Jazz Shooting Askew in Clippers Loss, 84 – 102

October 25th, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Story of the Game

Entering the season, it was clear the Jazz would lose some games because they simply couldn’t shoot. The question was how many games.

The tally now stands at one.

This takes nothing away from a solid effort by the Clippers, who outplayed Utah on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game. They did to Utah what the Jazz typically do to opponents: smothered energy and enthusiasm by forcing offensive players to take shots they don’t want.

But there no denying that inept shooting played the biggest role in the Jazz’s first blowout loss of the season. Utah’s horrid shooting was much worse than the Clippers’ defense was good. Just take a look at three point shooting by player:

Joe Ingles: 1 of 5 (20 percent)

Ricky Rubio: 0 of 2 (0 percent)

Donovan Mitchell: 3 of 9 (33 percent)

Alec Burks: 1 of 5 (20 percent)

Thabo Sefolosha: 1 of 3 (33 percent)

Raul Neto: 1 of 2 (50 percent)

Royce O’Neale: 0 of 1 (0 percent)

Joe Johnson: 0 of 1 (0 percent)

Combined that’s seven of 28, 25 percent from deep. And that actually provides a distorted view of Utah’s shooting in this contest. At the end of three quarters, the point at which the Clippers held a 19 point lead that felt like 29, Utah had made only three of 21 three point attempts.

That’s 14 percent.

LA went under screens on perimeter players all night, particularly Jazz ball handlers in the pick and roll. Utah’s inability to punish them from long range enabled the Clippers to strangle the paint, allowing Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors a season low nine combined attempts at the rim. Through the first three games Joe Ingles flaming hot hand from deep mitigated the impact of Rodney Hood’s illness and subsequent injury. Against the Clippers, that loss was acute and obvious in the season’s first bad loss.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Donovan Mitchell

It may be comically generous to grant top billing status to a player who scored 19 points on 20 shots in an 18 point loss. But comparing Mitchell’s offensive game tonight against his performance so far this season makes it understandable – and sheer guts are worth consideration as well. The only offensive momentum Utah had all night was thanks to their precocious rookie, and almost exclusively so. LA’s 19 point lead to start the fourth quarter dropped to six with four and a half minutes left due mostly to Mitchell’s 15 point explosion in that span. Encouragingly, this included three made triples in a minute and a half, Mitchell’s first three point makes of the season. It also included a moronic heat check from near 30 feet, a terrible shot given the game situation, but taken as a whole Mitchell’s moxie was easily the brightest flash in what was a dull Jazz night in LA.

Secondary Star: Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha’s game never glints or glistens, which is probably why he was able to play well in what was overall a stinker of a performance for Utah. He combined offensive efficiency from a perimeter player (11 points on 7 shots) with a monster 12 rebounds, a clear team high. Notching a bench high 26 minutes, the Swiss product has become a solid contributor very quickly.

Secret Star: Joe Johnson

Johnson never got the chance to match the impact he made in eliminating the Clippers from the playoffs last season. At this stage in his career, Johnson can’t single handedly carry an offense that is dragging as much as Utah’s tonight. But he continued his Slow MoJo by hitting four of his six attempts from the field for 10 points. In a game where a few buckets really matter, he’s a dagger. Tonight, the Jazz needed a howitzer.

Stats of the Game

7 and 13 – Jazz steals and Clippers turnovers on the night, both season lows. Utah’s defense was unable to generate offensive opportunities it desperately needed.

11 – Jazz free throw attempts. Shooting 82 percent from the stripe means little if you get half the attempts of your opponent1.

18 – DeAndre Jordan rebounds. As one of the few players in the NBA with the size to combat Gobert, and a significant strength advantage, he’s always been a difficult match up and won the match up tonight.

82 to 50 – The Clippers’ starters points scored versus Utah’s starters. The Jazz’s starting line up got rolled.

6 – Made three pointers by Patarick Beverly and Austin Rivers. When the Clippers get six made threes from their starting guards, they’ll be a tough team to beat.

30 – Combined field goal attempts by Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio. When these players take this many shots, Utah’s offense isn’t functioning as designed.

Sundries

  • LA had the three best players on the floor tonight: Blake Griffin (22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists), Beverley (19 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block), and Jordan (11 points, 18 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals).
  • Utah kept the score close through the first half but only by hitting shots their offense doesn’t want to take in the first quarter and because the Clippers’ offense floundered in the second, scoring only 15 points. Rubio scored eight first quarter points but had to take five pull up midrange jump shots to do it. By the end of the night Utah had taken 23 shots from the midrange to LA’s nine, which powerfully illustrates which offense managed to generate the shots it desired. The Clippers effectively did to Utah was the Jazz did a few nights ago to Oklahoma City: won the game by dictating shots allowed.
  • Without Hood on the floor, Ingles carries a major burden to make jump shots. He’s the only Jazz player defenses expect to hit a three when he takes it, with the possible exception of Johnson. After his unforseen rise up the ranks of long distance shooters last season, and with his current status as a¬† starter, Ingles will certainly be a part of opponent scouting reports this year. Expect more and more teams to go over screens and close out hard on the Aussie due to his long release. Utah needs three point shooting from elsewhere to give Ingles room to get his shot off.
  • Coming into this game, Gobert and Favors were averaging 29 combined points on 22 shots a game. They only combined for 12 shots tonight2. A solid litmus test for Utah’s offense this season may be tracking how many field goal attempts these two get in a game. When they take few shots, expect the Jazz to lose.
  • Mitchell really did think he was going to hero ball his team to a late win tonight. The kid has a lot to learn, but hopefully he doesn’t lose those guts. The Jazz’ll need them.

Two wins in four games against solid Western Conference competition isn’t anything to worry about, especially with the next three games against the Suns, Lakers, and Mavericks. Utah will seek to bounce back tomorrow in Phoenix against what appears to be a historically bad team.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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