Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 123-115 win over the Boston Celtics from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz writer Andy Larsen.
1. Joe Ingles abuses Boston’s pick and roll defense
The game’s best player was the man known as Jingles. Ingles matched his career-high for the third time with 27 points in 35 minutes on the court, on a masterful 10-14 from the field including 5-9 from the 3-point line. He also added seven assists and five rebounds, and it’s no coincidence that the Jazz outscored the Celtics by 23 points when he was on the court.
Ingles' key to pick and roll success is the pass fake. Watch how many times he fakes the pass to Rudy Gobert to freeze Al Horford as Ingles drives toward him, even sometimes outright moving Horford out of the way. Sometimes it’s just a subtle jerk of the ball, other times it’s a more drawn out movement. Whatever it is, it worked to perfection to allow Ingles to score at the rim repeatedly around one of the league’s best big-man defenders.
“We made some mistakes,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens explained. “We did it a little bit differently in the second half, or we tried to. When we didn’t, he burned us.”
He scored 20 points in the first half, then Boston adjusted to put more pressure on the ball as he came around screens. That meant only seven second-half points, and Ingles was taken out of the game somewhat. But the Jazz’s offense kept rolling, as that meant more opportunities for Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Jae Crowder to do their thing.
And then there’s that beautiful 3-point shot. Jeff Van Gundy talked about it on the broadcast, but this was an example of how many different ways Ingles can accurately shoot the three. Again, watch the video above, looking at Ingles' threes. He can fire the ball with nearly just his wrists, or take his time and dip down. He can step back and hit it, or stutter and step to the side. Just the variety in his shot making is something else.
2. Jazz attack Gordon Hayward in isolation with Mitchell
Obviously, tonight’s game was about the return of Gordon Hayward, and there’s lots of coverage of that comeback elsewhere from the Salt Lake Tribune. Here’s my article on what the return was like for Hayward, our columnist Gordon Monson added his take, and of course, Eric Walden discussed Hayward’s game extensively in his game story.
From a on-court perspective, Hayward was what we’ve seen from him for most of this season: still clearly not all the way back. He was limited to 26 minutes, and scored 13 points on 3-9 shooting from the field. He didn’t often attack the rim, though, and didn’t seem to have some of that extra shot-creation prowess that made him an All-Star in his final year with the Jazz. He’ll likely get it back as he works his way back from one of the most devastating injuries seen in recent years.
But I was surprised at how the Jazz worked to attack Hayward at times. In the first half, it was largely in pick and roll, as the Jazz put him through screens to get open looks. After watching the video, though, I’m not sure that the Jazz attacked him more than any other player.
In the second half, though, the Celtics started switching all over the floor, playing very small in order to keep the Jazz on the perimeter. And in those situations, the Jazz repeatedly switched until they had Mitchell attacking Hayward, almost a dream scenario for Jazz fans.
The first time they did this was a big success: a made Mitchell layup.
But later trips to the well weren’t as successful: Hayward forced Mitchell misses or turnovers. Because of the switching, Derrick Favors was able to end up with a few offensive rebounds, and he added 14 points in one of his best games of the year.
Mitchell acknowledged this on his own, while explaining his thought process.
“I was trying to get fouled and get him fouling, honestly. He had three, a lot of those just breaking the paint where I just shot instead of making the right play. You can’t let that affect you, you need to stay locked in, which I didn’t do a few times and that’s what I’m really thinking about.”
Mitchell’s right: when a defense is having success against him, he needs to find the open man. “The four or five times where I had guys open where I decided to go to the rim, I have to continue to improve in that area.”
But he also admitted: attacking Hayward, and getting the crowd involved, well... “it was fun.”
3. Ricky Rubio’s ability to get loose balls
Rubio had an up and down game. The good: he scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting, getting some baskets for the Jazz from mid-range at points in the game when they struggled to score in other ways.
The bad: he had four turnovers, and it should have been more. A few times in the first half, Rubio threw the ball directly enough at the Celtics that their player was surprised and ended up losing the ball out of bounds anyway.
The good: seven assists, finding open shooters and especially Jae Crowder for open threes.
The bad: Terry Rozier scored 22.
The good, and the end point of this point: his nose for loose balls and rebounds. There’s no way in the world this should have been a Rubio rebound, with three Celtics right there.
But he jumped for it, waited for Rozier to come down, and tapped it away when he could. Then, upon gaining control, he ran directly into Jaylen Brown, flopped, and the referees called a foul. The Jazz were in the penalty, and Rubio went to the line.
This is just masterful guile from Rubio. He manufactured two points from a situation where he shouldn’t have gotten any.
“I’m not allowed to go for offensive boards, I have to get back in transition, Rubio said. "So if I go, it’s because i’m 99 percent sure that I’m going to get it. I have to go with everything I have, or else I’m going to be in the film the next day. That can’t happen.”