SALT LAKE CITY — If anything can be taken away from Monday night’s preseason game at Vivint Arena, it’s that the Utah Jazz appear to have better reserve players than the Los Angeles Clippers.
Utah again played without starters Gordon Hayward (finger), Derrick Favors (knee) and Rodney Hood (hand), but the injury absences didn’t slow the Jazz down in a 104-78 rout of the Clippers.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t a full-strength Clippers squad, either. Los Angeles played without Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan as it lost to the Jazz for the second time this preseason.
"We're in the same position they're in," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Sometimes it's good for other guys to have an opportunity to play. We've got some guys that are kind of finding their way collectively."
While this game mostly featured the subs, the two regular Jazz starters who did suit up played well.
Rudy Gobert led the team, now 3-2 in exhibition play, with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. This outing continued a strong preseason for the French center, who had somewhat of a disappointing 2015-16 season due to injuries.
Starting point guard George Hill also played well with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal with zero turnovers in 25 minutes.
Dante Exum (15 points, six assists), Joe Johnson (eight points, seven rebounds) and Boris Diaw (four points, five assists), all of whom are expected to make up a formidable backup crew this season, started in place of the injured Jazz players.
Exum played nearly 32 minutes as he continues to work his way into shape after missing the 2015-16 season to rehab his surgically repaired knee.
“He kept attacking. I thought he kept playing hard,” Snyder said. “It’s going to be a process with him. There’s times he’s not going to like me. He knows we’re going to push him. He’s committed, and that’s the most important thing. I’m going to coach him hard. He’s playing hard.”
This was the best game of the preseason for Exum, who hit a pair of 3-pointers and only had one turnover. Encouragingly, he got better as the game progressed.
“I feel good. I think it’s important for me to get minutes. Obviously I haven’t played in a while,” Exum said. “Leading into the season, (I want) a lot of minutes under my belt so I’m ready once the ball goes up in Game 1.”
Once again, Shelvin Mack also showed the nice depth the Jazz have in their point guard platoon. The former Butler standout had his third double-digit game off the bench this preseason, finishing with 14 points and three assists.
Mack likes what he’s seeing from the Jazz reserves.
“I think we’re probably going to be one of the top benches in the league,” he said. “You can just kind of feel that, especially when you have a lot of unselfish guys out there.”
At Monday morning’s shootaround, Snyder admitted that health is the most important thing for his injury-riddled squad at this point of the preseason. He didn’t hesitate to point that out when asked if he’s trying to find a balance between keeping his team healthy and fine-tuning things in the final week of the exhibition season.
“I don’t think there’s a balance,” he said. “It’s about being healthy. That’s the most important thing.”
Trying to have as many players as possible ready to go next Tuesday for the season-opener in Portland is the top priority. In other words, don’t plan on key players spending too much time on the court in Wednesday’s preseason finale at home against the Blazers.
“I don’t want to play anybody to find out about a lineup or chemistry at the expense of them not being as ready as they can be,” Snyder said. “Not just at the start of the season but game by game.”
JAZZ NOTES: Utah is only averaging 18 3-point attempts a game, but the Jazz took 26 from beyond the arc in this one. "Before the game, Coach Q just told everybody, 'Let’s get a lot of 3s up tonight,'" said Mack, who was 2-for-4 from outside. "I was trying to be very aggressive and they went in." The Jazz dished out 23 assists on 40 made baskets. "That was a big emphasis we had tonight," Diaw said. "We were moving the ball really well, passing to each other, a lot of unselfishness." This was Gobert's third double-double of the season.