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Instant analysis: Shorthanded Jazz take down the Thunder

The Utah Jazz beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 106-96 on Tuesday on the second night of a back-to-back, and they did it without Joe Ingles (left knee soreness), Jordan Clarkson (right ankle sprain) and Royce O’Neale (rest)

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) drives between Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby (22) and forward Darius Bazley (7) during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) drives between Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby (22) and forward Darius Bazley (7) during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 106-96 on Tuesday on the second night of a back-to-back, and they did it without Joe Ingles (left knee soreness), Jordan Clarkson (right ankle sprain) and Royce O’Neale (rest).

High notes

  • Georges Niang got his second career start on Tuesday in place of O’Neale and immediately started firing. He had 12 of his 18 points by the end of the first quarter, finished with a career-high 10 rebounds, and although he’s not O’Neale on the defensive end, he did a good job in what he was asked to do.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic followed up his Monday night 33-point performance with a 23-point outing against the Thunder and largely got there because of his patience and composure in the post. He made just one 3-pointer and only took three through the whole game, but was smart with his drives and seemed less interested than usual in waiting for the call from the official rather than actually finishing, and it paid off for him.
  • Jarrell Brantley played 22 minutes. That’s the most he’s played outside of one of the seeding games in the bubble, the one against the San Antonio Spurs that the Jazz rested their starters in the second half. Brantley got an opportunity on Tuesday and put together a really solid night, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds and an assist. More importantly though, he was one of the only players that effectively guarded Luguentz Dort and that isn’t something that should be taken lightly. We’ve seen Brantley so sparingly this season and in his short and small garbage minutes he hasn’t been that great, but when he was allowed to get into the flow of the game he really stood out.

“Most players at some point have heard, ‘Keep working, stay ready, you never know when your opportunity is going to present itself.’ And he’s done a great job of just doing exactly that. ... It’s true of all of our young guys. But Jarrell got an opportunity tonight and he came in with a defensive mindset and was able to impact the game.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

  • Now, it might be hard to look at the box score and see that Dort had 42 and think that anybody effectively defended him, but he had 18 of those points in the first quarter alone and that’s why Brantley got more playing time over Miye Oni through the rest of the game.
  • By the way, Dort is exceptional. Like I said, he finished with 42 points and is just as good on the defensive end. He’s the kind of player that you could hope that Brantley would turn into.
  • Matt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova also got some extra minutes with the Jazz and while they didn’t really shine in their minutes it’s never bad to get the seldom-used players some run.
  • Donovan Mitchell seemed calm and collected on Tuesday in a way that we haven’t really seen in while and that worked really well for him. He had 22 points, was efficient and smart. There was also a really small moment that I liked. Midway through the second quarter Brantley got a rebound and was bringing the ball up and had just stepped over the halfcourt line when he passed over to Mitchell, and Mitchell very casually skipped into frontcourt to catch the ball, avoiding the backcourt violation. I know that it’s small, but it didn’t even seem to register on Mitchell’s face and it seemed like a really veteran move, recognizing that a player who doesn’t get a lot of time made a tiny mistake, but he was able to correct it without a hitch.
  • The importance of Mike Conley cannot be overstated. I have said this before and I don’t care that it might sound like a broken record at this point, but there is just a smoother and more poised feeling that the Jazz have when he is in the game or even available to play.

Low notes

  • Yes it was good for Thomas to get some run, but he went 1 of 8 from 3-point range, didn’t look great on the defensive end and was largely responsible for two shotclock violations. It’s not like I’m going to fault him too much for that — he hasn’t been with the team long and is probably pretty rusty and not getting a lot of time on the floor and there’s certainly nerves that play into some of that. Still, not the best showing.
  • The Jazz did not do a great job of keeping the Thunder off the offensive glass. Some of that is just the nature of what happens when OKC was missing a ton of shots, and the Jazz did defend them well after the offensive boards, but it’s something to watch out for.
  • Another kind of slow start for the Jazz, letting the Thunder get up by 17 points in the first half. Again, that is partially because Dort was going off and the Jazz were missing players, but it seems to be a trend that is not going in the right direction no matter the competition.

“I think we started the game too comfortable. They’re a young team and they’re fresh, and they want to prove themselves and they have talent. So they started the game firing. It took us a little bit to react, but once we started to get more physical, play defense, communicate, we got back in this game and when we defend like that it fuels the offense and when we move the ball offensively like we did, it fuels our defense.” — Rudy Gobert

Flat notes

  • At one point Rudy Gobert helped Bogdanovic up off the floor and yanked on his surgically repaired wrist a little too hard. It clearly hurt Bogdanovic, who was wincing and rubbing his wrist afterward, but he was able to shake it off and continue playing. The guys have to be careful with that, we don’t need one of the Jazz being the reason that Bogdanovic’s wrist starts to act up.
  • Why do so many small players, especially the inexperienced ones, drive into the paint, straight at Rudy Gobert? The guy has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and is a known rim protector. He had seven blocks on the night and made the Thunder look really silly.

“Just trying to do the same thing that I always do, which is make sure the other team doesn’t score. When they score it’s going to be shots that they are not comfortable taking, and contested. They kept attacking the rim, so I kept being there.” —Rudy Gobert

  • Since leaving the Jazz Tony Bradley has been traded around the league and has ended up on a lottery-bound OKC team where he’s actually been playing quite a bit, which is great. What isn’t great is that he only played 10 minutes against the Jazz and once the Thunder have a better front court he’ll be headed somewhere else, probably playing sparingly on a bad team.
  • The Thunder have lost seven consecutive games. They are clearly a tanking team, but it has to feel terrible for players who are improving and playing really well and don’t get to see the fruits of their labor.