Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz 122-108 victory over the Boston Celtics over Salt Lake Tribune Jazz writer Andy Larsen.
1. Donovan Mitchell leads a formidable offensive jazz performance
Donovan Mitchell proves the enemies wrong.
Look, the enemies aren’t particularly bright. But he still played at a superstar level today, really taking possession of the team in the second half and leading the Jazz to 74 points overall in 24 minutes.
In particular, he led the final half quarter, pushing the Jazz away from the Celtics with a simple assault and a shot. He knew full well when it was his turn to attack and when the Celtics’ defense paid him too much attention, leaving someone else open. More than anything else, he read the game on the fly and made the right decision every time.
Like, I’m actually really impressed with this piece. Yes, clearly it’s a huge mistake for Boston to leave Bojan Bogdanovic right after a time out. But I think the earlier versions of Mitchell don’t take advantage of it, preferring to just run the game Quin Snyder put together in the time out. Here Mitchell has his eyes open and ready to pounce with the long pass.
Again, an older version of Mitchell slows the game down here; he likes to run the ball on the field with the game ending late. After a missed free throw, how often do you get a quick break? But Mitchell and Joe Ingles recognize the opportunity, then Mitchell attacks in the perfect way to open Ingles.
He only managed three spool hits: all three pulling and one ankle breaker that just might be the best game on SportsCenter. He’s in a groove, on TNT, with the perfect opportunity to keep increasing that point total, proving the enemies wrong. The defense, again, is focused on one thing, stopping Mitchell.
So what does he do? He draws the defense and launches it on Rudy Gobert.
That’s what makes this team feel a little different: They really play for each other, and that’s largely down to Mitchell’s attitude as the team’s best offensive player.
“The two assists to Rudy, you all know, last year, the year before, and the year before, I’m probably not throwing that pass,” Mitchell said. “So like, this is the progression that I see in myself. And my teammates see me and can just trust him.
The Jazz had an offensive rating of 130 today against the league’s eighth best defense, a team with plenty of girth length and talent. They didn’t shoot above par either – it wasn’t a coincidence performance. So far, they have answered every possible offensive question that has been asked at the highest level.
2. Aggression from both sides
I thought about the differences between this Jazz team and the one last year, and I think I identified a big one:
The previous Jazz teams, I think, have tried to dissect their opponent. Forgive me for extending a horrible metaphor here, but if the Jazz wanted their opponent to be dead, they asked him to get on the operating table, put him under anesthesia, take out a scalpel, open the skin of the chest, remove a few ribs, carefully cut the aorta and all other arteries and veins, and then tore the heart of their opponent. At one point, talented opponents would think ‘wait, I don’t like what’s going on here’, and sometimes slip away.
This Jazz team has a more direct approach. They have a machete. If they want their opponent to die, they’re just going to start swinging.
They take another seven three per game. They run in transition manner Following. They completely unleashed Jordan Clarkson to do whatever he wants which is attack. Even players like Ingles, Royce O’Neale and Miye Oni, who have been very reluctant to shoot at times in their careers, are giving up.
Focus on Ingles for a second; he took 11 three tonight. But not only that, he’s also reached the free throw line 10 times, the most of his NBA career. Yes, the Celtics are hitting the switch a bit, but do you know how many versions of Ingles aren’t ready to enjoy it, especially with the weather on the clock? This version of Ingles does and hits it.
And defensively, they attack them more. They’re averaging nearly two more blocks per game this season than last, for example. Rudy Gobert is great at blocking basketballs, but I thought last season he was a little too happy playing the percentages – yes, a mid-range shot is a bad shot, but he still has 35% off. chances to enter.
Unless you just blocked it. He then has 0% chance.
Because they’ve been more aggressive, they repeatedly have those revolutionary races that only ruin their opponents – like a hack-and-slash video game where you rack up points by combining attacks. It’s not Surgery, his Mortal combat.
3. The arbitration was tough
I think this is the first time I have spoken directly about refereeing this season. Honestly, for the most part I think it’s been really good this year.
Tonight’s crew of Leroy Richardson, Mark Ayotte and Tony Brown were really, really poor. I could have a more detailed list of qualms, but they’ve committed a ton of arbitration sins tonight:
• No consistency from period to period. There were seven combined free throw attempts in the first half and 34 combined free throw attempts in the second half. It has become absurd in the last couple of periods and has made a really good game difficult to watch.
• Pure guessing on calls. The replay was not kind to the referees tonight – it did not show fouls on many runs to the rim where the refs believed there had been contact, but instead the defensive player got the whole ball back. Likewise, there have been a bunch of times a player has ended up on the ground and the refs kind of assumed there had been a foul on the fielder.
• Fouls reported after a hit or miss. You don’t have to look at the result of a layup to decide whether to blow the whistle. If there was a fault, call it. Otherwise, keep playing.
• Elastic arbitrage. I thought it was pretty clear that whistles were more likely to be blown in one direction when play needed to be kept close. This especially applied in the third quarter, when I had to bite my tongue on some of Jayson Tatum’s whistles.
I’ll say this as a positive note: They didn’t compound their mistake by giving each side a technique, with several players clearly unhappy with what was happening on the pitch. I love that they gave both teams some leeway to get excited, rather than making an even bigger show of things by adding points one way or the other.
But overall, it was a frustrating game for fans of both teams to watch – just search Twitter or read the threads to confirm it. Like I said, I think it’s been a good officiating season so far, but tonight was an exception.