Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 130-72 win over the Perth Wildcats from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz just too big, too quick, too strong for Perth
If you look at the history of teams from Australia’s National Basketball League, this game shouldn’t have been as lopsided as it was. Last season, the three NBA vs. NBL games all ended with pretty respectable scores: the Jazz beat the Sydney Kings by 25, the Phoenix Suns beat the Brisbane Bullets by 21, and Melbourne United scared Oklahoma City badly with just a one-point loss.
So it was discouraging to see Perth, one of the NBL’s best all-time clubs, put up so little of a fight against the Jazz. They have excuses: team captain Damian Martin was out due to a calf strain, and Angus Brandt could have given the Wildcats more size to deal with the Jazz’s big men. With three other players out, too, the Wildcats had to sign two American players to bolster their roster right before the game.
The short-handedness of Perth showed. Rudy Gobert came out and dominated the game from the tip. Perth’s center, Tom Pervis, stands just 6-foot-9. He joked before the game, "As long as I don’t get dunked on more than two times, I’m gonna be all right.” Bad news: he was dunked on more than two times.
Gobert’s dominance highlighted a 15-0 Jazz start to the game that set the tone. But he wasn’t alone in that stretch: Donovan Mitchell blew by Mitch Norton for an easy layup. Derrick Favors had two easy layups, including an alley-oop. It was just too easy.
After that, Perth was mentally out of the game. The Jazz’s fast break point advantage (28-5) was indicative of that: they stopped getting back on defense as a surprisingly aggressive Jazz team just ran them over for easy buckets.
2. Grayson Allen really impressed in first preseason action
So then it had to be extra discouraging for Perth for the Jazz’s vaunted first unit to exit the game, only for the bench players to step up and go crazy from beyond the arc. Leading the charge was rookie Grayson Allen, who finished with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
With the way he started the game, though, it looked like he might score 30. Allen was very aggressive, making his first six baskets and his first five 3-point shots. Obviously, Allen’s not going to be a 100-percent shooter, and probably won’t get to the 55-percent mark he finished the game at from downtown.
But I was very impressed with everything about how Allen got his 3-point shots. Even when on the move, he was ready to catch the ball, stop on a dime, and shoot quickly. So often, you’ll see players want to ease themselves into the game by starting with an easier shot, and end up dribbling themselves out of an open three in order to take a contested layup. Allen came out ready to fire, and his preparation showed in the results.
That quick trigger from beyond the arc is something that Jazz coach Quin Snyder has been preaching to many of his players, as the Jazz try to improve their shot profile even more than last year by taking more threes and layups. Last year, the Jazz finished 10th in 3-point rate, helping keep their offense afloat.
As for other parts of Allen’s game, his off-ball movement was nice, and he showed good effort to fight over the top on a number of screens. He wasn’t great at operating the offense and attacking screens himself, but that’s probably OK given the number of other Jazz ballhandlers that can do that effectively.
He has a real chance to be in the Jazz’s rotation right away if he keeps playing like that.
3. First look at the rotation
To no one’s surprise, the Jazz’s starting lineup was the same as last year’s, but with one exception: Royce O’Neale started in place of Joe Ingles, who missed the game due to lower left leg soreness. That absence had to be disappointing for the Australian opponents, many of whom know Ingles well.
In the game’s first substitution about five minutes in, Snyder inserted Jae Crowder and Alec Burks for Favors and O’Neale. That seems to indicate that Crowder has an inside track on playing the sixth-man, small-ball four role that he played to such success last year.
As for Burks, he naturally got more playing time due to Ingles' injury, but definitely took advantage with an efficient 18 points, taking only eight shots. Burks has apparently been a bright spot during training camp, though, and might be able to earn minutes for a completely healthy roster. As always, it depends on his defense, and we’ll get a better sense of that against NBA competition.
Dante Exum was next off the bench, for Ricky Rubio. No surprise there, that Exum is the team’s backup point guard for now. Exum struggled with two early turnovers, but did a nice job of attacking and finding teammates for assists. He finished with six of them overall. Allen came in just 10 seconds later for Mitchell, ready to fire. That meant they did use three-guard lineups as well to great success, with Exum, Allen, and Burks all on the court at once.
Then, as should be familiar, Favors came off the bench about eight minutes in, giving Gobert a break at the center spot. Thabo Sefolosha made his debut in the second quarter, his first NBA action since January.
That’s probably the 10 players — plus Ingles, obviously — that we should expect the Jazz to mostly play, so long as they’re healthy. Obviously, adjustments will be made depending on opponent, foul trouble, and everything else, but the first quarter or so of action provided a good baseline of what we’ll likely see coming in the regular season.