There certainly will be some contingent of Utah Jazz fans out there disproportionately concerned by the team’s 101-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns in a scrimmage played on the HP Fieldhouse court in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday night.
Perhaps most will look at the Ed Davis-Georges Niang-Miye Oni-Rayjon Tucker-Emmanuel Mudiay lineup that graced the floor early in the fourth quarter with the game still in the balance and recognize that the coaching staff was not sweating the end result, though.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said before the contest that he expected it to be “about seeing a couple of combinations, things that we want to necessarily try to accomplish with those groups and see some different things that we’ve been thinking about.”
That much was accomplished.
The second quarter saw them go relatively small, with Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles surrounding center Rudy Gobert. The third quarter, meanwhile, saw them go the opposite direction, with Tony Bradley paired alongside Gobert in a super-sized frontcourt.
“When Tony came in, he did a great job running the floor — it kinda reminded me of playing with [Derrick Favors] my first two years,” said Mitchell.
Of course, if there was ever a time for throwing weird stuff out there and seeing what happens, this was it. After all, it was a game played without fans, with some unique camera angles, with bench seats spaced apart for social distancing, and coaching staffs clad not in suits but matching polo shirts.
While Conley noted that “It was weird running out of the tunnel and there was no one there to give us high-fives,” Gobert said he personally felt like he acclimated to the uniqueness pretty quickly.
“If there’s one thing that I like about not having fans, it’s that I can hear my teammates clearly and they can hear me,” he explained. “… The bench is the one thing that we’re not used to — sitting that way, having to stay away from other guys. The sound system is very good, the big screens fill up the space. … At the same time, once I’m on the court, I just focus on what’s going on out on the floor and zone out on the other stuff.”
As for the on-court stuff, pretty much everyone but Mitchell seemed a bit rusty and took some time to get used to playing again. The All-Star guard racked up a game-high 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting, to go along with four assists.
Meanwhile, there was one thing that didn’t change — everyone’s assertion that the defense can get much better.
“We gave up too much in the paint, especially early. We’ve gotta do a better job of dictating the paint,” Snyder said. “… Our guys played their way into the game a little bit, which we can’t do. We’ve got to come out with force and play aggressively.”