Jazz Right Every Wrong Against Pelicans

Nov 27, 2021, 10:50 PM
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY –ย The Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans both looked more like themselves on the second night of the teams’ back-to-back weekend meetings in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz beat New Orleans 127-105 and looked very much like a team who hopes to be competing for the Western Conference crown by the end of the season while the Pelicans looked like a team that will once again have their eyes on lottery balls as the season winds down.

Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 21 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, while the Pelicans were led by Jaxson Hayes who scored 15 points, but didn’t see the floor until the fourth quarter.

Donovan Mitchell Didn’t Look Hurt Tonight

Mitchell didn’t look hurt against the Pelicans on the second night of their matchup, but I thought he did on Friday.

The guard appeared to have his elite quickness and bounce on Saturday, attacking the Pelicans off the dribble, finishing easily at the rim, and having a particularly springy bounce on his jump shot.

On Friday, he looked like he was playing flat-footed, which sometimes can be a result of a player who has an ankle injury and doesn’t feel comfortable playing on his toes.

Before the guard’s impressive 21 point, seven rebound, seven assisting outing in Saturday’s win, Mitchell was shooting just 29 percent from the floor and 24 percent from three over the previous three games.

โ€œIโ€™m not going to let this deter me from what Iโ€™ve been doing,” Mitchell said after Friday’s game, “but in the same token, Iโ€™ve just got to be better.โ€

I asked him if he was hurt after the Jazz’s loss and he quickly dismissed the notion, despite grabbing his shoulder at one point and seeming to move gingerly on his ankle at others.

The guard did say he was unhappy with his pace, and how he picked his spots on Friday, both of which were noticeably improved in the Jazz win Saturday.

“I watched the film of last night’s game and when I talked to you guys, it felt worse than what it looked like to me,” Mitchell said after the win.

“I think the biggest thing was being aggressive and attacking.”

Regardless of the difference between Friday and Saturday, the Jazz need Mitchell to find a rhythm if they want to break out of this recent funk, and the guard knows it.

“I had a good game tonight, and I’ve got to do it on Monday, and I’ve got the day after that,” Mitchell said. “It’s good to have a good game, but at the end of the day that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Offense, Defense, Or Shooting?

The Jazz looked better in every aspect of the game on Saturday after Friday’s dastardly outing.

Most notably, the Jazz got off to a hot shooting start, knocking down 11-19 first half threes, while showing more active hands on the defensive end.

Ideally, the defense would be the constant every night for the Jazz as it’s more about effort than luck, and the stops generated from that defense would translate to easy offensive looks in transition.

Those easy looks, usually early in the shot clock should increase the Jazz’s chances of making shots, especially on transition threes.

But how strong is that correlation, and are the Jazz a much better three-point shooting team when they defend?

To answer that, let’s look at the Jazz’s best three-point shooting outings this season and how it ties to their defensive rating, and then look at their worst shooting outings and how it ties to their defense.

Entering Saturday, in the Jazz top 10 three-point shooting outings of the season they shot .393 percent from downtown and had a defensive rating of 105.7

In their nine worst shooting outings of the season, the Jazz connected on .291 percent of the threes and had a defensive rating of 107.2.

To add some context to those numbers, if the Jazz shot .393 for the season from three as they have in their 10 best outings, they’d be the best shooting team in the league, and their 105.7 defensive rating would rank 12th in the league.

If the Jazz shot .291 from three for the season as they have in their nine worst outings, they’d rank dead last in the NBA, and their 107.2 defensive rating would still rank 15th.

Considering the team’s three-point shooting can vacillate between the best in the NBA and the worst in the NBA, and the defensive rating moves only three spots, it’s got to be difficult to preach that great defensive effort routinely leads to better shooting.

Furthermore, when the Jazz shoot .333 percent or better from three they’re 8-3 on the year. When they shoot below .333 they’re just 5.4.

But at the same time, the Jazz are 9-2 in their 11 best defensive outings this season and just 4-5 in their nine worst.

After beating the Pelicans, Mike Conley offered his perspective on the issue.

“Some people get going with a defensive stop and they do better on the offensive end, but as a team as a whole when we make shots we’re much better on defense. It’s easier to get back in transition when you’re making shots and not turning the ball not giving long rebounds to guys.”

Nearly 25 percent into the season, there isn’t a strong correlation between the team’s defense and shooting, but there is a strong correlation between both shooting, defending, and winning.

It’ll be worth revisiting this topic later in the year with a bigger sample size.

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