Utah head coach Quin Snyder knows how valuable all-star point guard Mike Conley Jr. is to the team.
Conley might not always have the most points or most assists for the Jazz, but he does every little thing right that gets this offense firing on all cylinders. His ability to be a calming effect throughout the chaos is a significant reason why Utah (4-1) was the last unbeaten team in the NBA this season.
As he did with Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert throughout the preseason, Snyder elected to rest Conley in last night's game against the Chicago Bulls with right knee injury maintenance. Conley will not be playing back-to-backs this season as more of a precautionary reason with the idea of having him healthy in April, May, and June.
"It's more of a holistic decision and one that we think is the best thing for our team and for Mike," Snyder said. "I think, given the choice, he'd try to play every back to back but I'm not going to let him do that."
Snyder and the players made it well known throughout training camp and the preseason that health would be the top priority for the team this season. After dealing with health issues towards the end of the past two seasons – and the subsequent postseasons – Utah plans to be more proactive in getting their players more rest in the regular season.
Conley's absence against Chicago was the first step towards that new philosophy and one the Jazz must get better at playing with.
"It's hard. … We are asking Donovan to play the point for however many minutes he played tonight," Snyder said. "When you get pressured like that, we have to help each other. … We've got to space better, move the ball quicker because your margin for error is much less."
After struggling yesterday without Conley in their first loss of the season, the Jazz will have an entire team tonight when they face the defending champion, Milwaukee Bucks (3-3). Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. MST and will be on AT&T Sports Network.
Snyder was blunt in his delivery when asked what Conley brings to the team and why he's so essential.
"Mike settles us," he said postgame.
Conley will have a chance to settle Utah down when he takes the court against a slightly depleted Bucks team. Milwaukee will be without point guard Jrue Holiday and center Brook Lopez tonight, two prominent players on both ends of the court.
For Utah, it will be interesting to see how the team responds following a rough shooting night against the Bulls. The Jazz committed 20 turnovers, which led to 25 Chicago points and shot 35-of-92 (38.5%) from the floor and 11-for-38 (29.7%) from three-point territory for the game.
It was evident that Chicago's physicality and a lack of whistles from the officials played a part in the Jazz struggles. Donovan Mitchell even admitted as much in his postgame interview, believing that Utah allowed itself to be taken out of its game.
"We were just reckless with the ball," said Mitchell, who finished with 30 points and six turnovers. "I think just mental mistakes played into a lot of it. When we got into our stuff, we looked good and looked fluid. I think the biggest thing is just being able to play through the physical pressure."
The Jazz can expect a similar blueprint tonight against Milwaukee, widely considered one of the better defensive teams in the league. The addition of Conley should help calm things down as Utah looks to finish their first road trip of the season 2-1.
Utah Jazz*Rudy Gay: OUT — right heel recovery*Udoka Azubuike: OUT — G-League Assignment
Milwaukee Bucks*Donte DiVincenzo: OUT — left ankle injury recovery*Semi Ojeleye: OUT — return to competition reconditioning*Jrue Holiday: OUT — left ankle sprain*Brook Lopez: OUT — back soreness
BROADCAST INFORMATIONTime: 5 p.m. MSTLocation: Fiserv Forum / Milwaukee, WITV: AT&T Sports Network / NBATVRadio: 1280 The Zone