Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 120-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves from the Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Donovan Mitchell’s best game of the season?
That’s his highest score of the season, with 39. So from a #PointsAreEverything perspective, it is! Case closed! Now I will go to celebrate New Year’s Eve with my friends.
Okay, not so fast. I love almost everything about what Mitchell did tonight. Not only did he score a lot of points, but he also performed very efficiently, shooting 12-21 from the field. He added six assists and limited his passes to just three. And in the end, he did it without much help: Mike Conley and Joe Ingles were both absent for tonight’s game, putting more pressure on play on his shoulders.
I love the way he plays the most. Here’s a great one, using defensive attack against an opponent to find an opening:
His most impressive scoring performance? This, between the Jazz’s 4th quarter 22-0 run. Donovan Mitchell just sized Anthony Edwards, who was in bad trouble and just isolated him. He assumed Ant wouldn’t defend him strongly, but the second-year player was always tight, fouling him – and Mitchell ended him anyway. It really shows Mitchell’s improved strength.
In the end, he’s just been amazingly efficient at picking and scrolling this year. He’s just being controlled here, using his body very well:
Indeed, he is the most efficient pick and roll scorer in the NBA this season.
Mike Conley is in 3rd now, so you can also see how helpful it would be to have Rudy Gobert roll and shoot all around you – much easier to score without assistance. Great help! But I like how both players have read those situations this year, and it can lead to superior attacking, as we saw tonight.
2. Trent Forrest warms up
Without Conley (retired) or Joe Ingles (returned), Trent Forrest was the starter for Jazz. He finished with a low -15 in those 20 minutes on the pitch. I think some is his fault, and some is because Forrest was a victim of circumstances.
Forrest was only shot 1-3 in those 20 minutes. (But at least he scored: Royce O’Neale was down 0-0 in the 32nd minute. O’Neale was a good shooter, but that skill would be wasted if he did. don’t shoot.)
So you ended up with some promising assets with unfortunate endings. This Forrest Tourism is a wide-angle triple turned down.
But you see why, when his actual shots end up like this:
There are many good things that Forrest does. He’s 6-4 and his length can annoy people. This is the perfect ‘hands up’ defense to convince the umpire not to foul, and then to make a harder hook in the paint.
He’s also a great passer, especially on the inside. That opens up some opportunities that I’m not sure Gobert would have otherwise.
I’m still extremely curious to see what Jared Butler will do in similar minutes. Tonight, I think he’s very good; he made his three, made lots of one-touch passes, and even had a nice defensive possession against Anthony Edwards.
Overall, I expect Forrest to continue as an emergency reserve, but could also see the situation change in time if the Jazz get another defender. The NBA removed the 50-game limit for 2-way players, so Forrest can play as much as the Jazz wants.
3. Excited for tomorrow
The Jazz are yet to face either of the top two Western Conference teams this season. That will change tomorrow, when the Jazz play the Warriors.
Now, this won’t be the Warriors’ all-powerful version: Draymond Green is listed as OUTSIDE, in the team’s COVID health and safety protocol. He was out of the necessary time by 5 days, but Kerr says the team felt he wouldn’t be able to clear the protocols in time – it’s possible he’s still sick. Regardless, he’s a big part of what they do, so that’s a bit silly. They also don’t have Klay Thompson (good for Jazz) or James Wiseman (good for Warriors).
But there are still important and important threats to manage. Obviously, the top of the list is Steph Curry, and I’d love to see how Conley, after a day off, defends him. How fierce will the Jazz be in defending him, and will they be able to recover?
Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole have both performed excellently for the Warriors, with Poole in particular being seen as a point guard that the Jazz can struggle to defend. You think O’Neale will defend Wiggins – means Mitchell on Poole? How will he match?
Now, I worry that Hassan Whiteside will be on the field for the Jazz, after missing the second half due to concussion-like symptoms tonight, which could mean small ball minutes. This will be their toughest test by far: can the Jazz really defend without a traditional center against a good attacking team? Will their roster be able to follow the Warriors heavyweight system?
The Jazz’s closing ability will be critically important. Jazz takes the third most in the league, Warriors is 2nd. Can they beat Curry, Wiggins, Poole, Otto Porter Jr. etc.?
Oh, and the Warriors are the league’s best counter-attacking team, while the Jazz are the league’s fifth-best counter-attacking team. Will the Jazz still be able to back down as easily as they’re used to?
I’m really excited to see what happens: The Jazz are on a six-game winning streak, but this constitutes an important test of some ideas about the Jazz’s playoffs. I Actually wish Green had played to try out more of them – but nonetheless happy to be excited about a game against the best performing team in the NBA.
Happy New Year everybody!
https://www.sltrib.com/sports/jazz/2021/12/31/triple-team-donovan/ Donovan Mitchell’s season-high 39 points lead the Jazz to a fourth-quarter game win over the Timberwolves