Salt City Seven: Mitchell Gets Going, Gobert Piles Up Double-Doubles & More

October 29th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Mitchell got back on track, and Gobert kept piling up double-doubles. (Image from USAToday)

The Salt City Seven drops every Monday throughout the regular season, with seven regular features meant to relive the week in Jazzland from various angles. Check in every Monday for the quotes, stats, plays and performances that tell the stories from the last 168 hours in the world of the Jazz.

An important quote from Jazz players or personnel during the week.

This week’s quote come from Joe Ingles, who offered some veteran perspective on the early shooting woes of teammate Donovan Mitchell.

“He likes that pressure, but I don’t think he needs that pressure. We don’t need him to score 40 to win a game… [W]e’ve tried to tell him just to do what he does. He’s such a good kid. He works hard, plays hard, does all the right things. He doesn’t need that pressure. We want him to stay aggressive and be aggressive but kind of do it in the flow of how we play.”

(As told to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon)

One of the most prominent subplots of the 3-2 Jazz’s first week and a half has been the trajectory of Utah’s second-year star. Mitchell pressed early on and shot just 21-for-61 in Utah’s first three games. He admitted to MacMahon that he “took a few bad shots,” which helps explain Ingles exhortation to be aggressive within the flow of the Jazz’s system.

But the real operative (and telling) part of the quote is Ingles’ evident belief in Mitchell’s character and desire to do things the right way. Mitchell told ESPN that the confidence of his teammates is what ultimately helped him break out — and break out he did. He scored an efficient 38 against Houston, followed by 22 more on just 10 shots in New Orleans, then 20 more in Dallas. His true shooting starting the night of his and Ingles’ chats with MacMahon is .665. 

“He’s going to get better throughout the course of the year, and we’re not going to judge him by a good game or a bad game,” added Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

 

Stats that tell the story of the week or highlight a timely topic.

19-2

I’m blatantly stealing this stat from the Twitter timeline of SCH writer Riley Gisseman: the Jazz have now won 19 of their last 21 regular season road games. They are +255 overall on the road — or plus-12.4 per game — dating back to January 24, 2018 in Detroit.

6

With his 23 points and 16 boards in Dallas, Rudy Gobert became the first Jazz player in a decade to start the season with six straight double-doubles. Overall, four Jazz players have had six or more consecutive double-doubles to start a season: Karl Malone did it three times, John Stockton did it twice, and Carlos Boozer did it most recently, in 2007-08. Malone had the longest season-opening streak, with nine double-doubles to kick off 1988-89 season. Gobert could match that streak this week.

 

Breaking down the Xs and Os behind a Jazz score from the week.

Disguising the Spain P&R

If you’ve been following this section for the past couple of seasons, you know that the Jazz use a lot of “Spain pick-and-roll,” which is a high ball screen, with a second screener setting a backpick on the original screener’s man. The Jazz frequently run it to good results when they make Gobert set the screen up top, with Joe Ingles setting the second pick. Gobert rolls, Jingles pops, and the Jazz usually get a good look out of it.

It’s a popular play in the NBA right now. But that also means teams are getting wise and expecting the play. So Snyder is finding ways to hide it. They did so twice on Sunday night, both times for Ingles threes.

Here’s the first one, where they start in sort of a picket-fence formation.

When all four non-ball handling Jazz guys converge at the free throw line, the Mavericks don’t know what they’re defending. Then Mitchell pops out to the right side and Jae Crowder trails off the corner, and it’s not clear yet what the action is. Ingles sneakily gets in behind Ekpe Udoh’s guy and sets that backscreen, and now his man recognizes there is nobody to wall off the Ricky Rubio drive, so he steps over. That’s the sign that Spain P&R has been fully unleashed. Ingles heads to the three-point line and Udoh, instead of simply rolling, stops at the free-throw line to set another screen1 on Ingles’ guy, leaving one of the game’s best shooters wide open.

Later in the game, they ran Spain again for the game’s dagger three, and again dressed it up a little so that the Mavs didn’t see it coming.

This isn’t *as* disguised as the previous one, but because the play starts with Rubio coming from right to left, DeAndre Jordan has no idea they’re about to change the direction of the pick and run Spain P&R down the right side. In fact, he tries to cheat the initial screening action, waiting way back before Rubio has even used the pick. Because of that, Ingles hardly has to screen him at all before heading to the 3-point line2.

And on both plays, Rubio does a great job really selling it. He gets all three defenders involved in the action to fully commit to him and Gobert before he whips the pass over to an open Joe.

 

After each Jazz win, Twitter helps us decide who was that game’s MVP or most memorable performer.

Jazz 100, Rockets 89: Donovan Mitchell

More than one tweeter suggested handing this one to Laker guard Rajon Rondo, who drew a 2-game suspension on Chris Paul with his point-blank spit missile. And sure, this game probably would have had a different dynamic had Paul played — or, for that matter, had James Harden not left with a hamstring pull when his Rockets already trailed late. But let’s give credit where credit is due: Mitchell was superb. After all the chatter about his efficiency and shot selection, he shot 14-for-25 on his way to 38 points, including 8-for-12 on contested shots. He also dished seven assists and grabbed five rebounds. Gobert extended his double-double streak and Rubio was better than the box score made it appear.

Jazz 132, Pelicans 111: Ricky Rubio

I let the Twitter vote sway me here. Originally I had Gobert, who was absolutely dominant against the Anthony Davis-less Pels. But really, you could flip a coin. Gobert had a 25-and-14 double-double on 11-for-13 shooting and with four blocks. Rubio broke out of a shooting slump with a game-high 28 and also collected 12 assists and six boards. He also probably got narrative points for the way he helped Utah respond to a late push by New Orleans’ reserves, and that makes sense. After the home team pulled to within eight points, Rubio basically put the game away. He grabbed a rebound, set up a Gobert free throw trip, assisted Crowder, rebounded again, sank four three throws, stole the ball, and threw an alley-oop pass to Gobert for an and-one. All that in about three minutes, as the Jazz surged 15-2. Then Rubio checked out, his Jazz up 21. Game, set, match.

Jazz 113, Mavs 104: Rudy Gobert

As reported above, every Jazz game this season has included a Gobert double-double. Since we borderline stiffed him with Saturday’s game ball, we’ll give him this one, almost as an aggregate award for a fine back-to-back with 48 points and 30 boards. Whoa. He recovered from early foul trouble to drop a line of 23-16-2-2-3, and he sealed the game with four late free throws as part of a 13-point fourth quarter. The bench, led by Georges Niang and Dante Exum, extended Utah’s cushion, too.

 

A quick look at the Jazz’s next seven nights of action.

After completing their first back-to-back of the season, Utah has a couple of days off before playing three in four nights, all in different cities.

Wednesday: Utah at Minnesota, 6:00 p.m. MDT

  • State of the Wolves: Who knows what version of the Wolves the Jazz will even face? Two Rockets who are reportedly involved in trade negotiations for Jimmy Butler become tradable on Wednesday3.
  • Jazz-Wolves: As Tyler Crandall pointed out in his survey of the Jazz-Wolves rivalry last week, injuries played a big role in last season’s 2-2 series.
  • Key for the Jazz: The KAT-Gobert matchup. The three times Gobert was healthy vs. the Wolves last year, Karl-Anthony Towns scored below his averages and the Jazz were in all three games (2-1, with a 3-point home loss).

Friday: Memphis at Utah, 7:00 p.m. MDT

  • State of the Grizzlies: Mike Conley is healthy again and averaging 19-6-4; the Grizzlies are 3-2, including a quality road win over the Jazz.
  • Jazz-Grizz: Everything went badly for the Jazz when they hosted Memphis last Monday; Marc Gasol won this round of his running battle with Gobert, and none of the Jazz’s guards could score.
  • Key for the Jazz: Memphis won’t catch the Jazz off guard this time, and the Jazz surely won’t get true shooting figures in the 30s from every non-Gobert starter like they did last week.

Saturday: Utah at Denver, 7:00 p.m. MDT

  • State of the Nuggets: This is an important showdown: the Nuggets are 4-1, and Nikola Jokic is playing like an MVP candidate. Right now, the Nuggets look to be Utah’s biggest competition for a division crown, and there are potentially seeding implications at stake, too.
  • Jazz-Nugs: The teams split last year’s series 2-2, but all four games were completed by January 5, well before the Jazz got healthy and found their groove.
  • Key for the Jazz: At the risk of sounding redundant: Rudy. Gobert is 5-2 against the Joker all-time, and has helped hold him to 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds. The Jazz will undoubtedly try to make Jokic have to defend, too.

Tracking the wild Western Conference postseason race and the Jazz’s place in it.

According to one projection model, the Jazz have found their way into their own little Western Conference tier… behind Golden State and ahead of everybody else.

Utah’s three straight wins have caused FiveThirtyEight’s projection to update its forecast to 56 wins. That’s significantly higher than the next group, the Rockets and Nuggets at 52, and the Thunder-Pels-Lakers group in the mid to upper 40s.

Fair warning, though: 538 tends to be one of the more reactive models. ESPN’s BPI, for example, also has the Jazz at No. 2, but only by a game over Denver.

 

Because after all, we’re all here to have fun.

Fatherhood

Tweet of the week?

That’s it for this week’s SC7. Catch last week’s here.

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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