The Triple Team: Jazz beat good Pacers team soundly, thanks to smart play on both ends

Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon (7) guards Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 118-88 win over the Indiana Pacers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Jazz make right read even against good Pacers D

I thought the Pacers played pretty good defense tonight. They forced 21 turnovers, and Myles Turner especially was a force in the middle, getting six steals. The Jazz had real problems passing it in pick and roll with Turner playing defense on Gobert.

And yet: the Jazz had a 121 ORtg, and won by 30. How?

First, when they did pass it successfully, they did a good job recognizing where the help was coming from. The Pacers were packing the paint a little bit, trying to prevent the Jazz from getting easy stuff at the rim. In particular, they helped more from the top than most teams would, trying to create that visual effect of a lack of space even more. But here, Conley sees that very quickly and makes a great quick read to Clarkson.

The Jazz also were terrific tonight in getting offensive rebounds and putbacks. They had 22 second-chance points tonight, and both Tony Bradley and Rudy Gobert attacked the glass. That they had success is a little surprising given the Pacers’ size, but both of the Jazz’s centers won their individual matchups.

Finally, the Jazz got out on breaks of their own. While they forced only 14 turnovers, they scored 25 points off of those, more than the 16 points the Pacers got off of the Jazz’s 21 turnovers. Watch Donovan Mitchell run here as soon as he knows the rebound is secure.

Certainly, some of this was helped by the fact that the Pacers were playing the dreaded Denver-Utah back-to-back: a tired team is less likely to fight for boards and get back in transition. The Jazz took advantage to be sure, though.

2. Jazz’s play perfect math defense

What are the most efficient shots in basketball? Dunks, free-throws, layups, and threes, in that order.

The Pacers had one dunk tonight, and it was a run-away in transition.

The Jazz only sent the Pacers to the line for seven free-throws tonight. One was a defensive three seconds, and one was a technical foul on Donovan Mitchell for taunting. The Pacers made only three of the free-throws. It is tied for the lowest number of free throws any team has made in any game this season.

They only made 14 of their 24 layups. 24 attempts at the rim is 16th percentile in the NBA this year, and shooting just 60% from there is 37th percentile.

The Pacers only shot 26 threes, which is 11th percentile. They only made 7, for 26.9%. That’s 19th percentile.


If you win the math game that badly, you’re almost definitely going to win the actual game. Like, the Pacers were actually quite good at the mid-range tonight, making 40% of their shots from 4 feet to the 3-point line, and it just didn’t get their offense anywhere close to being good enough. They would have lost if they shot 70% from midrange.

But that’s what the Jazz’s defense does. Rudy Gobert locks down the paint, the Jazz’s perimeter players prevent 3-point shots because drives aren’t catastrophic, and they get rebounds off of the mid-range stuff. And they rarely foul, because Snyder teaches them to show their hands to officials and Gobert begs them not to foul because he’s likely behind their defenders to block the shot.

Understandably, defenses try to bring Gobert out of the paint, but the Jazz have had good counters to that so far. First, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale have shown the ability to guard bigger guys; tonight, Bogey defended Myles Turner and didn’t run into any problems all night. But even when the offense does get a switch, Gobert’s gotten too good on the perimeter for it to trouble the Jazz.

Again: Indiana was tired. Less willing to do the hard yards, less willing to get all the way to the rim. But when the Jazz get these results in terms of opponent shot selection, they’re excellent.

3. Different pick and roll passes for different players

The Jazz have a lot of different pick and roll options, more than most teams. All of Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, and Emmanuel Mudiay are capable of running pick and roll with quality roll men like Rudy Gobert and Tony Bradley.

But within that construct, it’s really interesting how they use the screens so differently. This isn’t just on pick and roll passes, but this assist table shows who different Jazzmen find on their assists. (The number in parentheses is how many points were scored on those assists.)

↓ From. To→Mike ConleyBojan BogdanovicRudy GobertJoe InglesEmmanuel MudiayRoyce O'NealeDonovan Mitchell
Mike Conley-30 (76)28 (56)6 (18)-10 (25)18 (44)
Bojan Bogdanovic5 (15)-18 (36)9 (25)5 (13)20 (53)12 (32)
Rudy Gobert3 (6)27 (68)-10 (22)4 (9)7 (19)11 (27)
Joe Ingles7 (17)36 (96)61 (122)-16 (37)13 (32)34 (82)
Emmanuel Mudiay-12 (30)9 (18)12 (33)-9 (22)10 (24)
Royce O'Neale11 (30)35 (93)16 (32)13 (37)6 (16)-18 (47)
Donovan Mitchell11 (31)43 (110)33 (66)23 (61)3 (7)23 (63)-

Some notes:

  • Joe Ingles finds Rudy Gobert on a higher percentage of his passes than any other ballhandler.

  • Donovan Mitchell finds Bojan Bogdanovic most frequently, sometimes in the corner, and sometimes on that 1-3 screen play when Bogey peels off on the perimeter.

  • Gobert also finds Bogdanovic frequently, maybe after offensive rebounds or after short rolls.

  • Bogdanovic isn’t a great passer, but actually swings it to Royce O’Neale for the highest number of his assists.

A few weeks ago, I asked Quin Snyder about whether or not Mitchell could learn anything from Ingles in the pick and roll. His answer was essentially “no,” that Mitchell, as a 6-1 guard, can’t do the things that Ingles can do at 6-8. Ingles can use his body to make space, and finish with that left hand at the rim. His height allows him to more easily get Gobert on the lob. Meanwhile, Mitchell’s vision is more outward, that’s where he can physically see.

That doesn’t mean both can’t be efficient pick and roll players. Both, in fact, are above average at the play, per Synergy Sports. They just are doing it in different ways.