NBA Season Restart 2019-20

2019-20 Season Reset: Utah Jazz

2019-20 Season Reset: Jazz

The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season will return on July 30 and‘s writers are taking an updated look at each of the league’s 30 teams.

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Record: 41-23, No. 4 in Western Conference

Season summary: The Jazz have a worse point differential, both per game and per 100 possessions, than they did last season. But, at the time the season went on hiatus, they were on pace to win three more games and positioned to have home-court advantage in a first-round series for the first time in 19 years. After going 15-18 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes 2018-19, they’re 25-11 this season. With the talent the Jazz added last summer, the ceiling is higher. But Mike Conley hasn’t made the impact that the Jazz were hoping for (their best stretch of the season came mostly without him) and this team hasn’t defended as well as Jazz teams of the past. After an incredible 19-2 stretch in the middle of the season, they were on a bit of a roller coaster (alternating winning and losing streaks) as the season entered its hiatus. Unfortunately for the Jazz, they lost Bojan Bogdanovic (who was averaging a career-best 20.2 points per game this season) after he had right wrist surgery during the hiatus.

Breakout player: When the Jazz traded for him just before Christmas, Jordan Clarkson didn’t seem like a good fit on a team that already had three ball-handlers. But upon his arrival, with Conley out, the Jazz went on a 10-game win streak. Since the trade, Clarkson hasn’t missed a game and has been the Jazz’s third-leading scorer at 15.6 points per game. Clarkson can get some grief for not passing much, but he’s a crafty offensive player. And this season, he’s registered career-high marks in both effective field goal percentage (55.1%) and true shooting percentage (58.3%), with both marks being higher with the Jazz (56.6%, 58.4%) than they were in Cleveland. He scored 37 points (the second highest scoring game of his career) in Denver on Jan. 30. Not long after that, he dropped 30 in the one-point win in Houston (see below), and dished out eight assists in Dallas a night later. In a five-point win in Boston on March 6, Clarkson shot 7-for-13 and the Jazz outscored the Celtics by 26 points in his 27 minutes. For the season, Utah has outscored opponents by 14.8 points per 100 possessions in 421 minutes with Clarkson on the floor alongside Joe Ingles.

Statement win: When the Jazz went 19-2 over a 46-day stretch in December and January, 16 of the 19 wins came against teams that went into the hiatus with losing records. Two of the other three (vs. Indiana and Dallas) came at home. But three days after the Clippers beat the Lakers on Christmas, the Jazz came into L.A. on Dec. 28 and handed them one of their worst home losses of the season. The Clips led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter and it was a one-point game midway through the fourth. But the Jazz then held L.A. to just five points on its final 14 possessions of the game, running away with a 13-point win. Mitchell led six Jazz in double-figures with 30 points, adding seven rebounds and nine assists. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (defended mostly by Royce O’Neale and Ingles) combined to shoot 12-for-44 (27%). The Clippers are 13-3 at home with both George and Leonard, and the other two losses (to the Rockets and Lakers) were by single-digits.

Most compelling game: The Rockets led most of the game against the Jazz on Feb. 9 and were up seven with less than three minutes to go. Then they traded leads four times in the final 60 seconds. After P.J. Tucker seemingly won the game on a right-corner 3 with 1.6 seconds left, the Jazz called timeout. On the ensuing inbounds, Clarkson, who led the Jazz with 30 points, flared to the corner. Donovan Mitchell curled off a Rudy Gobert screen toward the ball and was picked up by James Harden. Bogdanovic, who had scored just five points all night, followed Mitchell, with Tucker trailing. He caught Ingles’ inbounds pass well beyond the 3-point line, pivoted, and launched an off-balance shot that was contested by Tucker and Harden on either side of him. It hit nothing but net and the Jazz left Houston with a remarkable, 114-113 victory, surviving a game in which Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 67 points. At the time of the league shutdown, the fourth-place Jazz were just one game ahead of the sixth-place Rockets, and Bogdanovic’s shot was the difference.

Memorable moments: On Jan. 25 vs. Dallas, Utah was down most of the game but took a 2-point lead on an O’Neale 3 with 37.5 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Gobert was guarding Delon Wright and got turned around when Wright attacked his close-out, going right from the top of the key. As he went to tie the game, Wright jumped off his wrong foot and kept the ball in his right hand to get it up on the glass as quickly as possible. But Gobert recovered and made a remarkable block (his fifth of the night) with his left hand to save the game for the Jazz. Thirteen days later, Gobert made a very similar game-saving block on Damian Lillard, except that one came after the ball hit the glass and the officials missed the call. Also, before his winner in Houston, Bogdanovic made his first buzzer-beating game-winner of the season on Nov. 8 vs. Milwaukee. In that game, he took another inbounds pass from Ingles and drained a left-corner 3 to beat the Bucks after the Jazz blew what was a 22-point lead.

Over the period of 6 1/2 weeks in December and January (and playing mostly without Conley), the Jazz went 19-2, scoring 119.5 points per 100 possessions, almost four more than any other team over that stretch. Mitchell and Bogdanovic were the team’s leading scorers, while Ingles shot a remarkable 63-for-126 (50%) from 3-point range. The Jazz were mostly taking advantage of a soft stretch of schedule, but the run included wins over the Clippers (noted above), Pacers and Mavs.

Team MVP: The Jazz have taken a step backward defensively this season (they’ve seen the biggest drop in opponent turnover rate), but they’ve allowed just 102.8 points per 100 possessions with Rudy Gobert on the floor. He remains one of the league’s best rim protectors and isn’t out of his element when asked to defend in space. Opponents have shot just 50.4% at the rim when he’s been there to protect it. That mark ranks second among 32 players who have defended at least five shots at the rim per game. Gobert has also defended a league-high 107 isolation possessions, and the 0.65 points per possession he’s allowed on isolations ranks first among 20 players who have defended at least 75. The 27 year old is also an integral part of Utah’s eighth-ranked offense, ranking second with 7.0 screen assists per game. His effective field goal percentage of 69.8% and true shooting percentage of 70.0% are both the highest marks among 137 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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