For various reasons, the Utah Jazz have not been themselves at the start of the 2022 calendar year.
Injuries, illnesses and subpar play have taken their toll on the team that led the league in wins in 2020-21 with 52.
As they prepare to face the New York Knicks in Salt Lake City on Monday, the Jazz are closing in on full strength — at least their new full strength without Joe Ingles, who recently suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Coach Quin Snyder has returned to the helm after being sidelined with COVID-19. Donovan Mitchell returned from concussion protocol with a bang on Friday, leading the Jazz past the Brooklyn Nets 125-102 with 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting and six assists.
And Rudy Gobert, Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay and Danuel House Jr. all participated in practice on Sunday in some capacity after missing games for health reasons.
The Jazz, who went 4-12 in January, were quick to recall how critical Mitchell is to their success when they returned Friday after an eight-game absence. He was instrumental in the team’s first 12 points, giving the Jazz a double-digit lead for a lead they didn’t give up.
“It’s Donovan Mitchell,” said jazz center Hassan Whiteside, who is also back after health issues. “He came out hot, he arrived at his places. We are a different team when he plays. You can see why he means so much to this team.
Mitchell said her legs felt cooler than they had in a long time.
“Honestly, I was just happy playing basketball,” Mitchell said. “I was making a joke before the game, I didn’t care if the ball went in or not. I was just happy to be out there, running, guarding, thinking about the game, having fun with my teammates.
The Knicks are the third opponent in a six-game ownership for the Jazz, which will be followed by a visit to the Los Angeles Lakers and the All-Star break. They chained back-to-back victories for the first time in a month after beating Denver and Brooklyn.
New York enters this game after a heartbreaking 122-115 overtime loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Saturday. The Knicks held a 21-point lead and squandered a career-high 36-point night thanks to RJ Barrett and Julius Randle’s double-double of 32 points and 16 rebounds.
The Knicks have now lost eight of 10 games and could use some of the renewed momentum the Jazz recently gained after going through a similar 11-in-13-game losing streak.
“It’s a game we should have won,” Barrett said. “I felt like overall, obviously, we played well, but not enough.”
New York is two games away from a five-game road trip out West that started in Los Angeles and also includes stops in Denver, Golden State and Portland.
“Just think if we play fast like we did, compete like we did, especially in the first half, I feel like we can win and beat anybody,” said Randle. “We competed in the first half defensively, going out. We haven’t had good starts all year, consistently, so we can build on that. We just have to maintain it.
–Field level media
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