But that didn’t mean head coach Quin Snyder and the Utah Jazz were worried about their chances Wednesday night.
“I don’t think there’s any magic involved” in the team’s approach without Mitchell, Snyder said before the game. “Everybody has got to be aggressive. We have to play the same way.”
And that way still involved a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA center, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and one of the best 3-point shooters in franchise history.
In a 116-104 victory over the Dallas Mavericks,
Rudy Gobert delivered, scoring 29 points, pulling down 20 rebounds and blocking three shots. Jordan Clarkson came off the bench and poured in 31 points. And Joe Ingles, back in the starting lineup in Mitchell’s stead, knocked down seven 3-pointers and handed out eight assists.
“We have a group of guys that wants to win,” Gobert said. “We knew that with Donovan and Derrick [Favors] out, we were all going to have to do a little more. Everyone came in ready.”
Gobert, Clarkson and Ingles each notched season-highs in scoring as the Jazz extended their league-best win streak to 10.
“They really were doing the same things they’ve done over the course of the season. They were just doing them more because they’re in the game more, they have the ball more,” Snyder said. “The balance that we have is one of the strengths of our team. I think guys have confidence in one another. They feel the game like that.”
The Jazz (14-4) were feeling it from the jump Wednesday night at Vivint Arena.
Bojan Bogdanovic kicked out to a wide-open Royce O’Neale for a 3-pointer to put the Jazz up 18-8 midway through the first quarter. Gobert, meanwhile, had 10 points in the opening quarter to help the Jazz go up 32-19 after one period.
In the second quarter, Clarkson had more than one flash of brilliance. In one sequence, the Sixth Man denied Dallas’ Jalen Brunson at the rim and then drew a foul on a 3-point shot on the other end, putting his team up 46-27. The next possession, Clarkson grabbed a rebound on one end and finished a circus layup for two of his 22 first-half points.
Ingles, starting in Mitchell’s absence, hit five triples in the first half. The Aussie closed the half by draining back-to-back 3s and then setting Gobert up for an emphatic dunk that gave Utah a 69-48 lead at intermission. Gobert had 20 points in the half, the most he had ever scored in a half in his career.
“Over my seven years here, we’ve had injuries and different things and guys have had to step up and play bigger roles, different roles,” Ingles said. “The most fun thing about being on a team like this is there are no egos involved. We love playing together. We enjoy playing together.”
Dallas All-Star Luka Doncic scored 15 points in the third quarter, but the Mavs weren’t able to slow down the Jazz, who made it a 100-78 game heading into the final frame.
In the fourth, Jazz point guard Mike Conley scored 10 of his 17 points to ensure the game was never in doubt.
Doncic finished the game with 30 points. Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19 points and Kristaps Porzingis added 18.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle thought the Jazz would have the weapons to win, even with Mitchell sidelined for now.
“He’s a great player. You can say we catch a break,” Carlisle said before the game. “But in terms of their team, this is one of the most tied together teams with a very efficient, high-functioning system. This is the kind of NBA team that can absorb the loss of a player like Mitchell, particularly for one game.”
Carlisle credited Snyder, who was coaching his 500th game as the Jazz’s bench boss, for creating that system and culture.
“Quin Snyder is a very underrated coach,” Carlisle said. “Quietly, he’s built this team into a very cohesive group that’s really at the top of the league in both offense and defense.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 28, 2021
The Salt Lake Stars are preparing to tipoff a season that will be played entirely in the G League’s version of the Orlando Bubble. But Snyder was not ready to tip his hand when asked how the Jazz will use its minor league squad in this unique season.
“We haven’t made all of those decisions yet,” the Jazz coach said this week. The primary thing that moves the needle for us is we want guys to develop. That development can take place both with the Jazz and with the Stars.”
Two-way players like Jarrell Brantley and Trent Forrest may well benefit from extended playing time in Orlando. But the Jazz will also have to carefully consider their choices, balancing development with the security of depth a two-way or young roster player might provide with the threat of Covid-19 always looming in a season played amid a pandemic.
“There are considerations on both sides,” Snyder said.
Another consideration is ensuring those two-way players, who can only spend 50 days with the parent team this year, would be eligible to play if needed late in the season.
“The way the days are structured, there’s thought that has to be given to the possibility that your team could be impacted by Covid,” Snyder said. “If you’re at the end of the year and the two-way players are unavailable because they’ve used their days, that can be very impactful.”
Rematch? Rematch. The Jazz and Mavericks will meet again Friday at Vivint Arena. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.