The Utah Jazz, despite having the best record in the NBA, are still searching for ways to improve.
In a 137-91 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points and the Jazz set an NBA record for 3-pointers in a half, extending their franchise-best home winning streak to 22 games.
Uah also won for the ninth time in a row.
“This is one of those nights for us where we played really well, and we played the right way,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We played a team that is going through a transition. That said, we were happy with the way we played and continue to emphasize our identity as a team,”
In the first half, the Jazz made 18 3-pointers, an NBA record, in a season in which they have shattered all previous franchise long-range shooting records.
Mitchell went 6 for 7 from beyond the arc in the first half to help Utah take a 78-40 lead into halftime.
“They want to really help on the roll, when you have a guy like Rudy (Gobert) they want to help people more, so it was being able to pick that apart and find guys. Then guys just taking shots, that’s really what it was: taking the shots that were given,” Mitchell said.
For the Jazz, Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic each had 17 points. Utah had no player on the field for more than 24 minutes, but all 13 players scored at least five points.
All of this was accomplished without Mike Conley, Utah’s regular starting point guard, who normally sits one game out of two to rest his right hamstring.
The Magic were led by Wendell Carter Jr., who had 19 points and 12 rebounds while shooting just 2 of 23 from beyond the arc. Chuma Okeke had a total of 16 points.
“Look, they’re playing as well as anybody in the NBA. We weren’t ready for that. They came out (strong) early … and we didn’t have a lot of answers,” said Orlando coach Steve Clifford.
The Magic had nine players on the disabled list, which was more than they had players available to play (eight). Terrence Ross, despite a sore ankle, was a late addition to the lineup and scored 12 points.
“Regardless of who you’re playing, who’s out there, who’s starting, who’s injured, we’re trying to come out and play the same way that we want to play every game … be aggressive defensively, rebound the ball and run,” Ingles said.
Since overhauling their squad last week before the trade deadline, the Magic had won their previous two games. Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon, all of whom had spent more than seven seasons with the Magic, were let go.
With all of the injuries and a five-game road trip, the Magic haven’t had much time to work together and establish any kind of connection. And it was on display against the NBA’s best team.
Jordan Clarkson, who had been having trouble with his shot, scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter as the Jazz established a 20-point lead.
The lead grew to 46 points in the third quarter when Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer to make it 92-46.
Despite stumbling in the fourth quarter with the backups, Utah ended 26 for 54 on three-pointers. It was the Jazz’s 14th season with over 20 3-pointers, which places them in second place all-time for a single season.
Utah also set a franchise record by scoring 100 points in 39 consecutive games. The previous high-water mark of 38 consecutive games was set in 1983-84.
As the Magic were constantly two steps behind Utah’s movements, the Jazz used pick-and-rolls from all angles and fast dribble penetration to produce a slew of wide-open perimeter shots.
MITCHELL PLAYING THE BEST BASKETBALL OF HIS LIFE
Mitchell feels like he’s found his stride after scoring nearly 30 points per game and shooting better than 43 percent from 3-point range since his second All-Star game, particularly because the Jazz keep winning.
“The scoring is what it is for me but it’s the decision making, that’s really I would say ‘shocking’ me. It’s really getting to a point where I’m like okay, like you’re making this step, you’re making this leap,” Mitchell said.
His success in the NBA playoffs was spectacular, but it ended in a first-round exit, and he now feels more secure in his skills.
“My job is to go out there and put the ball in the basket, but it’s the other things — being a leader, being that guy with the ball in his hands to be able to make smart decisions throughout the entire game. … I would say that this has probably been my best stretch,” Mitchell said. –ESPN