Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. You can see the light leave their eyes
The Jazz are like a golfer with yips right now: their mind is preventing them from doing the things their bodies can do. At even the slightest hint of a late comeback, they’ll get in their heads and fold.
The Jazz had a 16-point lead with seven minutes left. Klay Thompson hits a 3, and then timeout, Quin Snyder.
First play afterwards: Jordan Clarkson takes this shot. It’s a little deep, but very open — definitely a shot we see Clarkson take and make with regularity. It airballs.
The Warriors jog the ball up. No one knows who is guarding Andrew Wiggins. It’s not a difficult transition situation, but the Jazz screw it up. Wide open three.
On press row, I immediately started grinding my teeth. I knew, at that point, that the Jazz were A) in their own heads and B) going to lose this game. With a 7-point lead! But I had just seen this movie before. I knew they were toast.
Here’s Mitchell just attacking Andrew Wiggins in iso, even though Wiggins is a good defender now, and just chucking the ball in the back-court. You can make an argument that Bogdanovic should be there... but to some degree, what trigger does Bogdanovic have to go up at the top of the arc? There’s no screen or anything. He’s just trying to improvise good spacing as his teammate improvises a drive.
Speaking of Bogdanovic, he’s one of the best corner 3-point shooters alive, so naturally he airballed a three next.
It’s now an 18-0 run by the Warriors, but you know what? The Warriors somehow cool off a little on offense. If the Jazz can just score, they can win. And so they score. Except that the points are taken away by a Gobert basket interference.
Mitchell goes hero-ball next for a missed step-back three.
More stops ensue. Great defense here, for example! Except Gobert immediately chucks the ball away.
What even happens on this? I think probably it’s smart for the Jazz to attack in transition here. Certainly, it’d be better than their nightmarish half-court offense so far. But it looks like Bogdanovic is looking at Gobert, and they just get their wires crossed somehow. How does Gobert pass it that far in front? I truly have no idea.
But that sums it up, right? The game gets difficult, and they immediately collapse. They choke. Whether it’s Mitchell calling a timeout he doesn’t have or Gobert passing the ball out of bounds, they are so in their own heads they forget the fundamentals of basketball.
It’s the yips. It’s gotta be.
Yes, they have a team psychologist. Maybe a new one is in order? Or a team seance or something? I’m at a complete loss.
2. Coaching mistakes
Some of Quin Snyder’s coaching decisions tonight were poor, I thought.
First: playing Royce O’Neale late. O’Neale was awful. He scored 0 points, he had four turnovers. Both Juancho Hernangomez and Danuel House were significantly more effective. I get that O’Neale has been a part of the Jazz for a long time and is Mitchell’s friend and they share an agent and he rebounds and whatnot, but, frankly, you just need a more capable player on both sides of the ball in the game at that point.
Hernangomez was a +20 in 16 minutes, House was a +21 in 17 minutes. Just give them a chance.
Second: the defensive strategy on Klay Thompson. They let one of the best shooters in NBA history get open threes with very little defensive resistance.
Hey, here’s a video that incudes both!
Absolutely can not allow that three. Now, O’Neale’s reaction makes you think that he was surprised Gobert wasn’t there, so maybe it was just a mistake by Gobert? And indeed, in later possessions, he goes up higher. At first. Then he retreats.
Again, maybe a mistake by Gobert. But, honestly, you know what the Jazz should have done? They should have just switched it. I don’t think this injury-recovery version of Thompson can drive by Gobert. Just have Gobert guard Klay, O’Neale shrink down and guard Draymond, and make the Warriors go iso. I’m not sure they have the horses to beat the Jazz, then.
I think Snyder’s a really good coach. I don’t think that the Jazz are going to upgrade overall by hiring Mike D’Antoni or Terry Stotts or Alex Jensen or Johnnie Bryant or whoever instead. But, truthfully, at this point, the hope is that a new coach might be able to address the mostly mental problems that the Jazz are facing in the fourth quarter, because it doesn’t matter how big the Jazz lead is before then right now — they’re just going to lose it, anyway.
3. The lack of belief between the team’s two best players
Look, I get it. We were all making fun of the “Unsalvageable” quote about the relationship between Mitchell and Gobert when the team had the best record in the NBA.
This is pretty bad, though — enough that the play is going viral after the game.
Snyder seems pretty disgusted on the play, too. It’s even enough to make him lose his gum.
You’ll never guess what the players said after the game, either. Gobert, having been criticized for bringing up the team’s lack of grit in the postgame presser against the Clippers, said that the team didn’t share the ball enough offensively.
Meanwhile, when Mitchell was asked about what the team needs to prioritize in late game moments. “I mean, as much as we want to look at the offense, I think defensively they got four or five open looks late.”
I don’t know that “unsalvageable” is the right word to describe the off-court relationship between Mitchell and Gobert. In my experience, it’s mostly cordial but distant — basically how you treat a co-worker that you don’t have much in common with. They clearly have been taking little snips at each other in the media this year, though.
But I don’t really care about what’s happening off court. It’s on the court. Mitchell and Gobert are not connected on the court, and it’s preventing the Jazz from having any chance of success.