Utah began the 2021-22 season with a 107-86 victory over Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
Here are five things you need to know following the win:
1.) Gobert Continues To Evolve
If Wednesday's season opener was any indication of what opposing teams can expect from Rudy Gobert on offense moving forward, good luck.
He had a double-double in just 12 minutes of action before finishing with 16 points and 21 rebounds. His rebound total broke Utah's franchise record for most rebounds in an season opener, surpassing Carlos Boozer's 19-rebound performance on Nov. 1, 2006.
"I'm feeling more and more comfortable," Gobert said of his offense. "I've been putting in a lot of work, and it's exciting to know that I haven't even scratched the surface of what I can do offensively."
While his defense and rebounding abilities don't come as a shock anymore, it was Gobert's offensive game that should have opposing teams scared. His improvement down on the block, playing through contact, finishing strong, and finding the open man were all evident, particularly to fellow all-star Donovan Mitchell.
"I think where I was really happy with him was the finishing, the way he's playing through contact," Mitchell said. "He did it in the preseason, he did it in training camp, and now I think that's the level we're going to see out of him."
2.) Bogdanovic Looks and Feels Healthy
A lot of talk was made this offseason about whether or not Bojan Bogdanovic would be fully healthy and able to establish a rhythm in games. While it's never good to overreact to just one game, as Snyder would say, Bogdanovic answered that question against the Thunder.
He finished with a game-high 22 points, shooting 10-of-17 from the floor and 2-of-6 from three-point territory. But what was most impressive was how he went about his business on offense—attacking the rim, bullying smaller guards down on the block, and flaring out to the wing for the open three-pointer.
Altogether it was a solid performance that, if he can build upon, the Jazz become that much more dynamic and dangerous.
3.) Perimeter Defense Takes A Step Forward
When the Jazz were eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers last year in the second round of the playoffs, much talk was about their perimeter defense. Many people failed to overlook the part where Mitchell and Mike Conley were essentially playing with a combined two healthy legs, making it nearly impossible to defend at a high level.
Utah finished with an 89.5 defensive rating on Wednesday, and that was primarily not due to Gobert, the three-time defensive player of the year. Instead, a lot of that success can be attributed to the Jazz simply focusing on keeping their man in front of them and not allowing the Thunder to attack the paint.
"Just being able to guard, just keeping them in front, no hero play," Mitchell said. "I don't need to get a steal, but just gotta keep the man in front."
The emphasis on perimeter defense is an excellent move in the right direction if Utah wants to take the next step forward as a team.
4.) Mitchell Shows Maturity After Slow Start
After a slow start, Mitchell came out of halftime like a man on a mission.
He stayed within himself and allowed the game to come to him, a product of his maturation over the past four years. That resulted in 12 points (3-of-5 from deep) and three assists in the third quarter from him as the Jazz took a 20-point lead into the fourth.
"I started off slow, wasn't mad at any of the looks I got. … It was just the shots that didn't fall," Mitchell said. "I think maybe my first two years you get consumed with you got to be (the guy). Now it's kind of like, we're good, defense lock up and make the right plays, make the right passes and be good with that."
Despite the poor shooting night, he finished the game with 16 points, four assists, and three rebounds and tied for the team-high with a +20 showing on the court.
5.) Derrick Favors Makes Return To The Mountains
Fan-favorite Derrick Favors made his return to Vivint Arena. As the starting center for the Thunder, Favors finished the game with four points and nine rebounds.
Not only did the crowd give him a very loud ovation when he was announced pregame, Utah honored Favors with a video tribute, thanking him for his contributions to the organization and the community.
Favors was traded from the Jazz to the Thunder back on July 31, ending his 10-year run with Utah over two separate stints with the organization. Favors saw the Jazz transform from a fringe playoff contender to one of the top teams in the league, averaging 11.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game during that time.