Throughout the season Donovan Mitchell, as the vocal leader of the Utah Jazz, has said the team was less interested in how things were going in the beginning of the season, and more interested in playing the right way when the end of the season rolled around.
Well here we are. The Jazz have six games left before the playoffs begin and unfortunately have been playing without two of their All-Stars in Mitchell (right ankle sprain) and Mike Conley (right hamstring tightness). But, despite the absence of two of the Jazz’s most important players, Mitchell’s words still ring true and through the last three games the Jazz are pleased with how they’re trending.
Things were a little bit of a struggle at first without Mitchell and Conley, but the Jazz have now won three in a row, and, as always, the Jazz point to effort on the defensive end leading the way and translating into offense.
“As much as anything we’re just trying to compete and execute. I don’t know at this point in the year — you obviously want to try to stay fresh — but right now, to me, it’s more of an emotional thing as well as you get toward the end of the year. Being able to play through fatigue, really no matter how many minutes you have, and just playing the right way.” — Quin Snyder
“Once again for us our defense was on point,” Bojan Bogdanovic said after a 126-94 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. “They got out with energy, but we were more focused and more aggressive. We controlled the defensive boards and that allowed us to run more and then have easy buckets.”
The Jazz finished that game with a 46-26 defensive rebounding advantage and had 25 fast-break points to the Spurs’ six.
“A lot of that for us is just having the discipline and the commitment to running and spacing and then sharing the ball,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That execution, in many respects, is usually reflected when we’re able to get good shots.”
Overall, through the last handful of games, the Jazz have been working like a well-oiled machine, which is exactly what they want. Even down a couple of players, the transition will likely be smoother when Conley and Mitchell come back if the Jazz are playing the right way.
On Wednesday, the Jazz were playing so well, leading by as many as 41 over the Spurs, that the regular rotation players were able to sit the fourth quarter out and no one played more than 26 minutes. But Snyder explained that resting players in fourth quarters is not the top priority right now.
“As much as anything we’re just trying to compete and execute,” he said. “I don’t know at this point in the year — you obviously want to try to stay fresh — but right now, to me, it’s more of an emotional thing as well as you get toward the end of the year. Being able to play through fatigue, really no matter how many minutes you have, and just playing the right way.”
The Jazz certainly want to be feeling rested and ready, and reducing minutes can help, but the best way to feel ready for the playoffs is to be playing at a high level. The Jazz feel like they’re in a groove right now and are hoping they can carry that momentum through the final six games of the season.