Rudy Gobert looks around the locker room these days at Vivint Arena and sees something different than he’s used to.
“It’s probably the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve seen that much focus from every single one in this locker room,” he said. “I really feel like we’re playing for something bigger, and that we are on a mission.”
That showed prominently in dominating fashion Wednesday, when the Utah Jazz — on the second night of a back-to-back set without star Donovan Mitchell (concussion) and key reserve Derrick Favors (back soreness) — bested the Dallas Mavericks 116-104 to win their 10th straight game, while improving their record to an NBA-best 14-4.
Gobert racked up season highs in points (29) and rebounds (20), and Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to flame the Mavericks for a season and game-high 31 points. Joe Ingles chipped in a season-high 21 points, knocking down a career-high tying seven 3-pointers, and dished eight dimes.
Game Recap: Jazz 116, Mavericks 104
“Here, it’s a different vibe,” Clarkson explained. “Everybody just knows their role, and everybody’s happy for each other. It’s almost like we get more happy when we get our teammates a shot than when we’re scoring the ball. It’s just a crazy feeling, a crazy vibe that we have and that we preach here. The ball doesn’t stick. We’re all just playing off energy and synergy.
“That flow and everything just comes from outside the court, practice, everybody just having that free mindset, and knowing what we’re gonna do, and knowing what the next man is capable of down the line. That’s where it all comes from. We’re gonna keep that vibe running and keep doing what we’re doing.”
That sounds like bad news for Utah’s upcoming opponents. The Jazz host the Mavs again on Friday (10 ET, ESPN).
Utah hit the floor for this one without their leading scorer in Mitchell, who is in the NBA’s concussion protocol after experiencing symptoms Wednesday morning coming off the team’s win Tuesday night against the New York Knicks. Dallas, meanwhile, welcomed Josh Richardson back into the lineup along with Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith after the trio finally cleared the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.
Ingles started in Mitchell’s place, and paired with Gobert throughout the game to make for a lethal combination on pick-and-rolls against Kristaps Porzingis, who played center in an attempt to draw the Utah big out of the paint on defense.
Seven of Ingles’ eight assists contributed to Gobert buckets, with Clarkson and Mike Conley (17 points, six assists) feeding the Jazz big man heavily, too.
“Those synergies with different guys really develop over time,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “Rudy and Joe have played together for a while and look for each other. I think everybody feels that way about the bigs, and the same thing is true of guys looking for each other. It’s nice to see those partnerships and that unselfishness all the time. I think it’s something that all of our guys feel good about being part of our identity.”
Rudy Gobert’s 20-20 game vs. Dallas powered Utah to victory on Wednesday.
In a wire-to-wire Utah win in which it led by as many as 25 points, Ingles and Gobert quickly established their presence. Ingles drained two 3-pointers in the opening frame in addition to serving up two assists, as the Jazz seized a 32-19 lead on the momentum of Gobert’s 10 points in the quarter.
Clarkson caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 13 of the team’s first 16 points on the way to pouring in a game-high 22 points in the first half to go with Gobert’s 20 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting.
“I think I just went with the flow of the game, and my teammates Joe [Ingles] and Mike [Conley], everybody really did a great job of looking for me,” Gobert said. “I just tried to dominate, be patient. They weren’t really helping on the shooter, so it was on me tonight to finish at the rim. Joe is always looking for others before he looks for himself. There’s not many players in the league that you have to remind them to shoot the ball.
“He’s a very smart player. He’s always able to put me and other guys in a great position to score. I believe that when he’s aggressive, too, he’s very hard to guard because you know he’s a great passer.”
Gobert would finish the game with three blocks and three steals, too, as Utah limited Dallas to 46.2% from the field and 34.3% from 3-point range.
On the glass, Utah destroyed the Mavericks 50-36.
How far can the Jazz go in the stacked Western Conference?
“Different guys stepped up in different ways,” Snyder said. “Guys stay ready. We ask that of them. Sometimes, when you come in a game, there’s little things and simple things that have a big impact on the game and just trying to fit into the group and make plays within the structure of what everybody’s doing. So, we’ll continue to need that.”
They’ll also keep focusing on improvement on the defensive end, while not buying into the hype that accompanies owning the league’s best record. Gobert, Clarkson and Ingles all made it a point to downplay the team’s hot start.
But let’s not forget or a second that nine of Utah’s 10 wins in this current streak have come by 10 points or more.
“To be honest with you, it’s great to be winning games. We’re playing at a high level. But I just don’t think we’re kind of satisfied. I think we just want to keep pushing,” Ingles said. “It’s nice to be playing at this level. It’s obviously early in the year. But we’ve figured out the style, the pace and stuff that we want to play at.
“Ten, 20, 30, winning, losing streak, whatever it is, we’ve just got to keep pushing, keep getting better each day. I don’t remember in my seven years how well we’ve started every year. But it’s nice to start well. … We have guys that kind of have their roles, but a lot of nights we have different guys step up at different times, and again was another one with guys out. We play for each other. There’s no egos involved. It’s just a really cool group. We’re not gonna get over-hyped over one win or 10 in a row, whatever it is.”
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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