Credit their defense. They are one of the best defenses in the league, and it took us out of a lot of stuff. —Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel on the Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — Even with a 12-point lead with less than a minute remaining, Jazz coach Quin Snyder couldn’t keep it cool.
The typically even-keeled sideline leader felt the need to protect his rookie guard Donovan Mitchell after a late foul call, which resulted in back-to-back technical fouls and ultimately his ejection.
“I thought it was a poor call and commented on that call,” Snyder said.
Snyder had to be restrained by Mitchell and other Jazz players as the team would go on to win their third straight against the Orlando Magic, 94-80.
Although the frustration was certainly out of character, Snyder’s ejection sent a message to his team that he’s about business as Utah continues to fight for a playoff spot with 18 games remaining.
“For him to do that in a situation where we’re up 12 with a minute left, that just shows his passion and energy for every play and every possession,” said Mitchell, who ended with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists. “It’s great that a coach has our back like that.”
The Jazz played without starting forward Derrick Favors, who missed the game with a neck spasm. Jonas Jerebko started in his absence, contributing 12 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
Utah’s defense held Orlando to 34.1 percent shooting on the night anchored by center Rudy Gobert, with only 12 points off the bench. The Jazz big man continued his stellar play with 21 points, 17 boards and a pair of blocks. Since his return from his second knee injury in January, the Jazz have won 16 of their last 20 games. He is posting 14.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks on 65.3 percent shooting over his last 15 games.
“I just try to do what I do by getting my teammates open, getting better at finishing and making plays when I can,” Gobert said. “I just try to make the right play, stay aggressive and defensively just do what I do.”
Utah entered the break with a 10-point edge after shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three, while holding the Magic below 40 percent despite making or attempting a single free throw in the first 24 minutes. Joe Ingles caught fire in the first half with 16 of his 18 points. He also ended with eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals and a swat and four triples on the night.
After leading by 13 in the third, the Magic cut the lead to five, 72-67, after a 3-pointer by Mario Hezonja with 48.8 seconds left, but the Jazz would close the game with a 20-13 run. Mitchell posted seven points in the fourth.
Orlando shot the lowest field goal percentage of the season (34.1 percent) with the lowest point total (80). Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 15 points and 12 boards as the team has now lost 11 of its last 15 contests.
“We didn’t have a great rhythm and when we did get open shots we struggled to shoot the ball tonight for whatever reason,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel. “Like you said, credit their defense. They are one of the best defenses in the league, and it took us out of a lot of stuff.”
Utah (34-30) will hit the road for its next three games — at Indiana Wednesday, at Memphis Friday, then in New Orleans Sunday.