Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 113-104 loss to the San Antonio Spurs from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Do the guys want this?
There are thousands and thousands of people who want the Jazz players to want this — this being defined as ‘winning’, ‘greatness’, or ‘true contender status’. There’s a whole phalanx of coaches, tens of thousands of fans in the arena, and hundreds of thousands more watching at home that want the Jazz to want this.
But at a certain level, if they don’t want it, they’re nothing that everyone else can do.
Like, here’s a turnover by Bojan Bogdanovic. It’s actually a really nice play by Dejounte Murray to dig down and get his hand on the ball. Turnovers will happen. But what the Jazz don’t do is sprint back after the turnover. They jog, maybe even run. They don’t sprint.
In particular, Bogdanovic and Gobert lollygag coming back because they think they have their guys, they don’t need to help. But if you let an NBA team play 3-on-3 with you in transition, they’re going to score reliably. Mitchell is probably too concerned about the drive, resulting in the 2-on-1 on the perimeter, but by then, Bogey and Gobert should have been back in the play.
DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points against the Jazz three weeks ago. They should be very familiar with what he can do. So why is this so casual?
Royce O’Neale is DeRozan’s primary defender. He just got a really nice contract based nearly entirely on his ability to defend in a number of different circumstances. But he casually loses him here — yes, there are two screens, but he’s unattached before the first and dies on the second. And then Gobert, despite no rolling threat, doesn’t exactly come out and contest the DeRozan shot either.
This play doesn’t exactly cover O’Neale in glory either: he cheats by going under the screen, and gets punished for it.
Jordan Clarkson got beat repeatedly tonight, this was a frustrating one. His plan to stop Bryn Forbes here appears to be to kick his leg out and trip him as he goes by... and even that doesn’t work. Be ready for the screen, then spin off of it!
Look, it’s just so casual. As Snyder said, “Our defense wasn’t close to the level it needs to be... we lacked urgency, everything. We just capitulated too easily in lots of situations.”
The break is over. They have 25 games left to play, important games that will determine their seeding and matchup in the playoffs. If they want it, it’s time to act like it.
“If we want to be a champion, if we want to be one of the best teams in the league, it’s gotta be who we are,” Gobert said. “We gotta come out every night with a chip on the shoulder every night, no matter who we play. We’ve got to come out with something to prove.... Come out with the mindset of killers, and don’t give them anything.”
Will they? We’ve had this conversation before. You’d like to believe that they will, but it’s not a sure thing at this point, and that’s rather discouraging.
2. Lacking in deflections
Highly related to the above: the Jazz forced only seven turnovers tonight, compared to 17 of their own.
That’s because they only had seven deflections all night, too. League average is about 15. The Spurs got 18, because they wanted to get in the way of the Jazz’s passing lanes, while the Jazz seemed to switch off when they didn’t have the ball.
The sad thing was how painfully obvious things changed once Snyder had a chance to yell at them at halftime. I mean, the very first play of the second half was a run-out steal by Bogdanovic.
In the first half, Bogdanovic isn’t in the place to make that steal. He’s probably just hanging around the 3-point line. Just getting in the way of the pass either will get the steal or even delay it by just a second, which has the knock-on effect of disrupting their timing.
The alternative is playing somewhat-conservative-but-tenacious defense where the Jazz contest every shot, but that obviously wasn’t a winning alternative tonight. Instead, the Spurs frequently got open shots, went to the line repeatedly, and then also didn’t turn the ball over. They took nothing away.
3. Emmanuel Mudiay’s injection of pace
I’ve been very frustrated with Emmanuel Mudiay’s transition plays this season. Too frequently, he attacks 1-on-2-or-more situations and finds that he can’t get his shot off without being blocked, which is a little bit like diving into a barrel of monkeys and then being surprised about all of those monkeys currently surrounding you.
But I am okay with those plays if he uses that initial push to create space for his teammates. Like here, he drives 1-on-2, then finds Gobert for the finish.
Not a travel, by the way: Gobert gets two steps after he catches the pass.
Or here. Man, that’s a lot of traffic to drive into. But he uses it to find Georges Niang for the open three.
I’m still not sure that those are wise moves, but if he can hold onto the ball then find an open man, it’s certainly effective. Tonight, the Jazz needed the aggression Mudiay provided. Ideally, on Saturday against the Rockets, they’ll be getting more aggression from the rest of the roster anyway.