Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 128-126 loss to the San Antonio Spurs from the Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz plays defense at random, and pays for it
After a pretty good defensive performance and dominated the third half, tonight was the complete opposite: the team could not defend whoever in this, and lost the 3rd quarter 41-23. They played better defensively in the fourth half, but then Spurs made some tough tackles and won the game. It’s the thing about playing randomly until the end – it just takes a little luck with normal shooting anyway to lose in the end.
I can’t really blame one player, that’s all. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite defender, Rudy Gobert. Think about how he usually defends – and then watch how easily he lets Keldon Johnson score here.
The old players in the team certainly feel the lack of science. Joe Ingles just lost his man here, and then made a cheap mistake to boot. A point that would certainly be nice at the end of the game when Jazz has to foul, right?
Rudy Gay is a versatile player with many talents, but I don’t think his defensive ability is one of them. This is just an easy ending, with no competition, by Johnson again – who is, admittedly, great.
(The inclusion of Gay on this list is a bit unsettling because some – less the team decision makers and more than the supporters of team decisions – think he’s going to be a game changer.) for the Jazz when it comes to the outer defense. I don’t see it.)
In the end, Conley does the same thing: this is a pretty easy float for Derrick White compared to Conley.
Jazz music has to be harsher with each of these plays. I get it, it’s been a long season, but I think it’s more valuable to play hard in these moments to end the game. With a 17-point lead, the Jazz should have won this game – but they lost too soon and were punished.
2. Effect of playing injured ball on defense
It was clear that Donovan Mitchell was not at 100% in this match. He’s been under the weather for the past few days. Mitchell, though, cites the fact that he was hit in the stomach early in the first game, which threw him off balance all games – including late, causing him to miss three in the last five minutes of the game.
“I was confused by the jump when it happened in the first quarter,” says Mitchell. “Those things come in waves. In the second quarter, I felt my best, but it came in waves. ”
But anyone who has watched the Clippers’ previous series knows: when playing at under 100%, the defense is the first thing that happens. And honestly, 75% of Mitchell’s play had a legitimate impact on the game, especially in the third half when it really looked like Spurs were attacking him more than any other player.
Something like this is a prime example. Peak Mitchell stands here, blocking White, and then Jazz is in a pretty good defensive position. But once White infiltrates, he is trying to switch to Gobert, and they take advantage of the confusion.
Jazz has communicated really well in recent weeks, and then you get things like this, where Royce O’Neale and Mitchell have no idea what they’re choosing to do.
Again, his body language isn’t right here – he’s not sure who he’s protecting, then turns to someone already protected.
Now the good news is that this type of play is officially no longer suitable for Mitchell – he has really upped his defense this season. We know Mitchell has reasons for not playing his best.
But it will show how much impact a player playing at half speed can have: it manifests in both the physical and mental aspects of the game. And while it can be tough to deal with your gut issues, it can also hurt the whole team more than it helps them.
I think, in the end, the Jazz would be better off letting Mitchell miss this game after the initial injury, and letting him get back to rest and maybe tomorrow.
But, that’s Mitchell’s team: if he wants to play, he’ll play. It’s official time, after the Jazz changed their coaching staff following the defeat of Game 1 last year. I just think he might want to pull out if the situation happens again in the middle of the season.
3. I have a low panic meter on this one
First, I probably won this one. I tweeted this at halftime:
My lousy, people.
But in the end, there was a lot of concern that the Jazz would lose this match. Leading 17 points? At home? The reason they play defensive perimeter is not good? The optics are really bad!
I think it’s basically fine. Donovan Mitchell played really well when he felt well – he said he didn’t want to explode in the second half. They were able to defend quite well down the line – Spurs just made some really tough tackles. They made 55% of mid-range shots tonight – they usually do 44%.
And it’s also understandable that they eventually gave up on defense, especially the old guys mentioned in point #1 above. Am I surprised by the old players on the team and the guy who thinks he’s going to throw the whole game back playing 50% defense in the middle of the season? I’m not.
Now, that’s not to say I think this Jazz team is perfect. I really wish they added a defensive weapon on the outside, like they’re reported to be looking for. Mitchell has improved on offense to the point where they actually feel a bit redundant at the end of that floor, and I would be fine with them sacrificing some offense for defense.
In the end, I’m just much more curious about how they play in really tough matches rather than easy ones. That’s right, putting in a half-hearted effort in the regular season against teams like the Pacers, Grizzlies or Spurs, who play really hard, will cost you the playoff spot.
Last year, however, we learned that playoff placement is not more important than the quality and variety of weapons you can throw against the best of the league. Those questions remain unanswered, but they will never face Spurs, win or lose.
https://www.sltrib.com/sports/jazz/2021/12/17/triple-team-jazzs/ Jazz’s defensive effort is low, and Spurs make them play