The Utah Jazz all season long have had something to prove. This point became reality last night when they clinched a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs with their 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 2017-18 season could be penciled in as a tough year for the Utah Jazz. They lost their biggest superstar Gordon Hayward who departed from the team in free agency last summer and joined the Boston Celtics. Had a serious injury earlier in the year to Rudy Gobert, and midseason trades that altered their roster. For this team to beat all odds and come out the other end to make the Playoffs is impressive. So how have they done it?
Let’s start with the obvious. Utah’s success wouldn’t be possible without Donovan Mitchell’s immediate emergence into the NBA. We can debate whether his rookie candidacy has rivaled Ben Simmons, but he has unexpectedly made that conversation into a debate. When coming back from injury, Ruby Gobert became a force to reckon with. His defensive skills are clearly the most valuable, yet his ability to set screens are astounding. Gobert leads the league with 6.2 screen assists, a stat that is measured by creating a screen to free up a teammate, who then nails the shot. This has made him a dangerous player on both ends of the floor.
Joe Ingles got a whopping $52 million last summer, and you can bet the Jazz don’t regret paying every cent to the Aussie. He’s averaging career-high stats across the board, he has increased his playmaking abilities to 4.1 assists per game, and at one point led the league in three-point shooting. But to sum it all up, their defense is still the backbone of the team.
Showing how confident the Jazz are, Joe Ingles was asked after Sunday’s game how satisfying it was to prove everyone wrong by making the Playoffs while having a dramatic year and losing their superstar Hayward to the Celtics. Ingles replied “Who?”
Catch you Thursday.