Misery loves company, they say.
So, on what started, by their lofty standards at least, as a miserable shooting night, the Utah Jazz weren’t about to go it alone.
The Jazz went 3-for-21 from deep in the opening half on Saturday night, then came out of the locker room and shut the Miami Heat down, outscoring them 16-0 over the first six minutes of the third, and reminding everyone, in a 112-94 victory, that the NBA’s No. 1 team can win in more ways than one.
“We’re versatile,” said the Jazz’s versatile wing defender Royce O’Neale. “Our 3-point shots weren’t falling so we knew our defense was going to kick in.”
Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 26 points. Rudy Gobert had 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Georges Niang scored 14 off the bench. And O’Neale stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks — all while taking on the challenge of guarding Miami’s Jimmy Butler.
“Royce defensively takes on the toughest matchup every night,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “That takes a toll on you. He battled through fatigue because he guarded Giannis last night and he guarded Jimmy Butler tonight.”
Butler finished with 15 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Miami was led in scoring by point guard Kendrick Nunn’s 23 points.
The Jazz (22-5) have now won seven straight games and 18 of their last 19.
| Don: 26p | 3r | 3 3pm | 2a
Bogey: 19p | 6r | 3a | 2 3pm
Rudy: 16p | 12r | 3b
Georges: 14p | 5a | 4 3pm | 4r
JC: 11p | 5a | 4r | 2 3pm
Royce: 8p | 7r | 4a | 3s | 3b
Joe: 8p | 6a | 3r
Fav: 6p | 5r | 1a
Miye: 4p | 3r | 1s#podiumpostgame | @PodiumHQ pic.twitter.com/oEenEL27EL
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 14, 2021
In a battle of two top-10 defenses, and with the Jazz playing their second game in as many nights, buckets were hard to come by in the first half. The Jazz missed their first seven 3-point attempts of the game and went 1-for-12 from deep in the period. With Mitchell on the bench with early foul trouble, meanwhile, the Jazz fell behind by nine points.
Bogdanovic’s seven first-quarter points and the Jazz’s own defensive efforts kept things close, though. The Heat led 21-18 after one quarter.
Mitchell was back on the court (or more accurately soaring off of it) with a monster dunk to help refocus his team in the second quarter.
When O’Neale grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a put-back bucket with 4:30 left in the half, Utah had its first lead of the game, 38-36.
The Jazz outscored Miami 16-6 over the final 7:20 of the half to take a 47-42 lead into the locker room — and they did it while only shooting 3-for-21 from 3.
Mitchell would come out firing in the first two minutes of the second half. The All-Star guard opened up the third quarter with a pair of reverse layups, a 3-pointer, and a free throw to put his team up 55-42.
With Gobert patrolling the paint and O’Neale hounding them on the perimeter, the Heat went scoreless for the first 6:10 of the third quarter.
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 14, 2021
“Focus is something we’ve really talked about for a while,” Snyder said. “During the course of the year, you’re not going to play well the whole game. But you can figure out when you are sliding, when you are making a mistake, and you can dig in and focus more and not make the same mistake again. This is a game of mistakes and they’re going to happen. But it’s a question of how you deal with them.”
Defense led to offense for the Jazz. A steal and a breakaway dunk by O’Neale put Utah up 21.
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence, mastering my role,” O’Neale said after. “That’s what I’ve got to do.”
The Heat made one final push in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 15 with about four minutes to play. But it was too little, too late as the Jazz cruised to their seventh straight victory.
Jazz point guard Mike Conley missed his fourth straight game with right hamstring tightness. While Conley participated in portions of the Jazz’s last practice, it remains unclear when the veteran floor general will be back in the lineup.
“I don’t [have an update] other than the listing that everybody receives,” Snyder said before the game. “We’re hopeful. He’s continuing to work and he’ll be back when he’s able. That’s really all I can offer.”
Conley is averaging 14.9 points, 5.7 assists and 3 rebounds per game in his second season with Utah.
The Jazz take on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night at Vivint Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.