Just hours after he was talked up by some members of the US media as a point guard starting option for the Utah Jazz, Dante Exum has turned in the quietest night of his brief NBA career in the Jazz’s 100-97 loss at Atlanta on Wednesday.
Exum managed just one rebound, two assists and two points in his 19 minutes, while under-fire starting point guard Trey Burke had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Coming into the match several basketball experts had suggested Australian Exum could start sooner rather than later, ESPN’s Chad Ford leading the way.
“Exum, who was supposed to be the rawest of the lottery guys, has really outplayed him (Burke) all year,” Ford wrote.
“In fact, Exum ranks second among all rookies in PER (player efficiency rating) right now. And he’s going to get better. A lot better. It’s hard to watch that team with an objective eye and think Trey Burke is even in the same league as Exum as far as elite potential goes.”
Regardless, Burke was the better player in a see-sawing battle that saw neither side really take the ascendancy for a long period, but the difference was Atlanta forward Paul Millsap.
With Mike Scott and DeMarre Carrol sidelined for the Hawks, Millsap dominated the game with 30 points and 17 rebounds.
Utah clearly had an off night with star Gordon Hayward also off his game, scoring just 11 points on 5 from 16 shooting.
Coach Quin Snyder called for the team to be tougher, after the Jazz gave up a lead late in the game.
“I don’t think it was some egregious mistake that anyone made,” Utah Snyder said. “At the end of the game you have to be tougher, stronger.”
In Mexico City, Houston Rockets shot to an equal lead in the Western Conference with a 113-101 win over Minnesota Timberwolves.
James Harden impressed with a double-double, scoring 23 points and having 10 assists, while the returning Dwight Howard had 22 points and remarkably made four out of five from the free-throw line.
Phoenix and Portland also kept their good form going with wins over Brooklyn and Denver respectively.
Life continues to be tough for the traditional big teams with the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and LA Lakers all falling.
Kobe Bryant dropped 33 points for the Lakers as they slumped to a conference-worst one and seven record in the West after a 109-102 loss to New Orleans.
In other games Washington beat Detroit, Indiana upset Miami in a low-scoring affair, Oklahoma beat Boston and Orlando upset the Knicks.