It goes without saying that on multiple levels, Game 1 was a disappointing start to the post-season. However, the time to let losses linger isn’t now. The Jazz, as Donovan Mitchell pointed out during his media availability on Monday, have to handle their business from here on out.
If nothing else, Game 1 of this series has given Utah ample opportunity to evaluate their shortcomings and adjust to those issues accordingly. In taking the “silver linings” approach to that game, the Jazz played without their best offensive player, had one of their worst shooting performances of the season, had their best player in foul trouble all night, and still only lost the game by three points. Obviously, while none of that makes the loss any better, it does show that with only a little bit of improvement, the Jazz can even out this series before it goes to Memphis. To do that, here are where they need to improve upon:
Keep Ja Morant from getting to his spots
In the last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter, Ja Morant scored 10 points, all of which were in the paint. This was a massive reason why the Jazz couldn’t ride Bojan Bogdanovic’s hot second-half shooting to a comeback. Time and time again, Morant was able to get into the paint and either put up an easy floater or dish off to Jonas Valanciunas. To keep this from happening again, the Jazz have a few options.
First, they can go under on every screen. This season, Morant only shot around 30% from downtown. So, the likelihood of him singlehandedly winning the game through three pointers and long two’s isn’t very high. Another option is to hedge/trap him on every screen. In doing so, Utah would force the ball out of his hands and make players like Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson beat them through perimeter shooting. Finally, the last option (and most important one) is that the Jazz do a better job of staying in front of Morant when going 1 on 1. Simply put, in the fourth quarter, Utah’s perimeter players were being cooked by Morant off the dribble. In Game 2, the Jazz just need to provide more resistance off the bounce.
When: Wednesday, May 26th, 2021 8:00 PM (10:00 PM ET)
Where: Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TNT, AT&T Sportsnet
Radio: 97.5 PM, 1280 AM, Utah Jazz App
Stay out of foul trouble/Commit less turnovers
I’ve put these two together because while watching the game, I felt they both, at least in part, seemed to stem from a lack of focus.
As it pertains to foul trouble, I do think the Jazz got a couple tough breaks on some tricky-tack fouls. However, by-and-large, the fouls that were called on Utah (mainly on Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors) were fouls within the NBA rulebook. Arguing whether or not those fouls should be called in the playoffs is neither here nor there because the fact was that they were being called. Gobert has to know that in a close playoff game where he has 4 or 5 fouls, he cannot, under any circumstances, risk getting that final foul through grabbing Jonas Valanciunus’ arm on a rebound. Gobert was a +11 on the night but only played 25 min. Had he been able to stay on the court for at least another 5 minutes, the result of the game could have been completely different.
When it comes to turnovers, the Jazz simply can’t keep handing the ball over to the other team. They ended the night with 16 TO’s, which isn’t necessarily the worst, but had detrimental effects on other aspects of the game. Utah only put up 81 shots on the night, 19 less than the 100 attempts Memphis was able to take. That is about 9 attempts less than average for Utah and 9 attempts more than average for Memphis. Simple logic tell us that giving yourself less opportunities to score is poor for winning. In Game 2, Utah has to be more disciplined with the ball.
Find the shooting stroke
Game 1 was a brutal shooting expedition for Utah, especially from downtown. Just about every NBA team will have a difficult time winning basketball games when they shoot 12-47 from three. Jordan Clarkson went 0-8, Mike Conley went 3-11, and George Niang went 1-6. The Jazz actually got a lot of really good looks from three, most of them just didn’t fall. Poor shooting nights will always happen, but in Game 2, I don’t think Utah can afford to shoot that poorly again. Hopefully with Clarkson’s spirits high as the fresh 6MOTY and Donovan Mitchell back in the lineup, the Jazz can get back to shooting around their season average from three point land.
All-in-all, tonight is a great opportunity for Utah to get back onto its feet and start the epic post-season run we are all hoping for. It is not uncommon for great teams to lose their first game of the post season. But now, it's time for the Jazz to lock in and start playing like the contenders we know they are.
Will the Jazz win tonight?
This poll is closed
Yes, but with Mitchell destroying Dillon Brooks.