Granted, it was subsequently buried amid the rubble of the Utah Jazz’s epic fourth-quarter collapse, but there actually was some good within Monday’s loss to the Mavericks.
Notably, the team’s cadre of shooters (non-Bojan Bogdanovic edition) now appears to be fully weaponized.
Considering the way they started off shooting in the bubble, it’s no small thing that they’ve finally found their range.
After being among the league’s top two teams from beyond the arc throughout the regular season, the NBA’s restart did not witness the Jazz’s 3-point prowess getting restarted along with it. However, three straight games of sub-30% shooting from deep to start off with have have now given way to four consecutive at 40% or better.
“What I saw was a team that came out really ready to play. We had some guys — Georges [Niang] and [Jordan Clarkson] in particular — that got on track. We made shots,” coach Quin Snyder said after the Dallas game.
Niang especially was thrilled to see some of his shots go through the net.
Given the way he shot the ball in Utah’s first five games in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., some fans had begun to wonder if the Iowa State sharpshooter was even playable if he wasn’t hitting shots.
Through the Jazz’s first five games, Niang had converted only 9 of 37 attempts from the field (24.3%), and just 3 of 23 tries from beyond the arc (13.0%). Quite the surprise, considering Niang had been the team’s highest-percentage 3-point shooter before the seeding games started.
He began to show signs of coming around on Saturday vs. the Nuggets, though, hitting 3 of 5 shots, all from deep. And he backed that up again Monday vs. the Mavericks, totaling 13 points thanks to going 4 of 5 overall (and 4 of 4 beyond the arc).
“For me, it was just getting the rhythm. I came in and wasn’t shooting the ball great; it just took time for me to get adjusted and just relax and just get back to the feel and flow of the game I was playing before the season was paused,” Niang said. “So, once I got back to that feeling and kept getting reps with practice and shootarounds, everything seems seamless, and now I’m out there playing as confident as I was when the season stopped.”
That seems true of the team in general as it relates to their 3-point shooting.
When the Jazz went just 8 for 34 (23.5%) against the Pelicans, and the followed with 8-of-31 (25.8%) and 12-of-43 (27.9%) performances against the Thunder and Lakers, respectively, it was perhaps fair to wonder if Bogdanovic’s absence due to injury had irreversibly altered the way opponents defended the team, fundamentally changed the gravity that enabled other shooters to get more open looks.
Regardless of the reasons, the past four games seem to have taken the edge off the outside-shooting concerns, as the Jazz have gone 18 of 45 (40%) vs. the Grizzlies, 16 for 37 (43.2%) against the Spurs, 22 of 55 (40%) vs. the Nuggets, and now 21 for 46 (45.7%) against the Mavs.
“It actually feels good to get it going from 3. Obviously, me personally, I was struggling a little, so to start connecting on 3s was really huge. And I think the whole team, we’re doing the same thing,” Niang said. “We’re doing a great job of making 3s and taking 3s, so I think that’s huge for our success, and going forward I think that’s going to be [key] for our playoff games.”