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The Triple Team: Jazz aren’t really making each other better as they lose fourth game out of five

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) as the Utah Jazz host the Miami Heat, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-105 loss to the Miami Heat from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. I just don’t think there’s a lot of cohesion on this team right now

When I watch this team, I don’t feel like they’re making each other better on either end of the floor. I don’t think it’s a chemistry issue: the team backed each other up pretty strenuously during the Rudy Gobert fracas against the Pacers. But, for whatever reason, there’s a lot of my-turn, your-turn offense.

Last year, the Jazz were 12th in the league in passes per game. Sure, reasonable enough. This year, they’re 27th. I’m not saying that more passes are necessarily better, but there is a clear downtrend in how many times the Jazz are passing the ball.

It feels as if all of Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson aren’t going to pass it unless they absolutely have to, and as a result, there’s some settling for shots.

Is this a shot Mitchell is capable of making? Of course. But would I feel better about him driving, then kicking to Ingles, to either take it himself or swing it? I would.

When you do this, you’re easy and predictable to guard. The shot above isn’t one of these, but the pull-up shot from three especially, is a reasonable mathematical decision. But it also prevents you from getting deeper into possessions and using each other to get dunks and layups at the rim — the Jazz only had 11 of those tonight, a low number.

“No coverage should take us away from playing Jazz basketball and moving the ball,” Gobert said.

Defensively, we see these issues too. Like, there’s just not a lot of communication here, as Bam Adebayo takes advantage of the underneath action to get an easy path to the rim.

It’s very blah, the way the Jazz are playing right now. Good offense is leading to missed catch-and-shoot threes. Bad offense is leading to my-turn, your-turn basketball. Good defense is leading to opponent offensive rebounds. Bad defense is leading to open layups for the opposition.

It’s not especially fun to watch, honestly.

2. Let me show you something about Jordan Clarkson

Trying to find out what was wrong with the Jazz’s defense tonight, I watched every Miami Heat made basket.

To be sure, there were mistakes by other players. But Jordan Clarkson was involved in so, so many bad defensive plays tonight for the Jazz, that even though he had a pretty good night offensively, he was certainly a net negative.

Here’s a little two minute compilation. Certainly, not all of these plays are all Clarkson’s fault. But, well, some of them are, and in the others, he plays a major role.

So... what now?

The sad thing is that I think Clarkson is trying more on defense this year. But he’s just getting killed on all of these little plays, especially recently. It’s almost that he’s in his own little world on the defensive end, and so misses communications, or loses focus for a split second — at no point does it really feel like he’s part of a five-man defensive unit.

I don’t think he’s all there mentally right now — he just looks out of it. He looks like he cares, and he’s obviously extremely frustrated about his mistakes, but there’s kind of a cumulative effect to them, even when he has his offensive game rolling like tonight. He’s also so earnestly supportive and loving for his teammates in real life that you can tell he’s furious about letting them down, too.

I don’t really know what will snap him out of it, but it sort of feels like something happened to him in his life that he’s distracted by. Maybe he just needs a vacation. I’m sympathetic.

3. I don’t give the Jazz a lot of credit for that so-called comeback

Here’s the Jazz’s win-probability graph from this game, from Inpredictable:

Jazz's win probability vs. Miami, from Inpredictable.

Did the Jazz cut the Heat lead to four? Yes. Did it give them more than a prayer at winning the game? Not really. The odds of victory never got above 1% late — you can barely see the budge the Jazz made late.

I was relatively impressed by the Jazz’s comeback in the first game against the Heat last week, because, well, they actually had a shot to win that time. This time, though, they were down by 27 points when starting their comeback. The Heat had already taken their foot firmly off the gas. Don’t let that 27-point lead happen next time!

To their credit, the Jazz weren’t exactly patting themselves on the back for cutting the margin, either.

“We can’t be a team that gets down to lock in,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t say we’re out here panicking or anything like that. I think it’s upsetting, that would be the word I would use.”

They have two days off to figure stuff out, then they face a Joel Embiid-less Philly team on Tuesday.

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