Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 116-104 win over the Dallas Mavericks from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz offense sparkles, even without Mitchell
That might have been the most impressive Jazz win yet.
Playing without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s offense exploded anyway, scoring 69 first-half points and 116 overall to run all over the Dallas Mavericks.
And man, that offense was beautiful. Mitchell is obviously a remarkably talented player, but without him, the Jazz’s offense settled into this pick-and-roll rhythm. They have two PnR PhDs on the roster now in Joe Ingles and Mike Conley, and Rudy Gobert is certainly a capable target.
Ingles led the way with 21 points and eight assists. Every single one of his points came from outside the arc tonight, making seven of his eleven threes. Seven of the eight assists were to Gobert on the pick and roll; the eighth was to Royce O’Neale on an alley-oop. It’s just a masterclass.
Jordan Clarkson was sublime, just continuing to do Jordan Clarkson stuff but at the highest possible level. He scored 31 points on 21 shots tonight. I love what Zach Lowe called him last week — a thin Boris Diaw. He just dribbles and squirms and shimmies his way towards the basket, and then once he gets there, he somehow finds a path to get the ball up on the backboard and in.
This is some absolute nonsense: with the left hand, to scoop it from this low to that high off the backboard and in? It’s preposterous.
Oh, and then there was Gobert himself, who had a casual statline of 29 points, 20 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. Especially in the first three quarters, he found a really nice balance of staying aggressive but patient.
Gobert can get in trouble offensively when he tries to be too quick with his movement. The ball can slip out of his hands, or he can lose balance leading to some really easy missed layups. But he also gets in trouble if he just pumpfakes or dilly-dallies, waiting for the defense to recover to him.
Instead, if he catches, pivots, and then dunks, well, he’s really powerful. Check out the 1:05 mark of this video:
It was a really nice overall team win to step up in Mitchell’s absence and dispatch the Mavs easily.
2. Jazz’s creative defense
This looked like the Jazz’s toughest defensive test in a while. The Mavericks were a historically good offense last year, and while they’ve only been 12th so far this year, that’s largely been due to a ton of injuries — they haven’t had Kristaps Porzingis or Josh Richardson or Dorian Finney-Smith for a majority of their games this season, but all were playing tonight.
And of course, the Jazz were missing Derrick Favors, their second-unit defensive anchor.
The Jazz handled it creatively.
First, they had Rudy Gobert guard Finney-Smith to start the game, even though Porzingis was playing at center. That made sense because the Jazz were comfortable letting Finney-Smith shoot, while leaving Porzingis open isn’t a good idea. Gobert, as a result, got to play centerfield a little bit. Gobert’s three blocks and three steals tell the story here.
Second, they changed up the rotation. Gobert’s been sitting for Favors in the middle of quarters, but this game, Snyder had Gobert play most of his minutes when Luka Doncic was out there. That meant Gobert could use his influence on the court when the Mavericks are hardest to guard.
But when you do that, the bench unit has to play well. The five-man group of Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Miye Oni, Georges Niang, and Juwan Morgan played really, really well together. I was wildly impressed with their defensive communication, especially when they played zone. The Mavs tried to run their zone offense, but it wasn’t super successful because the Jazz handled all of the switches so well.
The end result is that the Mavs weren’t at all a threat from the rim area. They got only 22 shots down there, and only made 11 of them. Even though they were pretty efficient from the other areas of the court, the Jazz keeping control of the paint meant they weren’t ever a threat to outscore the Jazz.
3. Is Quin Snyder the leading candidate for coach of the year?
It’s not that Quin Snyder is a wildly different coach than he has been since he took over in 2014 — he’s certainly implemented different things, but he’s had a pretty similar philosophy year after year with this group, building around Rudy Gobert first, then Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell as offensive centerpieces.
But everything is coming together right now. Here’s the Quin Snyder as COY argument:
• The Jazz have the best record in the league. Removing garbage time, the Jazz have the league’s 4th best offense and 2nd best defense.
• His plays are getting his players open shots. Look at this chart posted on Twitter today — among the 50 most frequent 3-point shooters, the Jazz have three players get more open shots than most of them. It doesn’t surprise defenses when Bojan Bogdanovic, Donovan Mitchell, and Mike Conley shoot threes, but Snyder’s plays are effective enough that he’s getting his team open threes over and over again.
• He’s getting the most out of his players, developing them. Jordan Clarkson is the obvious example here. He played for five coaches before Snyder, but none of them got anything close to this out of him. It’s like Snyder was able to iron out the wrinkles and enhance the best of Clarkson in a shockingly effective way.
But Clarkson’s not alone. Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale were plucked from international obscurity to become extremely effective role players. Georges Niang is playing at a high level right now, he was a second-round pick who had extremely rough stretches, and now looks like a capable defender. Miye Oni is contributing. Bojan Bogdanovic isn’t having a good season this year, but last year, Snyder took him to new heights. Heck, even Conley is averaging career-highs in assists per minute.
• He’s nailing the rotations. The Conley/Gobert dance has been a masterstroke this year, and it’s creative. Morgan, Oni, and Niang have been played nearly the perfect amount. And he’s getting high quality play from the whole group while keeping their minutes at super reasonable levels.
• The team’s chemistry is fantastic. It wasn’t very long ago that everyone was worried about how Mitchell and Gobert would co-exist after a pretty public (and real) feud. Now, they look terrific together, as does the rest of the roster.
It’s so early, and we’ll see if the Jazz can keep their lofty record. Doc Rivers is a reasonable choice out East with Philly, and J.B. Bickerstaff has surprised with the Cavs so far this year. But if the vote were happening today, Snyder would have a good chance of winning it.