Jazz aim to continue dominance over Kings
The Utah Jazz opened their campaign in the manner you would expect from a team that compiled the best record in the league last season.
Now Utah looks to improve to 2-0 when it visits the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
The Jazz dealt with the disappointment of a second-round playoff exit after last season’s 52-20 record but there was no residue remaining on Wednesday when they opened with a 107-86 home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Jazz held the Thunder to 37.4 percent shooting, and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert was in midseason form with 16 points and 21 rebounds.
“You can’t control if you make shots or not but you can control how you play defense,” Gobert said afterward. “I think if we control what we can control every night and focus on that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Gobert was one of six Utah players to score in double digits. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points.
Among the double-digit scorers were reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson (18 points) and fellow reserve Joe Ingles (14).
Also thriving off the bench was Hassan Whiteside with 10 rebounds in his Utah debut.
“We have five (bench) guys that can be starters on most other teams in the NBA,” Bogdanovic said. “Our bench is our biggest strength.”
The other two Utah players who reached double figures were the starting backcourt of Donovan Mitchell (16 points) and Mike Conley. Mitchell was just 6-of-17 shooting and Conley finished 4 of 12.
Sacramento opened its season with a 124-121 road win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, but the team has routinely struggled with Utah.
The Jazz have won 13 of the past 15 meetings, including all three of last season’s matchups by an average of 29 points.
Utah set a franchise record for points when it demolished the Kings 154-105 in Sacramento on April 28.
The Kings will look to compete much better against the Jazz after holding off Portland. Sacramento held an 18-point, final-quarter lead but had to survive a last-second missed 3-pointer from Damian Lillard to leave victorious.
Harrison Barnes carried the Kings with career highs of 36 points and eight 3-pointers. Coach Luke Walton was thrilled to see Barnes take 11 3-point shots.
“I’ve challenged Harrison, I want him to get eight threes up a night,” Walton said afterward. “He’s a very good shooter, and there’s no reason he can’t make those shots.
“We needed all those points. And that’s really how we want to see Harrison playing all the time.”
De’Aaron Fox added 27 points and eight assists, and Richaun Holmes had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento. Buddy Hield scored 17 points and made four 3-pointers to tie the franchise career mark of 1,070 set by Peja Stojakovic (1998-2006).
One player who never left the bench was former No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III. The player the Kings infamously selected over Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft isn’t part of the rotation.
Agent Jeff Schwartz blasted the Kings earlier this week for their “mismanagement” of Bagley. Walton, though, isn’t interested in a debate.
“I’m not getting into any of that,” Walton said. “For me, we’re a team. We know we have a plan. We know what that plan is and we’re going to need everyone this season.”
–Field Level Media