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Instant analysis: Utah Jazz sneak away with a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP

The Utah Jazz barely eked out a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, needing a bucket from Donovan Mitchell with just seven seconds left and some stellar defense on the other end to escape unscathed. With the 110-109 victory, the Jazz are 2-1 on the season.

High Notes

  • I’m a firm believer that the best way to get a shooter out of a slump is for him to just keep on shooting. It usually gets worse before it gets better and the slump never makes anyone happy, but good shooters almost always find their way back. Bojan Bogdanovic went 5-of-16 from deep through the first two games of the season and then started Monday night’s game 0-of-3. That didn’t stop him from shooting, and it’s a good thing. He made his next five 3-point attempts and brought the Jazz back into the game in the second half, finishing with a team-high 23 points.
  • Rudy Gobert’s defense on the Thunder guards in the final minutes of the game was incredible. Full stop.
  • Through three games, Mike Conley has been the Jazz’s most consistent and reliable player. While the Jazz would probably prefer that Mitchell, Gobert, Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles were more consistent, it’ll be really nice when that group gets it together and Conley is already in a nice rhythm.

  • Luguentz Dort is one of the strongest players I’ve seen that plays defense as well as he does through multiple positions. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a player lock up Mitchell the way Dort did on Monday. He’s the type of player who completely gets under your skin and then is strong enough to finish through traffic on the other end. On top of that, he’s improved his perimeter game on offense.
  • There are a ton of things to criticize about Mitchell through the last two games and certainly plenty to be critical of in Monday’s game (more on that below), but you have to admit the guy can come through in tough situations. The Jazz needed just one bucket and he gave it to them and was pretty clutch in the final moments of the game.

Low Notes

  • When Thunder big man Mike Muscala is on the floor, there is absolutely no reason to not attack him at the rim. He’s not who anyone thinks about when you say “rim protection.” The Jazz didn’t seem to get the memo. Then, on the other end, they left Muscala open from the only place that he’s actually dangerous — the corner. Just wildly bad choices by the Jazz.
  • Mitchell got the game-winning bucket by going one-on-one with Dort, which is impressive and it’s what he’s supposed to do as the leader of this team, but he lost that one-on-one battle twice in a row on the possessions that preceded the final one. That wasn’t the only time on Monday that his decision making was questionable. There were really bad turnovers and iffy shot selection, and when Mitchell plays like that, he ends up making the game harder on himself and then forcing things on the offensive end and wearing himself out so he’s not as impactful on the defensive end.
  • The Jazz were supposed to be a better defensive team and be putting some emphasis on guarding the 3. I haven’t seen a ton of evidence that they’ve changed at all or made any strides in that department. Still waiting to see if they’re going to give Shaquille Harrison a shot.

Flat Notes

  • There was a moment late in the first quarter when Quin Snyder decided to get both Georges Niang and Miye Oni on the floor in what I can only assume was an attempt to get the ball in the basket. I feel like if you have to dig that deep into the bench in the first quarter of just the third game of the season just to get guys to shoot the ball, there’s something that’s not totally right.