The Triple Team: Jazz cruise to dominating win over Warriors thanks to smart defense and good shooting
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) takes the ball down court, as Golden State Warriors guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) defends, in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Arena, on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.
Look at this win-expectancy chart. The Jazz came in as 7.5 point favorites tonight at home, so they were already favored to win the game, but the Jazz put it completely away quickly:
From Inpredictable. (http://stats.inpredictable.com/nba/wpBox_live.php?gid=0022000242&odds=pregm&both=N)
See how Royce O’Neale is the Jazz’s MVP of the game, according to win-expectancy? That’s because he made three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game — in fact, those were his only points all night. But when you win a game to that level, by the end even accumulating a 40-point lead, the first quarter is the most important quarter, not the fourth.
That’s something that’s been pretty encouraging about this 8-game winning streak: they really have been making these games uncompetitive. They only beat the Nuggets by four points, but every other game in this streak has been by 10 points or more.
What have the Jazz been able to rely on? The biggest thing is their performance with the shot, on both sides of the ball. On the offensive end, they’re absolutely shooting the lights out. But just as importantly, on the defensive end, opponents aren’t getting good looks, nor are they making them.
And truthfully, when you do that, everything else is gravy. The Jazz were even able to get away with giving the Nuggets 23 offensive rebounds one night, and still came away with the win. The shot, and shot defense, matters most.
2. Warriors playing right into the Jazz’s hands offensively
Speaking of which, the Warriors weren’t impressive offensively tonight. They had a 36-point fourth quarter which salvages the numbers, but the first three quarters were pretty bleak. Even when they scored 30 in the first quarter, I thought they were extremely fortunate to make some of the shots they were taking.
Let me show you what I mean. Most teams trap Steph Curry, so that’s not new, but what I loved is how the Jazz handled the 4-on-3s that resulted. These are the bread-and-butter of the Warriors’ offense, taking advantage of these man-advantages in the half-court after Curry passes the ball.
So Looney gets the ball at the top of the key. He looks for the lob, but Derrick Favors isn’t stepping to him. He looks left, but Andrew Wiggins is essentially being face-guarded by Jordan Clarkson. He looks right, and Kent Bazemore is covered by Donovan Mitchell. So he just takes the goofy little 10-footer over the outstretched arm of Favors.
Does Looney make this one? Yes. Is Looney also a career 24% shooter from this range, so you feel pretty comfortable about him taking this shot as a defense? Also yes.
That’s really good defense: get the shot you want the opposing team to take.
They forced the Warriors into these little in-between shots over and over again, shots that you just can’t make into an efficient offense. In the second and third quarters, the Warriors started missing them.
In fairness, the Warriors also jacked up terrible looks on their own, without much of the Jazz doing anything about it. This is the Warriors’ second shot of the game.
Way to set a tone, Kelly Oubre. You’ve shot 35% on the year and 20% from 3. So you’re going to take a “My turn!” shot in the game’s second minute midway through the shot clock?
Oubre was far from alone on this... Andrew Wiggins, one of the league’s most notorious my-turn shot takers, certainly was guilty. So too was James Wiseman, at least he’s a rookie. Curry is the only one on the roster that has earned that right.
3. Bogey’s eight assist night
Bojan Bogdanovic had eight assists tonight! That’s a career high for him, and is also fun.
A few of these were just ball swinging: someone kicks out to Bogdanovic, the defense panics and closes out, and Bogdanovic just swings and the 3-point shooter makes it. Those are good plays, but they’re also pretty easy.
But a few of them were on drive-and-kick, and I do think that before tonight, Bogey could have stood to improve on keeping his eyes out as he drives toward the basket. Too often this year, Bogdanovic has attacked a small gap, found it closed, and forced something up rather than recycling or finding a teammate. Against the Warriors, he found passing gaps. Here’s a couple of those drive and kick assists.
On both, I think he gets a little lucky that Curry is cheating in, because without it, he wouldn’t have anywhere to go. And in fact, Curry almost steals the second one.
But the truth is that teams will often cheat in on these kinds of drives, and passing lanes will be open, especially if the shooters are relocating. So far, Quin Snyder’s team has done a good job of getting themselves open on the perimeter so they can be ready on these kinds of passes.
We’ll see if Bogey’s 8-assists are a trend or a 1-game fluke, but it was cool to see his teammates happy for him after the game. As for Bogdanovic himself, he wasn’t too impressed.
“It was mostly about extra passes I made early on in the game,” he said, when asked about his career high. “Not much about me.”