Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’ 94-92 loss to the Salt Lake Golden State Warriors Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz’s offense in the 4th quarter is collapsing
Between the 8:45 mark and the 32-second mark of the fourth quarter, the Jazz only scored 3 points. Honestly, it’s semi-miraculous that the team’s defense was good enough to keep them in the competition despite this.
Now, there’s a big reason why: the Jazz don’t have Donovan Mitchell. He is, for obvious reasons, the Jazz’s leading scorer and a late-game threat. Sometimes, honestly, they can go too much towards him. But without him, it was a disaster tonight – timer violations, horrific shots, bad turnovers, just, essentially, a hopeless attack.
So why couldn’t they do more? Let’s break it down.
A big problem: the bad spacing. Trent Forrest just doesn’t demand respect as a shooter: Look how much Wiggins can help in the paint on a play like this, and look how the Warriors don’t care about his corner three when he climbs.
This affected almost every game when Forrest was in the game – and Forrest had a good game! But with the ability to leave him alone, the Warriors did so frequently.
Second, without Mitchell and without Gobert for the final 2:30, the Jazz simply had no one who could beat a lag. This game is after Jazz forced the switches to get the matches they wanted: who would you rather have attacked here?
Bogdanovic has a prayer, at least. Conley – we’ll get to that later – is going to fight Otto Porter’s length. Joe Ingles can’t go one-on-one, nor can Royce O’Neale. Eric Paschall can but I don’t think it’s a winning game against Wiggins. Bogey is probably the best you have.
I guess the Jazz could have put Clarkson in the game, but Clarkson was horrible again: 3-13 from the field tonight. He had also played the previous 14 minutes. Gently, a tired, gassed, cold Clarkson isn’t the answer.
The Jazz also tried to post both Bogdanovic and Rudy Gay, and neither worked – the Warriors just crumbled, forced kicks at Ingles, O’Neale and Forrest, and those guys have slow trigger fingers against fast, athletic closes.
And remember, you can’t run traditional plays against a switch defense. Well, you can, but they’ll likely be ineffective against players who can’t attack gaps — and here’s Conley, two second-round picks and two undrafted guys.
It’s just hard. The Jazz need Mitchell.
2. Bad Defense Early, Effective Defense Late
The Jazz allowed a defensive rating of 133 through the first three quarters of the game – then magically flipped the switch and allowed just 11 points in the fourth quarter to the Warriors, even as they beat on offense. It was quite impressive, actually. Ugly, but impressive.
We’ll cover the bad, of course. It was the most absurd play in the game, as three Jazz dudes let that rebound fall to the floor for unknown and unknowable reasons.
But something like this is much better: Forrest – who, again, was excellent defensively – stays in front, Clarkson shuts down wildly and Gobert takes care of the stuff in the paint, then everyone smashes the glass. There is real effort and determination here.
At the end of the match, the Jazz had even seen Joe Ingles leave his man to come and stand in the box of Steph Curry. The idea was less to make life difficult for Steph and more to just try to get the ball out of his hands – they did something like that on three games in a row.
Is it a good idea? Uh, I don’t like that. It worked, however: three straight threes were missed and the Jazz had a chance to win the game.
3. Let’s talk about Mike Conley
Mike Conley is a superb player.
He’s the team’s leading shooter in percentage, making 42% of his threes while taking just 0.6 less per game than Bojan Bogdanovic. In particular, his pull-up three in pick and roll is an absolute weapon.
He’s so efficient – he’s got the float and the pull-up, obviously, but he also has the ability to unlock Rudy Gobert’s inside efficient score in a way that other Jazz ball handlers (except Joe Ingles) don’t. just don’t. He’s gone from not knowing how to throw a lob pass to being Utah’s best lob passer in 2.5 years, and the float is a good tool, too.
He’s very smart defensively: his game was a big part of Curry’s bad night tonight, sticking with the guy through all of his twists. Sure, his size is limited, but he so often plays the right game. He’s also a reliable communicator.
In the press row, the number of times we just looked at each other and said something like “Mike Conley is so good” must number in the hundreds.
I want to be very clear: the Jazz must not trade Mike Conley. They would immediately become much worse. Mike Conley for Marcus Smart, or whatever, doesn’t make the Jazz any better.
He is getting old though.
Its use is decreasing: it has gone from 23% last year to 20% this year. He’s only taking 7% of his shots around the edge. And in that streak, without Mitchell, he has yet to eclipse taking 12 shots in a game. It’s not because of his teammates’ set-up either: he hasn’t eclipsed four assists in a game either. Tonight he was 3-10 from the field, with two assists, in a game the Jazz desperately needed him to take over.
And make no mistake: 2019 Conley resumed that game with a few clutch baskets throughout the fourth quarter. 2022 Conley could not. It was a bucket the Jazz needed, and Conley didn’t really have an answer. He’s trying to draw a foul here, but the rip-off is his best weapon in the paint right now.
I also don’t want to show you his turnover trying to isolate Steph.
I don’t think it matters much when Mitchell is healthy. When Mitchell is on the ground, he usually has the ball in his hands. And Conley’s lineups are +11 without Mitchell on the floor – still very good. It’s not really a problem.
But when Mitchell isn’t healthy and Conley is up against opposing starters, the Jazz don’t really have enough firepower: it’s Bojan Bogdanovic as the No. 1 option, with Conley a distant second or third instead. than the leader he would have. have been before. And that likely means the Jazz couldn’t survive a longer-term loss to Mitchell.
We knew the Jazz couldn’t survive a long Gobert injury before now; and with Conley at this point in his career, that means they can’t really outlast a Mitchell either. Conley, quite simply, cannot moonlight as the first option.