Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 122-114 loss to the Boston Celtics from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. An emotional game
Tonight’s game was less about the Xs and Os than it was about dealing with the emotions on the floor. There was a lot going on:
• This was kind of a revenge game for the Celtics after the Jazz beat them last week in unexpected fashion.
• The Celtics were coming off a back-to-back, and their flight was delayed last night. They were potentially sleep-deprived, which always makes one a bit cranky.
• The Boston crowd is one of the best in sports, always super engaged — and ready to cheer on any malfeasance.
• The referees let the game go without nearly any whistles in the first half. The Jazz didn’t have any free-throws whatsoever until the 31st minute of the game! Things were generally considered play-on.
• Well, until things got chippy. I think it started with Talen Horton-Tucker and Blake Griffin getting into it with some words exchanged coming into a timeout. Simone Fontecchio and Jayson Tatum also had some trash talking. These combinations of players getting into disagreements with each other feels like a Mad Libs.
• Jaylen Brown got a flagrant one for elbowing THT in the face. It was the right call.
• It was at this point that crew chief Tony Brothers issued a warning edict: no more stuff. If any player complained, or talked too much trash, he would call a technical foul. He made it abundantly clear, for every player on the floor.
• The players immediately ignored Brothers and kept doing exactly the same stuff.
• Griffin got a technical for talking, and then hung on the rim while going for a rebound, an offensive goaltending. So Tatum yelled at the refs about the call, and got a technical himself.
• Kris Dunn then got more into it with Griffin — this time, nose-to-nose. Dunn got a technical. Just as Brothers’ warning wasn’t effective, neither was this technical: Dunn kept bothering Griffin, and got ejected.
Will Hardy, though, was happy about how his team dealt with the unique circumstances.
“I’m all for the fight. You know, there’s moments in sports where it is chippy and guys get tangled up and guys start chirping and you know, I’m glad that our team doesn’t back down,” Hardy said. “Kris gets thrown out of the game, but as a player, I understand that. Sometimes the emotions get the best of you. You didn’t throw a punch, you didn’t do anything outrageous. He just kept the talk going.”
2. Leaving Malcolm Brogdon open
The biggest run of the game came in the third quarter, where Malcolm Brogdon hit three threes to turn the Celtics lead from 4 to about 14.
Brogdon is a top-5 3-point shooter this season by percentage: 44% this year. He’s been equally effective on pull-up threes and catch-and-shoot threes, too. In other words, he’s a big threat from deep.
So on plays like these, where the Jazz are trying to switch, they need to be extremely worried about the chances Brogdon just pulls from deep.
The first one is just a miscommunication, I think, between Kelly Olynyk and Johnny Juzang. It’s a mistake, and that happens.
The second one? I don’t really get it. It looks like Dunn is going under this screen all the way. Maybe the goal is to keep Kessler in the paint at all costs, but Brogdon just hit one, and the screen is so low that, truth be told, I think Dunn could have just stuck with Brogdon over the top.
And on shot number three, the Jazz are playing their zone — and Ochai Agbaji is just a bit too unworried about helping after the screen.
This was the sequence that Hardy said defined the game, and it involved some players (Kessler, Agbaji, and Dunn especially) that are under contract for next year and should be part of the Jazz’s future. It’s those players who I hope remain focused as possible on the little things, because they’ll make a difference moving forward.
3. An interest in the women’s game
Two tweets I’ve been thinking about a lot tonight:
Women’s basketball is having a cultural moment right now. I’m not sure many would have predicted a Women’s NCAA Tournament game to outdraw every ESPN regular NBA game. Tonight, the collective Celtics and Jazz writers spent all of our writing time watching the Iowa v. South Carolina semifinal; eyes were glued in a way that only happens in those collectively important events. It’s not just this tournament, of course: this is a continuation of a trend that’s been happening the last few years.
Second, this tweet from Kim McCauley:
This is 100% true! After tonight’s game, Olynyk was asking about who won the prior semifinal between LSU and Virginia Tech with legitimate curiosity, then talking about how much he admired Caitlin Clark’s game. That’s just one example, but these NBA players truly know and respect the ball of the WNBA and women’s college basketball’s best.