Danuel House steps up to defend Devin Booker down the stretch of Jazz’s win over Suns
Danuel House took on the role that usually belongs to Royce O’Neale, but that’s the kind of sacrifice the Jazz have to embrace.
PHOENIX — When it came time to decide who was going to be on the court in the closing minutes of a tight game against the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder turned to one of the newest faces on his roster — Danuel House Jr.
“I didn’t even know until it was happening,” House said after the Jazz’s 118-114 win over the Suns. “My number was called and I had a job I had to perform.”
House’s job was to make life as tough as possible for Devin Booker. That’s a task easier said than done, and requires a ton of energy expended on the defensive end. And even if you make life tough for Booker, it’s not like he still won’t score, which is completely understood by anyone who guards him. The point is to force him into dicey situations and make sure that he doesn’t get anything easy.
So House picked Booker up full court, slipped past screens, kept a hand in Booker’s face, forced Booker into second, third and fourth options and made him give up the ball multiple times.
“Give him different looks, just not make it easy,” House said. “He’s a talented scorer, of course. You can see it, everyone can. So, it was my job to make it harder. I think we did a good job tonight, me, Royce (O’Neale) and the gang did a really good job of making it hard tonight. I mean, yeah he was 50% but 24 shot attempts for 30 points. Pshhh, you can’t beat it.”
The thing is, that’s usually O’Neale’s job. He’s usually the one on the floor in the final minutes of a game, trying to slow down the opposition’s most dynamic scorer. But O’Neale struggled quite a bit on Booker in this game.
For the Jazz coaching staff, having another wing defender who can step into that role and take on that type of challenge is a good thing. But that can be a difficult pill to swallow for an NBA player.
When a role changes because of the performance of someone else, that can bruise egos and be cause for concern about keeping players happy. The Jazz don’t seem bruised or concerned at all, though, and by all reports, O’Neale was the first person congratulating House following the Jazz win on Sunday.
“With some of the additional depth that we have, we have opportunities to play guys,” Snyder said. “That kind of collective mindset and whatever it takes mentality, is something that’s really important, and I think it’s unusual.”
House certainly feels like that mentality is unique. He said that Snyder is absolutely right in saying as much. But it wasn’t just House and Snyder preaching that message on Sunday.
Hassan Whiteside got some extra minutes because of how well he was playing and that decision was supported by Rudy Gobert. Mike Conley was advocating for Jordan Clarkson to play longer because Clarkson was so effective and efficient against the Suns.
Across the roster the Jazz feel like there isn’t room to be offended by coaching decisions because they’re at their best when the best players at a given moment are on the floor.
“You cannot have ego,” Gobert said. “We have to be willing to sacrifice for the team. Yes, we a lot of guys who could get more shots on other teams, could get more playing time. But are they going to get an opportunity to win the championship? That’s the real question… Who cares if you’re going to play 35 (minutes) or if you’re going to cut it down to 25? Who cares if you average 20, or 12? In the end, all it matters is winning.”
That was the mindset that allowed the Jazz to beat the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns on Sunday and the mentality they’ll have to keep if they want to make it further than they’ve been before.