What does it take to topple an undefeated team this week?
104 points, apparently, as that’s what the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies scored last night in their respective games, knocking the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors from the undefeated ranks.
That leaves the Utah Jazz – alone again, naturally – even in their own annals, since the Jazz haven’t started 4-0 since 2006, when they had Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and a young buck named Paul Millsap.
You might recall that this was pretty much the same team that ripped off 24 wins in their first 30 games last season as they assimilated Bojan Bogdanovic into the starting rotation and got more and more out of Jordan Clarkson off the bench.
Clarkson would go on to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award, earning a multi-year contract with the Jazz.
Those thirty wins included the Blazers, Thunder, Clippers 2x, Spurs, Bucks 2x, Pistons 2x, Cavaliers, Hawks 2x, Nuggets, Pelicans 2x, Warriors, Knicks, Mavericks 2x, Hornets, Pacers, Celtics, Sixers, and Heat.
Their five losses were the Timberwolves, Suns, Nets, Knicks, and Nuggets, with their fifth loss not coming until January 31, two weeks after defeating those same Nuggets on Denver’s home floor.
After four games, they are 4-0, unlike last year – despite their hot 30 game tear – started the season 2-2 through four. This year, they have defeated the Thunder by 21, the Kings by nine, the Nuggets by 12, and Rockets by 31.
The Jazz would go on to take out the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round in five games, but succumb to the Los Angeles Clippers in six, getting swept in four after winning the first two games.
This year, the undefeated team I thought would fall first – the Utah Jazz – is still standing.
That’s because they have stuck with the same rotation for going on their third season and are picking up where things left off last season, and learning from their mistakes.
Donovan Mitchell continues to be the team’s leader, but others have stepped up mightily so far this season, most notably Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic has been the leading scorer in two of Utah’s wins, while Gobert took scoring and rebounding to a whole new level against the Denver Nuggets.
Through four games, Mitchell is averaging 20 points along with a team high five assists, Gobert is netting 18 points and 17.8 rebounds (No. 1 in the NBA), and a healthy Bogdanovic is third with 17.3 points an outing.
And Clarkson is averaging 17 points off the bench. What a nice benefit.
They still may lose their next game – at Chicago, as I predicted earlier this week – but they will have been the last team to fall from the undefeated ranks, not the last.
Enjoying the ride …
|UTAH JAZZ 122||HOUSTON ROCKETS 91|
|Bojan Bogdanovic – 19 points
Rudy Gobert – 14 rebounds
Donovan Mitchell – 6 assists
|Christian Wood – 16 points
Christian Wood – 7 rebounds
Eric Gordon, Jalen Green, Usman Garuba – 3 assists
The Utah Jazz dismantled the Houston Rockets last night in Houston, holding the Rockets to 18 points in the first quarter, 22 in the second, and 19 in the fourth to remain the NBA’s lone undefeated team in the 2021-22 season. Seven Jazz players scored in double figures with Bojan Bogdanovic leading the way. Houston was basically a one-man show with Christian Wood. Guess Jalen Green was sapped from going one on one with John Wall.
Jazz at Bulls – Saturday
Rockets at Lakers – Sunday
|SAN ANTONIO SPURS 99||DALLAS MAVERICKS 104|
|Dejounte Murray – 23 points
Jakob Poeltl – 13 rebounds
Dejounte Murray – 8 assists
|Luka Doncic – 25 points
Maxi Kleber – 10 rebounds
Jalen Brunson, Luka Doncic – 5 assists
The Dallas Mavericks began the game with a sorry 15 point first quarter. But they went on to more than double that in the second and scored 29 and 28 in the third and fourth, respectively, to snatch the victory from the now 1-4 San Antonio Spurs. Luka Doncic finished with a game high of 25 points – 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter, after both teams entered the fourth tied at 76-76. Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson, and Maxi Kleber all had at least three three-pointers to help the Mavs push to the win.
Mavericks at Nuggets – Tonight
Spurs at Bucks – Saturday
|ATLANTA HAWKS 111||WASHINGTON WIZARDS 122|
|John Collins – 28 points
John Collins – 12 rebounds
Trae Young – 13 assists
|Bradley Beal – 27 points
Montrezl Harrell – 13 rebounds
Bradley Beal – 8 assists
The Washington Wizards were without Spencer Dinwiddie last night, but had a healthy Bradley Beal and Montrezl Harrell leading the way to a 4-1 start, something the team hasn’t done since 2014-15, when they had … well, a healthy Bradley Beal … and a healthy John Wall. Harrell finished last night with 25 points and 13 rebounds, just a removed from notching 25 and 11 in Boston. Beal finished with 27 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. John Collins’ .875 (14 of 16) night for 28 points and 12 rebounds went for naught as Atlanta fell to 3-2.
Hawks at Sixers – Saturday
Celtics at Wizards – Saturday
|DETROIT PISTONS 102||PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 110|
|Saddiq Bey – 19 points
Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey – 6 rebounds
Killian Hayes – 4 assists
|Joel Embiid – 30 points
Joel Embiid – 18 rebounds
Tyrese Maxey – 6 assists
Detroit is still looking for their first win of the season, though they came closed last night against the 76ers. A seven point deficit in the second quarter and 21 point third became their Achilles heel, however, as Philadelphia powered through to 3-2 with that Ben Simmons kid. Y’know the more they win without him, the more therapy he’s going to need. Joel Embiid led the team despite an aching right knee (aka toughness, dedication) with 30 points, 18 rebounds, and a step back three-pointer in the last seconds of the game that was reminiscent of Charlie Morton pitching 16 pitches on a broken tibia for the Atlanta Braves.
Magic at Pistons – Saturday
Hawks at Sixers – Saturday
|MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 104||GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 101 (OT)|
|Ja Morant – 30 points
Kyle Anderson – 9 rebounds
Ja Morant – 5 assists
|Stephen Curry – 36 points
Draymond Green – 12 rebounds
Stephen Curry – 8 assists
Apparently, Ja Morant was saving a little gas in the tank for Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors when he came up short against the Portland Trailblazers on Wednesday night, scoring 30 points and holding Curry scoreless in the critical fourth quarter. Curry would finish just seven of 20 from downtown. Morant shot 11 for 22 on the night. Memphis’ last overtime win on Golden State’s hardwood was 117-112 back on May 21st. The Grizzlies were a perfect 14 for 14 from the free throw line, where Morant was six of six. These two teams meet again at the Chase Center on December 23rd.
Heat at Grizzlies – Saturday
Thunder at Warriors – Saturday
|NEW YORK KNICKS 104||CHICAGO BULLS 103|
|Kemba Walker – 21 points
Julius Randle – 16 rebounds
Julius Randle – 9 assists
|Zach LaVine – 25 points
Nikola Vucevic – 8 rebounds
Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic – 6 assists
Fans have begun to question if Julius Randle fades away in the fourth quarters of games. Just stop and think for a moment – Randle has carried this Knicks team through the first three games of the season (2-1) with efforts of 35 points and 21 points (both wins), and with 30 points in the loss against Orlando on a banged up knee. So it’s okay that he let Kemba Walker take the reins for a minute, and honestly, it’s about damn time. The Bronx-born and bred Walker was a welcome addition to the Knicks, and has done his part to get the Knicks their last two wins with 19 against the Sixers to end their 15 game loss streak against Philadelphia, and last night with 21 points to stop the running of the Bulls in Chicago. If last year’s Most Improved Player wants to rest up, with the Knicks at 4-1, give the brother a break.
Knicks at Pelicans – Saturday
Jazz at Bulls – Saturday
Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show, NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta.
A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia
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