The Triple Team: Rudy Gobert’s defense, team 3-point shotmaking late gives Jazz win over Heat
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) speak as the Utah Jazz host the Miami Heat in their NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.
I asked Quin Snyder about his team’s offense in the second half, when they scored 69 points. Instead, he answered with a response about his team’s defense, which allowed 49.
They were terrific. In particular, when Rudy Gobert was the court tonight, the Jazz allowed the Heat to score just 89 points per 100 possessions. With him off the court, 130 defensive rating. That’s good!
Gobert defended pick and roll brilliantly — and tonight, he got a lot of help from his friends. He did a really nice job of staying in front of the ball-handler for enough time for the initial defender to get back, like here:
Or, if in his opinion, he wasn’t going to get there in time, he asking for the switch and his teammates handled it. Nice work by Jordan Clarkson here to recognize the switch and box out Bam Adebayo, an All-Star.
I didn’t think it was Adebayo’s best game; note how slow he was to get out of the screen and into the roll or pop, which made him pretty easy to defend. Gobert, especially, is going to eat that kind of indecision up.
But what Gobert’s improved at this year is that he’s winning these perimeter defensive battles more frequently. When he’s guarding a wing player out deep, he can stay in front and force a tough shot:
Just like the Rockets did, the Heat sometimes screened Gobert in these situations, but here, Joe Ingles did a nice job of defending it, staying vertical without committing a foul.
It’s just good work that frustrated the Heat, especially as their outside shots weren’t falling.
“Gobert is unique, and he’s deserving every year to be mentioned in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s the IQ that goes with it, it makes it so uncommon.”
2. Making threes down the stretch
The Jazz went 7-28 from 3-point land in the first three quarters, then made seven of 11 to win the fourth quarter.
Were they better shots? No! Donovan Mitchell missed this one in the first quarter...
...and made this one in the fourth quarter.
That happens sometimes! Sometimes players miss shots. Sometimes they make them. Over the aggregate, they hit 38.9% of them, which is really, really close to their 38.7% average for the season. It was as friendly an application of the “regression to the mean” concept (or “progression” if you prefer it here) as I’ve seen recently, and so I figured I’d take advantage of it here.
While we’re here talking about threes, let’s break down what kind of threes the Jazz are good at. In particular, they are excellent at catch-and-shoot threes: they make 41% of those, by far the highest in the league. Second place is the Heat, actually, at 39.1%... and the gap between the Jazz and Heat is as big as the gap between the Heat and the Clippers, at 37.2%. The Jazz have 5 elite shooters from deep on catch-and-shoot: Bojan Bogdanovic, Georges Niang, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson are all above 40% from there. It makes them really tough to guard.
They’re not as good when the ball is held for 2-6 seconds, per the NBA’s tracking data. On those shots, they only hit 31.6% of those threes, which is 19th in the league.
But if the player who takes the three holds the ball for 6 or more seconds, the Jazz are pretty good again: they shoot 37.4% on those shots, which is 6th in the NBA. Portland and Atlanta are 1-2 in that stat... guess which notoriously talented pull-up shooters they employ?
The Jazz’s 6+ seconds number is thanks to mostly to Donovan Mitchell. Sure, there’s some ridiculous shooting in those situations by Bojan Bogdanovic, who has hit 59% of those this year, albeit only on 0.4 attempts per game. Still, small sample size issues and everything, that is bonkers. Mitchell takes way more of them, 1.5 per game, but has made 39.5% of them.
3. Joe Ingles’ pass-fake fake
Joe Ingles’ shot hasn’t been working recently: he was 1-9 tonight, including 0-5 from three. These are natural ebbs and flows, and I am not worried about them. (I do think it’s enough to disprove the hypothesis I’ve heard from Jazz fans that Ingles is somehow better without Mike Conley, but anyway.)
But Ingles did have nine assists tonight, and I think that’s something he’s been doing at a much higher level in this 4-game winning streak than he did in the 5-game losing streak: contributing in other ways. His defense has been at a higher level, for one, and the assists have been nice.
In particular, I want to show you this one from early in the game. You all know about Joe Ingles’ effective pass fake, but what about when he fakes the pass fake and makes the pass anyway?
I mean, look at Adebayo on this play. He’s jumping to block Ingles’ shot, but the ball is already way behind him. He jumps at Ingles after the pass has already left his hands. He is as bamboozled as bamboozled can be.
Ingles is such an enjoyably goofy player to watch, and honestly, we should savor the Ingles minutes while we have them. Who else fakes the pass fake?