If The Deer Hunter were to be remade, Bojan Bogdanovic earned himself a shot at the lead role last night.
Bogdanovic sunk the game-winning three right at the buzzer to erase the hopes of a Bucks win in overtime.
The Jazz led by 20 points at the half after stifling the reigning MVP’s squad and holding them to a season low 35 points at the break. However, Giannis and the Bucks offense exploded in the second half and seemed destined for an overtime victory. Enter Bogdanovic.
I was already high on this team coming into the season, but this game solidified for me that the Jazz are legitimate contenders to win the West this year.
We all know about the defense, Utah has boasted one of the league’s best over the last few seasons. The offense is what has me excited.
This team is really starting to find it’s identity on that side of the ball and it gets me giddy watching it.
Mike Conley, who had been the talk of the league for his early season woes, more than quelled the doubts with his performance last night. He made some incredibly difficult shots from outside the arc, his floater is alive and well again, and he found the open man with regularity.
While it may not have shown up in the assist column (Conley finished with 3), his passing has been the catalyst for Utah’s offense.
This team is slinging the ball, the movement and passing is freaking incredible. While it tapered a little in the second half, the way the Jazz swung the ball to find the open man and the best shot cannot go understated. They were often making 5 or 6 passes in quick succession without stopping to pound the ball into the ground and stagnate the offense. This is just an early glimpse of what this team can be when they are locked in.
Donovan Mitchell’s passing and ball handling this year have been much improved and he has been a massive beneficiary of the added presence of other shot makers in Conley and Bogdanovic.
While his efficiency wasn’t stellar last night (8/22 from the field), he has made a massive jump in efficiency this season while improving his per game numbers. He’s taking less threes but making them at a much higher clip (41.9% compared to 35.1% the previous two years). He’s getting to the free throw line more often. Overall, Mitchell is having the best season of his young career, and while the small jump in per game stats won’t win him Most Improved Player, his progression this year has been remarkable.
Royce O’ Neale has been a great edition to the starting lineup. A stout defender, good athlete, and above average three point shooter with a good head for the game and great hustle to match. He’s the kind of glue guy any team could use and who could maybe even thrive with a larger role.
Jeff Green’s outside shot has been falling, and the rest of his shooting will likely improve over the course of the season.
Joe Ingles has been great as a lead man off the bench; Providing a great all around game with his play making and gritty defense. You almost hate to see him out of the starting lineup, but he’s taken so well to being the 6th man.
While there have been early injuries to Ed Davis and Emmanuel Mudiay, early in the season is the best time for those injuries to occur. Tony Bradley has steppud up as the backup center and has played some very good minutes. He’s shown good ability as a rim protector and rebounder, he gets to the basket well and is a solid finisher off putbacks and in the pick-n-roll. Georges Niang has been ok, his shooting is mostly reliable and he plays hard, but you’d rather have Mudiay or Davis out there.
This Jazz team is special and they are going to be something to follow this year. I expect them to challenge for the top seed in the West. Mitchell is blossoming into the best player Utah has had since Karl Malone (He’s surpassing prime D Will right before our very eyes). The front office made some incredible moves this off-season and went all in. It is going to pay off in the postseason. I’m excited to see how this team keeps progressing and how the playoff race takes shape.