Jazz Chemistry And Growth Steamrolls Clippers

Dec 18, 2020, 12:18 AM | Updated: 12:19 am
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell chases Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Harry ...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell chases Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz finished the abbreviated preseason with a blowout win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz were carried by 24 made three-pointers, improved offensive chemistry, and the growth of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.

With the 125-105 win, the Jazz improved to 3-0 in the preseason, with five days until the season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jazz Second Unit Chemistry

After a clumsy start to the game that saw the Jazz offensive riddled with turnovers and the defense plagued by fouls, the team’s second unit guards stabilized the roster.

With Royce O’Neale back in the rotation, Joe Ingles was moved to the bench alongside Jordan Clarkson, and the two veterans proved their worth by scoring 11 of the team’s 13 points to close the quarter to keep the Jazz within just one.

In a preseason game against a depleted Clippers bench, it might not seem all that important, but it’s a welcome signifier of the team’s improved chemistry that struggled early last season.

“We moved the ball,” Clarkson said of the Jazz subs. “Joe does a great job of getting everybody involved — shooting threes, making plays.”

The team’s second unit accounted for 11 of the team’s 24 made threes throughout the game, including five from Clarkson alone.

Clarkson’s ability to score in bunches, mixed with Ingles ability to control the offense should give the Jazz won of the more potent second unit backcourts in the NBA this season.

But while a second year playing alongside one another has been big for Clarkson and Ingles chemistry, the addition of Derrick Favors can’t be overlooked. The Jazz reserve big man scored just four points, but grabbed five rebounds and handed out five assists in just 15 minutes on the floor.

“He told me straight up, JC, I will get you open,” Clarkson said of Favors. “All you need is a little space, so you do your thing.”

Clarkson and forward Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz in scoring with 20 points apiece en route to the Jazz victory.

Jazz Starters Jelling

It isn’t just the Jazz bench finding its way, the team’s starters are beginning to string together impressive stretches that blow games wide open.

With 4:36 left in the first half, the Jazz trailed the Clippers 42-40 after a relatively unremarkable 19 minutes. Over the final third of the period, however, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Ingles, and O’Neale went on an unrelenting tear to close the half.

The lineup scored 18 of the half’s final 24 points, including four made threes, three free-throws, and one dunk from Gobert.

As a result, the Jazz entered the half leading 58-48 and never looked back in the third quarter.

The run was similar to the end of Monday night’s first half against the Phoenix Suns in which the Jazz closed the second quarter on an 8-0 to erase a seven point deficit and enter the break with a lead.

Threes, free-throws, and dunks are the trifecta around which modern NBA offenses are built, and the Jazz flashed a type of devastation few teams in the NBA can match.

Mitchell’s Growth

After leading the NBA in postseason scoring, it seemed obvious that Mitchell would return for his fourth season with an eye on increasing his already impressive 24 point per game scoring average.

Instead, Mitchell has begun this season by showing off his improved feel for running Quin Snyder’s offense. The guard finished with a modest but impressive 15 point, eight assist outing against Los Angeles.

While the rest of the Jazz offensive weapons rained down threes, Mitchell used his playmaking skills to get his teammates involved.

“I think what we’re seeing with Donovan is the game slowing down,” Snyder said of his fourth-year star. “He still has that gear when he can attack, and we want that. But I’ve said it for a while about his reads — when the game slows down for you, you’re able to read better and still attack.”

Those reads do more than allow Mitchell to inflate his assist numbers, they keep Gobert and Favors involved in the team’s offense.

Though the Jazz three-point shooting was more than enough scoring to carry the load tonight, Gobert and Favors will want touches after shouldering so much of the defensive dirty work.

Throughout his career, Gobert has complained about a lack of offensive opportunity when the team is struggling, and it’s easy to lose the uber-effective center in a three-point oriented offense.

Five of Mitchell’s eight assists came on baskets inside of six feet, proving the guard is creating easy looks for teammates.

Mitchell’s play has also allowed Conley to take on a more aggressive scoring role in the preseason. The veteran guard is averaging 14 points per game through two games but has been freed up to attempt 6.5 threes per game.

The Jazz can now turn their attention to the Trail Blazers. The team has four off days to work out any remaining kinks before beginning the regular season gauntlet.

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