“When Our Bench Came In, That Was The Difference” | Utah Gets Third-Straight Victory

Good players have the potential to make great plays. Great players have the potential to make winning plays. 

The latter is what Donovan Mitchell did on Monday night.

Following a 24-2 run in the second half by New York, the Jazz showed a lot of fight to climb back into the game in the fourth quarter. Mitchell put the nail in the coffin as Utah took down the Knicks 113-104, their fourth consecutive win. 

“There were three plays that Donovan made that, to me, were more significant than anything,” head coach Quin Snyder said postgame. “The offensive rebound that he got where he gave the ball back to Dok when he scored, there was a free throw play he sniffed out a handoff, and he blew up the handoff up top and stole the ball, and then there was a defensive rebound.”

In his second game back after missing eight straight with severe concussion symptoms, Mitchell played like the superstar he’s transforming into. 

He finished with 32 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, shooting 13-for-26 from the field. While the numbers are great, those aren’t the plays that made the difference. 

| 32 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 2 3-pointers & a block in a game he passed Deron Williams on the Utah Jazz franchise scoring list #TakeNote | @ZionsBank pic.twitter.com/ZuG36Wsqof

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022

Two plays stand out in particular, ones that were made due to Mitchell’s drive and heart.

Clinging to a one-point lead with just over four minutes to go, Mitchell seized the momentum for the Jazz and sent Vivint Arena into a frenzy when he soared for an offensive rebound. After landing with it and before he fell out of bounds, he passed the ball to Udoka Azubuike for the two-handed dunk and three-point lead. 

the pass falling out of bounds > > > #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/64981sikfn

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022

The final play was exceptional, leaving Mitchell smiling and the Jazz hyped on the bench. With just under a minute left and up nine, Mitchell put the nail in the coffin when he stole the pass and went downcourt, gathering himself before throwing down an impressive windmill dunk.

“Just finding the ways I can impact the game outside of scoring,” Mitchell said of his late-game performance.

Spida with the exclamation point on the night#TakeNote pic.twitter.com/Go1XCXuaLw

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022

With Rudy Gobert still out with a left calf strain and Hassan Whiteside still working himself back into full playing shape, Azubuike started his second consecutive game. The second-year player out of Kansas again shined when thrust into the spotlight. 

Three nights after securing his first career double-double, he set new career-highs in rebounds and blocks when he finished with seven points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, and a +10 rating. Going against one of the league’s largest and most physical teams, Azubuike was a physical presence down low.

“Dok’s competitiveness, that was the differentiating factor,” Snyder said.

“I’ve got to give a shout-out to Dok,” Mitchell added. “He is taking this opportunity and running with it. … He is fighting and trying to do every little thing to win.”

DK pic.twitter.com/YsoBZYHQLq

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022

Despite losing eight of their previous 10 games, the Knicks showed no fear and jumped out to a 21-9 lead midway through the first quarter. But the Jazz responded with a 19-7 run the rest of the quarter, aided by Jordan Clarkson scoring the final six points.

New York started the second quarter hot again, expanding their lead to six points midway through. Once again, Utah responded, going on a 13-2 run to eventually lead 59-57 at the half.

The Jazz reversed the roles to start the third, using a 9-1 run to have its largest lead of the game at 68-58 with just under 10 play in the quarter. But that’s when the Knicks went nuclear, going on a 24-2 run to lead by 12 with just over three to play.

Needing an influx of energy, Snyder inserted Clarkson, Eric Paschall, and Trent Forrest, all of whom thrived with their backs up against the wall. All three contributed for a quick eight points as the Jazz ended the quarter on a 12-2 run to get right back into the game.

we’ll go first https://t.co/QoQKYSBsOV pic.twitter.com/INJ5Siik7G

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022

The final 12 minutes are where the Jazz proved elite, dominating the fourth with pressure defense and excellent ball movement. They outscored the Knicks 31-18 in the period, dishing out six assists on their 10 field goals. Defensively, they held New York to 25% shooting from the floor and six turnovers.

“When our bench came in, that was the difference,” Snyder said. “The biggest thing that we just kept talking about in timeouts was getting rebounds. … There wasn’t a whole lot of adjustments to be made.”

“That’s the thing about this team, we have trust.”#WalkoffInterview | @lhmauto pic.twitter.com/IScCAPZ1Vz

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022

Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 20 points, while Mike Conley added 18 points, seven rebounds, and three rebounds. Jordan Clarkson finished with 16 points and a +18 rating, while Paschall finished with a game-high +21 rating in just 17 minutes.

Utah has one day off before returning to action against Golden State on Wednesday. The Warriors are on a nine-game winning streak as Klay Thompson appears to be rounding into form after two years off. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. MST and will air on ESPN.

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