Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 100-94 win over the Detroit Pistons from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Rudy Gobert just scares people
We usually think about runs in basketball from an offensive point of view: Steph Curry and the Warriors hitting three after three, or one player taking over a game through huge shotmaking, or a team effort just destroying a particular flaw in the opponent.
But the Jazz go on defensive runs. Once again, they proved it tonight by allowing just 35 points in 49 possessions for just a 71 defensive rating in the second half, shutting the Pistons nearly completely down. And just as Steph Curry or LeBron James might be the leader of an offensive run, Rudy Gobert was the leader of the defensive efforts for the Jazz in that second half.
First of all, there are the jaw-popping box score stats: 18 points, 25 rebounds, 2 blocks, a +20 in a game that the Jazz won by only six. But then you can get into the weeds and realize that he had an even larger impact than those stats show.
Of course, there’s his ability to protect the rim. The Pistons only shot 32 percent of their shots at the rim tonight, making only 53.8 percent of them. Both figures are well below average.
And then you add in his ability to avoid committing fouls, which really helps. He had three fouls tonight, but his ability to move back there and prevent good looks without sending his opponent to the free-throw line is a big deal. Griffin and Drummond average 12.7 free throws per game combined, and the Jazz only allowed six total.
There’s defensive rebounding, which also Gobert excels at. Tonight was a dangerous matchup: Andre Drummond leads the league in offensive rebounds and second-chance points, it’s a major part of what the Pistons do well. They own the best offensive-rebounding margin in the NBA, too. Drummond’s about 35 pounds heavier than Gobert, so there was perhaps some idea that he could use that size and strength to push Gobert around.
Not so. Gobert just completely shut that down, limiting the Pistons to just five offensive rebounds on their 55 missed shots, and collecting 22 of those misses himself, fully half of the Jazz’s total. In the end, the Pistons only had five second-chance points, they average 13.5 per game.
He’s absolutely playing at a superstar level right now, and is delivering the Jazz victories they desperately need.
2. Grayson Allen’s up and down game
Grayson Allen’s finally gotten healthy, and has quickly found himself in the Jazz’s rotation thanks to all of the injuries. How’s he doing?
Well, it’s like you’d expect with rookies: a lot of positives and a lot of negatives. In particular, his defensive performance oscillates between just awful and hugely positively impactful, even within the course of a single game. This is just a straight line drive, but Allen gets beat pretty handily.
And on the next play, he was back-doored by Ish Smith for another easy layup.
But in his second half stint, he played a lot better, including this tremendous block in transition:
And once again, I really liked his quick trigger from outside. On one play in particular, he chased down an errant outlet pass from Gobert in the corner, somehow kept his footing inbounds, and then realized he was open, and so just took the shot. It was incredible.
“Even though it didn’t go in, that’s the Grayson we want to see, knowing he can take those shots and make those shots,” Donovan Mitchell said.
I’ve heard both publicly and privately that the Jazz are happy with how Allen grew defensively in the G-League. They sent him down to the Stars with only that end of the floor in mind.
“The opportunity for him in the D-League was for him to get reps defensively,” Snyder said. “A lot of guys will go to the D-League with something to go on, and many times it’s offensively related or grounded. ... I think for Grayson, raising his awareness about all of the different places he has to play defense. Playing off the ball, being aware, being ready allows him to closeout in a better position and makes him more of a factor."
And of course, for Snyder, defense is everything.
“It’s gotta be important, and for us, you’ve gotta do it to play. He’s started to understand that on a deeper level,” Snyder said.
3. Jae Crowder’s shooting slump
The Jazz have played six games in the least 10 days, and Jae Crowder hasn’t shot well in any of them. After tonight’s 0-6 performance, he’s now 11 for his last 58 from the field, or just 18 percent. From 3-point distance, he’s 4-33 from beyond the arc. That’s just 12 percent.
It’s always hard to tell a player what to do to get out of a shooting slump: so often, it’s just the downside of randomness. Changing a player’s mentality is the worst solution of all, it often makes things worse before making them better.
But in Crowder’s case, I think there’s a case he should be changing his approach some. In particular, even during this 6-game stretch, he’s 2-3 from the corners, while a whopping 2-30 from behind the break of the 3-point line. For whatever reason — and legs are a reasonable one, with how many minutes he’s had to soak up in Thabo Sefolosha’s absence — he’s missing those longer threes.
He’s also just 4-15 on layups, though, and probably needs to pick his spots there too. He’s frequently challenging bigger players, and never really has the advantage on drives like this:
He’s still helping the team in other ways, so that’s good, and that defense is keeping him on the floor. But when you shoot 18 percent, it’s hard to stick with offense that abysmal. He’ll likely turn it around, though.