Coming off of a disappointing road trip on which the Utah Jazz showed an alarming lack of urgency and farted out two very avoidable losses, I was watching for one thing tonight: a sense of urgency. Did we get it? Yes, and no, and a few thoughts.
On whether or not the Jazz played with urgency…
The Jazz were without the team’s best player in Rudy Gobert, it’s backup center in Hassan Whiteside, and a key rotation player in Rudy Gay. Also unavailable were Malik Fitts, Jared Butler, and Udoka Azubuike.
Out of necessity, they trotted out a starting lineup of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovich, and Royce O’neale. That is a SMALL lineup especially against a team that starts three seven-footers in Mobley, Allen, and Markkanen (Markanen isn’t quite seven feet).
I thought the Jazz really did play with urgency tonight. In general, I thought on defense the Jazz did about as good a job as you could expect fronting the post, denying entry passes, and playing passing lanes more aggressively than usual. We didn’t see the Jazz give up the same kind of lackadaisical blow-by’s that we did against Detroit and Indiana. But Utah was just so, so undersized in this matchup.
The officiating did not strike me as very good tonight, but I actually think the Jazz players made it seem worse than it really was. I think they were playing harder and more physically than they normally do and so expected to be officiated differently. They were not.
Why it ultimately didn’t matter…
While I really thought the Jazz could pull off a win tonight with the right amount of hustle and shotmaking, I think the Jazz really felt Rudy Gobert’s absence more than ever.
Obviously we’ve really missed Gobert’s defensive presence. He’s one of the best defenders of all-time. But the Jazz weren’t actually that bad defensively tonight. They posted a 115 Defensive Rating, per Cleaning the Glass. That’s not good, but it’s not horrendous.
But the Jazz really missed Gobert’s presence on offense tonight. This entire offense–which I will remind you ranks as one of the best all time thus far–entirely revolves around Gobert’s North-South gravity and rim pressure. If you will, think of the Jazz offense not as a blender, but like a tornado. TRIGGER WARNING FOR METEOROLOGISTS: THIS METAPHOR IS SHAKY AT BEST.
Gobert’s rim runs create a vacuum in the center of the floor, and put pressure on the rim. This sucks defenders toward the paint, opening things up for the Jazz supercell of perimeter shooting. Ok, you knew that already. But tonight we saw a Jazz team desperately trying to create offense without Gobert’s gravitational pull toward the middle of the floor. Indeed, the Jazz were even without Gobert’s rim-running facsimile Whiteside.
The result? The Jazz failed to create open looks for each other, played a ton of isolation, and didn’t get themselves to the free-throw line. They posted an Offensive Rating of 98.9–that’s the team’s second worst offensive performance all year.
Joe Ingles wyd?/Eric Paschall tries out for a rotation spot
Man… I’ve been slow to punch my ticket on the Trade-Joe-Ingles train this season. He brings so much to the team… and he’s just so damn cool. I love that one of the dorkiest looking guys in the league is also an all-NBA level shit-talker, has a lethal jumper, and, oh yeah, is on our team.
But he’s been pretty bad this year. Mostly on defense. And tonight, with only nine active players, two of whom are on 10-day contracts, he got himself tossed pretty inexplicably. Maybe that’s on the ref for being too loose with his whistle, but I didn’t think so. That was an irresponsible way to leave his team tonight.
In his absence, however, Eric Paschall is earning himself a rotation spot. He was so good tonight, scram switching in the post, boxing out bigger opponents, and bullying his way to the rim. He finished with 18 points on 8-11 shooting, and 7 rebounds.
Darius Garland and the Cavs are L-E-G-I-T
Darius Garland had a triple-double tonight. He’s a star in the making. Evan Mobley is somehow a rookie. He’s really, really good. Jarrett Allen’s afro is cooler than the coolest person you’ve ever met. He’s also really good.