Ahead of Wednesday’s game in Sacramento, Kings coach Luke Walton was asked about what to expect from a league-leading Utah Jazz team that had just been dealt back-to-back losses by the Timberwolves and were playing without All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.
“They’re coming off a tough couple losses, close games where they had big leads against Minnesota. And when you talk about top-level playoff teams that have been through the grinder together, they’re normally a lot sharper after coming off games like that, where they probably feel they should have won,” Walton said. “So we know we’re coming in here to get an angry, elite team.”
Pretty complimentary, right?
Jazz coach Quin Snyder apparently didn’t think so, seemingly taking issue with the implication that Utah wasn’t sharp against Minnesota.
“I’m not sure that we weren’t sharp the other night. I know we didn’t shoot well,” he replied pregame. “… Maybe the word I would use that that would be synonymous with what Luke said, we have to be really precise.”
You could call it semantics … except that as Wednesday’s game unfolded at the Golden1 Center, the Jazz were beyond sharp, they were lethal. They weren’t merely precise, they were surgical.
Their 30-point opening quarter proved merely a few pinpricks. In their 46-point second quarter, they cut the Kings’ hearts out.
The final carnage? A 154-105 victory that saw them set franchise records for both points scored and margin of victory.
Asked if he’d ever been part of a team that’d scored 154 points in a game before, Bojan Bogdanovic was incredulous in the negative.
“No, I don’t think so. Not even close,” he said. “So it was a big night from our side. Yeah, I was I was also surprised that we that we put up that number.”
Snyder, of course, was more restrained in his assessment.
“I’m probably in the minority, but I actually thought we played well [Monday] night. We didn’t shoot well [Monday] night. And tonight we played well in a different way,” he said.
“… Obviously tonight some things went our way,” he added in the mother of all understatements.
First among them, the change he made to the starting lineup.
On the rare occasions in the past that the Jazz have been without both members of their starting backcourt, Snyder has typically opted to inset Joe Ingles and sixth-man extraordinaire Jordan Clarkson instead. This time, Snyder left Clarkson on the bench and started Georges Niang, moving Royce O’Neale into a backcourt position, and generating some additional size and shooting.
It paid off more than somewhat.
Bogdanovic did the damage early, alternating between bully-ball post-ups and forceful drives to the rim, as he totaled 12 first-quarter points.
After that, the Jazz went wild.
Rudy Gobert and Ingles alternated free runs to the hoop to begin the second quarter on a 7-0 run.
Bogdanovic hit a 3, Gobert contested a shot to force a miss, then Ingles hit a 3 … making it a 13-0 run.
A bit later, Niang drained a 3, and Clarkson also nailed one to make the run 23-2.
By the time the carnage was over, the Jazz had made 16 of 23 shots in the second quarter. They drained 8 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc. They won the period 46-17 and went into halftime with a 32-point advantage.
Of course, their effort on the other end was just as good, with the Kings making only 1 of their first 10 shots, and finishing 7 of 21 for the period. They were also limited to only four attempts beyond the arc over that 12-minute span.
“Our offense was great, but our defense was on point,” said Bogdanovic. “… When we play defense like we played tonight — especially in the second quarter — it’s easy for us.”
The easiness of it all didn’t stop there.
The Jazz reached the century mark with 4-plus minutes left in the third quarter. They racked up another 40-point quarter. Then a 38-point one. They led by as many as 54. Bogdanovic checked out with a game-high 24 points, plus four assists. Clarkson added 23 points. Niang — playing a revenge game for the Kings’ broadcast crew suggesting he was merely the second-best Iowa State product on the court (behind Sacramento rookie Tyrese Haliburton) went 5 of 7 beyond the arc for 19 points, and also had four assists.
Rudy Gobert contributed 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in just 24 minutes. Ingles added 13 points and seven assists. And so it was that Snyder was able to empty the bench early in the fourth, and 11 players wound up in the scoring column — including 17 points in nine minutes from trade-deadline acquisition Matt Thomas.
“As a shooter and as a scorer, it always feels good when the ball is going in the basket — and tonight was just one of those nights where the basket looked pretty big for me,” Thomas said after shooting 7 for 7.
The rest of the Jazz were only slightly less efficient, as they’d wind up shooting 64.0% from the floor for the game, drilling 58.5% from deep (24 of 41), and nailing 95.2% of their free throws (20 of 21).
They almost doubled Sacramento up in rebounds. They limited the Kings to just two second-chance points.
The two-game skid was cut down. Their 45th win of the season attained.
And a night that began with the coach quibbling over the use of the word “sharp” saw his team transform into an absolute buzzsaw.
Still, Walton turned out to be right — the Jazz proved to be all of sharp, angry, and elite.
“I think all of us were a little bitter after dropping two straight to Minnesota,” said Niang, “so we wanted to come out here and really make a point.”
Breaking a franchise record that dated back to April 9, 1978 when the franchise was still in New Orleans? Consider it the sharpest point possible.