Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 126-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Joe Ingles excellent in bigger role
Joe Ingles has averaged 27.5 minutes per game this season. He played 27 minutes and 27 seconds tonight. So what do I mean by bigger role?
Tonight, the Jazz ran more plays where Joe Ingles had the ball in his hands, working pick and roll with Rudy Gobert. That’s because he’s been moved into the starting lineup while Mike Conley is hurt, but it’s been very effective.
Joe is so good going to his left, and he was again tonight:
Tonight, the Jazz found a couple of ways to take advantage of how much teams force him to go right. He’s also been accepting the screen more to his right, which he then snakes around and gets to the middle of the court, where he can make plays. But he can also backcut it, too, which leads to beautiful acts of chemistry like this:
Here’s the thing: this only really makes sense with a big man who can roll and finish. Rudy Gobert can, Derrick Favors could, but Ed Davis really can’t. Otherwise, Ingles’ creation skills are pretty ordinary: it’s not like he can beat people off the dribble. He’s a great catch-and-shoot guy, but that only works with teammates who will pass him the ball — the Jazz’s bench is very, very short on good passers.
So ideally, Ingles would get to play all of his minutes with Gobert, even when Conley gets back. The problem is that you can’t bench Conley, Mitchell, Bogdanovic, or Gobert, because they’re all near All-Star-level players. (Conley hasn’t been so far this year, but he will be.) And while you can bench Royce O’Neale, his strengths — catch-and-shoot offense, stringent defense against star-level wings — also make the most sense in the starting lineup.
One idea: it might make sense to vary the starters and rotation depending on the matchup. If a team plays drop-big or doesn’t really have a star-level wing — like Memphis — then start Ingles. If the opposition switches a lot, or does have a star wing, then start O’Neale.
2. A whole lot of tonight’s margin of victory was the Jazz making threes
There will be losses this season that the Jazz have because they make far fewer threes than their opponent. That’s life in the NBA, that’s the impact of 3-point variance. The Athletic’s Seth Partnow estimated that about a third of NBA games are decided by teams having “particularly good or bad shotmaking games on jumpers.”
Tonight was a game that was decided in the Jazz’s favor thanks to the shotmaking gods. The Jazz hit 19 of their 34 threes tonight, for 55% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies shot 10-35, for 28.6%. If you switch those numbers, the Jazz lose.
Now, the Jazz are a better shotmaking team than the Grizzlies: the Jazz make 37.7% of their threes on average, and the Grizz make just 34.6%. And you can argue that the Jazz got a lot of open looks from three. But hitting 55% from the arc for a whole game? That’s a lot of luck.
Jeff Green can make threes, but going 5-6 for a night? A lot of luck. Royce O’Neale is a good shooter, but 4-4? That’s a lot of luck. Emmanuel Mudiay making a 2-3? A lot of luck.
This isn’t to take away from what the Jazz did tonight: I do think they played their best offensive game in a while, even ignoring shotmaking. But this performance wasn’t perhaps as dominant as it first appeared.
3. Tapping to get defensive rebounds
One thing that the Jazz did really well tonight: own the defensive glass. They only allowed Memphis to have five offensive rebounds on their 38 missed shots, a 16.7% offensive rebounding percentage that is Memphis’ second worst of the season.
So why is that? Well, after watching the tape, the biggest portion of the credit goes to the Jazz’s defense, as well as Memphis’ shot selection. When teams take, or are forced into, contested perimeter shots, those shots very rarely get offensive rebounded. That’s especially true when it’s a big man, like Jaren Jackson Jr., taking those shots. He had nine 3-point attempts on the night, making three, but when he misses, the Grizzlies had either nobody or just one man crashing the glass. Tonight, the Jazz only had 13 box outs all game long, on their way to get those 32 defensive rebounds. Gobert only had three.
A surprising number of rebounds in NBA games are simply uncontested. This season, roughly 75% of defensive rebounds are caught by someone who didn’t have an offensive player within arm’s length — 3.5 feet, to be precise. These are easy-peasy defensive rebounds, ones you or I could make. For the Jazz, this percentage is even higher: it’s 78.9% of defensive rebounds come with no one around. That percentage leads the league, in fact.
That’s because every team just sends 3-5 guys to run back on defense now, and between 0-2 to crash the glass. So unless the shot ends up where those 0-2 offensive guys are, it’s going to be an uncontested defensive rebound.
This changes rebounding fundamentals on contested rebounds. I remember when I grew up, I was taught to rebound by boxing out, keep a wide base, and then go up and grab the ball with two hands. Hey, if you can... sure, still do that.
But in help rebounding situations, or ones where there’s a size mismatch in favor of the offensive player, simply tapping the ball laterally can be a really good move. Here, for example, Donovan Mitchell just gets up to the ball and taps it to Ingles, waiting for the loose ball. With the one-handed tap, the 6-1 Mitchell can jump a lot higher than the 2-handed grab, and has a chance for the rebound against the 6-11 Jonas Valanciunas.
And don’t worry: Mitchell still was credited for the rebound.
It almost doesn’t matter where the defensive player taps it, either, so long as it’s not super hard towards the top of the key. Laterally, like Mitchell did, works. Early in the game, Ed Davis had one where he just tapped the ball hard against the backboard, where Mitchell could pick it up on the other side. Because there aren’t very many other players around, tapping turns a 60-40 contested rebounding situation into a 90-10 one.