Wednesday’s matchup between the Utah Jazz and the Orlando Magic featured two teams toward the bottom of the NBA’s standings. It also featured two young guards who will both be in the running for the Rookie of the Year award in Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo. Thanks to his strong play, Burke and his Utah Jazz did enough in the fourth quarter to earn an 86-82 road win.
It was not the prettiest of games at times, but the two youthful squads both fought and competed with each other. It was a close outing, with the Jazz holding the lead for most of the evening. They capitalized on some crucial plays down the stretch, including a missed Jameer Nelson lay-up that would have tied things late in the game.
Utah moved to 7-21 on the season and has won three of its last five games and six of its last 13.
Burke’s night: The Jazz’s recent success has unsurprisingly come since Burke came back from his fractured finger. He has been the catalyst the past four weeks, evidenced by his performance Wednesday. It arguably was his strongest game thus far in his young career.
His jumper was honed in from the get-go as he hit one early in the first quarter, and that excellent shooting carried with him the entire game. He was able to free himself on numerous occasions for open perimeter shots, and he made Orlando pay. Burke finished 12 of 20 from the floor, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range en route to a career-high 30 points. But scoring was only the tip of the iceberg as the diminutive point guard collected seven rebounds while dishing out eight assists. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that he had just two turnovers in 40 minutes of play.
Each game makes Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey look like a genius for aggressively moving up to select Burke. The Jazz not only found their floor general for now, but also for the future. Oladipo, another rookie phenom, struggled mightily. He made just 1 of 12 shots for a mere three points.
Defensive tone: Derrick Favors was strong inside, and like the team hopes will happen for many years to come, he established Utah’s defensive identity early on. He came out swatting and altering shots, and his teammates followed suit, forcing Orlando into some difficult shots all night. The Jazz blocked 10 shots, five of which were credited to Favors. The Magic managed to shoot a paltry 32.6 percent from the floor.
Odds and ends:
• His shot was errant for much of the game, but Gordon Hayward made some big plays in the fourth quarter, including a late jumper and some free throws that helped clinch the victory. The swingman had 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
• Impressive young bigs Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic each had double-doubles in a losing effort.
• Former Utah combo guard Ronnie Price played six scoreless minutes for Orlando.
• Jazz guard Brandon Rush had his third night in the past four games in which he failed to score.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.