Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 115-112 win over the Toronto Raptors from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. I love Donovan Mitchell’s statline tonight
Donovan Mitchell won tonight’s game for the Jazz with a flurry of baskets late: he went on a personal 8-0 run to turn a 5-point Jazz deficit into a 3-point Jazz lead in the game’s final two minutes. Pretty good!
But rather than focusing on those plays in particular I want to talk about his statline tonight: Mitchell had 31 points on 8-20 FG, 0-9 3P, 15-16 FT, along with six assists, five rebounds, three steals, and three turnovers.
What stands out?
First, that Mitchell went 0-9 from deep, but kept shooting. I am 100% for Mitchell shooting his 3-point shot when he’s not contested, because he is a terrific shooter. According to Synergy Sports, he’s a 93rd percentile catch-and-shoot guy, and a 64th percentile pull-up shooter. Even when he misses a few in a row, I’m love him staying aggressive in that aspect of the game.
Second, that he got to the free-throw line 16 times — only two of those free-throws were end-of-game take fouls. But Mitchell really was able to take advantage of the Raptors touch fouls throughout the game and get to the stripe.
Like this one here. The Jazz get the switch and have Pascal Siakam on Mitchell. To deal with Mitchell’s speed, Siakam put his left arm on him, and as soon as he felt it, Mitchell went up and drew the whistle.
That’s a smart play from the fourth-year player.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was pretty upset with some of these whistles after the game; the Jazz ended up with 41 free-throws while the Raptors only had 14. I do think he had a case on a few of them... this one is a really quick whistle to give Kyle Lowry his fourth, sending Mitchell to the line for two with the Jazz in the bonus. I think he managed to choose his words carefully enough to avoid a fine, but we’ll see.
Still, it’s good to see that Mitchell is making opposing coaches frustrated — a sure sign of a good player.
Third, I thought Mitchell’s steals tonight were worth noting. His perimeter defense has been poor recently, but it was better tonight. Watch him here stay really engaged on Fred VanVleet, enough to turn a simple dump-off pass into a Jazz possession.
Now, is that mostly VanVleet’s mistake? Of course. But when you play unfocused defense, you never have the chance to take advantage of mistakes like that, never have the chance to tap a short pass away. Because Mitchell stayed focused and engaged on the defensive end, he got his team a stop. I really enjoyed his approach on both ends tonight.
2. Quin Snyder, staying with the hot hand
Quin Snyder made one of his biggest coaching moves of the season tonight in Tampa (where Toronto is playing all of their home games this season). That move was a non-move: rather than take Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert out for their normal rest in the fourth quarter, both players played the entire fourth as the Jazz fought for a win.
That’s been unusual for Snyder, who usually keeps really consistent rotations. This year, his gambit of playing Derrick Favors in the middle of every quarter, allowing Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Ingles, and Gobert to dominate against bench lineups, has been one of the coaching masterstrokes of the NBA season — that lineup seemingly creates a 10-0 run out of nowhere nearly every game.
But in recent games, the Jazz had been really struggling with those middle minutes in the fourth quarter. When opposing starters are focused, they can just attack Favors in the paint. Meanwhile, with Bojan Bogdanovic struggling, Mitchell sometimes has to use every possession in those middle minutes — not always ideal, especially with crunch time coming up.
And even with playing the entire fourth quarter, Ingles and Gobert both only ended up playing 33 and 35 minutes, respectively. I’m absolutely fine with them getting that much playing time in a close game.
Now, did it work? Eh. The Jazz actually had a 10-point lead with about eight minutes to go in this one, before the Raptors closed the margin in those middle minutes anyway. Watching the tape, it’s hard to see how Gobert and Ingles were at fault, but who knows: maybe a rested Bogdanovic or Favors could have done better. Gobert did play terrific defense in the game’s closing stretch, but he would have been in there anyway.
This was also a little bit of an unusual circumstance. Raptors coach Nick Nurse had taken an abundance of timeouts throughout the game, so many that Snyder actually had some extra ones to use in the fourth. That was why, he said, he was comfortable playing those guys so long without a break — actually, they were getting many breaks on the bench, just during timeouts.
Regardless, I’d like to see it more often. In these close games, there’s just such a difference between having Gobert on the court and not. Playing Gobert more seems like it will be worth it.
3. End of half heave from Fred Van Vleet
Fred Van Vleet hit a remarkable shot at the end of the half to keep the Raptors within one. From halfcourt, Van Vleet turned and threw up the ball towards the basket, which then banked in, all in 0.4 seconds.
Or did he? Looking at the tape, it’s easy to see what’s wrong: the clock doesn’t even start until the ball is midway through the air! Still, the shot counted. How?
Us Jazz media writers were going to make a pool reporter request to talk to the officials about the play after the game, but then we got word from the league office as to what happened: at halftime, the league’s replay center actually timed the length of time the shot takes, and found that it was under 0.4 seconds. They do that by syncing the video to a timer, then seeing where Van Vleet’s touch started vs. where it finished.
Jazz fan Ken Clayton did the same thing on a 30 frames per second feed of the game, and found that the shot took 12 frames... or 0.4 seconds. It’s pretty remarkable that Van Vleet was able to get the shot away that quickly, but it appears that he did.
Every end of quarter shot is reviewed, and if necessary, in this manner. Thanks to the NBA office for the quick clarification on this shot — because it certainly was a shot that was a little out of the ordinary!