Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 123-119 win over the Dallas Mavericks from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jordan Clarkson and Emmanuel Mudiay tandem for the win
What a spectacular performance from both of the Jazz’s bench guards tonight. Their combined efforts were really the reason the Jazz won the game: Jordan Clarkson finished as a +17 in a 4-point win, Emmanuel Mudiay a +12.
I can hear you all. “But Andy, you told us that Clarkson and Mudiay were inefficient, empty-calories players, ones who hadn’t ever really helped winning in their lives! They’re clearly really useful! Why would we listen to you now?” It’s a fair point. If I have lost your trust, I understand.
All I can say is this: the Jordan Clarkson who had played in five NBA seasons before this wasn’t this good. And the Mudiay who had played in four NBA seasons before this wasn’t either. Both men have changed this year. For Clarkson, it really started while he was still in Cleveland, where he began to remake his shot selection. That’s an effort he’s continued here.
But for Mudiay’s offense, and the defense for both players, I think you have to give most of the credit to Quin Snyder and the Jazz’s development system. I mean, watch this play a few times.
Mudiay runs pick and roll with Tony Bradley. That’s normal. But instead of forcing it inside and turning the ball over — his go-to move as one of the highest-turnover point guards in recent memory — Mudiay picks up the ball, fakes, and finds the open man, Georges Niang.
Now watch Clarkson on the play. He’s vacating the space on the strong side, but it looks like he’s lingering in the paint a little too long. What’s he doing? In all that traffic, Bradley can’t get the ball! But then it becomes obvious: he realizes that as long as he’s down in the paint, Niang’s man is going to guard him. That frees up that pass. Then, Clarkson spaces to the corner for the extra pass and the open three. It’s high-IQ basketball.
Mudiay’s successes, after re-watch, were a little more standard. I mean that in a positive way, though: standard is good for Mudiay, who often has tried to do too much rather than making the easy play. He knocked down his threes, that’s good. He attacked in transition, and took the open layup when he had it and passed it when he didn’t. This is significant progress: playing simply can lead to success.
Clarkson had eight assists tonight, leading all players. Again, many of them are simple passes, but keeping the ball moving is a real win for Clarkson, who sometimes had a reputation as a ball-stopper. Not tonight. At the end, he added flair — but effective flair — to this pass, a no-looker that stopped Bogdanovic’s man from rotating over just a split second longer.
Both were really good defensively tonight as well. Clarkson had a great block on a Delon Wright layup, Mudiay was in the right position for a steal. All told, it’s impressive. We knew there would be highs and lows in the Clarkson and Mudiay Experiences, but I didn’t expect the highs to be in this all-around manner. That they are bodes well for them continuing in the playoffs.
This game had one of the clearest distillations of the Four Factors of basketball that I can remember.
If you’re unfamiliar, basketball statistician Dean Oliver was perhaps the first to think of basketball in terms of four categories: shooting the ball, taking care of the ball, rebounding the ball, and winning the free-throw battle. That’s pretty much the whole game, and so he started looking at every game by the Four Factors. Shooting is most important, obviously, but the others play key roles too.
Here’s tonight’s Four Factors, from Cleaning the Glass.
As you can see, the Jazz had an incredible offensive night: 126 points per 100 possessions. That makes sense — look at that shooting!
That they turned the ball over 21 times was a significant bummer — a 4th percentile performance among NBA games this season, but their offensive rebounding nearly made up for it. But they started to send the Mavericks to the line way too frequently, a key part of their big comeback that nearly cost them the win.
Quin Snyder’s offensive and defensive philosophy is mostly about making that FG% as wide of a gap as possible. On the offensive end, he’ll risk turnovers in order to get open shots inside and out. On defense, he’ll send only one man — the player playing center — to the glass, sending everyone else back in transition defense. Not fouling is paramount to Snyder’s defensive philosophy as well.
Some teams have the Four Factors on their jumbotron or on stat monitors around the arena, including the Warriors and Rockets. Hopefully, the Jazz will find a way to make that happen soon, as it’s a really quick look at what’s going on in each game.
3. Bojan Bogdanovic’s play
Have you ever seen anyone do anything like this in your life?
You have not. Of course, there aren’t many opportunities for regular folks to do this: part of the key is that the shorter Bogdanovic is trapped in the corner by the 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis. But while Nate Robinson has actually dribbled through the legs of a defender before — albeit in the D-League — I haven’t seen anyone do anything like this.
Basketball has been played for decades. To invent something new that people haven’t done before is a real accomplishment, even if it is a situational move.
Bogdanovic was pretty humble about the play, just explaining that he was looking for any way to back Porzingis off of him in the corner. A pass fake might have been the normal option, but against someone so huge, this bit of creativity was enough.
And it actually worked! Porzingis kind of staggered backwards, Bogdanovic got to reset, and then the Jazz ran a Bogey/Gobert pick and roll that resulted in an easy dunk.
In the style of the great Clyde Frazier: Bojan Bogdanovic is creatin', shot makin', and innovatin'.