February 4, 2023
NBA: The West has a new best as Utah Jazz win and Los Angeles Clippers fall

NBA: The West has a new best as Utah Jazz win and Los Angeles Clippers fall

They’re not even the best team record-wise in their own conference after Monday night.

The Utah Jazz held off a late comeback from the Detroit Pistons to claim a 117-105 win at Vivint Arena and move to the top of the Western Conference with a league-best 16-5 record.

At the 2:48 mark of the second quarter, a Mike Conley free throw put Utah up 28 points, 69-41. But with 2:06 left in the game, Jerami Grant’s pair of free-throws drew the Pistons to within four points.

“We got going again, we got running again,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after the game.
Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic shoots over Blake Griffin.

“Sometimes when you build a big lead like that, the narrative becomes what happened because you didn’t win by 30. These are NBA teams.”

The Jazz had previously been on the league’s longest winning run before their defeat to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night. A monstrous career-best performance from superstar center Nikola Jokic condemned the Jazz to a first loss in 12 games.

2020 All-Star Donovan Mitchell scored a team-high 32 points on Monday night, but it was a late pair of three-pointers from Bojan Bogdanovic that staved off the resurging Pistons to finally wrap up the victory and get them back to winning ways.

“A lot of this is mental,” Mitchell said afterwards. “We’ve been here before.

“We knew they were going to play hard. We continued to fight and made some big plays. I’m proud of our effort.”

The Jazz’s win took advantage of the defeat of fellow Western Conference contenders the Los Angeles Clippers at the hands of the star-studded Brooklyn Nets to move atop of the conference.

The Nets rebounded from Sunday’s surprising loss to the lowly Washington Wizards with Kyrie Irving leading all scorers with 39 points, Kevin Durant registering 28 points and James Harden racking up a triple-double of 23 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds to inflict defeat on the Clippers team that had won 10 of their previous 11 games.
Irving shoots the ball during the game against the LA Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard scored 33 and Paul George had 26 points for the Clippers, who lost their sixth game of the season.

Following the victory — which again highlighted Brooklyn’s title credentials — Harden said that the team will gel as the season progresses.

“We’re using this season obviously to get better,” he said afterwards. “Obviously, we want to win every single game but you know we’re using this season and each and single game to get to know each other to grow as a team to build chemistry and get on the same page.

“Obviously, some games are going to be better than others, but I think overall that same mindset that we had tonight, we have to have that same mindset every single game no matter who we’re playing. That’s when you’re going to see some growth out of all of this.”

Durant handles the ball against the Clippers.

A franchise best

Elsewhere on Monday night, it was an evening to remember for Fred VanVleet.

The guard — who in the offseason set a record for signing the biggest ever contract for an undrafted free agent in NBA history (four years, $85 million) — set a franchise record for single-game points for the Toronto Raptors.

The 26-year-old scored 54 in the Raptors’ 123-108 victory over the Orlando Magic, surpassing the record previously held by DeMar DeRozan, as well as setting the record for the most ever by an undrafted player in NBA history, passing Moses Malone’s record of 53.

“Unbelievable. I’m very humbled and honored to be in the same sentence as both of those guys,” VanVleet told the media afterwards.

“Just a special night, obviously, a lot of different levels,” he said. “So just trying to enjoy it for now, but it’s not a championship or anything like that. It was a good game for me, and I’ll enjoy all the love for a couple hours and get ready for the next one.”

DeRozan paid his respects to VanVleet on Twitter. “Congrats to my brotha Freddy V! Kyle (Lowry) old a** couldn’t do it. Glad you did champ! Been telling you!”