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Five Things: Hot Jazz on the Road

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Five Things: Hot Jazz on the Road

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No Donovan Mitchell, no problem for the Utah Jazz.

With Mitchell sidelined due to strain in his left lower back, the Jazz got great performances off their bench and defense as they beat San Antonio 110-104 on Monday night.

Here are five things to know after winning:

1.) Utah proves defense travels
It takes a lot more than a dominant offense to win the playoffs. Especially when it comes to playing on the road, the offense may not always travel as well.

But effort and defense can still travel, and that’s exactly what the Jazz proved on Monday night against one of the best attacks in the league.

San Antonio entered Monday night on a hot streak in the last 15 games. After starting 4-13, they’ve grown to 10-5 since – mostly due to the league’s No.3 offense during that time.

Despite being shorthanded with Mitchell and not with the squad, the Jazz put in a sensational effort on defense as they fidgeted and argued against Spurs all night. They held San Antonio 45 percent (45 percent) from the ground and 33 percent (10 percent) beyond the arc.

“I think our defense tonight really helped us, really helped us hold them back,” said Jordan Clarkson.

Particularly impressive were Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, according to head coach Quin Snyder. Their ability to activate defenders in the pick-and-roll and keep San Antonio guards from having a sharp eye on the rim was key to limiting Spurs to just 99 on offense, more than 11 points short of their average for the season.

“I thought we had upped our level with Hassan (Whiteside) and Rudy (Gobert) engaging some of these drivers,” Snyder said after the game.

2.) Trent Forrest Steps Up
Slowly but steadily throughout the season, Forrest was increasingly called upon by Snyder to fill in precious minutes in a reserve role behind point guard Mike Conley.

But with Mitchell not making the trip to San Antonio, it meant Forrest was going to see extended playing time. But the question was, how long? Even Forrest didn’t know this answer until the game, but he almost immediately got his answer.

Forrest was the first Jazz player to leave the bench, proving how much he reports to Snyder and how confident the team is.

“Tonight he played 20 minutes, he didn’t score, but he affected the game so much,” Clarkson said of Forrest.

Clarkson was not wrong.

Although he didn’t score in 20 minutes, Forrest led the attack well but left his mark on the defensive end. Using his length and athleticism, he made life difficult for Spurs guards.

“Defensively I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing,” Snyder said of Forrest. “I mean, he’s unique defensively with his length and also with his instinct.”

Forrest was grateful for the comments from Snyder and his teammates, but said his job is simple because he knows what role he plays every night. It’s his defense that brought him onto the pitch, and it’s his defense that he hangs his hat on.

“It’s probably just kind of a knowledge of the angles of the body.… It’s kind of natural,” Forrest said of his defense.

3.) Depth on full display
Utah knew he would need a good night out on his bench if he was to avenge his loss to San Antonio 10 nights ago at Vivint Arena.

This is precisely what they got.

As a unit, the Jazz outscored San Antonio 43-41 on bench points – but three Utah players made it against six for the Spurs. Two Spurs scored eight combined points in the final two minutes when the outcome was almost decided.

Clarkson was phenomenal, finishing with a season-high 23 points in 32 minutes. He added eight rebounds, five assists and one steal to finish with a team-best score of +13.

But it wasn’t just the numbers he posted that made him special on Monday. It was the way he did business.

As San Antonio extended the pressure past the three-point line, Clarkson’s ability to break through his defender, get into the paint and make the right play was vital. Sometimes he ended up on the edge, other times he dropped it to Gobert or Whiteside, or he found the man open. Regardless, he was most important when the team needed him the most.

Equally impressive was Hassan Whiteside, adding 13 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. Rudy Gay added seven points, five rebounds and two assists on his return to San Antonio.

4.) Joe Ingles thrives in the starting role… again
In what was once known in Utah, it is now becoming clear to the rest of the league how special Jazz guard Joe Ingles really is.

Whatever situation he finds himself in, Ingles has found a way to thrive. Last year he was (Clarkson’s) finalist in the Sixth Man of the Year vote – and this season he’s stepped in as a backup when Conley or Mitchell run out of time.

This was the scenario in which Ingles found himself against Spurs with Mitchell missing a game for the first time this season.

How did Ingles respond? He lost 17 points, three rebounds and three assists, shooting 6 of 10 from the floor and 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.

He not only served as a playmaker finding great success in the pick-and-roll, but he was also much more aggressive in finding his shot. His 10 shots were the third time he has hit double-digit shooting attempts this season.

With Ingles’ ability to thrive in any role that is asked of her, Utah becomes all the more dangerous. As the season progresses, Ingles proves that the Jazz won’t have to sacrifice their victories to let players rest or if they are injured.

5.) The road warriors? Jazz looks like itTo achieve the best record in the NBA last season, the Jazz did so by dominating in the comfortable enclosure of the Vivint Arena. But if there was one place they struggled it’s on the road as they finished 21-15 this year.

While Utah haven’t been as dominant at home this season, with six losses already, they have been warriors on the road. They are currently 11-3 on the season away from the snow capped mountains, including road wins over Milwaukee, Atlanta, Cleveland and Philadelphia – all teams currently in the top 6 of the Eastern Conference standings.

The road ahead will become much more difficult as Utah travels to Denver (twice), Golden State, Phoenix, Memphis and Los Angeles (Lakers) in January. Two of these matches will take place on consecutive nights.

Great teams know how to win on the road, and right now the Jazz are a great team. While the road ahead is perilous, Utah has proven that it knows how to end things in opposing arenas.

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