The Utah Jazz started their three-game Eastern Conference road swing with a 112-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.
Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to score a game-high 23 points. Forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds. Donovan Mitchell had 18 points and five assists in the win.
“We just kept doing what we do,” Clarkson said. “We came in at the half trying to keep being aggressive, especially defensively, pushing the ball and trying to score. That’s what we really harped on in the second half. That was it.”
Forward John Collins led the Hawks in scoring with 17 points.
The Jazz are now 17-5 on the year and sitting in first place in the West.
The Hawks were without All-Star guard Trae Young, and his 24 points per game, due to injury. With Young out of action, Snyder readied his team for the unexpected.
“Every time there is a situation like this … a team really comes together and recognizes an urgency, and you get a hungry team that plays hard,” he said.
But Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce knew the Jazz would be tough even under the best circumstances.
“I think they’re the best team we’ve played this year,” Pierce said before tipoff. “And I say ‘team’ strongly. They’re playing great as a unit.”
Mitchell drained an early 3 and followed that with a layup on the next possession to give the Jazz an early 10-point lead.
But in a quarter that saw Mike Conley pick up three fouls, the Hawks charged back into the game, making it a 20-16 Jazz advantage after one quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Jazz lead stood at 22-21. That’s when Clarkson and Bogdanovic answered with a 9-2 run to pad the team’s cushion. The sixth man Clarkson had 10 points in the quarter, while Bogdanovic scored 15 in the first half.
The Jazz made five 3-pointers and attempted just 12, their lowest total in any half this season. Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter scored 12 of his 16 points in the half.
Utah led 45-37 at the break.
After sitting out much of the first half with foul trouble, Conley made his mark in the third. The veteran point guard scored 11 points and dished out four assists in the period, as the Jazz took an 80-63 lead into the fourth.
“I didn’t think we ran as well as we needed to in the first half,” Snyder said. “Those are possessions that we can build on. That’s just getting the ball moving, get everybody touches and get more catch-and-shoot 3s. We didn’t finish at the rim real well in the first half. The second half was more how we wanted to play.”
Gobert (11 points and 12 rebounds) rolled in a layup early in the fourth to give the Jazz its first 20-point lead of the evening.
“We’ve got all the weapons we need to attack any type of coverage, any defense,” Gobert said. “We can usually figure it out pretty quick when we see how they want to play us.”
The Jazz wouldn’t get complacent after that, going on to lead by as much as 27 as they cruised to their second straight victory.
“We play for a bigger purpose,” Gobert said of his team’s mindset. “We know that it’s a long season. We want to win every single game, but at the same time the goal is to keep getting better and, when it’s playoff time, to be the best Utah Jazz team we can be. Our goal is to compete with ourselves. We need our focus to be at the highest level every single time on the court. That’s the mindset we have to have. We want to have a championship mindset. It starts with the habits of not being complacent and getting better every single time on the court.”
Jordan Clarkson continued his campaign for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, leading the Jazz with 23 points off the bench. Clarkson was 9-of-13 from the floor (5-of-8 from deep) in 25 minutes of action. He also had seven rebounds on the night.
• Thursday’s game was a homecoming for Utah Jazz center Derrick Favors, an Atlanta native.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, though, is just happy Favors is back home with Utah this season.
“It was hard to lose him,” Snyder said. “We were together for five years. Our team grew together, he and I grew together just on a personal level. Selfishly, I’m really happy he’s back.”
Favors is averaging 5.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game off the bench this season.
“He’s a selfless person and he’s a selfless player,” Snyder said. “You see that in how he goes about his craft. I’m grateful to have had the chance to coach him and I’m even more grateful to do it again.”
• Atlanta point guard Trae Young (right calf contusion), forward De’Andre Hunter (right knee discomfort) and guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee avulsion fracture) were all out of action.
• Reports surfaced this week that the 2021 NBA All-Star game could be played next month in Atlanta.
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce is hopeful that will come to fruition, though he doesn’t plan to be in attendance.
“I’ll be on break,” he said. “I hope they enjoy it. I hope it’s fun for the fans. I think the fans will enjoy it. I think the players that are selected will enjoy it. I’m grateful that I could be here … but that’s my time to decompress and relax. That’s what I’ll be looking forward to.”
The Jazz turn around to face Gordon Hayward and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.