ORLANDO • Whenever a player is injured, the Utah Jazz are quick to remind each other that it’s “next man up”.
They had to say it a handful of times Friday.
Jazz starters Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale and Rudy Gobert were all sidelined for Friday’s matinee contest with the San Antonio Spurs. But by the time the final horn had sounded on a 119-111 defeat, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder was offering praise for the gutty play of a young lineup.
“They just competed. That’s kind of our expectation for our whole group. Whoever is on the floor, that’s what they expect of each other,” Snyder said.
Center Tony Bradley finished with a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double. Sixth man Jordan Clarkson led the way with 24 points off the bench but watched the team’s youngsters run the show during crunch time.
“They’ve all been working regardless, going to the gym a lot, practicing, playing,” Clarkson said. “Miye (Oni) did a good job catching everything in the flow, a lot of catch and shoot opportunities for him. It was just good experience for all those guys, just to get out there and get in the flow of an NBA game.”
With four starters out, Snyder used the game to evaluate the young talent on his bench.
“We’ve been evaluating them for a while. That’s why they are on our roster. That’s why we are working with them. That’s why they are competing. There really isn’t such thing as garbage time,” Snyder said. “I think for a player, every minute that you are on the court and every opportunity that you get… oftentimes to be able to come into the game for two or three minutes and come out and try to make an impact in the game in any way you can and not feel like you have to get into your quote unquote flow. That’s true for some of your starters that may have the opportunity to play more minutes but oftentimes two or three minutes is all you get and to be able to compete in that time, even if that’s two or three minutes at the end of the game, to not only compete and defend but to play in the right way. I think that’s what we saw from those guys tonight.”
Oni made the first start of his NBA career and fellow rookie Jarrell Brantley scored his first NBA bucket, as Utah dropped to 2-3 since the restart.
“I thought Miye at the beginning of the game, his defensive effort, his presence, and Jarrell as well, those two guys on the defensive end really set a tone,” Snyder said. “We weren’t defending real well early but I thought once we dug in on that a little bit we were much better and those two guys had a lot to do with it. To come into the game and to have the willingness to get out and compete on defense and let the game come to you, that’s a formula for opportunity and those two guys got it and they made the most of it.”
Rookie big man Juwan Morgan left the game with an injury of his own in the fourth quarter.
“I thought there was a foul on the previous play, it wasn’t called. It’s unfortunate,” Snyder said. “Those things aren’t necessarily correlated but anytime you get a player or a guy like that that has worked his way into the rotation, has really improved, to see him take an injury like that… it hurts and it hurts most of all for him because he’s worked so hard. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and praying that he’s going to be alright, but right now we don’t know.”
The Jazz will be back on the court Saturday afternoon when they face the Denver Nuggets (1:30 p.m. MT).