Throughout January, Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell, and the Jazz kept preaching that there was no reason to panic. There was no reason to blow up the team or make drastic changes.
While they acknowledged that changes needed to be made, they believed that those changes started in the locker room and ended on the court — meaning it was about the team and nobody else.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 9, 2022
One could understand the questioning, though. After all, the Jazz suffered through a brutal month of January in which they went 4-12.
But taking a deep dive into the month, there wasn’t a team in the league whose roster had been more decimated by injuries and health and safety protocols.
From injuries to all-stars in Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and nearly two-thirds of the team — including Snyder — being placed in health and safety protocols during that time, the Jazz were merely a team trying to adapt to the circumstances of the month rather than focusing on wins and losses.
“This isn’t about winning and losing,” Snyder said. “This is about committing to the things that allow you to win. … I have confidence we can do those things.”
Eleven of the 16 games came away from the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena, with 11 more coming against teams currently in the playoff picture of either conference. The Jazz also had three back-to-backs, all of which came on the road.
The schedule was challenging, by far the most brutal stretch of the season for Utah, but their big three of Mitchell, Gobert, and Mike Conley played in just four games.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2022
Yet through all of the trials and tribulations, Utah kept working and grinding. There was widespread belief in the locker room that they had everything they needed to turn things around. It would just take getting healthy and bringing a different energy and vibe.
Three games into February, and both of those things have happened.
The Jazz have gotten healthier, with Mitchell and reigning sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson returning from injuries. Snyder is also back on the sideline after ending health and safety protocols. As a result, Utah is 3-0 and looking much more like the title contender they were when the season started.
“When everyone gets back, it’s time to take it to another level. … And I think we’ve been doing that, slowly but surely,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has been the catalyst, averaging 29.5 points, six assists, five rebounds, and two steals in his two games back. But his emergence on the defensive end, from being active to talking, is what’s making a difference and how he’s elevated his game to new heights.
“That’s what we want to see even more,” Mike Conley said of his backcourt running mate. “We know what he can do offensively, but he’s taking over the game in other ways. The ones that we’re putting on in film every day and preaching. And as a leader, from his standpoint, he has to go out there and do all the things that he’s asked us to do. … When he does that, it gets us all going.”
But Utah’s toughest test of the month comes on Wednesday when Steph Curry and the Warriors arrive at Vivint Arena on a nine-game winning streak. While both teams will still be missing key players, the battle between Mitchell and Curry will bring fireworks.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 9, 2022
Utah (33-21, 18-10 home / No. 4 Western Conference)
*113.6 Points Per Game (No. 1 in NBA)
*115.5 Offensive Rating (No. 1 in NBA)
*107.6 Points Per Game (No. 11 in NBA)
*109.4 Defensive Rating (No. 13 in NBA)
*Donovan Mitchell: 25.7 points / 5.2 assists / 34.0 rebounds / 1.6 steals
*Bojan Bogdanovic: 17.9 points / 4.3 rebounds / 38.1% 3P-shooting
*Mike Conley: 14.4 points / 5.3 assists / 3.0 rebounds / 42.2% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson: 15.5 points / 3.5 rebounds / 26.5 minutes
Golden State (41-13, 16-9 away / No. 2 Western Conference)
*110.9 Points Per Game (No. 11 in NBA)
*111.7 Offensive Rating (No. 9 in NBA)
*102.6 Points Per Game (No. 2 in NBA)
*103.4 Defensive Rating (No. 1 in NBA)
*Steph Curry: 25.7 points / 6.4 assists / 5.4 rebounds / 38.1% 3P-shooting
*Andrew Wiggins: 18/1 points / 4.3 rebounds / 41.5% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Poole: 16.6 points / 3.5 assists / 34.1% 3P-shooting
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Donovan Mitchell vs. Steph Curry
— Interestingly enough, Mitchell and Curry will more than likely not be defending one another — but that does not take away from their individual battle. They’re both key to their teams’ success, and whoever plays better will probably get the win. Mitchell is looking like an all-NBA team member since coming back from injury while Curry is looking to get back into the MVP talk.
OUT — Rudy Gay (Right Knee Soreness)
OUT — Rudy Gobert (Left Calf Strain)
OUT — Joe Ingles (Left Knee Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear)
QUESTIONABLE — Kevon Looney (Left Quadriceps Contusion)
OUT — Nemenja Bjelica (Bilateral Back Spasm)
OUT — Draymond Green (Left L5-L1 Disc Injury Recovery)
OUT — Andre Iguodala (Low Back Tightness)
OUT — Klay Thompson (Right Achilles Tendon Injury Management)
OUT — Quinndary Weatherspoon (G League – Two-Way)
OUT — James Wiseman (Right Knee Injury Recovery)
Time: 8:00 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena / Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: 1280 The Zone