason finale vs. the Kings might prove a harbinger of the regular-season opener undoubtedly came away encouraged.
Head coach Quin Snyder cautioned afterward, however, not to read too much into a single preseason performance.
“The regular season, it’s a totally different game than tonight,” he said. “We can’t expect anything to be the same.”
That said, the players are glad to finally play games that count, and to see where they actually stand.
“I think everybody’s ready. We’re definitely ready to get preseason over with,” Favors said. “We’re excited for the season to start.”
JAZZ 132, KINGS 93
• Utah leads by 29 points after the first quarter and by as many as 44 in the second half in its preseason finale.
• Rudy Gobert totals 18 points (on 7-for-8 shooting) and seven rebounds in 17 first-half minutes.
• The Jazz, who finished the preseason 5-0, continue to be prolific and efficient from 3-point range, converting 46.7 percent of their 30 attempts from deep.