Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 124-111 loss to the Dallas Mavericks from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz forced a lot of iffy shots
I think they played for the most part, the Jazz played for themselves more than they played for team success — and as a result, forced a lot of bad shots that then didn’t go in.
I think that’s pretty up and down the roster. (OK, Mike Conley didn’t. He’s been superb recently.)
We’ll start with the team’s best player, Lauri Markkanen. He’s terrific, and the Jazz should get him the ball often, but I don’t love just having him get the ball with his back to the basket and trying to post-up — at least, not in 2023. This is great defense from Frank Ntilikina, but its too early in the shot clock to force this.
Ditto with Jordan Clarkson’s twisty thing here. What’s the rush? Just get the ball back out to the perimeter and start over again.
Walker Kessler’s been awesome in the short roll this year, but here, he forces a weird layup over two guys despite Kelly Olynyk being open in the corner.
What goes around comes around, though: here’s Olynyk ball-faking to Kessler before just taking the fadeaway 10-footer himself.
I don’t need to show you the Rudy Gay ones — you know what those look like.
These are just low-efficiency shots taken so early in the shot clock, and that’s a little bit out of character for this team, I think. Generally, they’re much better at taking the right “exit,” so to speak: taking the right shot in a possession at the right time.
So what was going on tonight? I think two things.
First, they thought they were playing a pushover opponent.
When you come into a game against a team like Dallas missing all of their best players, frankly, it’s easy to think of it as an individual opportunity. Markkanen might have thought it was his time to score 30-40, or Clarkson to get his. Kessler would have the opportunity to score and get a whole bunch of blocks. Then you start with a 15-point lead, and it just seems definite that will continue, even if the approach changes.
Second, it’s individual season.
Trade deadline time means that everyone who is in trade rumors has been thinking a lot about themselves recently. Where will I live next week? What role will I have? What will this mean for my career? And All-Star season means that even guys like Markkanen and Kessler have heard a lot about how great they are recently, and it hasn’t been about how good of passers they are.
We’ll see what happens come next week — it’ll come with its own challenges. But this is the kind of me-first play I was worried would happen at the beginning of year.
2. Offensive rebounds
Dallas got 41% of their own available missed shots, just a terrible number for the Jazz.
You can watch them here, there’s a pretty consistent trend: the Mavericks simply were playing harder than the Jazz on a lot of these rebounds. The verve with which the Mavericks were attacking the glass was just at a different level than the Jazz had.
Collin Sexton’s controller basically switches off here; he becomes a spectator.
Again, it’s really easy to write this off: the Jazz thought they were going to be fine tonight and win running away, and so didn’t try very hard. However, the team has had problems with defensive rebounding all year long, so this explanation doesn’t quite cut it this time, in my opinion. In the end, it simply needs to be better.
3. Trade deadline thoughts
A few assorted thoughts on the trade deadline as we get within 72 hours of it:
• Jarred Vanderbilt sat out tonight’s game, the team said it was due to low back spasms. And look, some of us normal folks know that back spasms can be triggered at any time, and they truly suck. But, well, it would also not shock me if these spasms were conveniently timed for the trade deadline period — either from Vanderbilt’s camp or from the Jazz’s. It would be rather surprising if Vanderbilt were not traded this week.
• The Jazz aren’t having practice Tuesday or a shootaround Wednesday, according to team PR. You may have noticed that this game went poorly; it is highly unusual for a team to get a day off after playing that badly, especially just after having two days off this weekend.
• By the way, the Jazz are currently scheduled to fly to Toronto on Thursday for their game right up until the trade deadline. That could mean an awkward flight if some players are traded mid-air, then have to turn around and schedule a new flight to their new destination.
• The Kyrie Irving trade is probably bad for the Jazz in the short run but good for them in the long run. You see, the assumption from many league executives — as reported by The Athletic’s John Hollinger — is that the trade will lead to the unrest of two superstars. First, Kevin Durant will want to go play with a team with other stars, which Brooklyn no longer has. Second, that Luka Doncic will get tired of Kyrie Irving’s antics at some point, like so many other stars who have played with him, and may want to leave Dallas.
Because teams sniff out these opportunities, many teams might be less willing to trade long-term assets for short-term upgrades now than they were before. (The Suns, for example, might save their picks for a KD trade, rather than spending them on Vanderbilt.)
On the other hand, because the Jazz are one of the most asset-rich teams in the league, they stand to potentially bowl over other teams’ offers for those players, whenever they happen down the road. The Jazz could win those negotiations — a Luka/Lauri pairing in Utah would be quite brilliant, for example.
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