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The Triple Team: The Jazz, down 10 players, lose by 20 to the Cavs. Were there lessons for the future?

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, right, shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman, left, and guard Darius Garland, center, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-91 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. The Jazz weren’t horrible at switching defense!

You know what? I’m taking some positives out of that game.

Is losing by 20 to the Cavaliers good? Of course not. But the Jazz had no one in the game who was over 6-6, because all of Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside, Udoka Azubuike, and Rudy Gay all have COVID, and Joe Ingles got ejected. So, I didn’t expect a win. I didn’t expect a close game. I expected a big loss against one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.

In these circumstances, it’s about the process — can you learn something that is going to be useful down the road? And to me, I thought there were some strong points in their defense that meant that it wasn’t a total calamity, unlike their previous games.

In particular, I thought it was smart to start the game with all small players, and just switching everything. If there’s one silver lining to the no centers situation, it’s that there’s a ton of clarity about how the Jazz have to defend — switch everything, help down low.

And that clarity really helped.

Check this out: Jordan Clarkson pops out well, Joe Ingles gets caught up on the screen, but Eric Paschall helps perfectly, and Denzel Valentine anticipates the pass and gets the steal. Well done all the way around!

Or this play in the 4th: Jordan Clarkson’s fighting down low, Bogdanovic is shading over to make it a tough pass, and look at Royce’s on-ball defense: he’s making Evan Mobley’s life hell. That’s such good on-ball defensive pressure — more of that, please!

I was also impressed with the Jazz’s rebounding efforts. The Cavs only had seven offensive rebounds; they got a lower percentage of rebounds after their own misses than they do in their usual games. I thought they really competed on that end.

In other words, I think there’s stuff to build on here. It wasn’t a gigantic failure, it was... fine. Acceptable. Not perfect by any means, but fine. And for the Jazz, that’s an improvement.

2. Can Eric Paschall find a spot in the rotation?

Eric Paschall was absolutely terrific tonight, scoring 18 points on 8-11 shooting, and playing some really pretty good defense as well — see above.

I was most impressed with his ability to attack some really, really good defenders, and just beat them at the rim despite his lack of height. Evan Mobley has been absolutely terrific in his rookie season, and Jarrett Allen is an extremely good rim protector. Oh, and they’re only 20 and 23, respectively.

But Paschall just went through them. This is perfect technique: displace the defender without it being a foul, use patience to make sure you’re still under control, hit the easy shot.

This is a nice in-and-out move to beat Allen to the spot.

That last video actually shows a lot: Paschall doesn’t feel comfortable taking the wide, wide open three at the top of the arc; he’s more of a corner 3-point shooter at the moment. And that is the trouble with playing him more: if teams really scout him, they’re going to send a lot more help on the Clarkson’s and Mitchell’s of the world.

And yet, I think the Jazz need his toughness at the moment. The Jazz have a metric ton of finesse players: Joe Ingles, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gay, Jordan Clarkson, Jared Butler, even Royce O’Neale offensively — these are all guys who essentially rely on skill to do what they do. To be honest, that’s reflective of today’s NBA, and I think it’s better to have this than a bunch of brutes! But having someone who can challenge a tall, skinny lineup is also helpful.

Of course, the Jazz have a lot of other useful players. But I think it would be okay to take a few minutes here and there from Trent Forrest, Hassan Whiteside, Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and even Royce O’Neale.

To me, I’d use Paschall as a matchup-dependent option. For example, if the Jazz are playing the Warriors, and he has to finish against Draymond Green, I don’t know if Eric is going to make a lot of sense. But against smaller or skinnier lineups, or if the Jazz are lacking a bit of energy — don’t be afraid to put Paschall in the game.

3. Joe Ingles’ attitude

We all love Joe Ingles. The dude is one of the most fun Jazz players to watch, ever: the ball-fake layup, the taunting, the under-your-skin defense that helped the Jazz win a playoff series... our lives are better for having had the opportunity to watch Ingles for the last several years.

That being said, this isn’t cool:

Ingles tries to flop on the offensive play — there’s not anything anywhere close to a foul there, just play defense — then brings the ball and his elbow into Allen’s headspace, despite having, um, ample opportunity to not do that. Then, that last replay shows that he’s taunting Allen as he goes down the floor. Does he want a fight here? Is he just yelling to get back down the floor? Regardless, it’s all extremely silly — and an obvious technical.

The second technical was rather obvious, too. Ingles got up in the face of official Phenizee Ransom (great name, by the way) after a bad missed call — and just yelled at him for a solid 30 seconds. It was exactly the kind of thing that you can’t do after having gotten one technical; and honestly, a technical Jazz fans would want called on any other player in the league.

In a game where the Jazz had 9 players out for the contest, they now had a 10th.

That’s not okay. Ingles can’t lose his cool to that extent in a situation where the Jazz need to rely on him. The Allen elbow is mystifying. And believe me, I understand being mad at refs, but there just has to be situational awareness to allow anybody else to complain about that call — the foul was on Bogdanovic, not Ingles, anyway. Let Bogey get mad about it. Or Quin. Or Donovan. Or whoever.

In some ways, I love that Ingles has found fight, because I worry most of all when he isn’t engaged. But he really, really needs to channel it into the game itself, especially the defensive end, rather than the in-between moments in which he can only hurt his team.

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