1. Winning in 2-on-2 pick and roll
The Jazz’s first-half offense was bad. As the Clippers were shorthanded and essentially forced to start a pretty small defensive lineup, the Clippers did the logical thing: fought peskily with defensive pressure on the perimeter.
Rather than helping inside like most teams would, the Clippers stayed tight to their perimeter matchups. That meant that the Jazz could play 2-on-2 in the pick and roll for most of the night.
At first, they were pretty bad at it. Take this play for example: Donovan Mitchell doesn’t use the screen well, and has no advantage here. I think he tries to draw a foul, but there’s no reason to throw a bad shot like this so early in the shot clock.
So what do you do? Well, it’s up to the ball-handler to stay under control and get a good look. Rather than trying to force a shot up, get one on your own terms:
You can also make 2-on-2 more disadvantageous for the defense by giving it more space. In other words, if Rudy Gobert sets the screen higher, that means Ivica Zubac has to come out further to guard Joe Ingles, and then Gobert can take advantage of the space down low.
Mitchell’s little scoring burst at the end of the first half kept the Jazz in it, and then Ingles’ mastery of the pick and roll game showed in the third and fourth to pull away. Clearly, this was a game that the Jazz missed Mike Conley, who probably would have been better right away at reading the situation than Mitchell. And yet, this is nitpicking, because they did figure it out, and ended up winning by nearly 20.
2. Rudy Gobert’s excellent night
It was another brilliant night for Rudy Gobert: 23 points, 20 rebounds, and a game-high +25. The Jazz had a 78 defensive rating with him on the court and a 114 with him off of it. He’s the biggest reason the Jazz won the game.
That last stat is the one that shows Gobert’s value best: the Jazz just kill opponents when he’s on the floor. In fact, he’s taken Mike Conley’s title as the best plus-minus player in the league — maybe a little unfair, given Conley’s absence, but stats are stats.
This is my favorite of the Gobert plays tonight. Watch it a few times, maybe, to see what happens and when.
Okay, so it’s a pick and roll, and Miye Oni gets screened pretty well. In other words, Gobert has two people to defend here. (Clarkson can pretend to help on Zubac down low, but as soon as Zubac gets within 10 feet, he’s going to be toast. Still, props to Clarkson for making the read complicated.)
But Gobert is constantly backpedaling in legal pouncing position, with those big arms out and making Amir Coffee think twice about anything he should consider. Coffee bails on the play, kicking it backwards, then Gobert gets back between Zubac and the hoop to be in good rebounding position.
The pass misses, it’s a loose ball. Gobert is 91 feet away from the other hoop, on a pass that kind of looks like it’s going out of bounds, with a 7-foot man in the way. Nevertheless, he takes off running down the court, just sprinting past Zubac.
Regardless, Clarkson does his Clarkson thing and fires. Look at where Gobert is when he shoots.
You can’t see him, because he’s not there. He’s not even in the frontcourt. Gobert gets an alley-oop putback on this play.
Sure, the shot takes an unusual two bounces off the rim. But think about how many basketball players aren’t running down the court in that situation. How many players aren’t sprinting behind Clarkson after the missed pass? And once they see Clarkson shoot and they’re not even beyond half-court yet, how many slow down there? Gobert runs all the way to the rim, reads where the rebound is going to end up, and just easily dunks it.
It’s kind of amazing, actually. You know, Gobert got a lot of credit in the postgame interviews for being a player who always plays with that passion, that chip on his shoulder. I’m telling you the opposite: I remember weeks-long stretches last year where Gobert didn’t play as hard as he could, or at the very least, used his efforts in selfish ways. He was pouting about not getting the ball enough. It was, if we’re honest, a big reason why the Jazz disappointed at times last season.
This version of Gobert is one of the very best players in the NBA. To be sure, it’s the version we see most frequently. But I think that he’s taken the effort to the next level this season, his best yet.
3. Quin Snyder’s All-Star nod
The first All-Star for the Jazz isn’t a player, but head coach Quin Snyder, who will be the Western Conference All-Star coach by virtue of having the league’s best record. He described being honored about the duty, but mostly that the credit should go to his players.
But those very same players had much more to say about Snyder than he wanted to say about himself.
“The attention to detail, just finding ways to get the best out of each each individual player. The man never sleeps,” Mitchell said. “The amount of effort that he puts into his craft is truly incredible. I got all respect and love in the world for the man. This is truly deserved, and I’m really happy for him.”
“The off-court stuff for me is something that I’ve never had. I mean, I’ve played in Europe, I’ve played with tons of different coaches,” Ingles said. “But to have someone that genuinely cares about everyone — I mean it: guys that have been traded, guys that have been cut, guys that are on ten days — like everyone that’s been here, he cares about. And to me, that’s pretty, pretty special and pretty rare, I think.”
“I think it’s a just reward for how he changed this franchise,” Gobert said.
You can tell that the players love playing for him, but we know that it’s not because Snyder is a coddler of a coach, either. He’s not afraid to get into guys and hold them accountable for poor play.
This All-Star experience is shorter than most, but I think it might help the Jazz to have Snyder around the league’s All-Stars a little bit. Dan Clayton said it well:
The Jazz probably aren’t going to sign LeBron James. But having a good reputation with the league’s best players never hurts.