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Instant analysis: Jazz regain top spot in the West (for now) with win over Spurs

San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5), Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni (81) reach for the rebound during an NBA game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 3, 2021. The Jazz won 110-99.
San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5), Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni (81) reach for the rebound during an NBA game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 3, 2021. The Jazz won 110-99.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the San Antonio Spurs, 110-99, at Vivint Arena on Monday night. In the second of a five-game home stand, the Jazz improved their record to 47-18 on the season, putting them just a smidge ahead of the Phoenix Suns for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.

High notes

  • Once again the Jazz played without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, but unlike most of the games that came before, when the Jazz were down two of their three All-Stars, the Jazz offense seemed to be running pretty smoothly on Monday. There was more movement and diversity in how the Jazz were creating. It wasn’t just about one type of action or one player getting theirs while everyone else watched.

“One of the most important things for us is to keep the ball moving so that we don’t play against a lot of full court pressure. And that’s something that requires everybody to really be alert and to get off the ball at the appropriate time.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

  • With just over seven minutes left in the opening quarter, Rudy Gobert stood his ground in the paint in a way that stopped a Spurs fast break and deterred not one, not two, but three different Spurs players from going anywhere near trying to score at the rim. There is not a stat for that, but Gobert leads the league in it.
  • Royce O’Neale had two quick steals that led to the Jazz running on the other end in the opening minutes and then his activity on the defensive end continued throughout the night. I can almost — almost — live with some of his offensive hesitation when he is that engaged on the defensive end. And that type of defensive energy and activity is infectious.
  • Trent Forrest was again afforded quite a bit of run with Conley and Mitchell out, and he again made the most of his time. Like a lot of players who are trying to break into regular NBA rotations, he’s a hungry player and makes a lot of hustle plays. What’s even better is that a lot of the hustle plays he makes are on the defensive end and hitting the glass. That’s the type of thing that if done consistently, is really noticed by NBA coaches. That’s why O’Neale has a starting role on the Jazz. Forrest played 21 minutes, and had nine points, four rebounds and a steal but for a second straight game his impact was greater than what the box score showed.

“I ask Mike and Royce a lot of questions all the time about defense. There’s a lot of different things I’d like to pick up from them, whether it’s how to guard a certain guy, playing against pick-and-roll, or going back to even the Toronto game. I found myself kind of getting stuck in between...deciding if I need to take the big or stay in the corner to the take away the 3. As soon as I came to the bench I asked Mike. It’s just little things in game, even outside of the game that I might ask Royce or any one of those guys about what they see when they’re in different situations.” — Trent Forrest

  • Devin Vassell, 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft, was touted as a 3-and-D player who was ready to play now, which is why he was a lottery pick. But, even with the hype around him and with the footage that I’ve seen, I didn’t realize how good of a defensive player he is, particularly off the ball and within a system. That’s a player to watch.

Low notes

  • Jordan Clarkson was shooting 37% from 3-point range before the All-Star break. Since then he’s shooting 30% from 3, including a 2-of-10 outing against the Spurs. In particular I think that his shot selection is getting a little iffy. I know that making quick decisions is something the Jazz want but it seems like sometimes he either takes too long or acts too quickly and there’s not a middle ground.
  • Kind of on the other end of the spectrum, Joe Ingles has been the Jazz’s best 3-point shooter since the All-Star break, shooting 48.1% heading into Monday night’s game. But he struggled from deep, hitting just 2-of-7. That’s not what was bad, though. He and head coach Quin Snyder have talked recently about his ability to move past makes, but on Monday he did not seem like he could move past them and threw his arms into the air when he finally hit one. Then later he took a really weird early shot clock 3 from way too deep that he was very short on. He just seemed out of sorts.

Flat notes

  • The Spurs scored their first bucket at the rim with 20 seconds left in the first half and hit their first 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. EVERY score in the first half except for that one bucket at the end was in the mid-range. In the year 2021, that is just unreal. I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be impressed or disgusted. It’s such an inefficient way to play basketball and they were down 17 by the end of the first half. But it really takes some commitment to stay away from the 3-point line and away from the rim. Of course, part of that is the Jazz’s defense, but definitely not all of it.