Jazz Lock Down Defensively In Victory Over Atlanta

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

During his pregame press conference, head coach Quin Snyder was tired of talking about Utah’s offensive struggles.

Just like his players have said throughout the last few weeks, Snyder wasn’t concerned about shots falling. It’s the same team he had last year, and he knew what they were capable of doing — it was just a matter of time before that invisible lid on the rim magically disappeared.

“I would expect, at least on some level, that we start making more shots,” Snyder said.

That's exactly what happened Tuesday night.

Playing in front of a loud and raucous home crowd, Utah ended its two-game losing streak with a 110-98 victory over visiting Atlanta, kicking off a five-game homestand for the Jazz.

“It was good, good to be back,” Donovan Mitchell said postgame. “The atmosphere, whether it’s the fourth quarter and trying to get them (Atlanta) to miss for free Chick-Fil-A, that gives us a boost.”

Speaking following their shootaround Tuesday morning, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson reiterated how nice it was to be back in front of the home crowd for an extended period. Utah entered Tuesday having yet to play back-to-back games in the same city, making the first three weeks of the season feel like one extended road trip.

Back in the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena, Utah’s level of comfort was apparent from the opening tip.

Mitchell (10 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 19 points in the first quarter as Utah led 30-28 — doubling their scoring output from the last time these two teams played five days ago.

The hot shooting continued into the second quarter as the Jazz led by as many as 17 points before taking a 62-50 advantage into the half.

“We were more focused on the fact that we gave up 28, 30 points off of turnovers, silly plays. ... That’s really where our focus was at,” Mitchell said of Utah’s start. “At the end of the day, the 30 points is good to see but we could’ve held them to a 20-ball, 22-ball.”

The Hawks came out hot to start the third quarter, opening with an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to three. The Jazz responded with a 13-5 run to end the quarter, taking a 95-80 lead into the final 12 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Atlanta made one last push, cutting Utah’s lead to 100-93 with just over six minutes to play. Once again the Jazz responded, this time on the defensive end, by going on an 8-0 run to put the game away.

“Our guards and our bigs, we were communicating better in some switching situations,” Snyder said postgame. “It’s hard to stay in front all the time in pick-and-roll. … In those moments to be decisive with who’s got the ball, even if it appears to be a mismatch, there’s someone that’s contesting the shot and make them earn those baskets.”

Utah resembled its old self Tuesday night after struggling to put the ball in the hoop for much of the season. The Jazz shot 50.6% (41-for-81) from the floor for the game and 39.5% (15-for-38) from beyond the arc.

While the Jazz found a way to score efficiently, the thing they were most proud of was the defensive effort.

Atlanta’s starting backcourt of Trae Young and Kevin Huerter combined for 55 points through three quarters. But Utah locked in defensively over the final 12 minutes, holding them to zero points on 0-of-5 shooting from the floor.

“We were making shots, going back and forth. … But when we really honed in our defense and got stops and ran, we pushed the lead open,” Mitchell said. “You saw that especially in the fourth. I don’t think Trae or Kev scored in the fourth. … We made it hard on them.”

Mitchell finished with 27 points and five assists, while Bogdanovic added 18 points. Royce O’Neale had his third consecutive game in double-figures with 11 points, adding in five rebounds and four assists.

Jordan Clarkson finished with 16 points off the bench while Hassan Whiteside, in extra minutes following Rudy Gobert’s foul trouble, finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

“I came here to contribute to the depth,” Whiteside said. “I was joking with the coaching staff like ‘how many teams got a backup center than can outplay other teams starting centers?’ I take pride in that. … I don’t want there to be a drop-off or anything when I come into the game.”

Utah returns to action on Thursday night when it hosts the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. MST.