Ever since their season-opening blitz in Portland, the Utah Jazz have been chasing — and falling pretty short of — that same level of play.
Sunday night in San Antonio was probably the closest they’ve come to it since, though their 130-109 victory admittedly may have had as much to do with the current state of the Spurs.
Still, there was a lot to like.
Bojan Bogdanovic put up with the nuisance of wearing a wrist brace in order to eliminate some of the pain emanating from his follow-through motion, and quickly went out and buried 10 of 13 shots (6 of 7 from deep) for a freefall-halting 28 points.
Donovan Mitchell shook off the indiscriminate shot selection of games prior and embraced his playmaking role with aplomb — turning in a mostly-efficient 22-point, nine-assist, four-rebound effort.
And while Rudy Gobert was quiet on the offensive end (2 for 7 from the field, 3 of 6 from the stripe, seven points), he nevertheless was dominant on the interior, registering 16 rebounds and six blocked shots.
“I think we played the way we want to play — driving and finding the open guys; and we’ve got a lot of guys that can knock down shots, and we saw it again tonight,” Gobert said. “When we move the ball and get catch-and-shoot 3s, we’re very, very efficient.”
Hard to argue the point when they are racking up 29 assists on 49 baskets, shooting 55.1% from the field, and drilling 21 of 41 attempts from 3-point range.
Then again, it’s a little more difficult to play the efficiency card when you’re also committing 20 turnovers and yielding 22 points off of them against an opponent that was not exactly ratcheting up the pressure defensively.
Mitchell pointed out that the Jazz were primarily beset by two kinds of miscues on Sunday: those emanating from unselfishness but undone by indecision, like, say, driving the lane intending to shoot, then changing course and making a bad pass at the last moment; and those simply stemming from bad habits.
The former kind, they can live with (“We are making the right passes and the right plays to get our 3s,” Mitchell said), but the latter, they must eradicate.
“The careless ones, the one-handed passes, the cross-court passes, those are the ones that we can control, because we’re doing it out of [going through the] motions, we’re doing it out of laziness in certain instances,” the Louisville product added.
He cited a sluggish cross-court attempt he lobbed out there in the second quarter that was easily intercepted by the Spurs’ Keldon Johnson and returned the other way for a dunk as a particularly egregious example of what they must avoid going forward.
Particularly against teams more equipped to make them pay for it than the Spurs.
“That’s what kept them in the game in the second quarter,” Gobert said, referring to a 13-0 run that helped San Antonio cut a 50-29 deficit down to eight points. “On a night when there’s a team that is going to play better, we could give up the game and lose a game like that.”
The important thing for the rest of this seven-game road trip and the season beyond, according to Mitchell, is the Jazz “being relentless.” Such bad stretches will inevitably happen; how will they react to them and cut them short in the future?
“Just find ways to continue to keep your foot on their neck, continuing to keep that killer mentality on both ends,” Mitchell added. “Every time I turn the ball over, making it a point, ‘Alright, it won’t happen again,’ or if we give up a run, are we pushing back? Not letting them come back? … Now it’s a matter of when we’re doing it again and again and again and again. That’s where we have to get.”
If all of this sounds like a bit of a downer in the immediate aftermath of a 21-point victory that improved Utah to 4-2 on the season … that’s fair, it is.
Thing is, while happy they earned the win, the Jazz also know there are levels of improvement yet to achieve before they’ll start to feel anywhere near satisfied.
“We played better. [But] it’s early in the season and I’m not going to get too excited when we play well. If we play well for a period of time, I think we can see that,” said coach Quin Snyder. “We have to continue to do the things we need to do to win; obviously, we did ‘em better tonight, and we did it throughout the course of the game. That was the thing for me — I felt like we we had a presence every quarter, and that’s not something that we’ve done on the level that I know all of us want to do. So that consistency throughout the game, and then coming back again and doing it the next game and so on and so on, that’s what we’re looking for.”
JAZZ 130, SPURS 109
Key moment • The Jazz opened the second half by making 5 of their first 7 tries from beyond the arc, blowing the game wide open.
Big number: 21 • When all the shooting was over, the Jazz made 21 shots from deep — just one away from their franchise record.
Up next • The Jazz are off to New York, as they’ll take on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Nets in Brooklyn on Tuesday. Tipoff is slated for 5:30 p.m. MT.