Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 119-114 win over the Brooklyn Nets from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz force, or take advantage, of Kyrie’s rough second half
The Jazz landed at Salt Lake City International Airport at exactly 2:36 a.m. Tuesday morning, meaning that the team didn’t get a lot of sleep going into Tuesday night’s meeting with Brooklyn. That was one rationale given when asked about a dismal first half, when they allowed the Nets to get a 15-point halftime lead.
Mike Conley: It took us a while to wake up.
Donovan Mitchell: You need to wake up faster, Mike! Come on!
Conley: Some of us are 30 years old or above and got two kids. Some of us can’t just go home and go to sleep.
Regardless, the Jazz won tonight’s contest with a second-half performance that was much better on both sides of the ball. They had a 126 offensive rating and a 86 defensive rating in that second half to come back and take the lead. Let’s talk about the defense first.
How did they do it? I think it all came down to Kyrie Irving struggling. He finished with 10 points in the second half on 4-17 shooting, adding two turnovers to the mix. He also missed his last eight shots. It was a mix of him missing shots he’s capable of making and the Jazz forcing him into Rudy Gobert, a unique defensive presence.
Check out what Joe Ingles does here, chasing Irving nearly to half court before Irving gets around him and into the paint.
Is this good defense or bad defense? With nearly anyone else down low, I’d call it bad defense: Irving gets past Ingles with relative ease, and essentially has a 2-on-1 at the rim. But Gobert scares the bejeezus out of driving players, and so Irving picks up the ball early, forcing a floater. Ingles does stay attached without fouling, even taking a little stab at the ball below Irving’s waist. In many ways, this is what Quin Snyder wants.
But Irving also has a tendency to make a lot of my-turn plays. He’s second in the league in shots per game behind James Harden, but isn’t quite the efficient scorer Harden is. (At least, before this season, when Harden has struggled with everything but drawing fouls.) Like, check this out:
Taurean Prince has decent separation from Bojan Bogdanovic after this off ball screen, but Kyrie’s already written the play off, deciding to go one-on-one against a very ready Royce O’Neale. The result is a relatively easy turnover.
In the end, a player coming up with essentially half a point per possession in the second half of the game is going to be really difficult to overcome, especially if he’s the guy taking that large of a percentage of them.
2. Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay score 17 in five quick minutes
Through three quarters of tonight’s game, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay combined for 1-8 shooting with two turnovers, three fouls, and no assists. The Jazz were -11 in Green’s minutes, -3 in Mudiay’s. Things looked grim with the Jazz carrying an 8-point deficit into the fourth quarter.
And then they proceeded to score 19 points in the first five minutes of the fourth. So that went well.
I’ll be honest: Mudiay’s success in scoring was impressive, but not the result of particularly smart play. Three of his four buckets were the result of late-shot clock midrange stepbacks or turnarounds, the kind of shots that it’s good that he can make, but bad that they were needed. The other was this one, in which he attacked Spencer Dinwiddie well... but also, what rim is DeAndre Jordan protecting here on this game-tying basket in the fourth quarter?
Jeff Green found his success, meanwhile, by nailing three straight threes. The first one was this transition three, in which we also should note Jordan’s lack of effort.
But the other two were more legitimate, albeit also the result of the Nets giving Green way too much airspace to shoot. That’s something I’ve appreciated about Green this season: he’s recognized that very often, the best shot that the Jazz are going to get on bench possessions are his catch-and-shoot threes, and so he’s been willing to fire them up. He’s now shooting 39% on those on the season, above his career norms.
It was a game-defining stretch, though, and while the make-or-miss nature of the shots does show that maybe you can’t rely on these two to score effectively, that they’re capable of it can help you, especially when the starters are tired.
3. Icing screens, and telling who’s fault something is
At first, I thought this play was Joe Ingles’ fault.
I mean, a wide open dunk made by Ingles’ man? It’s natural to place blame there.
But upon rewatch, it’s probably on Tony Bradley. Because it was a pick and roll on the side, the Jazz usually choose to “ice” these plays. In other words, they try to keep the player on the side of the floor, where his scoring and passing options are limited. That means that Ingles is in charge of forcing Spencer Dinwiddie away from the screen, and Bradley is in charge of keeping him contained over there.
This image, and explanation, from The Basketball Dictionary, might help you visualize what needs to happen.
Bradley isn’t where he needs to be at all, being more concerned about Dinwiddie using that screen than keeping him contained. The result is an easy dunk.
Now, it’s possible that Ingles or Bradley didn’t communicate what they were doing defensively here, and so the blame could be shared. The way Green is pointing, I think he also wanted Bradley to be over there, and in general, I generally believe that it’s more likely the young player made the mistake over the more experienced Ingles.
It’s also just indicative of how hard defense can be to evaluate. Because we’re never really sure what a coach is scheming, we’re making guesses a lot of the time. My experience with the Jazz, the NBA, and talking to Quin Snyder about these kinds of plays in general leads me to believe that “ice” should have been the defense here, but I also don’t know for sure that they didn’t change it in a timeout, or something. We just have to do our best.