SC7: Jazzgasms on D, Thabo, 3 Game Balls & More

November 2nd, 2017 | by Dan Clayton

Melissa Majchrzak via utahjazz.com

Every week, the Salt City Seven column brings you the stories, stats, performances and quotes that mattered most in the previous seven days. After a 3-0 stretch, we get to spend this week’s edition doling out multiple game balls and recognizing some solid contributions by role players and starters alike.

But first, put a call in to Webster, because we start by dropping some new vocabulary.

 

A (usually) brief exploration of a prominent theme from the week or the current state of Utah Jazz basketball.

A few years ago, the term “Spursgasm” became a regular part of the NBA fan lexicon. Inspired by the early-2010s San Antonio teams known for their creativity and unselfishness, Spursgasm became the exclamation of choice when a series of quick, clever passes resulted in a fun scoring outburst.

More recently, the term morphed into Warriorsgasm or Dubsgasm, a celebration of those stretches where the historically dangerous Golden State offense reels off something like 15 points in three minutes, stunning opponents and delighting fans.

These are known phenomena. They’re #LeaguePassAlert moments and instant highlights, both because they represent the best traits of the teams they’re named for and because they can shift momentum in a heartbeat.

So let’s add to the dictionary once more: it’s time the NBA community recognizes the Jazzgasm.

Just as perilous as the Spurs’ zip-zip-boom plays and as game-changing as the reigning champs’ 15-0 explosions, the Jazz more than ever are defined by the protracted stretches where it’s impossible for their opponents to find points. People don’t necessarily tune into SportsCenter to see a rim defender challenge with perfect verticality or watch a guard fight over a high pick, but that doesn’t make the Jazzgasm any less important. It’s how Utah, now 5-3, turns tides and wins games.

In fact, all of Utah’s five wins have now included at least one such stretch.

Jazz vs. Nuggets: 26-5 run with a 28.0 DRtg over nine minutes.

The Jazz actually trailed by five going into the final period, and then the Jazzgasm ensued. For the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter, Denver was stymied and stifled by active Jazz defenders. The Jazz held their visitors to 2-for-11 shooting and forced eight turnovers. Thabo Sefolosha played the entire stretch and helped hold Nuggets wings Gary Harris, Will Barton and Wilson Chandler scoreless. The Jazz were +21 in that stretch.

Jazz vs. Thunder: 27-7 run with a 24.3 DRtg for 14+ minutes.

There were actually three extended defensive stands in this game, but the longest spanned the late first and early second quarters. For a nine-minute stretch in the second quarter, the Thunder scored just once from the field. But zoom out to a much larger 14-minute stint starting at 5:47 in the 1st to 3:34 in the second, and you’ll find the Thunder shooting 2-for-23 with eight TOs. The Jazz outscored them 27-7 and broke the game wide open. Sefolosha was on the court for 12.5 minutes of this one, too, and came up with two steals while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined for 1-for-11 shooting.

Jazz vs. Lakers: 16-3 run with a 24.1 DRtg for nearly seven minutes.

Utah didn’t trail for a second of their 96-81 victory over L.A., largely because of an early Jazzgasm that put them in control for good. From 9:29 to 2:45 in the first quarter, the Lakers had just one bucket, plus a free throw that resulted from a three-second call. They were 1-for-9 with four turnovers. Rudy Gobert was the star of this stretch, blocking two shots in the seven-minute span and rocking a +13.

Jazz vs. Mavs: 32-6 run with a 23.1 DRtg over 12+ minutes.

Dallas went up 14 in the late second quarter when JJ Barea knocked down a triple and then celebrated it right on Utah’s center court. Poor Barea had no idea a massive Jazzgasm was about to flip the game. Over the next 12 minutes, nobody scored outside of three tough pull-ups by Harrison Barnes—exactly the shots the Jazz were willing to give up. Overall, Dallas was 3-for-20 with eight turnovers while Utah blitzed them, 32-6. Gobert was on the court for the whole run and had another three blocks, while Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles combined for five steals.

Bonus Jazzgasm: Then, when Dallas pulled close in the fourth quarter, the Jazz responded by holding them scoreless (0-for-4 with 4 TOs) for over four minutes.

Jazz vs. Blazers: 23-7 run with a 28.6 DRtg for 11 minutes.

Neither team ever had a regulation lead bigger than eight points, and yet the Jazz still found time to throw in an extended first-half Jazzgasm. The most intense part of this one started after an Ed Davis layup pulled Portland even at 20 all. For the next 5:19, the only Blazers’ score came as the result of a technical when Jonas Jerebko complained about a missed out-of-bounds call. Gobert, Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh each had a block and a steal as Utah held Portland to 0-for-7 shooting with six TOs during that hyper-focused 5:19 Jazzgasm.

The ability to consistently shut opponents down like that is as unique as the Dubs’ ability to erupt offensively or the passing prowess of yesteryear’s Spurs. They won’t alert Scott Van Pelt at the desk when it happens, but it’s a big deal when the already stingy Jazz defense shifts into hyperdrive for the better part of a quarter. Sustaining a DRtg in the 20s for that length of time is a rare and deadly weapon, one the Jazz have unsheathed in each of their wins.

Beware the Jazzgasm.

 

Words from a Jazz player or coach about a relevant or timely topic.

We haven’t talked about Sefolosha nearly enough this season. So let’s talk about Sefolosha. This great quote comes from rookie Donovan Mitchell, via Basketball Insiders’ Ben Dowsett.

“He’s a leader. He’s a certified leader. I think (Portland) scored two buckets in a row to start the game. He came and talked to AB (Alec Burks) and I, he was just talking about, ‘When we come in, this is what they’re doing. Play on this side, play on this side…’ And he saw that in two plays. I’m trying to get to that level, where I see, all right, this is how they’re playing off of just two plays. It starts with him, he comes in and he’s turning the energy up. And we all feed off that… He knows where to be, he knows how to defend guys.”

There’s a good chance people are underestimating the importance of Sefolosha’s defensive know-how. Teams just can’t score when the Swiss wing plays — the Jazz’s already stout defensive rating of 96.9 drops to 92.4 with Sefolosha on the court. He defends smart, and always under control; he hardly ever fouls (just 11 on the year) and yet he steals the ball and challenges shots with regularity.

And it’s not just defense. He’s the Jazz’s second most efficient shooter among regular minute-getters, behind only Gobert, because he only ever takes smart shots. His TS% is .620, largely because 70 percent of his shooting possessions are either shots at the rim (29%), three-pointers (33%) or free throw trips (8%). When he does shoot from midrange, it’s because he’s open — which is why he’s also shooting 58 percent on two-point shots outside 10 feet, just edging out Ricky Rubio (57%) for best on the team1.

Sefolosha knows how to play, and for 22 minutes a night, the Jazz are getting the smart, solid play they hoped for when they inked him.

 

Doling out credit for Jazz wins, one imaginary Spalding at a time.

We have a lot of work to do here, with Utah enjoying a 3-0 week.

Jazz 96, Lakers 81 – Donovan Mitchell

The rookie guard did more than just have the most memorable play of the night (and maybe the season so far). He had a career-high 22, including eight straight Jazz points in the late third to restore a double-digit lead after L.A. had inched closer. In the same stretch, he stole a pass, drew a charge, and otherwise played solid D. It’s still going to be a bit of a roller-coaster ride with the youngster, but this particular half of basketball was so good that Quin Snyder opted to close with Mitchell over Rodney Hood.

Jazz 104, Mavs 89 – Rudy Gobert

I mused at the start of the season that there would be some difficult picks now that Utah is more of a win-by-committee outfit. This was a brutal call. How do you pick ONE Game Ball recipient in a contest where Jazz finally showed how the machine can hum when all of Rubio, Hood and Gobert play like the best versions of themselves?

  • Rubio drilled jumper after jumper (his second straight 20-point game), managed the offense well (six assists) and his defense helped swing the momentum Utah’s way, including when switched onto Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Hood finally looked like the aggressive, elite pull-up scorer the Jazz have envisioned (25 points, the most by a Jazz player this season).
  • And Gobert was everywhere and did everything, with a 17-12-6-6-2 line and a RI-DI-CU-LOUS 64.8 D-Rating.

I went with Gobert because a plurality of you told me to and because his night was the most historically unique of the three… but seriously, flip a three-sided coin.

Jazz 112, Blazers 103 (OT) – Ricky Rubio

Oof, another brutally tough one. First of all, the Jazz don’t even make it to OT without Gobert’s tying dunk and last-second block, and he was otherwise fantastic on D. But the people spoke and this one seemed to come down to Mitchell and Rubio. Mitchell had 12 in the fourth quarter and overtime, including the triple to give Utah the first lead since the early third quarter AND the opening three of the extra session. He dueled with Damian Lillard and came away as one of two Jazz rookies to ever score at least 28 in one of his first eight games. But how do we ignore Rubio taking over late? Ten in the fourth, 11 in overtime, plus some terrific defense, a steal, four late rebounds and the first 30-point game of the Jazz’s season. (Plus, this spreads the love around a little and gets Rubio on the board.) Honorable mentions to Thabo (15 & 9, three steals, great on-ball D in the clutch) and Quin Snyder (great game plan for Lillard and CJ McCollum).

 

Stats and figures that help tell prominent stories from the week.

11.3

Rodney Hood’s up-and-down week reminded me of a stat I used to track last time the Jazz had a youngster growing into a primary scoring role: scoring average in the game following an 18+ performance. Since November 11, 20162,, he has only strung 18-point games together eight total times and never more than three in a row. His average over that period in the game after an 18-plus outburst is 11.3. In all, he has had more single-digit nights since the start of last season (24) than 18-plus performances (22), and that doesn’t even count the 25 he’s missed.

And that’s fine. Growing into a primary scorer is tough. But this should indicate how far he still has to go before he can carry an offense.

2

Mitchell is one of two rookies to have at least three 19-point performances so far this season (Ben Simmons has had four). The last time two rookies did it in the same season was 2012-13, when Lillard (5) and Anthony Davis (3) both achieved it. Joel Embiid (3), Jahlil Okafor (6) and Michael Carter-Williams (4) each did it in the intervening season. So, you know… trust the process.

Although, to continue the point from that Rodney stat, it’s still going to be feast or famine for a while with Mitchell. In the sub-19 games, he has scored 10, 8, 2, 2 and 2.

 

A quick dissection of an awesome bit of Jazz offense from the week.

Another player we need to pay quick lip service to is Jerebko, who returned from the end of Snyder’s bench to make a major impact in Utah’s third straight win on Wednesday.

Joe Johnson will miss a couple of weeks with a wrist injury, and Utah will miss the wily scorer’s ability to simplify the game when the offense dries up. But his absence brings Jerebko into the rotation, and the Jazz can do some things with the big Swede that they can’t do with Johnson or Derrick Favors. Here’s one.

Having the big spaced for an above-the-break three works really well, especially on pick-and-roll plays to the outside. Notice how Ingles and Gobert first run it towards the middle, but the Blazers’ conservative P&R defense shuts that down; when Gobert catches, there are four opponents within a few feet of him.

So they reset, and this time they run it towards the outside, because that’s going to pull Al-Farouq Aminu a little further off his man. Ingles snakes the pick further forcing Portland to send help, and Jerebko knows exactly what’s coming, which is why he signals to Burks to stay put in the corner. Look how the spacing compares when they run the P&R with the same pair, first to the inside and then to the sideline:

Inside vs. outside P&R: Joe & Rudy set the table for a Jerebko 3.

In all, Jerebko had eight points (on three shots), seven boards and two assists and was a +17 against the Blazers. The Jazz now get to see what a bona fide stretch big can do to their offense.

 

Games coming up in the next seven days.

Friday vs. Toronto. The Raptors are legit. Like, really. They’re a top six team by Net Rating even though they’ve opened with five of their first seven on the road. Friday’s game will the last of their monster 6-game trip. So far, their defense has been every bit as stout as Utah’s, and on the other end the Jazz certainly struggle with guard combos who can break down the defense by driving.

Sunday at Houston. The Rockets have the Net Rating of basically a good-not-great team, and they’re suddenly pretty average in some areas where they’ve been elite in past seasons, especially pace of play . They’re 1-2 at the Toyota Center, and All-NBA guard Chris Paul’s return appears to be a ways off still.

Tuesday vs. Philadelphia. The Sixers are still a bit enigmatic, but they don’t have a single bad loss, and they have shown they can win on the road (at Detroit, Dallas and Houston), which not all young groups can do.  Overall they’re about average defensively and subpar on offense, but occasionally they catch lightning in a bottle, especially when the freakishly gifted Joel Embiid or the uncommonly heady Ben Simmons have a great night.

 

Because, at the end of the day, this should be fun.

So many cool pictures and moments to choose from (especially on Halloween week with costumes and pumpkins and stuff), but we’ll close with this tweet from Mitchell… partially because it vindicates the Wednesday night Game Ball pick.

 

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

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