How far can Utah go?

The Snyder-led franchise leads the West and the NBA with the best numbers in its history. The next matches will mark your real aspirations.

In the Orlando bubble, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell left their mark on NBA history: beat by beat and starter after starter signed the greatest scoring duel of all time in the playoffs. Their combined 475 points outstripped Jerry West's and John Havlicek's 463 in the 1969 Finals. At that time, Havlicek's 198 points were paradoxically overpowered by West's 265, and the Celtics added their eleventh ring in thirteen seasons. A dynasty only interrupted by Bob Petit's Hawks (then still in St. Louis) and Wilt Chamberlain's Sixers; a tyrant regime that pushed West, the man with the logo, to be the player with the most lost finishes in history (8).

More than fifty years later, Mitchell adopted the role of West and Murray that of Havlicek: the former took the personal duel in scoring (254 vs. 221), but the latter the victory. They were not a Finals, it was, in fact, the first round of a playoffs that would lead to the seventeenth ring of Los Angeles, the equalizer in the transgenerational duel against Boston; but the pain rumbled, almost almost, as if they were.

With all this in memory, the most recent in history, Utah came to the current season. Mixed feelings for a franchise that has been playing the final phase of the course since 2016-17, but has not managed to reach a Conference Finals since 2006-07 and a Finals since 1997-98, when they chained two consecutive (and the first of his history) on the arm of Karl Malone and the assists of John Stockton. In the last two, fall in the first round; in the previous two, in the semifinals. In terms of numbers, Salt Lake City came after hosting the team with the best percentages since triple, both in the regular season (38%) and in the short postseason (42.1%). A team that had finished sixth in the West (44-28), but had already made an important show of character and style: it obtained the second best record in the league (28-13) in games that were five points within the last five minutes, according to data collected by John Schuhmann, NBA statesman. Now, he confirms his temperament and his wisdom from long distance.One for all and all for one

Nothing and no one is intimidating the franchise led by Quin Snyder. Neither the vertigo in the classification nor, again, the final minutes, those in which only the winning franchises survive. His last game, against the Boston Celtics, is one more sample. After a basket by Tatum from the middle distance, the house brand, the visitors approached the scoreboard: 105-101 with five minutes to go (not a second more, not one less) and an alarm activated at the Vivint Smart Home Arena . Things would get even more complicated: three minutes, 108-104 ... but nothing to suffer. It was his time: partial 7-0 (115-104) in just over a minute, with six of the points for Donovan Mitchell, and final thrust. One more. Streak of five games without a loss, 16 of the last 17 games won and 25-5 on the record, enough to lead the West and the NBA. Enough to match the best brand in the franchise and dream of matching (or surpassing) what happened in 1996.

The most experts in this say that anyone who boasts of being a contender should finish the regular season near the top ten in terms of defense and attack. At this point in the season, Utah is sweeping it: The franchise is fourth in both offensive (117) and defensive (108) ratings. To put it in context, last season, the Lakers were third in the first ... but eleventh in the second. In short, it translates into the second best net rating in the competition (+8.9), 6.4 points higher than the last record. A machine that, for now, has no factory defects.

Y is everyone's fault, without exception. "When you have a team that tries to play collectively and is committed to that, it usually works, and I think that's what we have," Snyder said after beating Boston. You cannot say that Utah is winning without stars, it would sound forced for a team with the highest paid center in the competition and with a Donovan Mitchell whose rising star poster is already too small, but it is true that, in a league where a few tend to monopolize all the prominence, the Jazz go against the current. Its parts feel part of the whole, an obviousness that is not usually so, and the mechanisms flow without forcing. "People don't watch Royce (O'Neale) because he's not on TV, but you watch Royce and this year he came in in the best shape of his career. He and I went to Miami and trained three or four weeks in a row. things that I saw him do he had not seen them do in his four years, "explains Mitchell, in statements collected by Tim Bontemps. The forward, with a past in Herbalife Gran Canaria, is playing 32.3 minutes per game, being the second player on the team with the most time on the court and a key element, beyond what his 7.9 points per game say. It does a lot and undoes very little. He is a catalyst in the circulation: he has the ball in his hands for a very short time, but when he has it, he chooses well and accelerates the process. A modernized 3 & D that is shooting at 45.5%, being one of the five players on the team with more than 40% accuracy in the triple.

A Royce is joined by other pieces, often poorly known as secondary, which grease incessantly. Jordan Clarkson, in his second season in the franchise, is averaging 17.4 points off the bench: a microwave for his own electronics and a freezer for his rival who is in contention for the Best Sixth Man. He shoots 8 triples per game and scores three (37.8%), staying close to that percentage that is so fashionable in Salt Lake City. Together, they score 17 triples per game, above the all-time record (Houston's 16.1 in 2019) for the competition, and have chained 11 games with more than 15, a record that also surpasses the 2019 Rockets, with 10 Mike Conley (16.5 + 5.8), Bojan Bogdanović (15.9 + 2.2), Joe Ingles (10.7 + 4.6) and Mitchell (24 + 5.1) play and play. .and they score and score under the long arms of Rudy Gobert, second in blocks (2.7) and third in rebounds (13.5) in the NBA. The French pivot, anchor of a team that exploits the outside game and tiptoes through the area, monopolizes the paint in a more than remarkable way (with Favors is another story); but he continues to suffer against top-tier counterparts, as against a Jokic who gave up 47 points and 12 rebounds.

Yeah Shaq: Donovan Mitchell is a superstar

"I said tonight that you're one of my favorite players, but you don't have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it on purpose, I wanted you to listen to them. What do you have to say about that? "Saquille O'Neal snapped at Donovan Micthell after Utha's victory over New Orleans (118-129), sparking a lively debate about public opinion in the NBA and provoking an avalanche of support for the shooting guard. "Okay," Donovan would reply, impassive. And so it has continued. According to data from the StatMuse portal, the Micthell before and after Shaq is the same: it remains at 24 points and 5 assists and with practically the same shooting percentages. The only difference, a rebound - in a literal sense, in the figurative sense, there is no glimpse - more per game (from 4 to 5). "I would choose Russell Westbrook over Donovan Mitchell every day," O'Neal insisted yesterday. The tantrum of the child who is ignored.

In the fateful elimination against Denver, Mitchell consummated his ultimate explosion as a player: he went from 24 points in the regular season to 36.3, starring in the biggest jump between regular season and playoffs. Now, he sticks to the first standards, but with an eye to repeating, if necessary, the second: "Winning cures everything. We are finding ways to win games, but we have our minds stuck in one place. We don't just want to win in the regular season ... They eliminated us (in the playoffs) two years in a row. We have to overcome that. Our mind is focused on winning a championship, "he said in his last statements for The Athletic.

The supernova has completed its process and the result is an exterior as versatile as it is fearsome. As an escort, his usual home, is among the best in the competition; as a base, your second home, too. When he has taken the handles in Conley's absence, he has added 36, 27, 30 and 57 points, with 9, 11, 8 and 7 assists respectively. "I think he has improved every year, but this is really the course he has advanced, and when he does, the team goes to another level. Decision-making, he is able to understand the rhythm of the game and be able to find his teammates" explains Gobert, in statements collected by Bontemps himself. Together, they make up the captaincy of a troop with few hierarchies and with a major challenge ahead: Bucks, Heat, 76ers, Clippers, Hornetts and Lakers are their next rivals. Four hopefuls to the ring that, in addition, are fit; another that, unaccounted for, is still dangerous, and some Hornetts with more arguments than expected. Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Davies or Kawhi to put the inside game to the test. Many interlocutors to question Jazz that, until no one says otherwise, are firm candidates for the ring.

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