Struggling from outside, Utah Jazz looking to get their 3-pointers going again

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) dribbles between Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (2) and forward Georges Niang (31) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

For most of this season, the Jazz have ranked either first or second in the NBA in 3-point percentage, thanks to having the likes of Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang hitting so many of their deep looks.

But through the first two of their “seeding games” in the bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that deep shooting touch had disappeared. After going 8 of 34 in the opener against the Pelicans, they followed up with an 8-of-31 performance vs. the Thunder.

That’s a combined 24.6%.

Granted, it’s a small sample size, but given that the Jazz have been eliminated the past two postseasons as a result of not being able to hit open 3s in the playoffs, fans have naturally been concerned.

Coach Quin Snyder, meanwhile, has not been, saying it’s imperative that Utah remains aggressive from the 3-point arc.

“There’s been a lot of emphasis on spacing. I think that’s been a key component for us. We haven’t been as disciplined or as aware or focused on doing that. And I think as we do that, some of those looks are gonna be cleaner and better, and we know we need to keep shooting,” Snyder said. “… I think the biggest thing is us taking those shots and not turning them down and understanding that sometimes that shot may be a little bit contested, but it’s still a good shot.”

And indeed, the Jazz came out against the Lakers getting a host of open looks beyond the arc — only to miss all nine of their attempts out there, which temporarily dropped their collective 3-point shooting in seeding games to 21.6%.

Things did improve a bit in the second quarter. Their first offensive sequence of the period culminated with Mike Conley drilling an open trey, and the Jazz would go on to hit 5 of 12 from deep in that 12-minute stretch.

Still, for the game, Utah went just 12 for 43 from deep. Center Rudy Gobert, however, has confidence that his teammates’ long-range attempts will start to drop.

“We had some great shots, and that’s really the positive thing. Donovan [Mitchell] did a great job driving and dishing to the shooters, and did a great job creating multiple actions, and, you know, helping guys getting wide-open shots. And that’s exactly what we want,” he said. “Some nights, the shots are not going to go in. But all the guys are gonna keep getting reps in. And I’m confident in Georges, Jordan [Clarkson] — all these guys — Joe, shooting those 3s. They are great shooters and they need to make those shots. I think that shows we have great potential as a team.”

From flat-footed to front-footed

Joe Ingles being Joe Ingles, he’s not going to overreact to any singular loss, even if Saturday’s wire-to-wire blowout at the hands of the Thunder was particularly dispiriting.

So, when Ingles spoke to the media following Monday morning’s shootaround, he made sure to mention that “we knew coming in here it wasn’t going to be perfect.”

That said, even he recognized that Utah did not do enough to match OKC’s confrontational style.

“They were aggressive the other night and they took us out of some stuff. And we didn’t stay on our front foot and be aggressive back,” Ingles said. “One of the biggest factors was just that their aggressiveness.”

Though L.A. plays a decidedly different style than do the Thunder, the Jazz nevertheless came out with more offensive intensity on Monday, displaying quicker decision-making, moving more around the court, and taking advantage with pinpoint passing.