Even as Jazz Nation was having an unequivocal meltdown in the aftermath of Monday’s second straight loss to the Wolves, coach Quin Snyder maintained afterward that he thought the team played well, they just didn’t shoot well.
And that’s totally on brand for a guy who constantly promotes process over results.
Which isn’t to say he’s happy with everything. Still, after Wednesday’s decimation of the Kings, he got all coaching savant and spelled out how while the fans and media were fixating on the team missing 40-some-odd 3s against Minnesota, he’s focusing more on “little things.”
“When you make a pass, where is that pass? Is it accurate? Those things oftentimes contribute to whether or not you’re making shots,” he said. “You know, if we’re looking at a three-game stretch, three games ago we we weren’t precise at all, particularly with our spacing. And we got better. … If we can play the right way, defend, that’s how I want to evaluate our group. If we evaluate our group on whether the ball is going in the basket, that has a tendency to make people not want to shoot. And we can’t be that team. We’ve got to continue to shoot, and there’s things that we can do to make more shots. But at certain times, this is a make-or-miss league, and the real challenge is to win when you’re not hitting shots.”
It was interesting hearing Quin discuss disincentive to shoot, considering that we don’t really associate such tendencies with any Jazz players, really, aside from Royce O’Neale and still sometimes Joe Ingles.
Quin went on to elaborate that he and his players actually “talked about it a lot.” He also mentioned that, to a certain extent, he agreed with the fan sentiment that maybe Utah should not have launched 57 tries from beyond the arc that night — “There’s truth to that — at the expense of getting to the line, or getting out in transition and maybe getting something easier at the rim.”
That said, he eventually circled back to “little things.”
“The priority, really, for me, is quick decisions. And if that means we’re open, it’s a quick decision to shoot the ball. And sometimes a game like that, like the other night, if you can fight through that, that’s how we have to play as a team,” Snyder said. “… So when you’re not making them, it puts that to a test. And, obviously, there’s other ways to score, it’s just not about 3s; I really think it’s about quick decisions, which for us should lead to 3s, because we have good shooters”
Tangent time — all this talk of “little things” has put me in mind of a certain song from 1994 by a London-based band called Bush. That tune was a fantastic little snippet of ’90s alt-rock, and Bush in general are dismissed far too easily. I’m guessing you haven’t listened to “Little Things” in a hot minute. Remedy that right now!
Matt Thomas relieved to make some shots
OK, so trade deadline acquisition Matt Thomas probably doesn’t figure into the team’s postseason plans in any substantive way. Still, you never know. And in the meantime, he can fill up some minutes while the team is short-handed.
So long as he’s making shots. Which he hadn’t really been doing prior to the Kings game.
So, him shockingly pouring in 17 points in nine minutes on 7 for 7 from the field took a weight off his shoulders.
“Definitely tough and frustrating as a shooter. And quite frankly, I haven’t had a cold stretch like that since, really, like, college. So it was just something I wasn’t used to,” Matt told reporters after the Sacramento game. “… Hopefully tonight I kind of got out of that slump.”
His former Iowa State teammate Georges Niang, who had 19 points himself in his third career start, was asked what he saw from his friend.
“I saw him trying to steal my shine, and that’s not cool of him,” Georges said with a laugh. “No, he was great out there. I was happy to see Matt make a ton of shots. He was great, he was great. He handled the ball, he made a ton of shots, he played great defense. Obviously, Matt’s a brother to me, so to see him succeed is something that makes me happy. I’m happy that he got out there. Seventeen points in nine minutes — that kid has been filling it up since he came out [of] the womb. So I’m proud of him.”
• Not gonna lie, I always kinda get a kick out of teams publicly shrugging off the importance of, say, losing two in a row to a lottery team like the Wolves, then eviscerating the Kings and immediately doing an about-face and expressing how much relief they’re feeling about winning again. It’s good to hear the truth, even if it takes a minute to emerge: “It’s great to be a part of a team that is winning like that, when every every single shot and whatever we do is going the right way,” said Bojan Bogdanovic. “We really, really needed this game before the big one in Phoenix. We struggled for the last couple of games, so it’s great that we had this win tonight.”
• My coverage partner, Andy Larsen, had a pregame exchange with Quin that, while not quite testy, was also not totally friendly, either. Andy was looking for info on Mike Conley’s new hamstring injury — when it happened, how severe it is, how long he might be out, et cetera. Quin, who absolutely loathes getting injury questions, tried to deflect by saying he’d defer to the info disseminated in the team statement. When Andy pointed out none of that info was in the statement, Quin relented the tiniest amount possible, disclosing that Mike was injured in the second Wolves game, probably late, didn’t immediately notice it, and “after the game, he felt a little tightness.” When Andy circled back to asking if there was a timetable on re-evaluating the point guard, Quin got a bit defensive again: “I’m not the head of medical performance. And all I can tell you is I hope he’s back quickly. And that information is, really, not for me to even convey, even if I knew the exact answer.”
• A much lighter moment came postgame when Georges was asked about what kind of encouragement Rudy Gobert provides his teammates: “Oh, he’s constantly reminding us that we need to play defense. We usually check in at the same time, when it’s that second stint [in the first quarter], and he always seems to remind me as I’m running up, like, ‘Let’s play defense. Let’s play defense.’ And if I cut someone off, I can hear him in the background being like, ‘Yeeeeaaahhhh! Yeeeeaaahhhh!’ And then he seemingly blocks someone’s shot. It’s pretty funny. But Rudy is our anchor, and we go as Rudy goes. He’s tremendous for us, he allows us to play the way we play. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year — there’s no other way around it. I’ll leave it at that.”
• Speaking of Georges, Quin got a bit zen when asked about the factors behind the sharpshooter’s improvement in both shooting and defense, saying that they are, in part, attributable to Georges’ improvement in passing and rebounding, too, and how offensive and defensive execution were all becoming intertwined for him: “When you’re focused on those things, it’s interesting — the rest of the game becomes easier and it just become instinctive. And you’re not thinking about whether you’re making or missing. If you define yourself solely by whether you make shots, you’re not going to be consistent. And those other things, you can do every night, and when you do them every night, my belief is that you’re not thinking and you’re playing more free and you’re playing aggressive. And I think that’s what you’re seeing Georges do. He’s not playing defense because he’s making shots, he’s making shots because he’s playing defense.”
• “What weakness have the Jazz repeatedly shown that is most likely to be exploited in the playoffs? What strength have the Jazz repeatedly shown that will be difficult to counter in the playoffs?” — @shumekot
Their lack of size beyond Rudy means that they are still susceptible — as the Wolves games showed — to long, aggressive, switchable defenses. They still don’t really have a stopper capable of slowing down quick and twitchy guards. And their drop-big style of defense means they can get picked apart by teams that excel in the midrange (like, say, Phoenix).
As for their best strength, it remains their deployment of multiple ballhandlers, initiators and sharpshooters. They have far greater capacity now to withstand and overcome a team shutting down Donovan Mitchell. Mike, Joe, Jordan Clarkson, Bojan, Georges, Royce are all capable of putting the ball on the floor (some more than others), moving the ball to find the open man and burying a shot when an open look comes their way. That optionality, passing and shooting efficiency will be huge as the pace slows in the postseason.
• “Out of the West, who is the Jazz’s hardest opponent they’ll face in the playoffs?” — @CorymRichins
It’s really hard to project specific matchups because so much is in flux. Do the Jazz finish with the 1 seed? The 2 seed? If so, who emerges from the play-in tournament? Could they face Steph and the Warriors? Could Luka and the Mavs wind up there? If your question is simply who’s gonna be the toughest Western team, well, everyone’s assuming the Lakers with healthy LeBron and AD, or the Clippers with healthy Kawhi and PG13. The Jazz could potentially see either of those in a second-round matchup. And either would be incredibly tough. (I’d probably say the Lakers, if healthy, are a tougher matchup.) I honestly feel like people are discounting the Suns because they don’t have any playoff experience beyond CP3 and Jae Crowder. They’ve got a ton of talent, and they’re well-balanced on both sides of the ball.