The Triple Team: Jazz get out to another poor start, but shot selection improves throughout the game

Utah Jazz's Royce O'Neale (23) goes up to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 103-94 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. The shot selection legitimately changed in the second half

The offense put up just a 90 offensive rating tonight; If they start taking good shots, and stop taking bad shots, everything will be all right.

Here’s the Jazz’s first half shot chart vs. the second half shot chart.


See what happened? That whole glob of shots just beyond the free-throw line went away. And with it, so too did seven misses. The leader in the change in shotchart was Donovan Mitchell. There’s just such a huge gap in expectancy in a shot like this:

In relation to a shot like this:

It’s really just one extra dribble to engage the big man. Easier said than done, but that’s critical. Engaging the big man is the difference between getting a layup at the rim or being able to get Rudy Gobert on a dump off... or not.

I see why Mitchell wants to get his defender on his back, but he’s already earned a huge space advantage thanks to the screen. With space, he can attack it, rather than patiently waiting for the defense to get back into position. It’s a balance — he can take his time, but he can’t give the defense time.

Now here’s the discouraging thing: to the media, Mitchell’s saying that he likes the shots the team is taking.

“You know, we’re getting shots we want, the looks we want,” he said. “But things just aren’t falling. We’ll figure it out, though.

Look, the expectation on Mitchell’s shots tonight is probably something like 8-19 for 23 points. That’s certainly better than the 6-19 for 18 points he had tonight, but it’s not actually efficient. He can be better than that, if he wants to be.

2. Move the ball, too

I thought Jazz play-by-play man David Locke had an interesting point in his podcast Monday: the Jazz aren’t really sharing the ball right now.

By assists per game, the bottom five teams in the league are: Portland, New York, Cleveland, Utah, and Houston. Portland is playing poorly, at just 8-12. They also have two incredible scoring talents in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. You know about the Knicks and the Cavs’ woes. And Houston has James Harden, who they can afford to just iso for. Why pass when you don’t have to?

The Jazz have to pass; no one they have is that good in isolation. But right now, when Mitchell or Bogdanovic drive, they’re looking at opportunities for themselves to score, not set up other teammates. But they’re not efficient scorers when they finish those drives off with shots themselves. Efficient offense comes through usually comes through assisted dunks and layups at the rim, or catch-and-shoot threes. Tonight, Mitchell had one assist, Bogdanovic had zero. That’s not great.

But I’ll defend those two by saying this: their teammates could stand to help them out some, too, by moving off the ball. Like, here’s Bogdanovic’ only midrange miss of the night.

I guess he can swing it to O’Neale, but Al Horford can probably recover in time to prevent the shot — especially from the timid O’Neale. The pass to Gobert seems possible, but unlikely. But what if Mitchell or Conley took advantage of their defenders’ heads being turned, and cut inside? Obviously, don’t do it all the time, but there are baskets to be had here.

Right now, the Jazz are the third-lowest team in the league in terms of possessions that are used by cuts, according to Synergy Sports. That could stand to change.

3. Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert pick and roll

There was one partnership that did have a lot of success late: Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert running pick and roll together. They haven’t had the chance to do this much at all this season: with Ingles coming off the bench, he’s not sharing many minutes with Gobert. And when he does, it makes more theoretical sense to have someone like Mike Conley or Bojan Bogdanovic run the pick and roll, and have Ingles space the floor.

But that’s the thing about Ingles: he doesn’t make any theoretical sense, but he just works. This is true about his goofy lefty shot form, his athleticism, and his waiver-wire background, this is just the latest example. He had five 4th quarter assists to rolling Jazz big men, plus a couple of layups of his own.

Given that it was a blowout, and that Joel Embiid had five fouls and wanted to avoid fouling out, there are a lot of caveats to just how effective this was. But given that it was really the only thing that worked offensively for the Jazz tonight, it might be worth trying more in games to come.

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