The Utah Jazz lost a game on Friday night. The Phoenix Suns beat them.
I could very easily parse the mistakes the Jazz made (though there weren’t very many in the 131-128 game) and analyze the little things.
It wouldn’t be unfair or cruel if I were to point out the bad shot a rookie point guard took with 1:13 left to play in a one-point game or the defensive missteps made with less than 20 seconds left to give one of the best scorers in the NBA a good look at the basket.
I could talk about the turnovers at the end of the third quarter and the sloppy defense in the opening minutes.
But I don’t want to do any of that for two reasons: One, Keyonte George is really good and really cool and we should be talking about him; and two, I really do think that the loss to the Suns is a moral victory.
This 20-year-old rookie is better than he has any business being 12 games into his NBA career.
The Jazz were seriously considering and in conversations about Jrue Holiday before the season started, and honestly, it’s a good thing that those negotiations came to an end because I don’t think George would have gotten the playing time he’s being afforded right now and I really don’t think he’d be starting.
But he deserves every bit of what he’s getting.
Look at this pass:
That does not seem like the kind of pass he should be able to make right now. That’s the kind of pass that a seasoned veteran point guard makes, and George makes it look so easy.
Honestly, he makes a lot of passes look really easy.
But he’s also starting to be more aggressive for himself offensively, he’s putting in more effort on the defensive side of things, he’s taking charges, he’s getting steals, he’s grabbing rebounds, and, and, and…
I just think that we should really appreciate what we’re seeing because this is the future for the Utah Jazz. George is going to be a huge piece of what this team builds. He is officially one of the building blocks, and it took just four NBA starts for me to say that.
Jazz head coach Will Hardy said it best after the game.
“As a coach, you hate moral victories and all that crap,” he said. “But these types of games do show your team that you’re not that far away. You’re never really that far away.”
Three weeks ago, this Suns team, without Devin Booker, blew out the Jazz. The Suns clobbered the Jazz and it wasn’t even close.
That was just three weeks ago, and now, with Booker putting on an incredible 24-point, 15-assist performance and Kevin Durant absolutely killing it with 38 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, the Jazz were right there. They were just a couple decisions away from being able to beat the Suns.
“The teams in the league that that make the most growth are generally the ones that are able to dig in on all the little things because that’s really the deciding factor between winning and losing,” Hardy said.
And that’s where Lauri Markkannen sees a silver lining, too. After the game he said that losing stings, but everyone on the team is recognizing their growth and they know that they have things they can improve on.
It would be different if they felt like they were doing everything they could and still losing games. But the Jazz are coming away from every game recognizing the things where they can get just a tiny bit better every day and that is what makes this loss worthwhile.