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Analysis: Jazz’s defense stays strong despite cold shooting in win over Magic

The Jazz didn’t have the best offensive night, but their defense made the difference in their fifth straight win.

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Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside, wearing blue, smiles

Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside (21) smiles after securing a loose ball during the game against the Orlando Magic at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the Orlando Magic 114-99 on Friday night at Vivint Arena, extending their win streak to five straight games and improving to 35-21 on the season.

High Notes

  • In the Jazz’s game against the Warriors on Wednesday, the offense was humming and they were getting and making shots at all the right times. That certainly wasn’t the case on Friday. At one point the Jazz were just 2 of 19 from 3-point range and there seemed to be a lid on the basket. So the Jazz needed every bit of their defense to make sure they didn’t fall prey to another bad team. Earlier season Jazz might have dropped this game. Actually, they did. They lost to this Orlando team on Nov. 7, when they started making a ton of defensive mistakes and couldn’t right the ship. This time, despite cold shooting and some bad first half turnovers, the Jazz stayed engaged on defense and they kept cool heads throughout the game.
    “To shoot like that and not be down says a lot about how guys were competing.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
  • Donovan Mitchell once again looked fresh and incredibly engaged on the defensive end, getting his hand into passing lanes and recovering quickly on switches. He’s looked great since he came back from his concussion. He led the Jazz with 24 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

  • Hassan Whiteside spent an early stretch of the game sprinting back and forth through multiple fast-paced possessions, never slowing down. Near the end of that stretch failed to get out to contest a shot and he looked over at the bench and raised his hand in acknowledgement of the mistake. On the next possession he asked to be subbed out of the game. He was absolutely gassed. Here’s why that’s a high note: Recognition and knowing when to take a beat is not something that a lot of players have or are willing to own and also, Whiteside was gassed because he was playing his tail off, running baseline to baseline and he wasn’t taking any plays off. He really did his job and finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.
    “Anytime you have a player that asks to come out of the game that wants to play, that tells you how hard he’s working and that happened tonight with Hassan. That mentality for our team, if we can develop that kind of wrestling mentality — tag team wrestling, if someone comes out then you go, then you go — that’s another level of connectedness on the team. — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
  • To that point, Udoka Azubuike once again started and he played solid minutes when he needed to go back in earlier than expected, then closed the game with some really good minutes. In particular, his screening and pace was really great in the fourth quarter and it paid off big for the young center, who finished the night with a career-high 12 points (eight of which came in the fourth) to go with seven rebounds.

Low Notes

  • Probably the worst combined game from Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic all season. I have no worries about either player, I’m just pointing out that they had a rough night, which is especially a rarity for Conley.
  • You want to see a group of zombies? Just check out the media section at an NBA game after the trade deadline. Sleepless nights and a ton of work being done by all reporters from all outlets. But we’re not the only ones! Players also get mental fatigue during the week of the trade deadline. It takes a lot out of a player to even think about the idea that they could have to pack up their life and leave their friends and teammates at the drop of a hat. I’m not complaining, I love my job. Players also love their jobs. I’m just saying, if you ever want to see some ragged reporters fueled by two hours of sleep and multiple caffeinated beverages, look no further than press row after the trade deadline. It’s honestly hilarious how horrible we all look.
    “There’s a lot of mental fatigue for sure. That’s real ... It’s life, it’s not even so much basketball. The trade deadline is just always so ... there’s so much that goes into being traded because there’s so much life outside of basketball.” — Donovan Mitchell

Flat Notes

  • Wowee, the Magic are bad. They’ve won just 13 games and that’s already really bad, but when you watch some of their decision making it just feels like there is no way to build around anything. Also, the bench gets so excited by any morsel of a decent play and good on them for cheering through a miserable season, but it just makes it all feel even more sad.