Royce O’Neale ran his index and forefingers along his headband and then flashed the number three.
Six times in all.
“If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it,” he said.
He wasn’t alone in that sentiment Friday.
Royce O’Neale drained six triples in all, helping the Utah Jazz set a franchise record with 25 3-pointers in a 131-118 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The team had previously made a record 22 triples in a double-overtime game against Denver in August. Friday night, the Jazz were 25 of 53 from deep.
“That’s the strength of our team,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can make those shots. It’s something we’ve been banging that drum from the first day. We want guys to take 3s.”
The Jazz relied on the long ball early. The team hit nine triples in the first quarter alone.
Sixth man Jordan Clarkson was a pacesetter for the Jazz in Milwaukee. The guard scored 23 points in the first half alone.
Behind reigning MVP Giannis Antetekounmpo (35 points, eight rebounds) and All-Star wing Khris Middleton (31 points, 10 rebounds) the Bucks kept things interesting in the second half. Middleton scored 19 points in the third quarter as the Bucks mounted a rally.
But Utah’s All-Star guard Donvoan Mitchell scored 16 of his team-high 32 points in the third, as the Jazz improved to 5-4 on the year.
“For me, this is what I expect to play like every night,” Mitchell said. “Being able to distribute the ball. Being able to make the game easy on myself. This is how I expect to play. This is how I’m like in my head. But this is just one game.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 9, 2021
Mr. Irrelevant is doing his best to represent Utah.
Utah State star Sam Merrill was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the last pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, the realization of a dream he wasn’t sure could ever be real.
“The NBA is what every little kid in Utah dreams of playing Jr. Jazz,” Merrill said. “I never really thought the NBA was a realistic opportunity, to be honest, but it was something I was working for.”
Merrill grew up in Bountiful, Utah, and rooted for the Jazz.
“Matt Harpring was my favorite player,” Merrill said. “Mostly just because of the number. My favorite number was 15. But I loved the way he played too.”
The Bucks have loved the way Merrill has played early in his rookie season. The sharpshooting guard has averaged 7.5 minutes per game when he’s been healthy, while connecting on 80 percent (4-of-5) of the 3-pointers he’s attempted.
“I’m really excited to be out there and to represent my family, represent the state of Utah any time I get a chance to play,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of guys in the NBA from Utah, so I’m doing my best to represent the state.”
• Joe Ingles’ Iron Man streak has come to an end due to soreness in his right Achilles. Ingles had played 384 straight regular season games, the longest active streak in the NBA.
• COVID-19 protocols have made it difficult to have game-day shootarounds on the road, but the Jazz were able to get their morning work in Friday.
“It was great to have a shootaround,” Rudy Gobert said. “I never thought I’d say that one day, but we really needed it. It was good to be around each other outside of a game.”
The team’s seven-game road trip continues with a stop in Detroit on Sunday. Set your alarms for this matinee contest. Tipoff is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. MT.