Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 125-97 loss to the Boston Celtics from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Rudy Gobert’s postgame presser
There aren’t many nights when I think the postgame press conferences are more interesting than the game itself — I tend to prefer analyzing the primary source of the game and its footage than the players spinning it afterwards. But in this case, I think the postgame press conferences from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are really revealing about the state of the team overall. Therefore, I’ll just print the whole transcript of those comments, even though it’s long.
Media questions in italics, Gobert’s answers in standard text.
Rudy, what was kind of the biggest or most worrying issue for you tonight, from your point of view?
I don’t think there’s worries. I think it’s the same things that happen when we stop playing the way we’re supposed to play and want to play if we want to be a championship team. It’s defense, and offensively, it’s sharing the ball. It’s the same things, those same two things. It’s not easy, because obviously the Celtics are a really good team. The way they play defense, they try to take away our rhythm, and try to put us in that space where instead of coming together, we play disconnected. And then when we get disconnected offensively, it affects our defense.
Are you guys running out of time or games to kind of find that consistency?
No, we’re not running out of time. I think it’s our mindset. And deep inside, we all know all the things that we need to do if we want to be a championship team and I think it starts with all being willing to sacrifice for each other. I think we are going to get there. I think I don’t know how many games we’re going to have to lose in order to have that shift happen in our heads. There are going to be losses. But I think, if we want to be the team that we want to be — I think we do have a chance to be a championship team, and if we want to do it, we’re going to have to do things for each other.
If you watch every championship team, it’s not just about talent, it’s about having guys who are willing to do things for each other. Look at the Boston Celtics. They have the same team, they made a few trades, but they have the same group that they had earlier in the season. What happened? They decided that they needed each other, you know, to do it together.
And we’ve done it. We’ve done it. So it’s now it’s time to — when it gets hard, we need to do it even more, not stop doing it. When it’s easy, we do it. When guys are not getting to us, it’s easy to play the right way. But when it gets hard, when we struggle a little bit, that’s when we need each other even more. And if we were able to do that, I think we’d be in a good place.
Do you think that was kind of the case tonight, that you guys struggled early on and then just stopped doing the things that were necessary?
Yeah, for sure. It’s not like we’re giving up. It’s just that we start worrying about the things that are not bringing us together but taking us apart. It’s the NBA, there are a lot of different factors that come into play. And I don’t think there are a lot of teams in this league that are willing to make those sacrifices, but I hope that we are willing to do it, because I don’t think there’s any better feeling than winning a championship. Once we understand that, then we’ll be in good shape.
What do you what do you think it will take for you guys to make those kind of plays and do that stuff on a more consistent basis, like you’re looking for?
It’s going to come from us, it’s going to come from our heart. The real question is are we going to be in the right place mentally, where we really want to do that. Once again, it’s the NBA, it’s hard to know what’s really driving each individual, right? But I think we do want to do it, but I think we do want to win it, I think we do want to do those things. But we have to help each other. And it’s going to drift out, and but when something drift’s out, we have to come together. It’s never going to be perfect, there’s always going to be adversity. But how are we going to handle it, and are we going to handle it together. Those are the two things that are going to separate us from being a pretty good team, a team that’s going to be a playoff team every year, a team that’s going to be in the top 4 every year, or a team that, when it matters, is going to take that step.
Do you see that other gear there? Do you see that next level up there for you guys?
Of course. If I didn’t believe in it — I believe in this group. And if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun. So I believe in this group. I believe in our ability to take that step. I think we’ve shown that adversity can make us better and that it can make us better again. It’s just one loss, it’s not the end of the world, but I think we have to understand the way we’re losing, and the way we lose, and controlling the things that we can control as a team and the mindset that’s going to make us better going into the playoffs.
2. Donovan Mitchell’s postgame presser
You guys knew going in how you were going to need to play the Celtics. What do you think happened? Not including maybe the first 10 shots they made, some of that was crazy. After that.
We played into their hands. They just kicked our a--. Wish I could give you a bunch of reasons, but I don’t have anything right now. They took us out of stuff, they did well in transition, they hit some shots. Yeah, they shot 60% and 50% from three, but it’s like, we had 10 assists. We had more turnovers than assists, I believe. 14 turnovers. There’s just a lot of stuff right now. We’ve got to fix it.
How do you fix that in the nine games remaining? And you know, how much confidence do you have in your team to fix that?
I’m always confident in our group and our ability. We’ve shown we can do it. I think the biggest thing is — with a game like tonight, this is a playoff game, switching defense, guys hitting tough shots, and we as a group didn’t rise to the occasion. All of us. The score is reflective of that. There are nine games, so it’s that time.
Does it concern you at all that you guys weren’t able to rise to the occasion?
I don’t want to say concerning, cause then it leads to a spiral of belief and disbelief and interpretation and all of that. But it’s upsetting. We’ve got to play better than to play a game like that.
Rudy Gobert said that you guys, he felt you guys need to trust each other more on the court. Do you feel that way also and kind of how does that show up on court, and what are the actual how tos of how to do that?
I think a lot of it comes... I’ll start defensively. We didn’t communicate, we didn’t talk, we were being beat off the dribble. And then offensively, we didn’t run our offense. It’s tough when they deny everything, and they were pushing everything out to half court. I wouldn’t say we don’t trust each other, I wouldn’t say that. They played a hell of a game and we just didn’t rise to that level.
You mentioned the turnovers to assists. Do you do you feel a lot of that weight on your shoulders?
Yeah, I do, because I have the ball a lot. Yeah, I can score. Yeah, I had 37, yay, whoop-de-do. At the end of the day we lost by Lord knows how much — 30. The biggest thing is trying to find ways to get in the paint and create. I’m not going to stop attacking. There were times I could have hit guys, for sure, but it’s an interesting job that I have. I speak solely for myself when I say this. I need to balance that, finding guys and taking shots. Sometimes, my job is to make and take tough shots, and, you know, that’s what I try to do. I had 1 assist tonight, and it could have been more.
What was the biggest thing that grinds your gears?
We lost by 30, in a game where we have 9 games left until the playoffs, against a team that’s a top talented team, a top team, playing the defense that we played against in the playoffs. And we lost by 30. That’s what pisses me off right now. We’ve seen this before, and, you know, for them to come in and just... we just didn’t match their energy, their level, and we deserve to get beat at that point, and lose by that much. There’s just a lot of things we didn’t do right, and that’s what’s upsetting. For us to have championship — forget championship, far playoff aspirations, we’ve got to be able to do this in the regular season. We can’t just say, ‘Oh, let’s get to the finish line and turn it on’. The past 2 games have been that playoff atmosphere, playoff vibe. We did it against Chicago, we kind of did it against Milwaukee, but, like, at some point in time, the time is now. It’s here. We’ve just got to do it.
What has to change you guys to do that, Donovan?
I think the biggest thing for us is execution. When teams make it harder, we’ve got to think. When they’re denying us all the way out to half court, we have to find ways to combat that. Our defense can’t be predicated on our offense. If shots don’t fall, we’ve still got to get back. Yeah, we shot 22 percent from three, but being able to get back and being able to get stops. To still run our stuff even through — like, at one point they had the five guarding me or JC. Okay, cool, how do we attack that? Get in the paint, find guys, guys aren’t open, get to the rim, finish, get back in transition if we miss, take a Eurofoul. There are so many things I can point to, and that’s what upsets me right now, because it’s time. We’ll go back and look at the film, and we’ll be right, you know, I’m not I’m not going to sit here and say whatever, because, you know, we believe in each other, we believe in this group, we can do it. We just have to work harder to do it.
You guys are currently tied with Dallas. Are you satisfied with where you guys are in the standings?
I have mixed emotions about it. We’ve just got to ----ing win. I don’t know what else to say. We’ve got to figure out how to do it. Nine games left, if we want home court, want the advantage, and what we worked all season for, we’ve got to ----ing do. I’ll probably get fined for saying that, but it is what it is. Like we’ve got, all as a group, have to find a way to do it. And by any means necessary. I don’t give a damn how we do it, you know what I mean. Just control what we control. If we win, we don’t have to worry about what other teams do. It’s like, alright, cool like, we’re in position now. I mean, we lost tonight, we’re tied for fourth, let’s go out and handle what we can handle. Let’s go out and control what we can control, and win these d--- games.
Okay, back to Andy. I think that was really revealing of how both guys think the team will succeed: Gobert thinks that success will come through communal trust, while Mitchell feels that it’s about focus and determination. And I think you see that on the court, too: when the Jazz are losing, Mitchell tries to take on more of a load, while Gobert then feels like he’s not part of the picture as much as a result.
It’s a fascinating dynamic, and I don’t know if one player is more right than the other. There is a path there, I think. But right now, this team isn’t on the same page, and they need to be in order to have any success in the playoffs.
3. Eric Paschall starts, disappoints
During this morning’s conversation with Quin Snyder in which we mainly discussed the Marc Stein report of other team’s interest in him, we also talked about Eric Paschall’s minutes. Why wasn’t he playing?
Well, then he did play — he even started tonight, in place of Juancho Hernangomez, who started in place of Danuel House when he went down due to injury, who started in place of Bojan Bogdanovic when he went down due to injury.
He, unfortunately, was not impressive. Paschall shot 4-12 from the field, going 0-4 from three. He got no rebounds, blocks, or steals, and added two assists in his 25 minutes. The eye test was probably worse than that.
The first problem is that he’s probably the worst outside shooter of those four names listed above. Even though he’s shot 37% on the season, teams aren’t really buying it yet. That means that they’re sinking down into the paint, preventing easier shots for Mitchell, Clarkson, and especially Gobert. Analyst Steve Jones Jr. noticed it too on Twitter.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Jazz have struggled to get Gobert shots during the last few games (he’s only averaged 4.6 FGA in the last three games). With Bogdanovic out and the other 3-point options less of a threat, teams put more defensive resources to stopping Gobert at the rim.
It’s still, though, the rebounding that kills me. Paschall’s essentially got the body of Charles Barkley: with a big behind, solid vertical athleticism, and good enough lateral quickness, it feels like he should be a better rebounder than he is. Instead, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gay, Juancho Hernangomez have all been better rebounders. He gets essentially similar per 36 minute rebounds that Trent Forrest and Danuel House get. I just need him to move Al Horford, for example, out of position more than this.
The upside of Paschall is in his energy, and maybe that just means that starting is the wrong role for him. He certainly didn’t show useful energy tonight in playing 25 minutes. Maybe he can still help in a smaller role? But Hernangomez is also known as an energy guy, and he’s probably a better shooter and rebounder. (Paschall might be a better one-on-one defender, though.) It’s a tough call.