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The Triple Team: World-class defense from Rudy Gobert and others cancels out bad night from Donovan Mitchell in Jazz’s win vs. Golden State Warriors

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) gets tangled up with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30), in NBA action between Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 108-103 win over the Golden State Warriors from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Fantastic defense from the Jazz wins them game against defending champs

This is what the Jazz can be defensively, and it really is quite something. They’re now on a four game run of holding their opponents to under 100 points per 100 possessions, and while two of those games were against the relatively feckless Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, the games against the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors were fantastic efforts against incredibly talented opponents.

Rudy Gobert has been phenomenal in this stretch. Absolutely phenomenal. Tonight might have been his best of the four games: Gobert ended up with four blocks, but impacted countless other plays everywhere on the court, from the perimeter to the interior with his length and quickness.

Some of these plays are just absurd defensive superstar plays, the kind of stuff that no other player in the league would be capable of. Look at this: he jumps in the air to stop Steph Curry from getting his 3-point shot off, then recovers all the way to get in between Draymond Green and the basket to get a block.

Here he is again, and while he doesn’t jump this time, both feet are outside of the 3-point line to stop Curry. So Curry makes the right play again, passes to a streaking Green, who has an easy layup — except for that the man with seemingly the longest reach in the world is behind him to get his fingertip on the ball.

It’s just sensational. One last one: Gobert faces a two-on-one at the rim. He rotates over to Kevon Looney, scares him from taking the shot, so he passes over to Green, who has his layup blocked at the last second.

This is where Gobert is when Green releases it. How does he get up so high so quickly?

(screenshot from NBA.com video)

We should also note the rest of the Jazz’s contributors on defense. Quin Snyder complimented the rest of his team for putting Gobert in positions where he can succeed, saying “it’s much more effective for us if he can make a play where we’ve done a good job as a group defensively prior to him having to make a play.” And it’s true, the Jazz’s defense did do well.

But those three plays are proof positive of the defensive impact Gobert can have all on his own.

2. Donovan Mitchell has a bad night

Gobert should soon be the recipient of a gift basket from Donovan Mitchell, who had his worst game of the season against the Warriors. Mitchell shot 5-26 overall, 2-11 from the 3-point line, and turned the ball over six times in the Jazz’s win. (He did have six assists.)

I was surprised about how nonchalant Mitchell seemed after the game about his performance, saying things like “I’m over it. At the end of the day, I tried my best to take good shots, they just didn’t fall.” (Narrator: they were not good shots.) Last year, Mitchell would have beat himself up over a performance like that. But as he explained it, “I’ve had a whole 90-something games to go through. It’s not like we lost.”

That reaction might have been a show for us media, though, or just legitimate happiness about the win. Mitchell then told us that he’s going back to the Jazz’s practice facility to work on his shot after the game — “What time is it? 10 PM? That’s early.”

Here’s my take: Mitchell can’t play like that for the Jazz to win most of their games. I’m less concerned about how Mitchell shot the ball on his jumpers and much more concerned about the decisions he made on the court.

On this play, he gets the ball and drives by Curry. Good! Now, Looney rotates over. Mitchell has three good options: a dump-off pass to Derrick Favors, a lob to Gobert, or Ricky Rubio wide open on the three. He instead gets himself up in the air, making everything harder, and ends up getting blocked.

The Jazz had a five-on-four here and Mitchell jacked up a 27-foot three.

On the last Jazz offensive possession of the game, Mitchell waived off a screen to take Klay Thompson — an excellent defender who had done an excellent job defending him all night — one on one. Mitchell does actually get the step, but then dribbles the ball off his leg and out.

You can’t be waiving off a screen at the end of a game in which you’ve shot 5-26 from the field. It’s hero ball in the worst way.

The Jazz need Mitchell to be a scorer, yes. But they also need him to make the right play. The six assists show that he was capable of that, and he did have some very good plays tonight when he put his mind to it. But if, say, the Warriors had hit 42 percent of their shots instead of 40 percent, Mitchell’s bad play could have been enough to cost them the game. Give him credit for consistently competing and playing well defensively, though.

3. Taking advantage of Kyle Korver’s gravity

The Jazz are slowly getting better at using what Kyle Korver brings to get open shots for other players.

Like on this play, Korver draws two defenders, leaving Exum wide open to just run to the basket and dunk.

That’s the obvious example, where Korver is such an emphasis where he forces the defense to screw up a switch. Korver here helps too, by screening Curry off, but Curry doesn’t seem too focused on the other man in the play.

But there’s some non-obvious ways, too. On this play, the whole defense thinks something for Korver is happening on the far side of the floor. That means when Ingles screens for Gobert, it’s simple two-vs-two action. The Warriors switch it, but Joe Ingles gets a shot off because Green is concerned about preventing the interior pass to the big man down low.

There were more actions like this in Korver’s first stint, too, getting dunks for Gobert. Obviously, it also helps on nights like tonight, when Korver’s shot is going in. He made 4-of-7 threes on the night, and the Jazz needed every one of them.