Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 119-11 win over the Charlotte Hornets from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz win with 3-point shooting
Well, the Jazz couldn’t have come out with more of a statement game after the Kyle Korver acquisition. The Jazz took a ton of threes and made a ton of threes in order to score 119 points in only 97 possessions to get the win. Look at all of these threes:
A lot of those looks were really fantastic, thanks to ball movement from the Jazz that was very, very good. The Jazz ended up with 32 assists tonight, but no Jazz player had more than seven. That Crowder was the player with seven is notable too. He’s usually known as a pass finisher, rather than a creator. Tonight, he did both in an excellent game.
Remember the Triple Team from literally just two games ago? Here’s an excerpt: “Here’s the key to beating the Jazz right now: pack the paint. If you stop the Jazz from driving to the rim and help on the lob, then they have to take outside shots, and they have to make them.”
Hornets coach James Borrego adopted that game plan. “The biggest concern going into the game was the paint. They’re a very good paint team. They’re not shooting the 3-ball well. This is not a team that was thriving at the 3-point line. We won the paint 70-46. Most nights you win that game. It’s just the 3-point line, they made 18, we made nine.”
Like on this play, it’s Raul Neto driving, and the Hornets still commit all five guys to the paint to stop him and Gobert rolling to the rim. But when it’s Kyle Korver in the corner, well, you just can’t do that.
Let’s also note: the Jazz got at least a little lucky. Even with Korver in tow, they’re not going to hit 45 percent from three on a regular basis, and especially not shoot 53 percent from above-the-break, the harder 3-point shots. Teams aren’t going to frequently leave Korver for Neto. 4-6 isn’t crazy from Korver, given that he’s a 46 percent 3-point shooter right now, but 6-10 from Crowder isn’t going to happen very often. Indeed, it tied his career high for 3-point makes.
So Quin Snyder after the game wanted everyone to remain calm. When he was asked about the spacing thanks to Korver, he said. “Well, we’re just not going to overreact, okay. We’re going to keep playing and we’ve got to play defense.”
That’s classic Snyder, focused on the process and not the outcome.
2. The Kyle Korver experience
Despite Snyder’s reluctance, Korver is the story of tonight’s game, even though he finished as only the Jazz’s fourth-leading scorer. That’s just because we learned a lot more about what Korver can bring to the Jazz, even at age 37, and even with just one shootaround under his belt.
We knew about the shooting, yeah, but I was curious about his defense in the Jazz’s system. There’s still a lot Korver doesn’t know about the Jazz’s terminology, but I thought Korver did well in most of his possessions. This was really encouraging: Korver was following the much faster and younger Malik Monk, but stayed with him throughout the long cut and ended up forcing him into the missed shot.
Then there was the bad: here, Jeremy Lamb gets the ball late in the shot clock, but Korver just lets him drive right by for an easy layup.
But here, again, Korver just cuts off Monk well and draws a charge (something he probably does more frequently than any Jazz defender on the roster).
Some of what we see above is defending a young, largely untested player in Monk versus a veteran scorer in Lamb. And maybe that’s one of the lessons: Korver can stay in front of good players, but probably not the quicker guards in the league. Matchups might have to dictate when Korver plays.
Korver played 21 minutes tonight, more than what I thought he would in his first game. But he was a key part of the Jazz’s rotation, knocking Dante Exum and Grayson Allen to DNP-CD status and Sefolosha to only three minutes on the court. Georges Niang was moved to the inactive list. Korver spent most of his time at the three position, though did play a few minutes at the four.
3. Quick plays in transition
Another factor that led to the Jazz’s success tonight: their efficient play in transition.
Normally, you think about fast breaks happening after turnovers, but the Hornets only turned the ball over eight times. On Friday, though, the Jazz got transition plays after missed shots. In fact, according to Cleaning The Glass, the Jazz turned a Charlotte miss into a transition 40 percent of the time, and converted those chances with an offensive rating of 130.8. Pretty good!
This play did come after one of the turnovers, but it’s educational because Charlotte’s defense mostly had a chance to get back anyway.
Donovan Mitchell forces the turnover but gets the ball deep in the corner. At this point, he passes to Crowder, who immediately passes it back to Mitchell. Gobert hits Lamb, Mitchell’s defender, with a screen, and Mitchell is in the paint. The defense collapses, and Mitchell finds Ingles for the open corner three, which is money.
This isn’t much of a play drawn up: it’s just pick and roll. But speed and surprise make it work. First, Mitchell’s cross-court give and go with Crowder gets the attention of the defense, giving Gobert a chance to set a surprising screen on Lamb. With a full head of steam, Mitchell is getting into the paint with force, meaning the defense has to collapse with force. That leaves Ingles for three.
If Mitchell had walked the ball up the floor, the Hornets probably would have defended the situation a little bit better. But because he hustled and passed, the defense was on its heels the whole time.
Snyder and the Jazz work on these situations in practice, learning where the basic patterns of what they want to do in the first few seconds on the shot clock and what screens they want to set depending on personnel and situation. While they haven’t been great at that this season, tonight, that focus paid off.