It seems like an easy thing to remember, but, apparently, in the hubbub of playoff basketball, it’s not.
“Everything’s going right when we share the ball.”
Sharing, indeed, is caring. Caring about winning.
That’s what Rudy Gobert said, speaking into the camera immediately after the Jazz essentially saved their season by beating Dallas, 100-99, at Vivint Arena in their playoff series on Saturday, a series that is now tied at 2 games all.
We’ve heard those words a thousand times before, and we heard them again, true as they ever were this time, directly following a floating and tender pass from Donovan Mitchell to Gobert, resulting in a game-winning dunk, relieving the Jazz of falling into a state of deficit desperation at 3-1. And get this — there was a little defense played, too, in both the previous minutes and the subsequent seconds to wrap the thing up in the Jazz’s favor. More on that later.
You’re likely to read these cuddly words and other team-oriented phrases here, there and everywhere regarding this particular outcome. But that’s only because they are all bang on.
Share … the … ball. Defensive … intensity. Collective … effort. Support … each … other. Grind … it … out. … Stay … together.
Add Game 4 now to the stack of playoff wins through the years among all teams that depended on such sweet, we-win-together-we-lose-together sentiment.
The fact that the Mitchell-to-Gobert combo-play gave the Jazz the nod at the end is ironic, in that some continue to insist that the Jazz stars can barely stand to be in the same room together. Apparently, that’s not true. They can stand to win in the same room together.
But wait … there’s more to this Jazz victory.
How about this bit of strangeness, a key to the game that was a little like the old Sesame Street feature, where a refrigerator, a dishwasher, a stove, a microwave and a dog whistle are shown on the screen and the question is asked: “Which one of these isn’t like the others? Which one of these doesn’t belong?”
Here is Saturday’s Jazz version: Bojan Bogdanovic … and … intense, tone-setting defense.
Have those words ever appeared in the same sentence?
Glory hallelujah. They have now.
Bogdanovic put up intense, tone-setting defense against the Mavs, much of it against the returning Luka Doncic. And as Gobert reinforced in the postgame, every other Jazz player looked at Bogdanovic’s effort and said, “If he’s doing it, why not me?”
That’s precisely what had been missing for the Jazz in the previous two games — defensive intensity. Bogdanovic offered it, everybody else jumped in the pool with him. The good feel at one end led to a good feel at the other.
It wasn’t always effective, but it was effective enough.
Afterward, Quin Snyder said: “You can’t say enough about Bojan.”
The Jazz forward, who at times through the years has been a defensive liability, worked his tail to interfere with whatever the Mavs were attempting to do on attack, and whoever was doing it. He crowded who he guarded with energy and force that hadn’t been seen thus far. He moved his feet. He extended his arms. He used his chest as a bumper car. He snarled. He raised the roof.
It rubbed off on others, everyone from Gobert (who rarely needs any defensive rubbing) to Hassan Whiteside to Mitchell to Jordan Clarkson to the last guy on the bench.
The box score may not have indicated that energy, but, as Snyder said, “The box score doesn’t tell the story.”
The players do.
The Mavs had a better overall shooting percentage, better shooting from 3, better shooting from the line, but, ultimately, one fewer point.
If you had known beforehand that the Jazz starting guard line would make just nine of 29 shots, three of 14 from deep, how slim of a chance would you have given the Jazz of winning?
Thin Mint slim.
But they made up for their imperfections by ratcheting up their resistance and moving the ball, working as a single organism instead of a star and a bunch of minions.
Snyder said it about as eloquently as I’ve ever heard when he said that in those moments when his players become connected, when they pass the ball, as an attempt goes up, “It’s a shot that our team is taking.”
Not an individual player.
Which means that selfishness and extra pressure is removed from the competitive equation.
And thereby, more motivation and focus is pumped into the other end of the floor. More togetherness, all around.
The challenge for the Jazz moving forward, now that they’ve already given back home-court advantage to Dallas, boosted further by its star returned from injury, is to keep that defensive intensity jacked up and to take team shots.
And, yeah, to remember Rudy Gobert’s words: “Everything’s going right when we share the ball.”
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