UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Offense Fails In Home Opening Loss To Timberwolves

Dec 26, 2020, 10:42 PM | Updated: 10:42 pm
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns shooters over Jazz defenders (Photo by Alex Goodle...
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns shooters over Jazz defenders (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 in the team’s home opener. The Jazz appeared to be in a fog from the moment the game opened and never truly put together a good stretch of basketball through the first three quarters, leaving too little time to pull out a victory.

After the Jazz season-opening win against the Portland Trail Blazers, I wrote about the team’s three-pronged offensive attack. Unfortunately for the 1,500 person home crowd, none of the three prongs truly showed up for the team tonight.

Here is a quick reminder of how the Jazz offense should work.

Prong one: Rudy Gobert’s pressure on the rim creates space for the Jazz shooters.

Prong two: The Jazz shooters in-turn create room for Gobert.

Prong three: Donovan Mitchell’s expertise and playmaking fills in the gaps.

The luxury of having those three options is that as long as one is working on any given night, the Jazz should be able to find enough offense to keep the game close. The problem against the Timberwolves, none of the three prongs showed up early enough for the team to win the game.

Prong One:

Gobert opened the game with consecutive dunks and it looked like the Jazz might have an easy road ahead with Gobert pressuring the rim against the Wolves defense. However, Minnesota quickly tightened up their perimeter at the point of attack and prevented the Jazz from getting into their pick and roll attack.

Gobert still had a strong stat line to finish the night recording 18 points and 17 rebounds, but many of his baskets came on second-chance points, meaning they didn’t free Jazz shooters for open looks.

“It took us a half to start to attack and to start taking care of the ball and to be stronger,” Gobert said. “And once we did that everything became much easier.”

Gobert had eight offensive rebounds in the loss.

Prong Two:

Along with their defense at the point of attack, Minnesota was sharp with their closeouts and staying near Jazz shooters. When Gobert was no longer getting pressure on the rim, the Wolves were able to negate the Jazz three-point shooting and it really never came back at any point in the night.

The Jazz finished the game just 10-34 from three for 29 percent.

On a night when Bojan Bogdanovich on just 2-11 shots inside the three-point line, he likely ought to take more than five threes as he did against Minnesota. The Jazz are better served by the gravity he draws as a shooter, even when he misses deep balls as opposed to seeing a 2-11 performance inside the arc.

Bogdanovic had just nine points on 3-16 shooting.

Prong Three:

Mitchell was able to get his offensive attack going late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but ultimately he waited too long and it cost the Jazz. The value of Mitchell’s attack is that he either gets layups, draws fouls, creates kick out opportunities, or opens up putback looks for the Jazz bigs.

That’s what happened in the second half and it’s the reason the Jazz were nearly able to steal the game. However, the Jazz needed 37 good Mitchell minutes tonight and only got about 15.

“We waited too long,” Mitchell said of the Jazz first-half performance. “It’s tough to come back from a 17 point deficit especially when they’re consistently pushing the ball.”

Mitchell finished 21 points but connected on just 6-23 shooting including 2-9 from the three-point line.

Turnovers

The Jazz ended the night with 18 turnovers against the Timberwolves, but it felt like more than that. Part of the reason was the team had seven turnovers in the first quarter which made every ensuing turnover feel like another levee breaking leading to a bigger and bigger Minnesota lead.

Some of the Jazz turnovers were thanks to the Timberwolves’ excellent defense early in the game. Jake Layman, Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Malik Beasley, and Rubio all did a nice job getting into passing lanes are erasing the Jazz spacing.

However, some of the Jazz turnovers were clearly just a lack of attention to detail.

Some examples: Joe Ingles threw a lazy pass to Gobert that was easily picked off leading to an uncontested dunk for Minnesota.

Gobert double pumps down low on what should have been an easy dunk, when he does go up for the dunk and is contested, he tries to dribble causing a double-dribble.

On another possession, Gobert simply let the ball slip out of his hands going up for a dunk.

Most fittingly, with 4.7 seconds remaining and the Jazz trailing 114-111, Jordan Clarkson slipped on the inbound play which clogged up the team’s execution and led to a 5-second violation.

That seeled the Jazz fate, but like the earlier turnovers, was completely unforced. In a game decided by two possession, giving up and giving away easy baskets will make the difference.

To the Timberwolves’ credit, they had only nine turnovers on the night making the Jazz giveaways feel all the more crushing.

“It requires playing with more force than we did and being more precise than we were,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the team’s turnover-happy offense. “That results in 12 [first half] turnovers.”

Fans in the Stands

It’s difficult to know where we can and can’t feel comfortable in group settings right now. Truthfully, there probably shouldn’t be fans at games until there’s a widespread vaccine available for COVID-19.

We’re still a few months away from that, but the Jazz are allowing 1,500 fans in the stands anyway.

The NBA has done as good a job as any corporation limiting the spread of COVID-19 and has led the way on how most sports across the world have gotten back to action.

Even before the NBA returned, the NFL, MLS, and MLB were all letting fans back into stadiums and arenas to watch games in a limited capacity. Now the NBA is following suit.

Fans are required to wear masks but can take their masks off when actively eating or drinking. Though as fans get more involved watching the game, their mindfulness of wearing their masks drops.

The Jazz have employees reminding fans who aren’t wearing their masks to put them on, but at times they felt understaffed trying to keep up with the task.

To fans’ credit, they brought the energy back to Vivint Arena that was clearly lacking during the preseason, I hope it’s worth the risk.

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