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Utah Jazz unfazed by national perception as playoff underdogs

SALT LAKE CITY — Even after stealing Game 2 on the road Wednesday, 116-108, against the mighty Houston Rockets, some of the national media still aren’t believers in the Utah Jazz.

Respecting Utah was the topic of Thursday’s Pardon The Interruption discussion on ESPN, where longtime journalists Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser debated on whether or not the last game changes this Western Conference semifinals series.

Wilbon was stunned by the outcome and still expects Houston to win, but is re-evaluating how things will play out. Initially dismissive of the Jazz even standing a chance, Wilbon apologized to the franchise and followers, but Kornheiser didn’t.

“I picked Houston in four and now I’m picking Houston in five,” Kornheiser declared.

Kornheiser is not only a non-believer; he also claimed to be unaware of the starting lineup or any of the Jazz reserves.

“I joined, last night, 300 million other Americans in that I could not name the starting five of the Utah Jazz,” Kornheiser said. “I could’ve given you Rudy Gobert, I could’ve given you Donovan Mitchell. I never heard of Joe Ingles until last night.

“Then I found out that he made seven threes and then when he spoke into the microphone, I found out he wasn’t from here,” he continued. “He was either from England or Australia, so now I can’t give you the other two starters or anybody on the bench. I love the fact that they won.”

Comments like those aren’t unusual when the Jazz are brought up in national discussions. Sure, Mitchell is getting plenty of shine as one of the frontrunners in the Rookie of the Year race, but guys like Ingles, Royce O’Neale, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and even Ricky Rubio aren’t known by the masses, outside of Utah.

Entering Game 3 at 8:30 p.m. tonight on ESPN, Mitchell said the team isn’t worried about what the outsiders believe as long as they can continue to pile up victories.

“It’s funny because you hear that all the time,” Mitchell said. “We have a bunch of guys that have been overlooked in their careers. We can go down the line…

“People didn’t think Ricky (Rubio) was an offensive threat this year, with Joe Ingles having a great year, (Alec Burks) was kind of a question mark and look what he’s been doing in this playoffs,” Mitchell added. “Everybody… Royce is a rookie so we’ve all been kind of overlooked but we’re all used to it. I guess it’s part of the fueling for us, even Rudy (Gobert), I bet you he’ll tell you all 26 people that got picked before him so it’s just within us.”

The public perception certainly isn’t affecting Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s adjustments or game planning, either, so frankly it really doesn’t matter.

What matters is when the ball is tipped will the Jazz be ready to go tonight against the Rockets. Utah’s City Edition look will return to Vivint Arena with a sea of "Take Note" T-shirts on display as the Jazz look to go ahead 2-1.

“I don’t think this is a group, myself included, that is trying to lean on that stuff,” Snyder said. “We just play and there isn’t an inferiority complex or ‘Hey, look at us’ or ‘You haven’t talked about us.’ I don’t feel like that’s the case.

“For one thing, if you win people notice and if you don’t, there’s nothing to talk about. Those things take care of itself if you play well.”