If the Jazz’s 111-84 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena seemed easy, well, that’s because it was simple.
Yes — there’s a difference.
The combination of controlled attacks on the rim, converting open 3-point shots, sharing and taking care of the basketball, and dialing it in on the defensive end proved the perfect — and most simple formula — for ending Utah’s two-game losing streak.
Donovan Mitchell shook off his recent bout of up-and-down play, turning in a steady and efficient 21 points. Kyle Korver erased all memories of his shooting slump, nailing 6 of 9 shots overall and 4 of 5 from deep for 16 points off the bench. Derrick Favors converted his looks inside and in the midrange, hitting 7 of 8 and racking up 17 points. And Rudy Gobert got back to being an intimidator at the rim, blocking a couple of shots while altering numerous others and dissuading still more.
Simple. And, as a result, easy.
“As a team, we shot the ball well — but it started with defense, it started with our energy. Getting stops and getting out and playing with pace, we just take different shots,” Korver said. “The first unit did a great job of really setting the tone for the game. And we needed it after the last couple.”
“Starting literally from the tip, just being aggressive, trying to just cause havoc on defense, and being under control and not thinking too much on offense,” he said.
The Jazz had big advantages across the board in key areas — namely field-goal percentage (52.6 to 37.7); 3-point proficiency (50.0 percent vs. Miami’s 36.4); rebounds (52 to 30); and assists (29 to 16).
As a result, after never leading on Monday against Oklahoma City, Utah never trailed Wednesday against Miami. The lead got as high as 42 points.
The effort and intensity were there from the outset.
Joe Ingles, who’d been passing up open shots of late, drilled a 3 on the first possession. Mitchell set the tone early by hustling for a loose ball, and was actively engaged defensively on the perimeter. Meanwhile, Gobert matched him on the interior, stepping into driving lanes. All of which enabled the Jazz to race out to a 9-0 lead in the first 3 minutes, prompting a timeout from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
It didn’t do much good.
The Heat didn’t get their first points until 41/2 minutes had elapsed. And by halfway through the first quarter, the Jazz’s advantage was up to 22-4.
All those little things that were going against Utah the prior two games were working in their favor this time — Mitchell hustled for an offensive rebound; Gobert smacked another rebound off the backboard and into Mitchell’s hands for a follow-up bucket; and everyone’s hands were active in the passing lanes. And so, before you knew it, the lead was up to 32-10.
Mitchell said being keyed in defensively from the outset made all the difference.
“The biggest thing is we played defense at a high rate the whole game. There was maybe three possessions where we stopped. That’s what’s gonna take us [to wins],” he said. “… I didn’t like the way I played defensively [in previous games]. … From the opening tip, I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive. Just find ways. Not be worrying about things, just go out there playing. And if you play defense, everything else falls in line for you.”
Coach Quin Snyder said it was apparent early on that the effort on the defensive end was ratcheted up a few notches against the Heat.
“That’s how we need to play. We just need to continue to do it and continue to focus on it. Some games it’s easier than others, for all kinds of different reasons,” he said. “You see it with guys communicating and just being focused on not just on what you’re doing defensively, but what we’re doing.”
The only real intrigue after that was seeing what kind of a show retiring Heat guard Dwyane Wade might put on in his final appearance in Salt Lake City.
The 12-time All-Star got a standing ovation when he checked in at the 6:49 mark of the opening quarter, but had a quiet night thereafter, totaling six points and two assists.
The Jazz’s bench had a more effective outing, thanks to Favors’ 17, Korver’s 16, and Dante Exum’s 14. Snyder was pleased to see the second unit maintaining and expanding the advantage.
“We’re still trying to figure out rotations, and guys getting connected,” he said. “That group was as connected tonight as I’ve seen our bench, on both ends of the floor.”