NEW ORLEANS — Once again the Utah Jazz beat a team that was favored to win in overtime.
This time it was the New Orleans Pelicans on the wrong side of a 122-121 final score after Jordan Clarkson hit some timely buckets and then Kelly Olynyk scooped in a game-winning shot with 3.1 seconds left.
For your entertainment, here is a list of completely true statements:
- Jordan Clarkson had more assists than points at halftime.
- Jarred Vanderbilt, who had only made three 3-pointers before today, hit two treys in the first half.
- Through three games, 68.8% of the Jazz’s field goals have been assisted.
- Lauri Markkanen is averaging 24 points per game.
- Kelly Olynyk has hit 9-of-12 from 3-point range in a Jazz uniform. That’s 75%.
- Clarkson and Rudy Gay are both shooting better than 42% from long range.
- So far, the Jazz are the highest scoring team in the league.
- The Jazz are 3-0 after facing teams that are legitimately considered Western Conference playoff contenders.
On Monday the Jazz will play their first back-to-back game. They’ll be on the road in Houston to finally play a game they are actually favored to win. The Jazz are a one-point favorite against the Rockets. The way things are going right now, it seems like the Jazz should be favored a bit more than that against a Rockets team that’s 0-3 on the season, but I’m not one of the oddsmakers.
If the Jazz beat the Rockets, they will sweep the road trip and come back to Vivint with a perfect 4-0 record to play the Rockets again on Wednesday. There is a legitimate chance the Jazz could be looking at a 5-0 start to the season, against all odds and everything that everyone has thought about them.
If you’re a Jazz fan, you have to be having fun right now.
Highlight plays from unlikely players
On top of hitting the game-tying shot that sent this one into overtime and some other big shots in the extra period, Clarkson made one of the best defensive plays of the game. Trailing a full-steam-ahead Zion Williamson, Clarkson went up for a block that sent Williamson to the ground and it was a powerful and clean, all-ball block.
The Jazz knew that they were going to have their hands full with Williamson and his strength inside and it was all hands on deck. Rudy Gay, the same Rudy Gay that is 36 years old and has been in the NBA for 17 years, was a force against Williamson on multiple occasions, even stripping him for a steal.
If you’re looking for players to make huge, game-changing, no-look, wrap-around passes, look no further than Kelly Olynyk and Walker Kessler.
Lauri Markkanen, who is 7-feet tall, got the ball on a fast break and led the break. He was sprinting so fast, handling the ball, that when it came time to make a play at the basket, he had to slow down so he could dish off to Mike Conley for the bucket.
I know that it is just three games into an 82-game season and that there is a lot that can and will change about this team and that things are not always going to be puppies and rainbows. But, rookie head coach Will Hardy has done an incredible job at getting this team to believe in themselves despite what everyone else has said. He has this team playing hard and playing for one another and that’s really all you can ask for right now. Getting this kind of buy-in from a rag-tag group of players on a team with no superstars is not an easy task.
Hardy’s mentor Gregg Popovich said that the one thing that stood out about Hardy early on was his ability to earn the respect of the players in swift fashion. Clearly that is the case and the Jazz should be feeling pretty good right now about their decision to give him a shot at the helm.