The Utah Jazz have looked like a different team with Donovan Mitchell back in the starting lineup and they’ll look to get one step closer to the second round tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.
In Game 2 Mitchell reminded us that his electric play puts the Jazz into the elite levels of NBA offense. In Game 3 we saw that even if his numbers aren’t super efficient, it still opens everything up for everyone else. Mike Conley was a revelation from three in Game 3 with an incredible 7/10 night as well as 8 assists.
Game 3 also showed that the Jazz have a multitude of weapons that can beat you on any given night. If Bogdanovic or Ingles are having a sub-par game, Conley and O’Neale are capable of stepping up like they did. But it’s not as possible without Mitchell. Mitchell’s presence means every piece on offense is in its rightful spot. You aren’t asking Jordan Clarkson to play 30 minutes, or Joe Ingles to take on too much of the playmaking load. Everyone is tasked with the right amount of weight and nothing is too reliant on any single role player.
The common denominator to all of this is Rudy Gobert. He is the Sun in this solar system. At the center of the Jazz defense, everything orbits around him, bending to his movement. If a defender challenges him at the rim they burn like Icarus to Gobert’s dominating rim protection.
It’s the same thing on offense. Each player orbits Gobert’s picks as he rolls to the rim, the three point line looks like a literal path of orbit as the ball swings around. When there is an opening, Donovan Mitchell is Utah’s Halley’s Comet, bursting to the basket with blinding, white-hot speed as he makes plays for others. Gobert will always be the cornerstone of everything the Jazz do, Mitchell is the thing that allows the Jazz to take most advantage of it. And much like Halley’s comet, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Jazz possibly go all the way.
When: 7:30PM MDT
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis
TV: TNT, BSSE-MEM, ATTSN-RM
Radio: 97.5 FM, 1280 AM The Zone, Utah Jazz App - WMFSKZNS/KTUB
What to watch for
What version of Joe Ingles do the Jazz get tonight?
The first two games of the series, Ingles was efficient but didn’t impact the game in too many ways beyond just shooting the ball. In Game 3 he was almost non existent scoring just 3 points on 1⁄4 shooting with 2 turnovers, 1 assist and 0 rebounds. All of that in 22 minutes on the floor. It was such a tough night he was actually benched in the second half for Miye Oni. Was it just an off night? Maybe he was a little under the weather? Whatever it was, the Jazz are a much better team when they’re getting good production from Ingles.
Having Mitchell back puts Ingles back with the bench unit and keeps his minutes down, which is a good thing in the long run if you can keep Ingles fresh, but the Jazz need Ingles’ ultra efficient production when he’s on the floor to win these games. His shooting and playmaking can decimate defenses and lighten the load for Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. Ingles having the ball in his hands also makes Jordan Clarkson more of an off ball player and can get him more efficient shots rather than constantly having to create something out of nothing. Clarkson’s ability to create something when everything breaks down is a nice advantage for the Jazz, but things are better when the team is moving the ball and creating advantages. That’s where Ingles makes his biggest impact. He takes the right shots or creates better ones for his teammates. The Jazz just need that to happen when he’s on the floor.
What’s next in the Dillon Brooks saga?
The Dillon Brooks villainy has been one of the main storylines of this series. The thing is, he’s not a supervillain. Since Donovan Mitchell has returned the Jazz have torched Brooks. He simply can’t stop Donovan Mitchell in the slightest.
Dillon Brooks is the Sabretooth of this series. Against the lesser X-Men like Ice Man or Morph he can look tough, but when Cyclops and Wolverine show up he is easily handled. Right now the Jazz are in the Danger Room at the X-Mansion. They’re getting their chemistry back and learning how to work together again so when they face actual threats, like Magneto or Mr. Sinister, they’re ready for it.