Jazz wants to continue to dominate the Kings


Utah Jazz goalie Jordan Clarkson (00) passes Oklahoma City Thunder goalie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and to the basket during the second quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz opened their campaign the way you would expect from a team that compiled the league’s best record last season.

Now Utah are looking to improve to 2-0 when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

The Jazz faced disappointment of a second-round playoff exit following last season’s 52-20 record, but there was no residue left on Wednesday when they started with a 107- home victory. 86 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Jazz kept the Thunder at 37.4 percent from shots, and NBA three-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert was in midseason form with 16 points and 21 rebounds.

“You can’t control whether you’re shooting or not, but you can control the way you play on defense,” Gobert said afterwards. “I think if we control what we can control every night and focus on that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Gobert was one of six Utah players to score in double digits. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points.

Among the double-digit scorers were reigning sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson (18 points) and his reserve colleague Joe Ingles (14).

Hassan Whiteside also thrived on the bench with 10 rebounds in his Utah debut.

“We have five guys (from bench) who can start on most other teams in the NBA,” Bogdanovic said. “Our bench is our greatest strength.”

The other two Utah players who hit double the numbers were the starting backcourt Donovan Mitchell (16 points) and Mike Conley. Mitchell had just 6 of 17 shots and Conley finished 4 of 12.

Sacramento opened its season with a 124-121 road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, but the team has regularly struggled with Utah.

The Jazz have won 13 of the last 15 encounters, including all three from last season with an average of 29 points.

Utah set a franchise record for points when it demolished the 154-105 Kings in Sacramento on April 28.

The Kings will look to better compete with the Jazz after resisting Portland. Sacramento held an 18 point lead in the last quarter, but had to survive a last second missed 3 point from Damian Lillard to emerge victorious.

Harrison Barnes carried the Kings with career highs of 36 points and eight 3-pointers. Coach Luke Walton was delighted to see Barnes take 11 3-pointers.

“I challenged Harrison, I want him to wake up eight threes a night,” Walton said afterward. “He’s a very good shooter, and there’s no reason he can’t take those shots.

“We needed all of those points. And that’s really how we want to see Harrison play all the time.”

De’Aaron Fox added 27 points and eight assists, and Richaun Holmes had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento. Buddy Hield scored 17 points and made four to 3 points to tie the career franchise mark of 1,070 set by Peja Stojakovic (1998-2006).

One player who has never left the bench was former No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III. The player the Kings infamously picked over Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft is not on the rotation.

Agent Jeff Schwartz lambasted the Kings earlier this week for their “mismanagement” of Bagley. Walton, however, is not interested in a debate.

“I’m not getting into any of that,” Walton said. “For me we are a team. We know we have a plan. We know what that plan is and we will need everyone this season.”

–Field level media

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