Turns out, the Utah Jazz are so much better than the admittedly-depleted-but-still-generally-bad Cleveland Cavaliers that, even with Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson combining for just seven first-half points on 2-for-16 shooting, Utah was still up by 19 at the break.
And so it was that, with the lead eventually stretching to as many as 41 points, the second half of Monday’s game could be devoted to trying to get those guys on track, and working on perfecting various habits. They certainly didn’t have anything to fear in terms of losing the game.
The Jazz’s eventual 114-75 victory was their sixth straight overall, and their 20th in a row at Vivint Arena.
First the preliminaries: Donovan Mitchell (19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, plus four assists) and Rudy Gobert (18 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks) did their ruinous best in a mere 53 minutes combined.
Now then, about getting those struggling guys on track …
Well, for starters, Conley bounced back in a big way.
After going 0 for 3 from the field and totaling just two points before halftime, he came out in sharpshooter mode after the break and turned a blowout into an annihilation. The All-Star guard buried 5 of 6 shots in the third period, including all three of his tries from beyond the arc.
His 16 points in the quarter helped Utah close the period on a 17-0 run, as the Jazz went into the final dozen minutes leading by 38.
“I just made it a point to try to get the ball and try to be more aggressive and look to make plays,” said Conley, who added five assists and four rebounds. “I can get kind of lost out there; in the flow of the game, we’ve got so many guys that can make plays and handle the ball that, you miss a few shots, you can get a little bit passive. So I think I got to that point, and then in third quarter, coach drew up a couple of plays and I took the initiative.”
As for Bogdanovic … well, his shot is still a work in progress, but he actually impressed with his offense in other ways.
The Croatian was 1 for 4 from the field in the first half and missed his only attempt in the third quarter, but his post-ups were still leading to points — just not from him.
He racked up five assists thanks to his ability to locate shooters and to send on-target passes their way. Like Conley, he did not take the court at all in the fourth quarter.
Clarkson, on the other hand, went back out there at the start of the final period alongside Gobert, Georges Niang, Miye Oni, and Trent Forrest.
The sixth man’s second half (2 for 5) was markedly more efficient than his first (1 for 9) solely from the perspective of him hitting twice as many shots in about half as many attempts — though obviously that’s a pretty warped lens.
No, he didn’t catch fire. But, like Bogdanovic, he did find other ways to contribute, notably grabbing six rebounds.
As for the team in general fortifying those norms and routines …
Well, the turnovers were limited (12), the trips to the line plentiful and efficient (19 for 23), and the blender was fine-tuned and whirring perfectly, as the Jazz racked up 29 assists on 38 baskets.
“The habits are the same, regardless of who’s in the game, regardless of the score, who you’re playing” coach Quin Snyder said. “Sometimes when you get a lead on teams, [you] have a tendency to stop sharing the ball quite as much, and that’s something I thought we did a good job of. We kept playing the right way.”
As for the defense, well, in spite of the Cavaliers shooting just 34.9% overall, 20.6% from deep, totaling just five fast-break points, and being held to the second-lowest point total of any team in any game this season, Utah still found some nits to pick.
“The first few minutes of the game, we weren’t as alert as we needed to be in transition. That’s something that we talked about pretty early, and I saw our guys respond,” Snyder added. “I still think, off the ball, we’ve just got to be a little more aware. We really want to shift and protect the paint — we did a good job of that, really, with the ball-handler; we’ve just got to be conscious of cutters, as well. Every game we want to defend, no matter who we’re playing, no matter what style they’re playing — that’s what we’re here for.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, recalled a point in the third quarter where Utah allowed a series of back-door layups as proof that the defense was far from perfect.
“When you’re up by that much, it’s tough to stay locked in — and we’ve been culprits of doing that a few times,” he said. “… There was a stretch where Mike got back-cut, Royce did, and then I did — three mental errors. And that’s really where our mind has to stay locked in on that point. It can’t happen. And then we fixed it, we cleaned it up.”
And that continues to be the beat the team is marching to.
“Regardless of the score, regardless of if we’re up or if we’re down, we really want to keep getting better every single minute on the court,” said Gobert. “Regardless if it’s the end of the game, early in the game, we want to play defense and we want to share the ball offensively and shoot the ball.”
JAZZ 114, CAVALIERS 75
Okoro 1-9 3-5 5, Wade 3-5 0-0 7, Hartenstein 2-8 0-2 5, Garland 8-16 0-0 18, Sexton 8-18 4-5 20, Prince 2-9 0-0 5, Stevens 2-7 0-0 5, B.Thomas 1-5 3-4 5, Dotson 2-6 0-0 5. Totals 29-83 10-16 75.
Bogdanovic 1-5 0-0 3, O'Neale 2-3 0-0 5, Gobert 5-8 8-10 18, Conley 5-9 5-5 18, Mitchell 7-14 1-2 19, Brantley 1-4 2-2 4, Favors 3-5 0-0 6, Ilyasova 1-3 0-0 2, Niang 3-5 0-0 9, Oni 2-3 0-0 6, Ingles 2-3 1-2 7, Clarkson 3-14 2-2 9, Forrest 0-1 0-0 0, Hughes 1-1 0-0 3, M.Thomas 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 38-82 19-23 114.
Cleveland 18 16 18 23 — 75
Utah 27 26 37 24 — 114
3-Point Goals_Cleveland 7-34 (Garland 2-4, Dotson 1-3, Hartenstein 1-3, Stevens 1-3, Wade 1-3, Prince 1-4, B.Thomas 0-3, Sexton 0-5, Okoro 0-6), Utah 19-41 (Mitchell 4-7, Conley 3-5, Niang 3-5, Ingles 2-3, Oni 2-3, Bogdanovic 1-2, O’Neale 1-2, M.Thomas 1-3, Clarkson 1-7, Ilyasova 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Cleveland 40 (Hartenstein 14), Utah 55 (Gobert 17). Assists_Cleveland 17 (Hartenstein 7), Utah 29 (Bogdanovic, Conley 5). Total Fouls_Cleveland 18, Utah 14. A_5,546 (18,306)