No Donovan Mitchell, no problem for the Utah Jazz.

With Mitchell sidelined due to a lower left back strain, the Jazz got big performances from their bench and defense in taking down San Antonio 110-104 on Monday night.

Here are five things to know following the win:

1.) Utah Proves That Defense Travels
It takes much more than a dominant offense to win in the playoffs. Especially when it comes to playing on the road, the offense may not always travel as well.

But effort and defense can always travel, and that’s exactly what the Jazz proved on Monday night against one of the best offenses in the league. 

San Antonio entered Monday night on a hot streak over the past 15 games. After starting 4-13, they’ve gone 10-5 since — primarily on the strength of the league’s No. 3 offense during that time. 

Despite being shorthanded with Mitchell not with the team, the Jazz turned in a sensational effort on defense as they flustered and contested the Spurs all night long. They held San Antonio to 45% (45-for-100) from the floor and 33% (10-for-30) from beyond the arc.

“I think tonight our defense really helped us, really allowed us to hold them,” Jordan Clarkson said.

According to head coach Quin Snyder, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside were particularly impressive. Their ability to switch on defenders in the pick-and-roll and keep San Antonio’s guards from getting clean looks at the rim was essential in limiting the Spurs to just a 99 rating on offense, over 11 points lower than their season average.

“I thought we raised our level with both Hassan (Whiteside) and Rudy (Gobert) switching on some of those drivers,” Snyder said postgame.

2.) Trent Forrest Steps Up
Slowly but surely throughout the season, Forrest has been called upon more and more by Snyder to fill valuable minutes in a reserve role behind point guard Mike Conley. 

But with Mitchell not making the trip to San Antonio, it meant that Forrest was going to see some extended playing time. But the question was, how much time? Not even Forrest knew that answer going into the game, but he almost immediately got his answer.

Forrest was the first Jazz player off the bench, proving how far he’s come under Snyder and how much trust the team has in him.

“Tonight he played 20 minutes, he didn’t score, but he affected the game so much,” Clarkson said of Forrest.

Clarkson wasn’t wrong. 

Despite not scoring in 20 minutes, Forrest ran the offense well but made his mark on the defensive end. Using his length and athleticism, he made life difficult for the Spurs guards.

“Defensively, I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing,” Snyder said of Forrest. “I mean, he’s unique defensively with his length and also with his instincts.”

Forrest was thankful for the comments from Snyder and his teammates, but he said his job is simple because he knows what role he plays every night. It’s his defense that’s gotten him on the court, and it’s his defense that he hangs his hat on.

“It’s probably just kind of knowing body angles. … Just comes somewhat natural,” Forrest said of his defense.

3.) Depth On Full Display
Utah knew it would need a strong night from its bench if it would avenge its loss to San Antonio 10 nights ago in Vivint Arena. 

That’s precisely what they got. 

As a unit, the Jazz outscored San Antonio 43-41 in bench points — but three Utah players did that compared to six for the Spurs. Two Spurs scored a combined eight points in the final two minutes when the outcome was all but decided. 

Clarkson was phenomenal, finishing with a team-high 23 points in a season-high 32 minutes. He added eight rebounds, five assists, and one steal to finish with a team-high +13 rating. 

But it wasn’t just the numbers he put up that made him special on Monday. It was the way he went about his business. 

With San Antonio extending pressure past the three-point line, Clarkson’s ability to break down his defender, get into the paint, and make the correct play was vital. Sometimes he would finish at the rim, other times he would drop it down to Gobert or Whiteside, or he would find the open man. Regardless, he showed up biggest when the team needed him the most.

Hassan Whiteside was equally impressive, adding 13 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. Rudy Gay added seven points, five rebounds, and two assists in his return to San Antonio.

4.) Joe Ingles Thrives In Starting Role… Again
In what was already known in Utah, it’s now becoming clear to the rest of the league how special Jazz guard Joe Ingles truly is.

Regardless of what situation he finds himself in, Ingles has found a way to thrive. Last year he was runner-up (to Clarkson) in the sixth man of the year voting — and this season, he’s taken on the role of fill-in starter when either Conley or Mitchell miss time. 

That was the scenario Ingles found himself in against the Spurs with Mitchell missing a game for the first time this season.

How did Ingles respond? He dropped 17 points, three rebounds, and three assists, shooting 6-of-10 from the floor and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. 

He not only served as a playmaker by finding a lot of success in the pick-and-roll, but he was also much more aggressive in looking for his shot. His 10 shots were the third time he’s reached double-digit shot attempts this season.

With Ingles’ ability to thrive in any role asked of him, Utah becomes that much more dangerous. As the season goes on, Ingles is proving the Jazz won’t have to sacrifice wins to rest players or if they get hit with injuries.

5.) Road Warriors? Jazz Looking Like ItTo achieve the best record in the NBA last season, the Jazz did so by dominating in the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena. But if there was a spot where they struggled, it came on the road as they finished 21-15 on the year.

While Utah hasn’t been nearly as dominant at home this season, already with six losses, they’ve been warriors on the road. They’re currently 11-3 on the season away from the snowy mountains, including road victories over Milwaukee, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Philadelphia — all teams currently in the top-6 of the Eastern Conference standings.

The road ahead will get much more difficult as Utah will travel to Denver (twice), Golden State, Phoenix, Memphis, and Los Angeles (Lakers) in January. Two of those games will come on back-to-back nights.

Great teams know how to win on the road, and right now the Jazz are a great team. While the road ahead is treacherous, Utah has proven it knows how to close things out in opponent’s arenas.


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