For the fourth consecutive game, Utah found itself in a close game with 24 minutes remaining.
Unlike the first three games, this was the first time the Jazz found themselves trailing at the half — knowing a big second half was needed if they were going to extend their winning streak to a season-high seven games.
That's precisely what happened.
Overcoming some heavy legs at the end of their four-game road trip, the Jazz put together a dominant second half en route to a 123-98 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
"I think tonight, the way we played on both ends, the mindset that we had was really like a contender mindset," Rudy Gobert said postgame. "We got better throughout the whole game, every quarter we got better. … And we played defense, that was the key for us."
Here are five things you need to know following the win:
1.) Whiteside And Gobert Are A Formidable DuoWhen Hassan Whiteside elected to join the Utah Jazz during the offseason, some didn't understand the move. Many believed that Whiteside would choose a team where he could be the starter and average 30+ minutes per game — not one with the three-time defensive player of the year.
It turns out that was wrong.
Due to the presence of Gobert, Utah's All-NBA center, Whiteside knew the Jazz were a team that would play through a traditional center on both ends of the court. He didn't care about the minutes or the stats — Whiteside knew that not only would he fit in well schematically with the Jazz, but he would also be joining a time chasing a title.
Nearly one-third into the new season, and it's safe to say that the pairing of Whiteside as Gobert's backup has been a sensational deal for both sides.
That was never more evident than against the Wizards when they dominated Washington for a full 48 minutes. They combined for 38 points, 25 rebounds, and five blocks, shooting 17-for-19 from the floor and a +25 rating.
Not every game will be as dominant as a performance for both Gobert and Whiteside. But with the way they're playing this early in the season, it appears that head coach Quin Snyder will always have at least one dominant center available at his disposal at all times.
2.) Depth On Full Display Entering the season, Snyder and the Jazz made it well-known that the team would prioritize health first and foremost throughout the regular season. After injuries derailed Utah's last two postseason runs, the Jazz were going to take a much cautious and calculated approach — willing to give up a run for the No. 1 overall seed to enter the playoffs healthy.
The first step in this plan was improving the depth.
Already armed with reigning sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson and runner-up Joe Ingles, the Jazz wanted to get more versatile and physical, so they added Whiteside and Rudy Gay in the offseason. Safe to say that Utah is now arguably the deepest team in the league, and that was never more evident as it was on Saturday night.
Whiteside had a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds in 20 minutes, while Clarkson added 11 points, five assists, and four rebounds. Ingles and Gay didn't have eye-popping stats, but they both finished with a +12 rating to lead the reserves.
Utah had nine players play at least 18 minutes, led by Donovan Mitchell's team-high 32 minutes. Mitchell leads the team with 32.4 minutes per game, ranking 65th in the league.
Keeping minutes down is a great way to preserve health throughout the dog days in January, February, and March — something Snyder can do now that should pay dividends later on when it matters most.
"I mean, I think about it because it's my job to think about it," Snyder said when asked if fatigue played a role tonight. "We don't talk about it unless it's something that we're basically going to acknowledge that we're not going to be tired. I think guys were locked in."
3.) Second Half SurgeHow good are Snyder's halftime speeches? It's a simple question that deserves an answer considering what the Jazz are doing to their opponents in the final 24 minutes of games.
Utah currently leads the league in multiple second-half categories, including points (59.8), field goal percentage (50.1%), and three-point percentage (41.0%) while ranking second in +/- (+7.7).
Those impressive second halves were a theme on the east coast road trip as the Jazz outscored their last three opponents by an average of 24 points during those final 24 minutes.
They have so many weapons that their depth eventually wears teams down.
Offensively, they're always on the attack as Mitchell and Clarkson are two of the best rim attackers in the league. Mike Conley and Gobert run the league's best pick-and-roll while Whiteside and Ingles provide toughness. Gay and Royce O'Neale provide valuable versatility, while Bojan Bogdanovic is the team's second-leading scorer.
Because of Utah's style of play, they can knock down three-pointers in transition for quick buckets, often turning a few buckets into deep runs that take the wind out their opponents' sails.
While it takes 48 minutes of action to win a game, the Jazz have proven that they're best in the league when it comes to those final 24 minutes — and that's a terrifying thought come playoff time.
4.) Mitchell A Family Man At HeartEver since he came into the league, Mitchell has never been afraid to speak his mind. He's not afraid to share his thoughts on tough subjects, often being a voice of reason and embracing his role as one of the most influential speakers in the state of Utah.
Mitchell gets those core values from his family, often talking about them whenever he gets the opportunity.
Well, the opportunity arose Saturday night in DC.
Jordan Mitchell, Donovan's younger sister, was in the stands with multiple friends cheering on her big brother. Jordan, who plays lacrosse for American University, and her friends were donning Mitchell's #45 jerseys and loudly cheering him on. Of course, Donovan noticed them, and coming out of a timeout early in the first quarter, he gave the group a wave and a salute, acknowledging them in a very special moment.
5.) Utah Ends Road Trip With Dominating PerformanceEntering their four-game road trip to the east coast, it was still uncertain which version of the Jazz would show up.
Was it going to be the team that suffered a heartbreaking loss to New Orleans or the one that rebounded with three consecutive victories, including a rematch with the Pelicans.
It turns out those three victories before the road trip were just a prelude to what was coming next.
In Utah's four games, they faced Cleveland, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Washington, all four teams currently in the playoff pictures for their respective conferences.
The Jazz didn't just walk away with wins, they ran their opponents out of the gym. They won by an average of 20 points per game, showcasing dominance on both ends of the court.
Now in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, Utah returns to Vivint Arena for a six-game homestand. They'll get rematches with Washington and Minnesota while facing a bevy of stars, including Paul George, LaMelo Ball, and Luka Doncic in the other games.
Buckle up because the next two weeks are going to be fun.