‘Struggling’ Bojan Bogdanovic gets aggressive as Utah Jazz knock off Mavericks again for 11th straight win

While he’s been up and down following wrist surgery, the Croatian forward drops in a season-high 32 points during 120-101 victory, as teammates and coaches urge him to “continue to attack.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) takes the ball to the hoop, as Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Richardson (0) and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) defend, in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Arena, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Unless you’re tanking for lottery position, there’s not really a bad time to reel off an 11-game winning streak.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Juwan Morgan (16) goes for a loose ball along with Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77), in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Arena, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Still, as far as Bojan Bogdanovic is concerned, the Utah Jazz’s ongoing steamroller run through the NBA is about as well-timed as it gets.

“I mean, exactly. I would be really mad if I’m playing the way I’m playing right now and we are losing. But we are winning, the team is playing great, so no one cares about about their own statistics or their own percentage of shots or whatever,” he said after Friday night’s 120-101 victory over the visiting Dallas Mavericks. “So it’s great for me that we are winning even though I’m struggling right now.”

Yeah, Bogey’s been struggling this season.

His scoring is down more than seven points per game from a season ago (to 12.9), his field-goal percentage has dropped 8 percentage points (to 36.7), his 3-point shooting is down 5% (to 36.5) — even his always-reliable free-throw shooting has declined by 10% (to 80.4).

His re-acclimation to basketball following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right shooting wrist back in May has thus far produced uneven results. One good game will be followed by several bad ones, signs of progress see subsequent setbacks.

Still, his season-high 32-point outburst on Friday is the latest reason for optimism and encouragement.

He appeared to be in rhythm, taking advantage of bully-ball post-ups on smaller defenders and flying around screens to launch no-hesitation 3-pointers. The result was an incredibly efficient performance — 10 of 16 from the field, 7 of 11 beyond the arc, and only one turnover.

His teammates were glad to see it, and are hopeful to see not only similar results going forward, but even more of the effort that produced such numbers.

“I mean, it was great. It was great. Every one of us are supporting him every day,” said Mike Conley, who continued his own stellar run with 22 points, nine assists, and three steals. “And we want him to be aggressive — whether he makes or misses shots, we need him to shoot, we need him to be aggressive. And tonight he was himself, and it makes us a lot better.”

Quin Snyder agreed.

With Donovan Mitchell sitting out a second straight game due to a concussion, the Jazz were in need of some extra scoring punch.

Snyder was pleased to see Bogdanovic deliver.

“The biggest thing that I want him to do is just to continue to attack, continue to shoot, continue to compete,” the coach said. “And whatever he’s doing, he’s so competitive that good things are going to happen. And good things happened tonight, and obviously, it was timely.”

Bogey said a Friday morning film session with the coaching staff concluded with them insisting that he shoot more (his field-goal attempts are also down by more than three per game). He conceded after the game, though, that “sometimes it’s hard when you are struggling, when you don’t see the ball getting through the net.”

So Snyder did what he could to generate some additional opportunities for the guy who had a career year in his first season with the team, making it a point to draw up multiple plays for the Croatian sharpshooter. It didn’t work immediately — “I started the game with two misses on two wide-open shots,” Bogey noted with disgust afterward — but they kept at it, exploiting the defensive looks the Mavericks were throwing out there.

“We played a really good game and it kind of opened [things] up for me,” he added. “Rudy [Gobert] did a great job last game, so they kind of changed their defense and tried to protect the rim more, so we had a lot of wide-open 3s.”

Indeed, the Jazz went 20 of 48 from beyond the arc — their seventh game this season with at least 20 makes from downtown.

But Bogey was the main driver of that Friday, the capable primary scorer who carried the offensive load in the team’s 11th win in a row.

Whether this marks the beginning of his turnaround or is simply the latest positive blip in an up-and-down campaign remains to be seen. Still, the Jazz know that they’ll ultimately need a prime Bogdanovic, operating at full capacity, to achieve what they want to.

“He had the best year of his career last year, and the way that he plays and the way that we play are a great fit,” Snyder said. “He hasn’t played in so long, and he’s just kind of playing his way back to where he’s been. And sometimes that just takes time.”

Fortunately, at this moment, they’re able to endure all his fits and starts as they come. With 11 consecutive wins on their ledger, patience is a virtue the Jazz can afford right now.

Utah 120, Dallas 101

DALLAS (101)

Finney-Smith 4-9 0-0 11, Hardaway Jr. 1-5 0-0 2, Porzingis 4-14 2-3 11, Doncic 8-17 7-10 25, Richardson 3-8 0-0 6, Iwundu 0-2 2-2 2, Johnson 4-7 2-2 10, Powell 2-4 2-4 6, Cauley-Stein 0-0 0-0 0, Marjanovic 1-1 0-1 2, Brunson 4-7 3-4 13, Burke 3-8 0-0 6, Green 3-3 0-1 7, Terry 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 37-86 18-27 101.

UTAH (120)

Bogdanovic 10-16 5-5 32, O'Neale 0-4 4-4 4, Gobert 5-7 7-8 17, Conley 7-17 4-4 22, Ingles 4-7 0-0 10, Azubuike 0-0 0-0 0, Brantley 1-2 0-0 3, Morgan 5-8 0-1 12, Niang 1-9 0-0 2, Oni 0-1 0-0 0, Clarkson 5-16 4-4 18, Harrison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-87 24-26 120.

Dallas 12 33 23 33 — 101

Utah 37 24 33 26 — 120

3-Point Goals_Dallas 9-33 (Finney-Smith 3-8, Brunson 2-4, Doncic 2-6, Porzingis 1-5, Richardson 0-3, Burke 0-4), Utah 20-48 (Bogdanovic 7-11, Conley 4-10, Clarkson 4-12, Ingles 2-4, Morgan 2-4, Niang 0-4). Fouled Out_Dallas None, Utah 1 (Morgan). Rebounds_Dallas 40 (Porzingis 9), Utah 56 (Gobert 12). Assists_Dallas 20 (Doncic 7), Utah 21 (Conley 9). Total Fouls_Dallas 27, Utah 25. A_1,932 (18,306)