Monday night’s victory over the Warriors in San Francisco demonstrated the Jazz’s skill and style.
Tuesday night’s win against the Nets at Vivint Smart Home Arena showed off their grit and tenacity.
After sleepwalking through the first half, Utah roared back in the second, making just enough plays down the stretch to ultimately prevail by a 119-114 margin.
Donovan Mitchell finished with 30 points and six rebounds, and nailed the game-clinching free throws with 1 second remaining.
“It shows our composure, first and foremost. We knew what type of game this was going to be, us coming off a back-to-back, them waiting on us,” said forward Jeff Green, who scored 13 off the bench. “… It shows our resiliency. It was a tough game, but it shows our character and how we’re going to play for the rest of the year.”
It would help their cause if they avoid playing the way they did over the first 24 minutes again.
The Jazz trailed 68-53 at the break. They shot just 40.4% from the floor, and only 1 of 13 from 3-point range. They weren’t any better on the other end, either, as Brooklyn was converting at a 56.1% clip in the early going.
Asked if their were halftime pyrotechnics in the locker room, coach Quin Snyder simply responded that it was apparent things needed to change coming out for the third quarter.
That the Jazz responded with a 13-0 run to start the third and trim the deficit to two points showed him that his players took the message to heart.
“In an 82-game season, there’s gonna be halftimes like that. And the biggest thing is to be honest with yourselves as a group why you’re playing the way you’re playing. And we weren’t defending the way that we could, and also we were sluggish offensively. And we just had to be sharper mentally,” Snyder said. “These guys have a lot character, it’s a competitive group, and they competed together. … There was no way we were gonna shut down, but the resolve that they showed and the way that they carried it forward, it was a really good win.”
After the momentum stalled a bit as the quarter went along, and the Jazz entered the final period trailing by eight, it seemed fair to wonder if that third-quarter run had been something of a last gasp.
Turns out, that thinking could hardly have been more wrong.
With Green nailing a trifecta of 3-pointers, and Emmanuel Mudiay having success pushing the ball downcourt and getting into the lane, Utah ultimately surged ahead with a 19-6 stretch to start the fourth.
“It says a lot about our depth, a lot about the guys we have in this locker room all paying attention to the details and the moments in the games,” said guard Mike Conley, who finished with 18 points and five assists. “Our second unit — Emmanuel, Jeff, Joe [Ingles], Tony [Bradley], they came in and really set the tempo for the starters to come back in the second half and try to pick it back up. And it snowballed from there.”
Mitchell agreed that the group manning the second unit (Mudiay scored 15 off the bench) ultimately provided the needed momentum and altered the outcome.
“We have a lot of guys who can come in, whether it’s offense or defense,” he said. “Jeff came in and hit three 3s. Emmanuel coming in and pushing the pace. Being able to guard. That’s what they give us — that spark. … Without their push, we don’t win this game.”
Utah still required some big moments down the stretch to pull the game out.
Ingles forcing Kyrie Irving into a key miss on a go-ahead 3, and grabbing a rebound from his backside. Bojan Bogdanovic back-tapping Conley’s missed free throw, enabling Mitchell to run off some clock before ultimately hitting the game-winners. Rudy Gobert holding on to a fastball in the lane from Conley and putting it in, en route to hitting 8 of 10 shots to total 18 points, 15 rebounds and countless altered shots at the rim.
“They came out and they hit us first,” Mitchell said, “but we came in and did what we needed to do.”