Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-103 loss to the Dallas Mavericks from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. How would you defend Luka Doncic pick and roll?
You are Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. You are in charge of defending the Dallas Mavericks, and of course, in particular, Luka Doncic pick and rolls. How would you guard it?
Here are the relevant stats, per Synergy:
Okay, so you can see, you basically want to prevent Luka from passing the ball. He’s really good at finding the roll man with the lob, and really good at finding 3-point shooters, and the Mavs make them at a high rate. If you double from elsewhere, those cuts you can get towards the basket are super-high efficiency. In other words, you probably don’t want to commit two to the ball.
So when you single cover Doncic, and he uses the screen, here’s his efficiency in scoring (i.e., no passes), depending on how the opponent guards it:
Again, the best strategy is really clear here: you want to go over the picks. But you want to go over the picks in such a way that Doncic can’t get all the way to the basket after the screen, which necessitates either staying really close to Doncic or bringing help at the rim.
The problem is that the Jazz have really poor screen navigating defenders. Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale are too thick and not really adroit enough to consistently do it. Danuel House could, but he’s not in the starting lineup right now, so he’s rarely playing against Doncic. That means, frankly, Rudy Gobert has to help.
If Gobert helps, O’Neale has to get involved in stopping the roll man, or you just get this:
One other possibility: you can just switch. Except Luka’s really good at attacking switches, too: 1.15 points per possession. I believe that Rudy Gobert is a really good isolation defender, so let’s say he’s better than that... 0.9 points per possession, optimistically.
The problem is that on switches, he’s adept at drawing fouls, getting one 11.6% of the time he gets attacks switch after a pick and roll. He might get even more against Gobert, just because Gobert has such long limbs on which Doncic can get himself tangled and fouled.
So you probably can’t just switch Gobert onto Doncic on every possession, or Gobert’s going to get into foul trouble relatively quickly — and that means a lot of either Hassan Whiteside guarding pick and roll drop or Whiteside switching out to Doncic. That’s probably death.
I think the most promising possibility is something like House starting in the O’Neale slot, him getting over screens a little better than O’Neale, Gobert making passes tough, and occasionally sending help from appropriate corners depending on Mavs personnel. Then, in late game situations, Gobert switching on Doncic when the former isn’t in foul trouble can get you some stops as well.
But it’s not perfect. Doncic is really good! And the problem is that the Jazz have one plus defender as part of the equation (Gobert), another feisty one they found on the scrap heap (House), and not a lot of other good options.
It’s a playoff series I think the Jazz can win, and should probably be favored... but it’s tough. Really tough.
2. Let’s talk Mike Conley
A lot of stat tables tonight! Here’s Mike Conley’s last 10 games:
That’s really, really tough from a guy you’re counting on as your third star. The shooting performances obviously aren’t great — he hasn’t shot over 50% in over a month. But I’m relatively confident in Conley being able to shoot open shots.
I’m less confident in him being able to consistently get 2-point looks. With a team like Dallas playing high up in the pick-and-roll, he can’t get his signature pull-up 3-point shot off, so he has to be able to penetrate. But, honestly, he’s really struggled to do that in recent games.
Those plus-minus numbers are ugly too — I didn’t see that coming at all. Conley’s usually able to make an impact in some other aspect of the game.
But the Conley/Gobert bench minutes were ones that were the biggest reason the Jazz were blowing teams out last year, that has suddenly become a liability, as Joe Ingles got injured and Danuel House replaced him. Jordan Clarkson’s probably asked to do a bit too much in those lineups, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
In the end, though, if Conley’s playing like this, the Jazz aren’t going to do much of anything in the playoffs... they just need a higher level from him. He can bounce back, but he will need to.
3. Bogdanovic splint splits
One more stat table? One more stat table.
Here’s Bojan Bogdanovic’s stats this season with and without wearing a finger splint. He injured the finger against Houston on January 19, and started playing without a splint against the Pelicans this week.
It appears Bogdanovic’s splint hampered his shooting. It also may have made Bogdanovic take more 2-point shots and travel inside the paint more than before, which also means you get a less effective Bogdanovic, and maybe slightly more turnovers. He also fought on the boards more, which is promising.
Still, props to Bogdanovic for playing through a broken finger and still playing at a 17 PPG level. It’s pretty impressive, in my opinion.