Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors traveled to Denver with the Utah Jazz on Friday night ahead of their Sunday afternoon matchup with the Nuggets, but there’s a chance the Jazz could be playing without both of them for a third straight game.
Mitchell entered the league’s concussion protocol after a physical game against the New York Knicks on Tuesday and Favors has been dealing with lower back soreness for a while. Favors was upgraded to ‘questionable’ before being ruled out for the Jazz’s game against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Despite the Jazz missing their leading scorer in Mitchell, and the bench’s defensive anchor in Favors, the team has continued its winning ways, closing out their six-game home stand with by sweeping consecutive games against the Mavericks, earning their 11th straight victory, and maintaining their position atop the NBA standings with a 15-4 record.
“It does bode well for us when we know that guys like Don can miss a few games and we can still win, and especially with Fav out,” Mike Conley said after the Jazz beat the Mavericks, 120-101, Friday. “It’s tough to lose those guys, not have them, but for us to come out and play against a good team, and not only just a good team but two times in a row, and come out with wins, just says a lot about our team and our resiliency.”
On Wednesday in the first of two consecutive wins over Dallas, the Jazz saw season-high performances from Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson, all with more responsibility on their shoulders in the absence of Mitchell and Favors.
Against the Mavericks on Friday, it was Bojan Bogdanovic who poured in a season-high 32 points.
Bogdanovic’s performance was not only welcome to the Jazz because they were missing two of their main rotational players, but also because he’s struggled to regain his rhythm this season, coming back from surgery to repair ligaments in his right wrist.
“I had a discussion this morning with the coaches and they all want me to shoot more, to be aggressive. But it’s sometimes it’s hard when you’re struggling, when you don’t see the ball getting through the through the net. I’m trying to be myself, trying to be aggressive no matter what percentage I’m shooting.” — Bojan Bogdanovic
Averaging 12.9 points per game while shooting 36.5% from 3-point range is a perfectly fine stat line, which is what Bogdanovic’s 2020-21 season was heading into Friday’s game. But Bogdanovic hasn’t averaged less than 13 points per game or shot at that low of a percentage since the 2015-16 season, and last year with the Jazz was the best season of his career.
Bogdanovic hasn’t been secretive about his struggles, and his situation is unique in that he was away from the game for nine months and wasn’t able to rehab in the way that other players would have, while gradually moving up to five-on-five play. The league’s COVID-19 protocols and restrictions forced the majority of his rehab to be done with individual work only. So, he’s been playing himself back into form.
“I had a discussion this morning with the coaches and they all want me to shoot more, to be aggressive,” Bogdanovic said. “But it’s sometimes it’s hard when you’re struggling, when you don’t see the ball getting through the through the net. I’m trying to be myself, trying to be aggressive no matter what percentage I’m shooting.”
That aggressive approach paid off on Friday.
Bogdanovic missed his first two shots against the Mavericks — both 3-pointers — but didn’t slow down or stop shooting. He shot 10-of-16 overall and 7-of-11 from beyond the arc on Friday after averaging just 11.4 field goal attempts and 6.4 3-point attempts through the first 18 games of the season.
Part of the reason for Bogdanovic’s higher number of shot attempts were by design, with Quin Snyder specifically drawing up plays for him and part of it was due to the Mavericks defense collapsing more into the paint to make up for the 29-point performance from Gobert on Wednesday. But there was also a part that was Bogdanovic just taking shots whenever he had a good look, something that not only the coaches but also his teammates want to see more of.
“It was great,” Conley said of Bogdanovic’s performance. “Every one of us are supporting him every day and just want him to be aggressive, whether he makes or misses shots. We need him to shoot, we need him to be aggressive and tonight he was himself. It makes us a lot better when he’s aggressive like that.”
The Jazz are hopeful, but not certain, that they’ll be able to have Mitchell and Favors back in the lineup when they face the Nuggets for the second time this season on Sunday. But even if the go into the game shorthanded, they know that the rest of the team is ready to step up and take on the challenge ahead.