The Triple Team: Jazz can’t buy a basket as they lose to Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) defends against a shot by Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Jacob M. Langston)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 107-100 loss to the Orlando Magic from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Worst shooting performance since 2018 sinks the Jazz

If you shoot 19% from deep, you’re gonna have a bad time. Teams shooting 19% from deep while taking 30 threes or more are 14-104 in the last decade — and the Jazz shot 8-42 tonight. Even if they shoot just 25%, their worst shooting performance last year, they probably win the game.

But I think it’s worth evaluating: why, exactly, did the Jazz have their worst shooting performance since the days of Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder, and Dante Exum?

Some of it is clearly some form of random variance. Jordan Clarkson is the clearest example of this: sometimes he gets outrageously hot and makes really tough shots, sometimes he gets outrageously cold and misses super easy shots.

Some of it is legs. I know people hate hearing this excuse, and yet it is true: it is tough to play three games in four nights. It is tough to write about three games in four nights. Clearly, the Jazz were short on a lot of those shots. In fact, I thought it was impressive that they got as many offensive rebounds as they got tonight, despite that lack of energy.

And I think some of it is their shot profile. There are stats that disagree on this, but according the pbpstats.com’s tracking numbers, the Jazz should be expected to hit 36.8% of the threes they’ve gotten so far this season; that’s below last year’s 38.5%.

The data tells the tale of what’s going on. There are two issues this season: the catch-and-shoot threes haven’t been falling as much, and they’re taking more pullups.

To me, the catch-and-shoot percentage is very likely to rebound. Guys like Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and so on, are very likely to see their catch-and-shoot percentages go up to heights they were at last season. Maybe there will be a small adjustment for having Eric Paschall rather than Georges Niang take a couple of those per game, but overall, it shouldn’t change that much.

But I do see that they’re taking more pull-up threes this year, about three per game more. To me, that’s an opportunity where I’d like to see the Jazz probe the defense a little bit more, and see if they can get some high-efficiency layups, lobs to Rudy Gobert, or, well, those catch-and-shoot threes!

So take a shot like this. Do you like that Mitchell took it?

I’m medium on it. Mitchell shot 32% on shots from beyond 25 feet last year, which equals out to 0.96 points per possession. The Jazz got 1.02 points per possession in the half-court last year, per CleaningTheGlass, but are at 0.95 points per possession this year. So... it’s roughly an average shot for the offense — zero risk of a turnover, but zero risk of a better shot.

Now, take into account some long-term stuff. Does Mitchell improve and get even better if he’s allowed to shoot these? Is it better for team chemistry to try to get Gobert more involved? Is injury risk lowered if you shoot from outside rather than going inside and causing havoc? Do you want to give Mitchell more reps at making decisions on the move without Conley? How do you weigh those various factors? It’s just a tough question.

In the end, I think I want a little bit more penetration. Not much, but a little.

2. Moving onto the next play

But you can see why Quin Snyder’s focus after the game was less on “my team just shot 19% from three” and more on the process that went into the other stuff — and in particular, transition defense. The Jazz allowed the Magic to get a transition play up on 43.8% of the Jazz’s missed shots, and the Magic scored 1.21 points per possession on those plays. Do better on those plays, and they win the game.

So here, Gobert just jogs back down the court, and never gets turned to face on defense. The result is a super easy layup:

The Jazz had a lot of mistakes like this — even the non-tired non-veterans like Trent Forrest also didn’t run back. It seemed like, because it was the Magic, that any mistakes they made were non-resolvable.

Finally, the game’s dagger three also featured one of these plays.

Mitchell is kind of just watching the scrum for the ball, meanwhile, the opposition is getting open from three. It was too important that the Jazz end that possession with a stop to just ball-watch like that.

Even the Orlando Magic are an NBA team; bringing focus even in these games will hopefully make it a habit for the playoffs.

3. Watching from the expensive seats

Most arenas nowadays put the traveling media in seats at the top of the lower bowl. Those seats are good, with a really valuable perspective of the action.

But there are a couple of arenas still that offer even better seats, at court level. Oklahoma City, Memphis, Phoenix and Dallas, for example, allow us to sit behind the scorers’ table. In Orlando, they sit us on the baseline closest to the Jazz’s bench.

That means we got to watch some interesting stuff unfold from that perspective tonight, and it is my duty as a Jazz reporter to share that with you.

• Rudy Gay was sitting on the bench in shorts, not street clothes. Did he go through a heavy pre-game warmup? I watched warmups for about an hour today, and didn’t see it, but it’s possible. Does his return near?

• Clarkson was wildly frustrated during the game tonight — not vocally, but the opposite. He stared into space during play and timeouts, as if he was questioning everything. At halftime, he told a fan that he was tired and that he missed the playoffs. You get the sense that even an average Clarkson performance might bring back some more joy into his game.

• Ingles still is a heavy communicator from the bench during timeouts, talking about what the Jazz could have done better on all sorts of plays.

• Paschall looks and talks to the bench very frequently for motivation — trash-talking of the unprintable nature.

• From court level, you could really see how much the Jazz were talking to the officials; they really should have been focusing on the game instead.