SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz backcourt combined for 88 points in a comeback effort to defeat the Sacramento Kings 128-112 for their 24th straight home win.
The Jazz sorely missed Jordan Clarkson as they struggled to maintain a consistent offensive attack, but were carried by Donovan Mitchell’s enormous 30 point second half which came amid active conversations between the guard and Kings bench.
Sacramento’s defense stimied Rudy Gobert on the offensive end while De’Aaron Fox and Richaun Holmes combined for 55 points, but ultimately the Kings fell to the Jazz deeper and more experienced rosters.
Jazz Guards Carry The Offense But Missed Jordan Clarkson
The Jazz got three huge performances from Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Joe Ingles who combined for 88 points in total. After a brutal 3-14 shooting performance in the first half from Mitchell, the All-Star guard exploded for 30 second-half points on 9-17 shooting including 3-7 from the three-point line.
Mitchell was just 5-28 over the last three games from deep as the entire team has struggled to shoot, but the Jazz rebounded by shooting 36 percent from three after opening the game 0-5 from beyond the arc.
Ingles helped carry the Jazz scoring load with the second unit by scoring all 20 of his points in the first three quarters of the game before Conley helped Mitchell finished the Kings in the fourth. Conley scored 10 points on 3-4 shooting in the final 8:09 of the game to secure the win.
But while Mitchell, Ingles, and Conley turned in enormous performances, it’s clear the Jazz are missing Jordan Clarkson, the front runner for Sixth Man of the Year who has missed the last two games with an ankle sprain.
The guard had struggled mightily over the last month, but his ability to carry the team’s offensive identity for long stretches of games while the rest of the backcourt takes plays off is an undervalued skill.
Georges Niang who scored 12 points off the bench for the Jazz described what the team is missing without Clarkson.
“A barrage of points just out of nowhere,” Niang said. “I think we missed Jordan in the sense that you literally throw the ball to him and he makes something happen. He’s making other teams over help, drawing two defenders.”
Mitchell and Ingles filled in admirably without Clarkson, but it’s a heavy burden to ask in addition to their existing roles. Second-year guard Miye Oni played 12 minutes in Clarkson’s absence but shot just 1-7 from the floor for three points.
Kings Trash Talk Awakens Jazz Mitchell, Ingles
Though neither Jazz player cared to elaborate, it seems that either an opposing fan or someone on the Kings sideline said something to Ingles to provoke the Jazz backcourt into their big second-half performance.
“Somebody said something to Joe, to be honest, and Joe gave an answer that I hadn’t heard in a while,” Mitchell said of the mysterious interaction. “That just fired me up. When Joe gets angry I get angry.”
Mitchell credited the comment with his turnaround, but wouldn’t add further detail. Ingles when pressed on the issue offered no comment, but did discuss his nature for trash talking.
“I’ve never gone into a game thinking of talking to anyone,” Ingles admitted, “But I obviously get in probably more conversations with people than anyone else on our team.”
Throughout the game, there was an ongoing conversation between the Jazz players and the Kings bench, especially in the second half with the Jazz scoring basket positioned in front of the Sacramento bench.
“We’ve kind of wanted to take their confidence away,” Niang said of the Kings 12-1 run to open the game. “So sometimes within the heat of the game, you just get to jawing back and forth.”
Niang had friendly banter with fellow Iowa State alumni Tyrese Haliburton, but not all of the Jazz and Kings conversation seemed so cordial, even if Ingles got a laugh.
“It’s more of a funny, comedy thing to me,” Ingles said, “Obviously, it lights something up in me that that makes the game fun.”
The Jazz and Kings will have more opportunities to continue their conversation as the two teams will face off two more times in the next 19 games.
Kings Hold Gobert To Two Field Goal Attempts
The Kings had one of the better performances against Rudy Gobert that the Jazz have seen so far this season. Richaun Holmes scored 25 for Sacramento while Gobert was held to just six points on two field-goal attempts.
Gobert’s two shot attempts are his fewest of the season as the center looked outwardly flustered in first half.
“As far as the attempts go, when they’re switching pick and roll one through five and they’re just pulled in from the corners, it’s really congested,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Gobert scored the first basket of the second half but failed to attempt another shot the rest of the game. However, that doesn’t mean Gobert didn’t affect the game.
The Jazz were outscored by six points in Gobert’s 15 first-half minutes, but he bounced back with a positive +11 plus-minus in the second half including a few enormous defensive plays in the fourth quarter to stymie the Kings offense.
Gobert added 11 points and two blocks while holding Holmes to just four points in the second half.
“Let’s not get this misconstrued, Rudy is the Defensive Player of the Year and he’s going to get people’s best game every night,” Niang said. “So for [Holmes] to have 21 points at the half and what did he end with, 25? It’s like, okay, you woke up a monster.”