Three Thoughts on the Utah Jazz 116-98 victory over the Salt Lake Tribune Jazz Philadelphia 76ers defeated writer Andy Larsen.
1. It’s the best win of the season, I think.
There is a long list of great things you could do to make Jazz win a game. I have decided to use the services of MyFreeBingoCards.com, a bingo card making service that appears to have been scheduled around 2004, in order to creatively show you a non-exhaustive list of these items.
Donovan Mitchell did not score 40 points, nor did Jordan Clarkson. Bojan Bogdanovic hasn’t had one of those games where he makes eight threes and changes everything. Maybe I missed Joe Ingles making fun of someone, but I didn’t see him there.
But you know what? Jazz has done just about anything you could ask them to do. Basically everyone played really well in the Jazz offensive plan. There were minor hero ball moments from, say, Hassan Whiteside, but he more than made up for that. Rudy Gobert was amazing. Mitchell and Mike Conley played incredible defense. The team’s defense was focused on the glass and the return to transition defense was at a high level, even on a back-to-back.
You look at the other Jazz wins above. 500 opponents, most with asterisks: The Bucks and Sixers (the first time) were savagely injured, the Hawks’ wins were at their worst of the season, and Denver, Sacramento, New Orleans, Portland, etc. . It’s as good as the Sixers. Philadelphia is by no means a perfect team, but there are real challenges, and the Jazz have taken them to their highest level.
For the first time, I have the impression that this team has reached the level of play of last season. Well, you remember how last season ended – that’s not enough on its own. But I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen tonight, especially in the third quarter.
2. Donovan Mitchell as free security
Donovan Mitchell is really long, remember? It has a wingspan of 6 feet 10 inches.
Obviously that can help in individual defense, but since Mitchell is relatively thick and strong, he’s sometimes not the onscreen navigator and one-on-one defender we want him to be. I think he’s improved this season, but there are still some gaps.
But because of that length, I really like him as much as I can on the weak side, just making plays and intercepting passes, much the same way Dwyane Wade did during his NBA career. You can see Mitchell starting to rate this game as Seth Curry starts his jump: he pauses late on the ball to get the steal and the easy colon.
Is it a bet? Sure. But honestly, I’m happy to see him using bets on those kinds of games: he helps from a distance, Tobias Harris is a good 3-point shooter, but not a good one, and so on. And the game here leads straight to two points on the other end.
This one’s not a bet, it’s just him who is hyper athletic. But he’s really capable of keeping Harris and going all the way, probably a good 15ft at least, to intercept that long distance pass from Matisse Thybulle.
This time it leads to three transition points, instead of two.
The Jazz aren’t a defensive playing team, but playing Mitchell in that off-the-ball role allows him to make those kinds of game-changing plays. While he might not have scored 30 tonight, I loved almost everything else he did.
3. Address enemies
Rudy Gobert was torn apart by Patrick Beverley and Anthony Edwards after Jazz’s 32-point victory at Minnesota on Wednesday night. If you haven’t caught up on the details, they’re all in Eric’s post-game writing. In short, they ripped off Gobert’s Defensive Player of the Year credentials.
These are things we have heard at least twice a season from other NBA players. And honestly, in general, what NBA players have to say about something like who’s the best defenseman should carry a lot of weight: They’re the ones who need to play against them, not us the writers!
But support for Gobert as an excellent generational game-changing defender is at a fairly high level outside of the NBA player circuit. The coaches both speak loudly to compliment his play, then heavily alter their game plans to avoid his presence. Statistics analysts analyze the numbers and find that he challenges more shots than anyone, while allowing a lower percentage on those shots than almost anyone. Even people who test their eyesight will tune in to a jazz game and be in awe of Gobert’s obvious impact.
So what’s the problem ?
I think one of the most common explanations I see for Gobert’s hatred is xenophobia, which players and fans don’t like because he’s French. I guess it could be true, but I don’t remember Tony Parker ever receiving this kind of slander. I think there might be a bias against European players in general – Nikola Jokic also receives undeserved criticism – Luka Doncic is extremely respected.
I also see that it is because he has no offensive play. Again, this could be true, but did Ben Wallace have that kind of hate? Or Dikembe Mutombo? I do not think so.
The story of COVID is another explanation – but if you think it started here, you just weren’t paying attention. Gobert received criticism long before that.
Another explanation put forward is that it is because he did not win in the playoffs. But Carmelo Anthony’s playoff career isn’t exactly stellar, and the players love ‘Melo.
As JJ Redick said on the Joe Ingles podcast, this is all a bit confusing. If I had to guess, it’s probably a combination of the above factors, plus the fact that Gobert legitimately acts awkwardly on the pitch, so flexible that he sometimes looks like a rag doll.
But I’ll say this: In general, players who criticize Gobert often reveal more about themselves than Gobert. Take Edwards’ review, that Kristaps Porzingis is giving him trouble as a rim protector. What? Frankly, that’s a pretty good sign that he’s not watching NBA basketball, as KP’s defense is widely viewed as poor – that’s one of the main reasons the Mavs can’t get past the bump.
Edwards is just a second year player, but what’s Beverley’s excuse? I think his review reveals this: that Beverley sees basketball as a one-on-one game. This is also reflected in his play: Beverley will absolutely kill himself to slow down an individual defensive game, but will miss a key spin or make a bad serving fault to win the head-to-head goal.
As a coach, those are two bad signs. Gregg Popovich once said that the first thing he looks for in a player is whether or not he has ‘passed’ or not, in other words, whether he is willing to pass the advantage over. the team for the benefit of the individual. Gobert’s criticism – especially of the self-confident nature of Edwards and Beverley – reveals that these players didn’t.