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Analysis: Playing without Donovan Mitchell, Jazz win with defense against Spurs

SHARE Analysis: Playing without Donovan Mitchell, Jazz win with defense against Spurs
San Antonio Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, wearing black, shoots against Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert, wearing yellow

San Antonio Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, right, shoots against Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in San Antonio.

Darren Abate, Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — The Utah Jazz beat the San Antonio Spurs, 110-104, in the first game of their two-game road trip without Donovan Mitchell

High Notes

  • The Jazz knew that they were going to need a collective effort to make up for the fact that Donovan Mitchell was not going to be in the game. Mike Conley said as much Monday morning and pointed out that there is always a little more responsibility placed on their shoulders when a player of Mitchell’s caliber is not on the floor. So to see the way that the Jazz moved the ball and tried out a bunch of different looks against the Spurs was a great sign. The Jazz still managed to have six players score in double figures even without Mitchell on the floor, led by 23 points from Jordan Clarkson off the bench.
  • While the balanced offense was great, it was the Jazz’s defense that was the most impressive on Monday night. The Jazz held San Antonio to 43 points in the first half — a season low for points in a half by the Spurs — and were pretty relentless in staying glued to their men. Obviously Rudy Gobert was the anchor in all of it, as he always is, and deserves a ton of praise. But, Hassan Whiteside had some really impressive minutes while Royce O’Neale, Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic were all incredibly gritty inside and outside even when switched onto much larger and stronger opponents. Again, when you’re missing your leading scorer, it’s reassuring to see the team win a game on the defensive end.
    “I think tonight our defense really helped us, really allowed us to hold them.” — Jordan Clarkson
  • Gobert’s passing has been pretty incredible this season. Some of the passes that he makes from the interior, kicking out to guys on the 3-point line have been insane. He’s got a great feel for timing and space and it shows that he’s put some work into it.

Low Notes

  • The plucky Spurs made a late push against the Jazz’s deep bench lineup to try to come back, but it was not really a comeback that had the Jazz in real peril. That said, Quin Snyder had to bring back in his starters to close the game because his bench unit was giving up the lead. That means less rest for a group that is playing shorthanded on the road which means that the deep bench guys need to step it up. That shouldn’t happen.
  • There were quite a few things to like about what Trent Forrest did in extended minutes on the defensive end. But I think that it took a little too long for him to start getting aggressive on the offensive end. He didn’t score and he only took two shots in nearly 20 minutes of play. I get that he’s not out there to be a scoring replacement for Mitchell — that’s the job of the guys above him on the depth chart — but I think he has to start using his quickness and athleticism to his advantage. If you’re not a shooter and you aren’t driving and a threat at the rim, then the defense has no real reason to respect you.
    “He does a lot for us on defense, he does a lot for us offensively, running the team. But yeah, sometimes he’s got to keep the defense honest and shoot those floaters and keep continuing to play hard.” — Jordan Clarkson

Flat Notes

  • Joe Ingles passing up open shots for a more contested Rudy Gay shot is never not going to be a point of frustration. He always says that he’s going to take shots when he’s open and the ones that he’s comfortable with but sometimes when he passes up a wide open look, I can’t help but think, how is it possible to make you more comfortable than that?
  • Clarkson was not shooting the ball well but managed to score by being really forceful in the paint, which is good. And he had a great night rebounding and playmaking as well. But Clarkson gave up multiple transition 3s when he got overly frustrated about not getting foul calls. At one point he punched the court in anger while he was on the ground rather than get back on defense. It’s not something that we see often from Clarkson and he’s going to be harder on himself for this than anyone else is, but it was certainly notable and not what the team needed in those moments.