So, it turns out that an Orlando Magic team depleted by trades and further decimated by injury and illness, and a Utah Jazz team enjoying arguably its best shooting game of this season is a historic combination.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Utah set an NBA record with 18 made 3-pointers in a half (the first) Saturday night at Vivint Arena.
And honestly, the only thing keeping them from breaking the single-game record of 29 mades 3s (set by the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season) is that the Jazz were decimating the Magic too much to justify keeping the rotation guys in for long enough.
In previous years, this might have been a game the Jazz did not take seriously, and which could have seen a plucky, scrappy underdog Orlando team hang in far longer than they had any business doing.
Not this year. Not this time.
Jazz 137, Magic 91.
And it could have been much, much worse.
“Regardless of who you’re playing, who’s out there, who’s starting, who’s injured, whatever it is, we’re trying to obviously come out and play the same way that we want to play every game,” explained Joe Ingles, who was with the first five as Mike Conley took a night off to rest his hamstring. “… The starters are really focused on coming out aggressive and just playing the way we want to play — be aggressive defensively, rebound the ball, run. Obviously, we’re going to shoot 3s, and just play our style. But just making sure that we’re locked in every night.”
Donovan Mitchell toyed with the Orlando defenders, calmly stepping into one open 3 after another and making 6 of 7 for 22 points in his 17 first-half minutes. Ingles was 4 of 6. Jordan Clarkson 3 of 6. Georges Niang 2 of 3. Bojan Bogdanovic 2 of 4.
All. Before. Halftime.
The only regular long-range sniper who didn’t get in on the fun in the first half was Royce O’Neale, who shockingly went 0 for 4 from deep before the break.
“We had one of those nights shooting the ball,” coach Quin Snyder said in the mother of all understatements. “… This is one of those nights, for us, where we played really well and we played the right way.”
The Jazz led by as many as 42 points and went into the break up 78-40. And the only reason it was that close is because they did the Magic a solid and turned it over a few times and went 1 for 5 beyond the arc in the final few minutes.
There was more obliteration coming out of halftime, too.
O’Neale got in on the long-range party when he drilled one with 8:51 left in the period.
And when Bogdanovic buried another a mere 45 seconds later, it was not only Utah’s fourth 3 of the quarter already, but enabled the Jazz to double the Magic up at 92-46.
Orlando coach Steve Clifford was going to call a timeout, but realized he was down to only two remaining for the rest of the game already.
Then Quin Snyder did him a solid — instructing Mitchell to commit an intentional foul, calling a timeout himself, then subbing out every starter of his but Bogdanovic, while throwing the non-rotation likes of Miye One and Trent Forrest out there.
“For the starting group to go out there and handle business from the jump is huge,” said Mitchell.
And so it was that bench stalwart Georges Niang found himself directing traffic for much of the third alongside the likes of Oni, Forrest, Ersan Ilyasova and Matt Thomas.
By the start of the fourth, second-year two-way forward Jarrell Brantley had replaced Niang, as the Jazz led by 35.
Oni got a chance to reiterate that he’s an über-athletic wing with great defensive skills, and potentially a long-term future as a rotation piece — if he can ever get his outside shot going consistently.
Forrest got a chance to show that he can be a competent floor general — if he can ever get his outside shot going — as he finished with eight points and six assists.
So impressive was his performance that he not only got a postgame meeting but the media, but had it interrupted by Mitchell, who crept up behind the rookie, put his arm around his shoulder, looked into the camera and declared, “This kid is a stud! A stud!”
Still, with that group going 3 for 15 from deep in the fourth, the Jazz “settled” for “just” 26 made 3s on the evening.
No, they didn’t wind up with the single-game record — they didn’t even wind up matching the franchise record of 28 they set earlier this season.
Not that Snyder will lose any sleep about it.
What they did come away with is knowledge: that the starters were laser-focused on the second night of a back-to-back … that the end-of-bench guys have some defensive work to do after allowing Orlando to drop 32 points in the third …
Oh, and that if they want to get to 30 made 3s in a game, they’ll probably have to keep it more competitive for a little bit longer.