Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 106-102 win over the Toronto Raptors from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Bojan Bigdanovic, aggressive again
The header was an unintentional typo at first, but it was so appropriate, I decided to keep it.
Bojan Bogdanovic* was the most efficient source of Jazz offense all night, making big buckets early and late in this game to push the Jazz over the top on a second night of a back to back. He scored 34 points on 22 shots, adding four rebounds and four assists, too.
In particular, he showed the aggression he’s sometimes lacked this season, especially at shooting the 3-ball.
Take a look at this shot, for example. DeAndre Bembry is actually really, really close to Bogdanovic when he catches the ball, but he’s not close enough to actually get into Bogdanovic’s sight line on the three. So Bogdanovic fires and hits.
I also thought he was very, very effective in the post. He finished over his left shoulder with a fadeaway 8-footer at one point, then went right shoulder towards the basket for another basket. Then when the defense started to be more concerned with Bogdanovic’s post-ups, he started passing out of it to great effect.
Post-ups aren’t usually efficient plays, but Bogdanovic’s might be an exception. This year, he’s scoring 1.01 points per possession when he takes the shot out of post-ups, which is pretty darn good — 87th percentile in the league, and you’ll certainly take it for a half-court play.
But when he passes out of a double team, he’s even better. In fact, according to Synergy Sports, the Jazz have scored 1.66 points per possession when the defense commits to Bogdanovic in the post.
Finally, I thought he defended really well. Bogdanovic can be in trouble on fast matchups, but with Toronto’s smaller lineup, he spent a significant amount of time guarding Pascal Siakam. He did really well with the matchup, I thought. Here, he meets Siakam at the point of attack, stays with the second move, contests without fouling. It’s nice.
There are some players who have seen their performances decline as we enter the playoffs, but Bogdanovic has generally played well in these last 11 games, averaging over 20 points per game again on good shooting numbers. And I think Quin Snyder has found some good defensive roles for him. Tonight, it resulted in the win.
2. Trent Forrest, the best stretch of his Jazz career
Trent Forrest has been thrown into the fire here, with Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley out, the result of the Jazz not really having a third point guard on the roster.
The results have been up and down. Forrest really struggled last night in Phoenix, and if you defend him in the right way — which is to say, not from the perimeter — he can float out of a game and help the defense against the Jazz’s better scorers.
But he does have some NBA skills. For Snyder, I think first is his activity and smarts on the defensive end: generally getting up into players with good length, defending without fouling, and shading his opponent into Rudy Gobert or Derrick Favors. This is just great effort to get back in front and end up blocking the shot.
He’s not an above-average defender yet, I don’t think, but it’s so hard for rookies to be — they just don’t know the tricks of the trade yet.
For me, I think his number one ability is actually a nice combination: the ability to get into the paint and keep his eyes out, looking for 3-point shooters. 21 of Forrest’s 32 assists this season have been for 3-point shots, to give you an idea. It’s obviously a skill that meshes nicely with this 3-point heavy Jazz roster. This one is even sort of a no-look: watch how the Toronto defenders step towards Clarkson before closing out on Bogdanovic.
Now, there are significant downsides to Forrest. Essentially, he doesn’t have a consistent way to score in the NBA right now. He can’t shoot a lick — I understand he made a three tonight, which pushes him up to 20% on the season — and he can’t finish inside among the trees. That means, honestly, if teams scout him, he’s going to be a detriment to the Jazz’s offense.
But hey, he’s fun, and there’s a chance he figures out the shot this summer. If he gets it to an adequate place, he could be an actual NBA backup point guard. And if not, well, he did play a key part in a key win for the Jazz on May 1, 2021.
3. Joe Ingles’ above-the-break turnovers
I understand that there’s a ton of shot-creation pressure on Ingles right now, with Conley and Mitchell out. It’s tiring work to run pick and roll over and over again, or even just bringing up the ball a majority of possessions when you’re not used to it.
And yet, there are acceptable consequences of that fatigue and unacceptable consequences. And turnovers like this, where Ingles gives the ball above the 3-point line, are nearly always worth two points on the other end. It’s just too costly a mistake, the most costly mistake you can make, really.
Like this: as soon as Ingles picks up the ball that far away from the basket, Bembry looks at where the pass could come from and intercepts the bounce pass. If Ingles keeps the dribble live, Bembry can’t gamble. Even if he picks it up, Georges Niang is getting ready to set a screen on the other side for Ingles to pass to, and he should just wait a beat.
This is similar: the Jazz’s offense frequently makes this pass, but Ingles isn’t snappy enough about making it this time, so Malachi Flynn can just run in there and steal it.
These are just huge plays. In the end, the Jazz’s 21 turnovers didn’t cost them the victory tonight, but it could have easily been a different outcome on a different day.