Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 125-110 win over the Chicago Bulls from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Donovan Mitchell 3-point explosion
Donovan Mitchell scored 37 tonight, but 25 of those points came in the third quarter. And 21 of those 25 came from beyond the 3-point arc in the third quarter – the seven threes he made equal to the most he’d previously made in an entire game in any point of his career so far.
He said it was all triggered by a call he felt was missed early in the third quarter, on which he got a technical foul.
“To be honest with you, it was me and the ref,” Mitchell said. “I feel like I didn’t hear or see or think about anybody else.”
He’s become such a good pull-up shooter. Here are the top 10 pull-up shooters in the NBA, ranked by FGA.
I’m not sure I’d ever see Mitchell above James Harden on that list, that’s pretty remarkable. He’s in the neighborhood of the very best: Steph, Dame, and Trae. And from a “making them” point of view, he’s above both Lillard and Harden, two of the best pull-up shooters of all time.
I understand why fans get heartburn when he shoots 5-17 from deep, as he did against the Milwaukee Bucks. But to me, the bigger issue in the Bucks game was the 5-15 he was from 2-point range – that’ll kill you more than the 30% shooting from deep. Personally, I’m generally supportive of the threes he takes, especially when they come after some initial offensive thrust to see if easier points can come at the rim.
2. Responsible Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson had 26 points on 11-18 shooting tonight. Unlike Mitchell, Clarkson’s points didn’t come from deep, but inside the arc: he was 10-13 from 2-point range, just 1-5 from 3.
There were moments when it was just about making tough midrange shots over a good defender, Alex Caruso. But I also really like the moments when he stayed under control, read multiple defenders rather than just his own di lui, and attacked accordingly.
Take this: here, Clarkson does a great job of keeping Zach LaVine on his back, keeping Nikola Vucevic in no-man’s land, and simply scooting for the layup. Again, note how under control he is the whole time. I think there’s also a corner 3-point shooter open, but the layup is even better.
This one looks like a flashy play – ooh, look, a fancy crossover! – but it also makes basketball sense. Clarkson knows he’s going to have much more success finishing at the rim if Gobert’s on the opposite side of the rim: Gobert’s much more of a threat to finish the lob pass, not the dump-off pass. So at first, he’s driving left, he sees Vucevic and Gobert there, then changes direction to the right side. Vucevic never comes and helps, and the result is another easy layup.
When Clarkson is at his best, he’s aware of the other defenders on the floor. He’s so good at the shimmying and shaking of 1-on-1 basketball, using tiny advantages to gain space. But sometimes, he can be hurt by the help defenders coming when he has this tunnel vision. If he plays with multiple defenders in mind, he’s at his best.
3. Optionality on the Jazz’s roster
I gave last year’s roster builders a lot of criticism for not filling out their roster with legitimate NBA rotation players. Frankly, guys like Miye Oni, Matt Thomas, Jarrell Brantley, Udoka Azubuike, Elijah Hughes, even Ersan Ilyasova simply weren’t playable in the playoffs, as evidenced as their spots outside of regular season rotations or the NBA at all this season.
This year’s roster isn’t perfect by any means – it still lacks that menacing perimeter defender that I really wish they had. But Quin Snyder has mostly fully useful NBA players on this roster, and he’ll be able to, to some extent, mix and match which players he uses for the playoffs depending on the matchup.
Need a passing PG? Trent Forrest is the choice. A shooting PG? Jared Butler.
Need a hustle power forward who can rebound? Juancho Hernangomez is a good option. Need a hustle power forward who can score inside? Eric Paschall’s your guy. Need a non-hustling but shooting and rebounding power forward? Pick Rudy Gay.
Need a scoring wing? It’s Nickeil-Alexander Walker, who scored 14 tonight. Need a defensive wing? It’s Danuel House. Both of those guys can shoot, too, so they’re not out of place as the fifth best player in any lineup.
Obviously, it’s not that simple: the playoffs will expose these guys’ weaknesses in a way that the regular season simply doesn’t. But I don’t think you’re being laughed out of the room by putting any of these guys on the court during a playoff game. They’re not just surviving – like Juwan Morgan was in his emergency role – but they’re actually actively adding something to the good.
Is it the Clippers roster or the Suns roster of last year, where they seemingly have great players coming from everywhere, ready to sub in at a moment’s notice? I don’t think it’s quite that good. But it’s a lot, a lot better than it was last year, and the Jazz will be much better equipped to be flexible than last postseason.