Hot Shooting Frees Gobert, Mitchell To Blowout Blazers

Dec 23, 2020, 11:58 PM | Updated: 11:58 pm
Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Royce O'Neale celebrate the Jazz victory over the Portland Trail...
Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Royce O'Neale celebrate the Jazz victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz had rough first six minutes of the 2020-21 NBA season against the Portand Trail Blazers. Donovan Mitchell’s jump shot was off the mark, and Rudy Gobert couldn’t find success at the rim.

Then, after Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down an open three to cut the Trail Blazers lead from 17-14, the Jazz kept their foot on the gas peddle and turned what should have been a competitive matchup between two Western Conference Playoff teams into a lopsided blowout that looked more like an open scrimmage than it did a regular-season NBA game.

The Jazz closed the first quarter on a 21-8 run, building a 32-25 lead and coasting over the final 36 minutes to a 120-100 win.

Gobert Frees Shooters

The Jazz lead ballooned to 42-29, then 52-33, before building a 65-44 lead at the half, largely thanks to the team’s three-point shooting. The team got open look after open look as the Trail Blazers continued to bring a weakside defender off the Jazz corner three-point shooters to help on Gobert, which led to easy looks for the offense.

“Pressure on the rim is what opens up the three-point line,” Snyder said after the game. “And it opens up jump shots.”

Gobert’s pressure on the rim forces opposing teams to bring a help-side defender into the paint when he rolls to the hoop. That extra defender is then forced to help box out after Gobert’s man has switched his defensive assignment to the ball handler.

When the help-side defender is the 6’3, 190 pound CJ McCollum, and he’s being asked to help on either the 7’0 Gobert down low, or closeout on the 6’8 Bogdanovic in the corner, the game becomes easy for the Jazz.

Gobert either catches a lob, finishes an easy putback lay in, or the Jazz find the open shooter off the help defense.

As a result, the Jazz knocked down 13-28 first-half threes thanks to Gobert’s gravity, creating an unbridgeable chasm over the final half of play.

Shooting Frees Gobert

While it was Gobert’s pressure on the rim that allowed the Jazz to dominate the first half, it was the adjustment the Trail Blazers were forced to make at half time to slow the Jazz shooters that allowed Gobert to dominate statistically in the second half.

“If you’re making shots and teams have to pull out and guard you, there’s more space to attack the rim,” Snyder said.

“That’s what spacing and shooting can do and that’s also what Rudy and [Derrick Favors] runing to the rim and putting pressure on the rim can do for shooters.”

Gobert scored 10 of the Jazz first 15 points of the third quarter helping to build a 31 point lead.

Favors replaced with seven minutes left in the period and Portland began to slowly chip away at the Jazz lead, but never seriously threatened to make a game of it and the Jazz coasted to an easy victory.

Shooting, Gobert Frees Mitchell

Having an offensive identity is important, and the Jazz clearly have one as a prolific three-point shooting team. They led the league in three-point percentage last season and should compete for that title once again.

Having a counter move to that identity in the form of Gobert catching lobs and shooting nearly 70 percent from the floor is a valuable second option.

What’s most impressive about this Jazz offense however is that neither of their first two offensive options are All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell who led the entire NBA in postseason scoring in Orlando.

Mitchell has the ability to be truly unstoppable as a sorer for long offensive stretches, but the Jazz offense didn’t miss a beat tonight without him ever truly taking over.

“I’m finding guys,” Mitchell said of his five assist night. “I’m making the right play and that’s something that I’ve been prided myself on since my rookie year.”

That’s not to say Mitchell didn’t play well. He and Gobert led the team in scoring with 20 points apiece, but Mitchell did it on a very casual 6-16 shooting night.

Outside of pressing on the first few possessions of the game, the fourth-year guard was selective in the shots he took and still found a way to make an offensive impact.

“When you have guys that can shoot and can make plays, that makes my life ten times easier,” Michell said.

The Jazz ability to cycle through their offensive identity on any given night, looking for open threes, exploiting the pick and roll mismatch with Gobert, or allowing Mitchell to take over should allow the team to improve on their eighth-best offense last season and develop into one of the truly premier offenses this season.

Charles Barkley’s Foolish Prediction

Charles Barkley is known for two things as the host of TNT’s Inside the NBA — outlandish predictions and even more outlands bets.

Yesterday, the avid gambler told his agent to bet $100,000 on the Trail Blazers to win the Western Conference this season, before they’d even suited up for a regular-season game.

Yes, we’ve only seen four quarters of basketball from Portland, but they have some significant issues that will be difficult to fix.

First of all, they lack size in the backcourt. Damian Lillard is only 6’2, McCollum is only 6’3 and neither player moves their feet particularly well on the perimeter.

That allows players like Mitchell and Mike Conley to get into the paint with ease, which is where Portland could use a rim protector to detur the offensive driver.

The problem is Jusif Nurkic is not that player, nor is reserve big man Enes Kanter. Last season the Trail Blazers had Hassan Whiteside, who though he isn’t a great defender, is one of the better shot blockers in the league.

Even though they added Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington to defend on the perimeter, they alone can’t fix Portland’s issues at the point of attack, or at the rim.

Portland is talented, and Lillard won’t be held to just nine points most nights, but their defense is going to struggle, and it’s going to cost Barkley $100,000.

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Hot Shooting Frees Gobert, Mitchell To Blowout Blazers