Five Things To Know Following Utah’s Win Over Sacramento

Led by a combined 66 points from its all-star backcourt, Utah improved to 6-1 following a 119-113 victory Sacramento on Tuesday night. With the win, the Jazz now have the Western Conference’s best record, a 1/2 game lead over Golden State.

| Three guys with 20+ & another 20-rebound game for big fella #podiumpostgame | @podiumhq pic.twitter.com/GpHyru37NN

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 3, 2021

Donovan Mitchell had a monster third quarter when he finished with 17 of his season-high 36 points. His running mate Mike Conley Jr. also added a season-high with 30 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter.

“I think it was one of those games where me and Don had it going. … In those moments, you kind of have to go with what’s working,” Conley said. “We got into pick-and-roll situations, and I just tried to be aggressive.”

Here are five things you need to know following the win:

1.) Best Backcourt In The NBA
Last season in the NBA, only two teams had their starting backcourt selected for the all-star game: Utah and Phoenix.

Tuesday night, Mitchell and Conley laid claim to potentially being the best of the bunch after their performance against the Kings. While Mitchell helped the Jazz take control of the game in the third quarter, Conley proved to be the killer in the fourth.

| @spidadmitchell was tonight with a season-high 36 points.#TakeNote | @ZionsBank pic.twitter.com/dHQLaFdfu3

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 3, 2021

Offensively they were impressive, combining to shoot 51% (25-for-49) from the floor and 52.4% (11-for-21) from three-point territory. They took turns being the primary ball-handler in the second half, each creating their own shots or getting into the lane to find advantages for their teammates.

But their most significant strides on the season have come on the defensive end, limiting Sacramento’s starting backcourt of DeAaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton to 27 points on 32.3% (10-for-31) from the field and 14.3% (1-of-7) from beyond the arc.

“Those two defensively have really taken a step, they’ve raised their level,” head coach Quin Snyder said of his all-star backcourt. “I think it comes even more important to feel the game offensively. There are some things that we do that give them the opportunity to make those decisions on the fly on the court, based on matchups.”

2.) Mike Conley Proving Capable In 15th Season
When Conley elected to join Utah in 2019 at 32, some speculated that the Jazz were paying a hefty price for a point guard who some believed was past his prime.

While he openly admits that he’s no longer the athlete he once was, Conley has such a high basketball IQ that he’s able to find success as he’s evolved as a player. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.0 rebounds per game on the season — all while taking his defense to another level.

Conley was at his best in the fourth quarter when the Jazz needed him most. He scored 13 points in the final 12 minutes, including a personal 8-0 run that turned a one-point lead for the Jazz into a nine-point advantage early in the quarter.

He noticed Mitchell, who took on a large offensive load in the third quarter, somewhat laboring with his hands on his knees in the fourth. So after a nod from Mitchell, Conley knew it was his time to take over. 

“Me and Don kind of have a nonverbal communication,” Conley said. “He looks up at me and he has hands on his knees, tired, It’s like alright, I’ll take the ball over for a few possessions. … That’s kind of what we’ve done in the past and tonight was no different.”

While the one-time all-star may never get the recognition he fully deserves, his teammates and those around the league know how talented a player he truly is.

“He’s one of them guys where if you’re a casual NBA fan, 20 years from now you might not know who he is,” teammate Hassan Whiteside said. “But people that really know basketball will be like ‘Nah, Mike Conley was one of the most underrated basketball players of all time’, especially in my eyes.”

| @mconley11 with a 30-point performance #TakeNote | @ZionsBank pic.twitter.com/iGQOFMwlMC

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 3, 2021

3.) Jordan Clarkson Struggling To Shoot / Making Up For It On Defense
No one in the league doubts Clarkson’s offensive abilities. 

He took home the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season after averaging 18.4 points per game off the bench. His ability to catch fire at any second and provide instant offense to Utah’s second unit helped the Jazz finish the year with the league’s best record.

But even Clarkson goes through shooting lulls — currently in the midst of one of the worst stretches in his career. He’s shooting 24.1% from beyond the arc for the season and is coming off back-to-back games where he’s 0-for-18 from three-point territory. 

Clarkson hasn’t let his struggles shooting derail him from affecting the game in other parts. 

While finishing with two steals and one block, Clarkson was a menace all game long by fighting over the top of screens and making life difficult for Sacramento’s guards.

“I feel like I’ve been saying it for a long time about his care factor and his will,” Snyder said of Clarkson Sunday night. “He’s got a lot of pride. He can really score, but he wants to win more than he can score.”

Clarkson’s shooting will return — it feels like he’s one made three away from going nuclear on some team. But if he can continue to grind and play defense at this level, the Jazz will continue to reach new heights.

Jordan says N pic.twitter.com/uiAZl2bal7

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 3, 2021

4.) Rudy Gobert Can’t Be Stopped
Following the game against Milwaukee when he finished with just three field goal attempts, Snyder knew how important it was to get the ball to Gobert down on the block early against the Kings. He wanted the Jazz to establish the all-star big man and get him into an early rhythm.

While Gobert only finished with four attempts, they all came in the first half — Mitchell and Conley dominated the second half. The Jazz wanted their big man to establish his presence early, and he did just that, and it paid dividends later in the game.

Over the final 5:43 of the fourth quarter, Gobert finished with six points, five rebounds, and one blocked shot.

He had his sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 20 rebounds, finishing 3-of-4 from the field and 6-for-9 from the charity stripe — even gangrening “M-V-P” chants from the home crowd while at the free throw line.

Gobert is now averaging 15.7 points and 17.6 rebounds per game on the season, making him a legitimate MVP candidate early in the year.

non, merci #TakeNote | @rudygobert27 pic.twitter.com/qPnM8KJGOU

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 3, 2021

5.) Another Road Trip Upcoming
Utah begins another three-game road trip, starting Thursday night in Atlanta against Trae Young and the Hawks. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. MST.

It’s their second three-game road trip within one week, but this time heading south to face Miami and Orlando on a back-to-back following the visit to Atlanta.

Atlanta is always dangerous at home, especially with Young leading the team that reached the Eastern Conference finals last season. Miami looks like a title-contender, tying with the Jazz for the best record in the NBA. Orlando is still searching for an identity with its young roster but gets the Jazz on the backend of a back-to-back.

If the Jazz can navigate that road trip with another 2-1 or even 3-0 showing, they’ll return to Salt Lake City for a five-game homestand and the ability to stake their claim as the best in the West.

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