Record Three Point Performance Powers Utah’s 121 – 108 Win

November 25th, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

Ricky Rubio’s two three point makes were just the tip of the iceberg as Utah sniped its way to a 13-point victory over Milwaukee at home. (AP Photo/Chris Nicoll)

Story of the Game

When Rudy Gobert went out of the Jazz lineup due to a knee injury, something unexpected happened. Likely due to necessity, Utah turned to an offensive powerhouse–at least compared to how they’d played to that point. Entering Saturday’s contest with the Bucks, the Jazz’s offensive rating in their seven games without Gobert was 109, good for seventh in the league in that span.

That offensive punch was tested tonight by Milwaukee in what turned out to be a massively entertaining game.

Utah made its first four threes, including two by Donovan Mitchell, foreshadowing what would become a game in drastic contrast to his one of 10 shooting against the Bulls. But the Bucks roared back, including making a ridiculous 16 of 18 shots from seven minutes left in the first quarter to five left in the second.

Then Utah ended the quarter on a 17 to eight run and finished the half with nine made threes on only 17 attempts. The 64 – 57 halftime lead felt significant. Certainly either team could keep up their first half efficiency (56 percent shooting for the Jazz, 62 percent for the Bucks).

Less than four minutes later Utah’s lead was one. It was that kind of night. The team that let off the offensive gas would lose.

That ended up being the Bucks. The Jazz added another 31 points in the third quarter behind 56 percent shooting, including five more threes. Another 26 points–Utah’s only quarter scoring less than 30–piled up in the fourth, and the Bucks simply couldn’t keep pace despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 27 point, 13 rebound, 5 assist game.

When the final buzzer rang, Utah had made a new franchise record 18 three point shots and tied their season high assists at 31. Six players notched double figures, including four with 15 or more points. The Jazz have now won three of their last four games, and in those wins they’ve averaged nearly 119 points per game.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles

Mitchell’s star continues to rise. It isn’t just the 24 points on 16 shots, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, numbers that are not uncommon for the rookie. It is how complete the young guard’s game is. There were only a few reasons Mitchell was still on the board for the Jazz to trade up to grab with the 13th pick in the draft. Height was one but only because of two others: questions about his shot and his ability to orchestrate an offense. Tonight, Mitchell made six of 10 three point shots, raising his long range accuracy to 34 percent for the season. At the same time, he made the two most beautiful passes of the night, both look away dimes to teammates open under the basket for easy scores. On each, he saw the intended pass before receiving the ball, and so caught and immediately whipped the ball away again, right on target. The only other Jazz player with that vision is Ricky Rubio. If Mitchell’s jump shot stabilizes, even if it doesn’t improve–and remember, he is a 21-year-old rookie with only 19 NBA games under his belt, so it certainly could–and he matures as an offensive orchestrator, he might be a franchise changing player. Because people always knew he had the athleticism to do this:

While Ingles doesn’t pop off court the way Mitchell does, his game has become just as delicious for those who watch carefully. After making another 5 of 8 three point shots tonight, he’s an amazing 52 of 106 on the season. That’s 49 percent! But where his shooting has become his league-wide hallmark, he’s quietly expanded his role to Utah’s de facto point guard as Rubio works to find his place on this squad. Ingles dished 9 assists tonight and has now led the team in six games this year, as many times as Rubio.

Secondary Stars: Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood

Favors continued all around excellent play with hyper efficiency offensively.  Tonight it was 16 points on 8 shots with a team-leading 6 rebounds and 2 assists thrown in. In a game not notable for its defense, he made a few defensive imprints with a steal and a pair of blocks, including meeting the Greek Freak above the rim and using the ball to bludgeon him out of the sky.

Quin Snyder’s decision to move Rodney Hood to the bench has proven brilliant. He added another 21 points on 15 shots, including going 3 of 6 from three, while chipping in his typical pairs of assists and rebounds, and less typical, two steals as well. Hood is clearly more comfortable and feeling less pressure when allowed to match up more often against second string competition. He also seems to benefit from having a chance to watch the game for a while before hitting the floor. To that confidence and consistency–he’s now scored 16 or more in nine of his last 10 games–he tonight added uncharacteristic aggression, driving to the hoop repeatedly and frequently finishing. He even had two dunks, including this highlight spot:

Secret Star: Alec Burks

Snyder has wisely recognized that Utah depends heavily on the few shot creators on their roster. Mitchell has been that player all season, and trusting a rookie with that role shows how few options this roster has in that regard. Burks, who may have had his best game of the season against the Bulls, followed that up with another strong outing, producing 9 points on 5 shots while adding 3 rebounds, an assist, and tellingly 2 steals. His defensive effort his improved and he received 23 minutes of playing time tonight, rewarding his coach with a team high plus-12.

Stats of the Game

18 – Threes made by the Jazz, besting the old franchise high by one.

62 percent – Three point shooting by Utah’s starters: Mitchell’s 6 of 10, Ingles’ 5 of 8, Rubio’s 2 of 2, and Jerebko’s 0 of 1.

10 – Jazz turnovers, tied for second fewest of the season. Their three best games in terms of ball possession have been this game as well as the blowouts of Chicago and Orlando, all in the last four games.

37 – Points scored by Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon on ridiculous 15 of 19 shooting from the field, including 6 of 7 from long range.

8 – Minutes in which DeAndre Liggins grabbed, held, and chomped his way to five fouls.

58 percent – Jazz free throw percentage, which hopefully is a aberration for the team who entered the night leading the league in this category. For entertainment’s sake, note that they shot 57 percent from the field and 56 percent from three.

Sundries

  • Twice in the first half Utah made three point shots out of broken defensive sets. The first was on an offensive rebound by Ekpe Udoh, which he kicked out to Ingles for a triple. The second came when Ingles outran Antetokounmpo1 as the Bucks were trying to throw ahead of Utah’s defense. Ingles reached the ball first and quickly shot the ball back to Utah’s side of the court, setting up a immediate swing pass to the wing to Burks, who canned the jumper. Three point jumpers out of situations like these where defenses are compromised and caught unprepared are some of the most efficient in the game. It looked very much like Utah has practiced getting these long distance attempts in these scenarios.
  • Antetokounmpo really is amazing. Physically, there’s never been a better specimen in the NBA, or any team sport in the world, I’m fairly certain. And he was making pull up midrange jumpers today. If that becomes a thing, he’ll be truly unguardable. That being said, I was struck by how much leeway he got tonight initiating contact on his drives. He’s far less artful than LeBron, often moving directly into players shoulder first, pushing a defender’s center mass to get room to shoot. When that doesn’t work, he’ll sometimes add a quick flail of his off arm trying to create even more room. He wasn’t called on any of that tonight. I thought there should have been at least two fouls on those plays.
  • How, and when, and where, and why Snyder is deploying his guards is fascinating. A rookie (Mitchell) led the pack at 29 minutes played, which has become something of a norm among the point guards. Hood matched that but as a bench player. Burks notched 23 minutes, a trend that I suspect will continue. That left Rubio with 22, many against second units, and Neto with 19. If anyone had said entering the season that Snyder would try to get Rubio and Hood on the floor against second units while counting on Neto and Mitchell to hold down major minutes against starters, no one would have believed them–especially these players!
  • It’s been a really tough month or so for Rubio, but he had his best recent game with 11 points on only 5 shots while adding 7 assists. That’s the most dimes he’s accumulated since November 11th against Brooklyn, and they came in only 22 minutes of play. Hopefully, he’s finding a way to play his game in Snyder’s more egalitarian motion offense. It often saw Rubio playing off the ball to start half court sets tonight, which allows a player like Mitchell to initiate the offense with pick and rolls defenders have to guard for jump shots. When Rubio gets the ball, the defense is already is motion, which helps Rubio take advantage without putting as much pressure on him to make shots off the dribble.
  • Utah broke 100 points with 9:55 left in the fourth, Thon Maker gave Jazz fans Chick-fil-A, and Mitchell broke the Jazz franchise record for team three pointers in a game and then, cool as can be, turned toward the Bucks bench with a little finger, Shhhhh!, to his lips. The game was a high point for sheer fun on the season.

Utah’s suddenly smoking offense will try to keep the points piling up at home on Tuesday against a Nuggets team light one Paul Millsap.

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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