Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 137-91 win over the Salt Lake Tribune Jazz’s Orlando Magic beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Donovan Mitchell, elite shooter?
People don’t really think of Donovan Mitchell as a shooter first. I think when the average fan thinks of Mitchell, they think of athletics – the dunks, the creative layup package, even the contortionist passes.
But now I’m at a point where I think perhaps the brightest part of Mitchell’s game is the outside shooting. Here’s the full list of players who have made more triples than Mitchell this year:
Damien Lillard: 193
Steph Curry: 193
Buddy Hield: 193
Duncan Robinson: 173
Joe Harris: 161
That puts you in an elite company! Now at 159 3-pointers, he’s still significantly below the Dame / Steph elite types. But he is on the next level and is reaching out to join them.
Tonight, he shot 6-of-7 from deep to reach 41% as a 3-point shooter for the season. But I thought there was also enormously significant variety in the shots I was taking; these are not easy looks by any means.
Like, a jab-step three from the corner? It’s an elusive shot at 6ft 1. An iso three side step? That is also difficult. Catch and shoot from 5 feet beyond the 3-point line? A lot of guys in the NBA don’t have that in their bag. Numbers 4 and 5 are pretty standard pick-and-roll pull-ups, although Mitchell handles the displays expertly. And No. 6 is a difficult shot … a transition three after a dribbling error with one hand to the face? Wow.
These, honestly, are Dame / Steph-esque looks. Again, I’m not saying he’s there yet, but when you take these tough shots and still shoot 41% for the season, you’re a really good shooter.
Now, these kinds of tough appearances are also the ones the Jazz might have to rely on against some of the best teams in the league. And Mitchell knew it, saying after the game:
“In a game like this, I’m just trying to find ways to pick my spots and find a way to get shots that, maybe not so much in this game, but I’m going to have to take next games and the playoffs. That’s really where my mind is with them. “
We will get a chance to see him over the next week, with matchups against Dallas, Phoenix and Portland that will provide tougher testing. But I thought Mitchell’s mindset about his recent shooting streak was revealing.
“I’d say this is probably my best stretch, you know, but I’m trying to get to a point where we don’t call them stretches anymore, you know? It is annual, it is a race. It’s not just the best stretch, you know? “
Mitchell is right: If he can go from “a guy who has a hot few weeks” to “one of the best shooters in the NBA,” that’s a huge difference. And it’s on its way to do just that.
2. Jordan Clarkson: 9 assists!
Jordan Clarkson had nine assists tonight; the most he’s ever had in a Jazz uniform. Given that he played only 21 minutes, it is quite an impressive achievement.
He expected many of them to be standard swing-pass-style assists, where the assistant shouldn’t get a lot of credit. But in reality, Clarkson was legitimately great at breaking down the defense, forcing them to collapse on him and finding the man open in a variety of situations.
Obviously the most common was the pick-and-roll. This was the best … he runs it with Derrick Favors, watch Trent Forrest the whole way, then find Fav for the easy ending with a no-look pass. Just a great manipulation of the defense with the eyes.
I also like when the Jazz subverts expectations and turns Clarkson into a rolling screener. In fact, this has been one of his most successful games of the season; no one really believes Clarkson is going to roll to the basket, but he catches the ball well in traffic and then finds the man wide open.
Finally, I think it says a lot about Quin Snyder’s belief in Clarkson that he has him as a passer on this play. Typically, when you set up a play like this, the ball is in the hands of the point guard as the best passer on the court, knowing that you will have to make a choice between the two options and throw a play on the court. -Pass money from a distance in both directions. Here, it’s Clarkson, and he executes the pass well.
Again, it’s a matter of expectations versus reality – everyone thinks of Clarkson as an isolated scorer, but I think this year he has shown that he really works best within a system, or at least picking and rolling or with some other. . things that happen. He has done very well this year and has been a big part of Jazz’s success.
3. Lots of blowouts
For the first time in NBA history, there were three 40-point blowouts in the NBA today. The Jazz beat the Magic 46, the Blazers beat the Thunder 48 and the Knicks beat the Pistons 44.
Overall, we’ve seen more blowouts this year than in the standard regular season. Why? I think all of these are playing a role:
• Highest scoring games. Look, when you have teams with the highest offensive ratings in league history, more points will be scored and margins will be higher. A 120-90 game today has a higher margin than a 90-70 game from the 1990s, but I don’t know if one game is actually more competitive than the other.
• No or fewer fans. I think the fans are an inherent motivator for the players. On the road, even if you’re playing rope, you never want to be the butt of ridicule from rival fans. At home, you want to impress your wife / girlfriend / friends / whoever. Fans can make a difference!
• Less refereeing with rubber bands. Referees used to call the game to benefit the losing team, trying to keep the game close to a certain point. Now, with qualified umpires on every call throughout the season, umpire promotions and playoff bonuses depend on how good they are even in these situations. Keeping things fair is important.
• A mixture of fatigue and illness. Tonight, the Magic were battling a non-COVID illness that limited them to eight players. Those players are likely to be pretty tired too, having played an even greater number of games than they were used to over the course of the last week, thanks to a compressed schedule.
I’d be curious to hear other thoughts of yours. Why have we seen so many blowouts?