San Francisco • Second in the West. Third in the NBA.
After a thoroughly easy 129-96 win against the wilting Golden State Warriors — remember them? — on Wednesday night, the Jazz moved up the standings again.
The Jazz’s win against the Warriors was perfunctory. What may not have been were the other results in the Western Conference.
In particular, the Clippers losing in Atlanta, albeit without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — the Hawks were missing Trae Young — was a surprise. The Nuggets losing to the Rockets in Houston helped too. Utah’s third-place standing in the NBA is a tie, along with the Miami Heat, who pulled out an overtime win against the Wizards.
For the record: The Jazz got out to a quick start, winning the first quarter 31-17. Really, the Warriors had no answer for Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert early — the latter picking up a first-half double double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I think the way the game is played these days, it’s rare that you see a traditional five like Gobert ... and because the game is played so small, those guys can put up some pretty big numbers, especially rebounding the ball and getting some easy buckets inside,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
The roll continued in the second half, to a tune of a 137 Jazz offensive rating, 53.8% shooting from the field, and seven minutes for the Jazz’s deep bench to finish the game.
In the third quarter, Mitchell picked up his 4,500th point, in his 199th NBA game. He joined Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Mitch Richmond and Michael Jordan as the last six guards to reach 4,500 points in 200 or fewer games.
“They are tough to guard. They are on a hot streak right now. We saw some of that the last couple of years when Quin (Snyder) would play smaller, but with (Bojan) Bogdanovic you have a totally different type of threat,” Kerr said. “With the floor spacing and Rudy rolling they are a handful, for sure.”
You might look at a Warrior team featuring D’Angelo Russell and assume that maybe the slightly larger challenge was stopping their offense, but they’re currently ranked 29th in the league offensively. The reasons for that were clear, as the Warriors shot just 39.8% from the floor, 26.1% from three and had just a 102 offensive rating all night long. Yes, Russell had his, finishing with 26, but it wasn’t close to enough.
Meanwhile, Mitchell led the Jazz in scoring with 23 points in only 22 minutes on the court, making eight of his 13 shots. Gobert was the Jazz’s runner up, scoring 22 points and adding 15 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting.
The Jazz have won 18 of their last 20 games, including 13 of their last 14. One Warriors reporter, perhaps trying to find the secret sauce for his own team, asked Snyder how the Jazz have been able to go on such a run.
“You start to build confidence. Guys start to figure out how to play with one another,” Jazz coach Snyder said to explain his team’s streak. “We’ve had some guys, individually, that have really started to play well. Collectively, I think there’s a synergy to the group right now.”
That’s not there for the Warriors, though. As the Jazz have moved up in the standings, the Warriors, after Wednesday’s results, moved down.
Fifteenth in the West. Last in the NBA.