After a week and a half stay in Las Vegas, the Utah Jazz have wrapped up the 2022 NBA 2K23 Summer League.
Experiencing plenty of change over the past month — the leaving of Quin Snyder, the hire of Will Hardy, and the trade of Rudy Gobert — simply playing basketball was precisely what the Jazz needed as questions about the future continued to swirl.
Following a slow start at the Salt Lake City Summer League, the Jazz rebounded with an impressive showing under the bright lights. Utah finished 3-2, picking up wins over Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver.
Behind the coaching of Lamar Skeeter, the Jazz employed a switch-heavy defense alongside a balanced offensive attack to finish above .500. The veteran leadership of Jared Butler and Xavier Sneed was massively needed. At the same time, the improved play of youngsters Johnny Juzang, Leandro Bolmaro, and Bruno Caboclo helped steer Utah along.
Here's a breakdown of Utah's five games:
1.) UTAH 72 – Atlanta 66
*With Juzang and Bolmaro making their season debuts — both of whom were in the starting lineup — the Jazz jumped all over Atlanta early on and never looked back. Despite a frantic fourth quarter in which Utah overcame a big Hawks run, Butler and co. picked up their first win of the summer in a 72-66 victory.
"He had a lot of success in the pick-and-roll early, throwing the lobs and making the right reads," Skeeter said of Butler.
Butler showed off his elite quickness and impressive playmaking skills from the opening tip, finishing with 15 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Whether using the pick-and-roll to create opportunities or breaking down his man off the dribble, it was apparent that Butler's mission was to allow everyone else to find a rhythm.
It worked as Utah led 39-26 at the half.
However, as Atlanta began to make its comeback, particularly in the fourth quarter, Butler went into attack mode on offense. He looked for his shot and found it often, scoring 11 points in the second half as he helped the Jazz hold on late.
Caboclo tallied a near double-double of 11 points and eight rebounds. James Palmer Jr. provided a great spark off the bench with 10 points and four rebounds, while former All-American Kofi Cockburn was a menace on the boards, tallying a gamine-high 13 rebounds while adding two blocks.
2.) UTAH 83 – Dallas 82
*After seeing action in his first Summer League game on Saturday, July 9, Juzang admitted some rust needed to be knocked off.
Juzang missed all three games of the SLC Summer League tournament last week while recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident. Although everyone involved was alright, he was dealing with concussion-like symptoms that made it nearly impossible to prepare for one of the biggest summers of his life.
Juzang hit the biggest shot last Monday night, knocking down a three-pointer with 30 seconds to play to give the Jazz a lead as they held on to beat Dallas 83-82.
"My teammates were finding me for some good looks. … But it's just about competing, that's the best thing about it," he said Monday night. "JB (Butler) found me. … I had a great look, but it would've felt a little rushed, and I saw him (defender) closing out pretty hard, so I got him up in the air, got a little more time, and just stuck it."
7-foot-6 center Tacko finished with a monster double-double of 12 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks. But his offensive rebound with one second remaining sealed the eventual victory.
"Tacko definitely gave us a big lift with his size, his activity, and his hands," Skeeter said. "The rebounding was huge. … A lot of those offensive rebounds late, especially that last possession."
Butler finished with nine points, 10 assists, and five rebounds, while DJ Funderburk added a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sneed and Juzang each finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while Justin Robinson was a huge spark off the bench with 11 points in 18 minutes.
3.) Toronto 80 – UTAH 74
*Despite a massive comeback in the fourth quarter, Utah's unbeaten streak in Vegas ended last Wednesday in a defeat to the Raptors.
Struggling to find a rhythm on either end of the court, the Jazz looked like a different squad compared to the first two games — finding themselves trailing 46-30 at the half.
An 11-4 run allowed Utah to cut the deficit to single digits early in the third, but the Raptors righted the ship, leading by 16 entering the fourth quarter.
But as was the theme for most of summer league, Skeeter and the Jazz showed amazing resiliency after a 10-0 run early in the fourth made it an eight-point game. With just under two minutes to play, Butler went on a personal 5-0 run that made it 76-74 with 1:04 to go — but the Raptors ended the game on a 4-0 run to pull out the win.
Butler finished with 12 points and six assists, while Caboclo added nine points and nine rebounds. Bolmaro finished with 11 points, while Darryl Morsell chipped in 10 points off the bench.
4.) LA Clippers 82 – UTAH 65
*With Butler, Sneed, and Cockburn all resting for the game, Utah's fourth game in Vegas can best be summed up as the Bolmaro game.
Finishing with a summer league-high 19 points (8-of-15 from the floor, 3-for-7 from deep) and six rebounds, Bolmaro made his presence on both ends of the court. One of the pieces absorbed in the Gobert trade, Bolmaro flashed two-way versatility that could see him earn court time come October.
After trailing by two entering the third quarter, Utah outscored the Clippers 19-11 to take a six-point lead entering the final 10 minutes — but it all came apart. The Jazz were outscored 32-9, falling 82-65 in the end.
Juzang finished with 14 points and four rebounds, while Fall added eight points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
5.) UTAH 82 – Denver 72
*After an up-and-down summer league, Butler finished the season on a high note by leading the Jazz to an 82-72 victory over the Nuggets on Sunday.
Showcasing his playmaking abilities, Butler finished with 15 points, six assists, and four rebounds. He was the catalyst for the Utah offense, particularly in a dominant second quarter in which the Jazz outscored Denver by 14.
Utah's ability to shoot the three-ball was the difference-maker, going 13-for-40 from beyond the arc while holding Denver to a 6-for-19 showing.
Robinson provided another big spark off the bench, chipping in 12 points and four assists on 3-of-5 from three-point territory. Palmer Jr. added 10 points on 2-of-3 from deep.