Utah Jazz’s fatal flaw is exposed time and time again in horrific loss to the Clippers
Los Angeles • Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 131-119 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz defeated writer Andy Larsen.
1. The Jazz have (at least) one fatal flaw
That’s the lesson of this series: they have no chance in the whole world to defend a team with five shooters, as long as one team member can penetrate.
It is so easy. Like, this is Reggie Jackson just backing down Mike Conley. Rudy Gobert has to help, or it’s an easy layup. And once he does, it’s a three-corner wide open.
The Jazz could turn to prevent that shot, I think – and it’s not a training failure, in my opinion, given how hot Terance Mann was – but then any team worth their salt will just find the shooter. open.
But yuck, guys. The Jazz allowed the Clippers 27 rim attempts and 22 3-point corner attempts, more than any other team has had in any playoff game. They just didn’t want to and couldn’t figure it out.
As always, the focus is on Gobert against small-ball lineups, and he didn’t have much of an impact at that point. I think he had a pretty decent streak, but Game 6 just wasn’t good enough.
He was not alone. Conley, as seen above, is too small. But Reggie Jackson was driving Royce O’Neale and Mitchell. Joe Ingles could officially be too slow to keep the players ahead. Defense isn’t Jordan Clarkson’s strong suit – the Clippers were trying to attack him as much as possible. And Bojan Bogdanovic is just another guy defensively, he’s not going to get any faster either.
And then in attack, the Jazz still do not feel completely comfortable attacking the small ball either. Donovan Mitchell can attack the switches, but I’m not totally convinced Conley can, even in good health. Jordan Clarkson is also less reliable than you might think, despite having had a terrific first half.
Critically, Gobert absolutely can’t beat switching defenses – that’s not Gobert’s game. He’s not tough enough to protect himself, and he’s not an offensive rebounder damaging enough to reliably punish him. He loses the ball to smaller guys pretty much all the time. And considering he’s 28, at the peak of his career, he probably always will.
The league has a bunch of teams that can do that little ball look, and the Jazz have been knocked out by three of them in recent years: the Warriors, the Rockets and now the Clippers. The league won’t go short of small balls, so the Jazz must figure out how to attack it, at both ends of the field.
And honestly, sometimes the answer may not involve Gobert. That’s fine – if you have another option. The Jazz don’t and get killed. An obvious Achilles heel, and the Clippers just shot arrow after arrow at it.
2. Donovan Mitchell is one of the top 5 shooters in the NBA
Here is the list of players who made nine three in a playoff game twice in their career:
Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell.
It was absolutely unbelievable in this series. Remarkable. He had 45 points in Game 1, 39 tonight, 37 in Games 2 and 4, and 30 in Game 3. Only Game 5 can be called a tough game by his standards, in which he scored 21. And you can make his point that this is the second-best playoff series of his career – he scored 50 goals twice against the Nuggets last year, after all.
And I can’t believe it: he did it on one leg! Watching him warm up today he couldn’t really land on his right leg, it was too painful. He couldn’t get rid of it, not really. He couldn’t stop there.
The difference with normal Mitchell was clear. He couldn’t really go into painting as often as he wanted. Every good piece was not a cause for celebration, it was time to rest. He did little chatter. He was hiding grimaces. He stayed on the ground on the way down. He was just gutting it.
But he hit some of the most ridiculous hits I’ve ever seen. Shots with players passing him, fading shots, shots with the running shot clock, shots while he was the victim of a foul, shots with little jumper but so much arc that they escaped the blockers and fell through the net. He shot 53% from the depths in this series. I mean, look at some of them from tonight:
I was never afraid to criticize Mitchell when it was deserved, and there have been games, even series, in which he deserved that criticism.
Not this time. He was a magistrate. If Jazz won this series, it would be absolutely legendary. Because his team did not meet that standard, it will be a footnote.
Well, not in my eyes anyway. Even though the scoreboard didn’t show it, we saw some really remarkable things from Mitchell in this series, and I’ll never forget it. I hope you neither.
3. What’s the next step?
On Saturday, the Jazz will clean their lockers at the Jazz Training Center in Salt Lake City. They will be giving Zoom interviews to the media. And then, in a flash, the year will be over.
A year that began with such promises ended in a gruesome, devastating, unforgivable and revealing defeat.
Let’s start here: Jazz can’t go back with that same bunch of guys. The Clippers have exposed too many flaws. Even if the Jazz were healthy, they would have many of these flaws. The opponent was not in good health, remember, and he just hit the “expose flaws” button – see point # 1 – until he won.
But what can Jazz really do about them?
I see a lot of fans talking about Gobert’s trade, but listen – on this huge new contract he has, he’s got no value in the league. The teams will not give up useful players to acquire Gobert, they would give up even worse contracts. If the Jazz trade Gobert, it would be an immediate setback, even in the playoffs.
I see a lot of fans talking about firing Quin Snyder. Firstly, Donovan Mitchell made it clear in his post-game press conference that he supports the coaching staff, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to move on. But second, here’s the big question: Who would you replace him with, and how would that person do a better job? Rick Carlisle is the best coach out there, and he too just got smacked by that same Clippers team in exactly the same way.
(I also believe in Snyder, although I understand that it’s hard for the fans to hear right now. When you tell people in the league about him, they talk about him in a reverent tone – they’re just very impressed. by his basketball spirit. And unlike some Xs and Os experts, he also endears his players. Owner Ryan Smith also loves Snyder.)
Conley is a free agent, and what the Jazz does with him will be fascinating. On the one hand: resigning him would push them so far on the luxury tax – Smith would pay around $ 70 million in payments to the league to resign him. And yet, they are golf buddies, and the Jazz have no way of replacing him if he leaves: the Jazz have no cap space even if he leaves. He’s still very good (an All-Star!) But will he be less likely to get injured as he gets older?
And then there’s the whole roster of medium contracts like Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale, guys who are good but all have various flaws. Could Jazz set up a profession that would bring them a convincing piece, something that would change history? Perhaps! But what does it actually look like? It’s hard to know at the moment.
Georges Niang probably has no meaning to bring back.
Oh, and who’s going to make these decisions, anyway? Rumors about Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and Danny Ainge abound. How will Smith be as involved as Mark Cuban, who is frequently involved in decisions?
There was a version of this season that simply meant the Jazz would push it back, a quiet offseason. A spot in the Western Conference Finals or the NBA Finals probably would have been enough. But will Smith be happy with a second-round exit? I do not think so.
It means changes. It means drama and intrigue. That means a different looking 2021-22 Jazz squad. It’s going to be a fascinating summer, I think.
It was such a wild and swirling year. From COVID tests and scheduled traffic jams to Zoom press conferences and off court dramas (the team’s plane almost crashed! The team changed owners for the first time in four decades!), this year will be like nothing else in the future. I admit I’m exhausted.
But I want to thank you all for following my coverage this season. I’m passionate about this work, about this team, about this life, but the reason I can do it is because I have fans like you who care, who read, who listen. Caring about everything seems silly at times (especially after devastating losses like tonight’s!), But there is a special community around this team that is worth it. I’m incredibly grateful for this – for you.