SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time in as many home games, the Utah Jazz on Friday night faced a team they had reason to believe would make life difficult.
On Monday, it was a Charlotte Hornets squad that is still fighting for its playoff life, but Utah was in control most of the way and won comfortably. On Friday, it was a Sacramento Kings team that, while eliminated from postseason contention, is a group on the rise.
The Jazz, however, scored the first 13 points of the game, opened up a 30-point advantage in the second quarter and cruised to a 119-98 victory.
The win was Utah’s 49th of the season, topping last year’s regular season total. The Jazz have now won a season-high seven straight games and 12 of their last 13. Three contests remain in the regular season.
“Everybody guarded early, so I liked that,” said Utah head coach Quin Snyder. “Obviously we built a lead and I think we were able to continue to play the right way, which was good to see. There’s been times where we’ve gotten a lead and kind of gotten sloppy and let up a little bit. That can happen, and I thought we did a good job of continuing to focus on the things we needed to do.”
As far as besting last season’s win total, multiple players said it wasn’t a huge deal to them.
“At this point in the year, obviously we’ve clinched a (playoff) spot,” said Joe Ingles. “Where we’re going to be is kind of up in the air, but I think we just want to be playing our best basketball by Game 82 and heading into the playoffs.
"It’s a great thing that we are winning games and obviously continuing to win now, but these last three games, we obviously want to make sure we’re as close to perfect as we can be and getting ready for that first series to be playing the way we want to play going into it.”
Added Rudy Gobert: “We’re trying to get to 50 wins and hopefully get a good seeding for the playoffs.”
On Friday night, the Jazz received a giant contribution from rookie Grayson Allen for the second consecutive game. In a road contest Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns, the Duke product scored a career-high 14 points, and then on Friday, he entered the contest six minutes in and proceeded to put up 13 points in the first quarter alone.
Allen wound up making all eight of his shot attempts in the first half and finished 10-of-14 from the field with 23 points, tying Donovan Mitchell for the game-high. Allen also had two assists, a steal and a block. On the downside, he did commit six turnovers and five fouls.
Mitchell finished with nine assists and no turnovers.
“I think he let the game come to him,” Snyder said of Allen. “He obviously was shooting the ball with confidence. I like how he attacked the rim.”
The coach was perhaps even happier with Allen’s performance on the defensive end, where the rookie has struggled this season but has worked hard to improve.
“I just feel like he’s giving effort defensively and working,” Snyder said. “He’s made that important. I like seeing him compete, and that’s what he’s been doing. When you’re a good player and you do those things, good things happen.”
Allen said getting off to a good start helped him throughout the rest of the night.7 comments on this story
“When you hit your first couple shots, it feels good,” he said. “It always feels good to start off the game on a make because you’re really confident about all the next ones.”
For the night, Utah shot 52 percent from the field compared to 41 percent for Sacramento. The Jazz were hot from 3-point range, connecting on 46 percent of those shots to just 23 percent for the Kings. Even two-way player Tyler Cavanaugh, whose previous scoring high was 2, made a 3-pointer late.
“We try to come out every night with a mindset of working, getting better defensively and of course offensively,” Gobert said. “We’ve been doing that.”