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1. Jazz locks up Trai Young in an impressive way
The Jazz’s biggest problem in their loss in the youth season over the last year or so has been the guard defense. So when Trae Young came to town, there was real reason to be concerned – Young averaged 30 points per game last year, and while he’s spreading the ball a little more this year, he’s still 25 on average. What happens when a force collides with an irresistible soft defense?
Obviously, what you would not expect.
The Jazz got defensively against Young on Friday night, allowing them only four points on 1–11 shooting. It is tied for the lowest scoring game of Young’s career – only four times in the second month of his rookie season playing the Warriors’ dictator defense.
So what did Jazz do so well to reverse the script? The first thing was for the personnel – usually, the Jazz had Royce O’Neill as the first option at scoring guard, but tonight they used Mike Conley straight away – Queen Snyder actually gave O’Neill a very big John kept on the pin.
Conley protected the youngster with energy throughout the game, depriving him of the ball on almost every occasion, and giving him 94 feet of protection for most of the game. Conley’s movement pattern, even at the age of 33, is Young’s waterbug motion in the closest jazz – he plays at times with Steph Curry with the ball in his hands.
What Young does not have is that Curry who is an off-ball motion gene. The Hawks don’t have much off-ball stuff for them in their playbook because they are so responsible for everything they do – that’s their creative juices. So when you move the ball to that degree with her hands, she can’t hit you away from the screen and usually wreak havoc like Steph Can.
Of course, Young is defended before being denied the ball, but I’m not sure it happened in the NBA to this degree. The Jazz threw him differently, but has he ever been flat double-teamed 80 feet from the basket before? Everything was in the playbook for jazz.
The second thing Conley did brilliantly on Friday night was defending Young without fouling. He plays around 10 free-throw games on average, and often draws huge disappointment from opponents, as he gets a lot of easy points. Conley once sent him in line.
“It helps to play for 14 years,” Conley joked. “After playing for that long, there are people like Trai who are very clever and can get in line really easily. For me, it was kind of predicting the people he would try to do it with, and I guessed right tonight. “
In the end, putting O’Neill on Collins meant that both men defending Young’s great screening partners were capable defensively. If Collins does a screening for Young, O’Neill can help in situations like this:
And if Clint Capella screened for them, Rudy Gobert might help in this way:
It is really good all the way. The Hawks scored only 91 points per 100 possessions, despite averaging 113 points per 100, meaning it was probably the best defensive game of the Jazz.
2. Donovan Mitchell shooting
Donovan Mitchell is actually very good in the Jazz four game winning streak:
Note in particular that he has 3-point numbers, a combined 19–34 for 55%. This is obviously really good – probably too good to maintain.
But it’s worth noting what a brilliant catch-and-shoot guy Michelle has been doing throughout her career. Coming tonight, he is shooting 51% to catch and shoot – wow! But last season, he was 43% on catch-and-shoot, still great, and in his first two seasons he shot 100%.
Here’s how the other shooters around the league compare.
Mitchell is legitimately great at throwing those shots. I think it’s reasonable to expect a regression this year – shooting above 50% from deep on catch-and-shoot would be ridiculous, but it’s a huge asset in their game.
When you’re deciding Mitchell’s future position with the Jazz, it’s another thing to consider whether he is getting the ball better or off? He is definitely developing as a tremendous ball threat, and at the end of close play, he is definitely going to be in his hands. But also really good for a point guard who can feed Mitchell such shots as well, because he is very skilled at them.
3. Last sign that this is not your night
To be clear – the Jazz fully deserved their win tonight. They were superb on both ends, working together as a 5-man unit to advance to the Hawks, leading the entire game. This was, in my opinion, his best performance of the season.
But man, I also felt that the Hawks had reason to feel a little snake. First, is there that ugly 3-point percentage: 5-28? The Hawks are full of very good shooters who just went through 0-turns tonight: Young, DeAndre Hunter, John Collins, Kevin Hueter – I mean, the Jazz defended them well, to be sure, But you’d still expect them from at least one of their 14 looks.
Nothing was more disregarded than this play, though. The Hawks were still down 16, trying their best at this point in the fourth quarter, but in the midst of a very good defensive possession. He ran Mian Oni away from the 3-point line and forced such an off-balance look, which was against the rim.
Except that it stuck there so hard against the rim. A sure-fire Hawks rebound turned into a jumpball in center court. Rudy Gobert won it, got one-ten seconds later, and also made a free-throw this time.
On average, there are about 40-50 “weddies”. In 1212 games we normally play in a regular season, but many of them are from tight angles or close shots below the rim. It came from a distance, and gave the Hawks a chance at three Utah points.
A game definitely has more wrecking moments, and of course, if a little bit of bad luck is going to come to you, you’ll want to be in a 16-point game rather than a close one. But it is a bit unfortunate that the NBA has tried to minimize unnecessary player contact during the epidemic, because after that play, the Hawks need to be hugged.