Los Angeles • Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 105-94 loss to the L.A. Clippers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. You can’t let the other team have 18 offensive rebounds
The Clippers had 18 offensive rebounds. They had 29 second-chance points. That’s in comparison to the Jazz’s six offensive rebounds and eight second-chance points.
It was ugly. Against Sacramento, the Jazz also had this offensive rebounding problem, so that’s two games in a row that the Jazz would have won if their rebounding was at normal levels.
So what’s going on? I’ve heard some people worry that the Jazz aren’t getting these boards because they’re not long enough anymore, after Derrick Favors left. That might be some of it, but as I watch what’s actually happening, I don’t think that’s it. (And if we’re honest, Favors didn’t play much at the end of games anyway.) I think it’s that they’re not strong enough. And when I say strength, I’m referring to both physical and mental strength.
That’s up and down the roster, from positions one through five with the exception of Donovan Mitchell. Like, I think Ricky Rubio probably prevents Montrezl Harrell from beating him here, because he can hold him off for more than half a second. Or maybe he’d flop effectively after getting pushed out of the way, whatever works.
Jeff Green here just gets pushed out of the way by his Green counterpart, JaMychal.
But there’s mental strength, too. Like, Royce O’Neale’s is smart here for a long time. He knows Harrell is behind him well before the shot is put up, and puts a body on him immediately. It’s effective, too, Harrell can’t go anywhere. Until... he just loses track of him at the critical moment.
Same thing happens with Joe Ingles here. He’s battling down low with Harrell. He knows it’s important. But the right when the shot goes up, he just relaxes, and gets beat.
Harrell is long: he has a 7-foot-4 wingspan, but he’s not big, only 6-foot-7. He just tries on every single possession.
It’s unrealistic to think that the Jazz can add physical strength during the season. Quite frankly, I’m not sure you’d want to. You don’t want an Andrei Kirilenko situation on your hands, where you ask a guy to add strength and he loses what makes him good. But they need to value the ball as much as the opposition does. Sunday night, they didn’t. Friday night, they didn’t. And they’ve lost two extremely winnable games as a result.
2. Mike Conley’s struggles aren’t all about a new situation
I know it’s early. I know Conley is in a new environment. I know he’s never played with a pick and roll big like Rudy Gobert. I know he’s never played with a scoring guard like Donovan Mitchell. I know he’s never played in an offense this egalitarian, at least, not since his AAU days.
Earlier this season, I asked Mitchell what Conley had told him during their workouts, what tips he was going to implement into his game. One of them was about staying on your feet, that getting up into the air to pass isn’t always smart:
One of them was about keeping your dribble deeper into the paint, so that you have easy layups instead of tough finishes:
Ironically, some of the things he told Mitchell not to do are the mistakes he’s making now.
Mitchell did not specifically mention the wisdom he had heard from Conley about not attacking Patrick Beverley in isolation with a relatively good amount of time on the shot clock before forcing a spin-move stepback midrange jumper, but maybe that went without saying.
And this pass isn’t close to a good idea, and it isn’t for chemistry reasons.
I don’t know what’s going on with Conley right now. Remember, he did play extremely well against the Clippers earlier in the week, so he is capable of more. Oh, and there is his entire 12-year NBA career until now. But the mistakes aren’t just about joining a new team.
3. Donovan Mitchell is figuring out how to draw fouls
Or maybe Conley just somehow sent his skillset to Donovan Mitchell, who was absurdly good on Sunday night. Mitchell went to the line 14 times on Sunday, including 10 times in the fourth quarter.
And he did some nice things to draw those fouls, too. Foul drawing is a lot about getting defenders in uncomfortable positions, and Mitchell did that well. Here, he forces the switch from Leonard to Green, drives into him a little bit, and then accentuates the contact. Foul.
After the Sacramento game, Mitchell was extremely frustrated. Obviously, the offensive rebounds were a part of it, as were his missed free throws earlier in the game. But more than anything, he said, he was frustrated about the shot attempt he took on the game’s final play. Mitchell thought, once he got defender Richaun Holmes up into the air, he should have jumped into Holmes and earned three free throws to win the game.
Now, in the very next game, he gets 14 trips to the line. Is it coincidence? Maybe. But it also might be a sign Mitchell’s thinking about using the foul-drawing game as a weapon, and that would make him even more unguardable than he’s been this season. It certainly did tonight, as he had a season-high 36 points.