It’s a rarity when an efficient shooting night from 3-point range and an overall poor offensive performance coincide for the Utah Jazz, but such was the case for the Utah Jazz in their Game 3 loss on Saturday night.
They hit 19 shots beyond the arc at a 43.2% clip — but managed only 106 total points.
Donovan Mitchell dropped in another 30-piece — but needed 24 shots to do it.
Joe Ingles (19 points on 6 for 11) and Royce O’Neale (12 points on 4 for 8) had efficient nights, but Bojan Bogdanovic (nine points on 2 for 10) and Jordan Clarkson (14 points on 5 for 16) left plenty of points out there.
In the aftermath, the Clippers celebrated the efficacy of their strategy to throw hard, trapping double-teams at Mitchell, thereby forcing him to either work harder to score, or to leave it in the hands of his teammates.
“We just made an emphasis that he’s not going to beat us tonight,” said Paul George. “We’re going to force everybody else to play, and we’re just not going to let him walk in shots tonight and get the looks that he wanted early tonight.”
L.A. guard Reggie Jackson asked coach Ty Lue for primary defensive responsibilities on Mitchell, even while acknowledging the All-Star guard is “one of the better players in this league,” someone who is “talented and relentless and going to attack all night.”
Still, he knew he’d have plenty of scheme help coming his way, as the Clippers set out to nullify Mitchell’s ability to attack defenders individually.
“Honestly, we found a way to load up on him. Just try to load up on him, try to attack him, whether it be sending doubles at times, get the ball out of his hands,” Jackson said. “We want to limit the amount of time he himself got to attack and just play one-on-one.”
Mitchell acknowledged that it was a unique strategy, saying he “hadn’t seen a double like that since like high school.”
That said, while he expects to see more of it going forward, he wasn’t really of the opinion that it was necessarily a game-changer.
“I think just we missed a few easy ones,” Mitchell said. “That’s definitely tough. They want to throw a double? That’s fine. I have no problem getting off the ball. I told you guys the other day, we all trust each other to make plays and make shots, and tonight we didn’t really make shots and make them pay for doubling. And at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.”
Joe Ingles agreed, praising Mitchell for locating open teammates out of the double-teams, and saying the Jazz simply didn’t do a good enough job of capitalizing on the looks they got.
“The double-teams with Donovan, the blitzing, and the soft blitz when he got over the half[court line], just to get it out of his hands — Donovan made some great reads off it. We missed some shots,” he said. “But those things, we hadn’t seen them do that. We were still prepared for it, but we obviously didn’t execute it.”
While coach Quin Snyder praised the Clippers for playing a brilliant game, he also intimated that the doubling against Mitchell was pretty far down the list of his concerns.
Like his players, he saw missed opportunities in those possessions. Of more concern to him was improving the team’s decision-making, speeding up their recognition and reaction, making faster reads, and, from a performance perspective, simply making more accurate passes.
“To be honest, I think if you look at the possessions where they were doubling Donovan, we really got good looks. I thought he did a great job of getting off the ball when we needed to, and in some respects, that’s when we were spaced the best,” Snyder said. “When a team really picks up and gets into you, you have to attack them, and when you do that, you’re usually going to have to get off the ball quickly and make quick decisions, whether you shoot it when you’re open or pass it or drive it. And I thought, those decisions need to be better.”