The Triple Team: Jazz get unlucky, Mavs get lucky from deep to snap Jazz’s winning streak

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley, right, drives past Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Richardson, left, to the basket for a shot in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Monday, April 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-103 loss to the Dallas Mavericks from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. So it goes.

I think it’s fair to say that that was a frustrating game for Jazz fans.

The Jazz’s shots weren’t falling, Dallas’ were, and so the Mavs ended up outscoring the Jazz from deep by 33 despite a similar number of attempts. And yet, the Jazz only lost by eight.

Jazz/Mavericks shooting charts. Jazz shooting on the left, Mavericks on the right. (NBA.com)

I do not think the Jazz defended poorly. Essentially, they used the same defensive strategy that they used against the Mavericks in their first two matchups this season: have Rudy Gobert guard Dorian Finney-Smith, keep Gobert at the paint for the most part, and take advantage of the Mavericks’ aggressive pick-and-roll defense to get open threes of their own.

It’s just that, on this night, the Mavs’ worst shooters shot much, much better than the Jazz’s best shooters.

I even thought the Jazz’s overall looks were of a higher quality than their opponents. Synergy Sports data and NBA.com data both confirm: the Jazz contested more shots. Dallas’ contested shots went in, Utah’s open ones didn’t.

This kind of night is more frustrating for fans than it is for players and coaches. The players and coaches, after all, know that they’re putting in the same efforts and doing the same process that has brought them 38 wins out of 50 games this season.

The quotes from tonight reflect that wholeheartedly.

“They made it a lot of shots, we missed a lot of easy ones,” Gobert said. “And despite all that, we lost by eight points.”

“I think we’ll be fine,” Mike Conley said. “I think that guys understand what we’re capable of doing and we’re trying to hope to eliminate as many nights like we had tonight and just keep shooting that ball.”

“How many turnovers did we have tonight? Eight? You know, I think we did a lot of good things, generated good looks, shots just didn’t fall,” Donovan Mitchell said. “And let’s move on to the next one.”

So Jazz fans, my advice to you is the same advice Georges Niang took when he was facing a shooting slump early in the season: listen to Michelle Branch’s “Breathe,” and set your sights forward to the Jazz’s next matchup — a big one against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

2. Royce O’Neale’s shooting

The only player I might be a titch worried about after that game is Royce O’Neale. Not really because he went 0-8 from three — players will have bad nights like that — but because of how badly he was missing from deep.

Some of these misses aren’t even close:

That first one is both deep and right. Second one is well left. Third is an airball — that’s not what you want. Fourth was very close on an open corner three. Fifth was short, but it was a deep three in transition. Sixth three was well left, and at this point the Mavs weren’t even closing out on O’Neale. Seventh was also close on an open corner three. And eighth was well short, again wide open from the top of the arc.

The distance of the misses, combined with some defensive issues tonight — at one point, the Mavs were even targeting O’Neale defensively — was some cause for concern. O’Neale is now 2-18 from deep over his last four games, so this is a little continuation of a short slump.

Now, odds are that I should take my own advice, just Breathe, and everything will be okay. O’Neale will find his shot again with some extra shooting work over the next few days, and worries will be over. But suffice it to say that the Jazz depend a lot on O’Neale as a player: when he’s a defensive stalwart shotmaker, they’re nearly impossible to beat. When he’s average, the Jazz can be pretty beatable too.

3. Donovan Mitchell and the fastest basket ever?

I did enjoy the game’s first play: Donovan Mitchell lining up to steal the tip, then sprinting to the basket for a layup.

The game’s scorer said that this basket occurred with 11:54 on the clock, but that was clearly a case of taking some extra time to get settled for the game: it’s obviously through the basket and even in Luka Doncic’s hands at 11:56. That’s pretty quick!

Is it the fastest basket ever after the tip ever? Well, because of that scoring inconsistency, we’ll never know. Basketball Reference has play-by-play data back to the late 1990s, and there have been 41 other baskets in the game’s first four seconds since then.

One shot, Derek Anderson’s, is credited as happening with zero seconds elapsed, which seems unlikely. There’s another from Josh Smith that is credited as occurring at 11:58. That also happened before every NBA shot was saved on video, so I can’t find it.

There have been 13 shots credited at the 11:57 mark, but only two in the last decade. One is Andre Roberson’s on October 28, 2015. It’s pretty fast, faster than Mitchell’s.

Enjoyably, that was the first two points of the season for the Thunder. It was also the only two points Roberson would score in that game.

Two days later, Nic Batum would score the NBA’s most recent 3-second basket. He took advantage of the clock stopping after a foul to get this one through in 11:57.

So no, Mitchell’s basket is not the soonest in recorded history, but it’s not too far off. You can imagine how another might be scored more quickly: a foul, then an alley-oop might be the quickest possible way, but maybe a foul drawn outside the 3-point line might be more likely.

Still, this was pretty quick, and I thought worth noting.

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