Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 125-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers from Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. The 3-point shooting, again
This team is just going to be fun to watch.
The Jazz led the league in 3-point percentage last year. I think this year, they’ve realized what that means: It means they can take all manner of threes, both when it’s comfortable and when it’s not, and it’s going to be a good shot.
I went back and watched 51 of the 52 threes attempted tonight — NBA.com didn’t have video of one — by Utah to try and figure out where they came from. Here’s the breakdown:
Drive and kick catch-and-shoot threes are still the most important setting for threes for the Jazz, but there’s so much variety in the other attempts. To get 10 threes up in transition is awesome — I think there were games last year where the Jazz didn’t have 10 transition possessions, period.
Quin Snyder is also running some plays to get shooters open by running off of screens. In particular, Jordan Clarkson is getting some of these looks, which makes sense: he’s the best combination of nimble and quick that the Jazz have, which means he’s adept at running off those screens.
Four whole threes came from just swinging the ball around the perimeter. If perimeter defenders start to sink in and help on Donovan Mitchell’s pick and rolls, he’s shown he can kick it quickly to the open man. That’s also the process for the two rub screen threes above, both coming from Ingles setting “screens” up top for the ball-handler to create some confusion.
Rudy Gobert assisted two threes: one, a dribble handoff to Bojan Bogdanovic, the other a short roll kickout to Bogdanovic. Offensive rebounds from Derrick Favors led to two threes. And the one pick-and-pop three was attempted by Juwan Morgan.
When I was watching the tape, I figured I’d see a lot of threes given up by the Clippers on the back of preseason laziness. Rotations are hard, why make the effort when the games don’t matter? But to be honest, I didn’t see much of it, though there were a few occasions. I saw legitimate efforts given, but the Clippers were largely selling out to stop the Jazz’s pick and roll, and they got burned.
In other words, I think this is largely sustainable. I don’t think the percentage is: just as there will be nights where the Jazz make 46% of their threes, there will also be nights where they make 30% of them. But the number of attempts? Yeah, I could see them averaging over 40 threes per game this year. Only two teams did last year: Houston and Dallas. It went well for both.
2. Avoiding turnovers
The other nice thing is that by having an itchy trigger finger from three, you reduce turnovers. Tonight, the Jazz only had nine turnovers, and two of them came during 4th-quarter garbage time.
Let me show you what I’m talking about by showing you one of the Jazz’s turnovers. Bogdanovic ends up turning this ball over at the end of this video, but I think he’s definitely open enough to rise and fire from three with how far away Paul George is on the screen and how deep Ivica Zubac is in the paint. Do you agree?
Donovan Mitchell had one of these kinds of turnovers, too. He forced the ball to Gobert, who predictably fumbled it, rather than just take the open pull-up three.
Now, I don’t mind guys exploring the paint — indeed, it was the largest source of threes, as you see above. But by changing the mixture of the “explore paint vs. keep it on the perimeter” recipe from, say, 80/20 to 60/40, you can cut out some turnovers and still end with shots that are still positive in terms of expected value over the average half-court possession. The Jazz did that tonight, and scored 125 points in 99 possessions as a result. Well done.
3. Thurl Bailey’s Christmas CD
You know what? It’s preseason at Christmas time. That particular confluence of events is probably not going to happen again, and so I’d argue there’s no better time to use the third Triple Team point do some frivolous stuff.
In particular: it has come to my attention that some of you don’t know about Thurl Bailey’s Christmas album, The Gift of Christmas. Every Jazz fan should know about this album, released in 2001, especially now as Bailey is more and more frequently Utah’s color commentator.
Bailey is legitimately very good at singing, and his deep voice makes perfect sense as the centerpiece of a Christmas album. Jazz fans have eight more days to play it. Be sure to sample all of the classics, of course, but don’t skip the auto-tuned “Merry Christmas to My Baby (Dance Mix),” either.
While we’re on the subject for probably the only time, don’t ever forget about the “The Jazz Brothers,” the 1987 bluesy group featuring Bailey, Karl Malone, Darrell Griffith, Dell Curry, Rickey Green, and Carey Scurry. Two songs of theirs have stood the test of time by continuing to exist on the internet:
• Keep Fightin’, featuring a breathy Karl Malone (proof) at 0:38.
• Keep It Sexy: a more upbeat track with a falsetto chorus and important-to-remember message.
If you’ve heard all of these before, I apologize for the re-gift. If not — well, Merry Christmas to you.
Update: Looks like Bailey told the story of the Jazz Brothers to... wait for it... Napster.
“There were only probably a couple guys who could carry a tune -- myself and probably Darrell Griffith. But there was a buzz around it. People kept playing it and playing it. And then we gave ourselves a name: The Jazz Brothers. So by that time, Dave Checketts, who was the GM for the Jazz at the time, kind of got in on it. And we got a phone call from Merrill Osmond, of all people -- talking about foresight [laughs] -- Merrill Osmond called, and wanted us to come down to the studio and write a couple songs for us.
So, you know, we came out with a couple songs. One was called “Keep Fightin’.” It’s kind of a theme for the Jazz, coming out and warming up, and people got into it. I have a poster where we’re all in tuxedos and tennis shoes. So we came out and sold a cassette that had The Jazz Brothers on it, and two songs that Merrill Osmond wrote, and so I guess our career as a group kind of started with that. We actually opened for Bob Hope at the Stadium of Fire in Provo, Utah, on the 4th of July one year. And so it was fun. I mean, it was kind of a little knee-jerk adventure in Phoenix, and it turned into something that was cool and people still kind of talk about. We have a video on YouTube that has us singing that song on TV or something, but yeah, we weren’t very good.”