Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 117-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz passing picks apart carefree DeAndre Jordan defense
The Jazz just dominated the Mavericks defense in the first half, with a 130 offensive rating and 68 points overall. It was a mix of the Jazz playing well in the half, and the Mavericks — okay, one Maverick in particular — just not trying very hard at all on defense.
This play showing lack of defensive effort from DeAndre Jordan is in the game’s second minute. Donovan Mitchell is screened for by Rudy Gobert, but no one on the Mavs seems to care. Wesley Matthews just runs into the screen and dies, and man, Jordan just doesn’t even pretend to even to take a step toward Mitchell or keep his hand up. It’s just a wide open shot from the Jazz’s biggest scoring threat, whatever.
Rick Carlisle called an immediate timeout after that. It didn’t get better.
A minute later, the Jazz run Mitchell/Gobert pick and roll. Harrison Barnes is actually trying, here, but Luka Doncic leaves Joe Ingles to stop Gobert from rolling. Mission accomplished, I guess, but now one of the best corner-3 shooters in the NBA is wide open on the world’s simplest play.
Ideally, the Mavericks wouldn’t need to send help here. Conceptually, Jordan is one of the league’s best big-man defenders, and should be able to stay in front of Mitchell for a second then get back to Gobert on the roll. But the problem is that this version of Jordan is, quite frankly, awful. I’m not sure if he can’t defend Gobert’s lob, or just doesn’t want to, but the Mavs already are anticipating his bad defensive play at such a level that they’re willing to allow wide open corner threes from Ingles.
Here’s another way you can exploit Jordan not caring: put him in situations where he should help, but then doesn’t. Here, he’s guarding Gobert who is standing 10 feet from the hoop on the baseline. That is an excellent time to leave Gobert and help out with imminent emergencies, like Derrick Favors rolling to the rim about to dunk all over your team. Jordan doesn’t even think about it.
Okay, one more example because it’s just so easy. Here, Jordan gets the ball but can’t control it. He made a mistake, fine. But Gobert just runs right past him in transition as he pouts. Eventually, Jordan gets back in the play, just in time for him to foul Gobert as he finishes over him for an and-one.
All of these are in the game’s first six minutes! There are so many more throughout the game, here’s another play 20 seconds later if you’re so inclined. It’s honestly a disrespectful level of effort from Jordan in the season’s first month. He will make 22.9 million dollars this season, and I am 100 percent sure that Jazz G-Leaguer Willie Reed would do a better job when Jordan plays like this. Reed makes $35K.
2. Donovan Mitchell plays with second unit, adds playmaking
Donovan Mitchell came back to the Jazz on Wednesday night after missing Monday’s game due to a sprained ankle, and he looked as good as ever.
In particular, his ability to playmake added some punch to a frequently-punchless second unit. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder subbed Mitchell out with 6:17 left in the first quarter and reinserted him with 1:39 left in the first, giving him a six-minute long stretch with the second unit over the two quarters. Immediately, that unit went on a 15-4 run that put the Jazz in the drivers' seat.
Mitchell only scored two points of his own during the stretch, but led the team anyway with a combination of gravity and playmaking. This play seems really simple, but look at how much Matthews is shading towards Mitchell. That makes it easy for Royce O’Neale to catch and drive straight away for the and-one dunk.
This is also an excellent pass. Mitchell throws a fastball to find Dante Exum wide open for a three he knocks down, despite being double-teamed. A basketball court is 50 feet wide, and this pass goes that whole distance.
Now, when I asked Snyder about this rotation adjustment after the game, it seemed like his biggest goal was to reduce the length of Mitchell’s stints as he recovers from the ankle sprain. But the new look lineups worked, and I wonder if necessity will be the mother of invention in this case.
3. Alec Burks' pull-up 3-point shooting
Burks scored 18 points tonight on only 10 shots, including going 4-5 from the 3-point line. His only miss was actually a 49 foot heave, so let’s just give him 4-4 shooting from deep, and a pat on the back for actually shooting the heave rather than just holding on to the ball in an effort to pad his stats like many players.
The Mavericks, like most teams, went under on screens involving Burks, but Burks punished them repeatedly by just rising and firing from deep for easy baskets.
This is an easy look for Burks, and the kind of situation he’ll get often in the Jazz’s offense: receiving a handoff and reading the defense. Burks' motion is quick and compact, and doesn’t usually give the defense enough time to get a hand up to bother the shot.
It’s also a shot I see him practice essentially every day, after practice and before games, and it really seems like it’s paying off. Last year, he shot 35.5 percent on threes labeled as pull-ups by the NBA, which is pretty efficient for that kind of shot. So far, he looks even better In 2018-19.