OKLAHOMA CITY — It wasn't the best of games for the Utah Jazz, going down 116-108 to the Thunder. On Monday, the team watched the film of the game to get some takeaways to use for Wednesday's Game 2. Here's what we learned.
Donovan Mitchell's injury
Donovan Mitchell was diagnosed with a left foot contusion after undergoing X-rays and an MRI in the last 24 hours. Mitchell's status for Game 2 was officially described as to be determined Tuesday after another day of recovery.
That being said, that sure feels like a smokescreen, and like Mitchell is going to play barring a setback. When Mitchell was asked by reporters if he was concerned about being limited in Game 2 in any way, Mitchell gave a quick "No."
And when teammate and friend Royce O'Neale was asked if Mitchell was going to play Wednesday, he said, "He is going to be good come Wednesday."
So I'm highly confident Mitchell will play on Wednesday, and skeptical Oklahoma City will be fooled too much by this. After all, even if the Jazz said Mitchell was doubtful, it's not like the Thunder would stop worrying about Mitchell. He's the Jazz's biggest offensive threat.
Mitchell said the play happened as he attempted a layup in the second half, and that he thought he stubbed his toe on Abrines. To me, this play looks like the most likely cause of the injury:
Per @andyblarsen, Donovan Mitchell told reporters today that he suffered his left foot contusion when he "kind of stubbed [his] toe on [Alex] Abrines" on this third-quarter layup: pic.twitter.com/3iUFMhaUwo— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) April 16, 2018
How much to panic?
There's a real back and forth for Jazz fans trying to figure out what Game 1 meant for the rest of the series. It goes something like this:
- Jazz fans knew going in that there were going to be games in this series in which one or multiple Oklahoma City stars were going to go off and win a game through sheer brilliance. That's what Paul George did on Sunday.
- On the other hand, now the Jazz need to win four of the next six games. OKC's stars might have another game like that in three of them.
- Even if the Jazz's defense doesn't change, George isn't going to shoot 8-11 from three again, right? And if he only shoots, say, 4-11, then the Jazz probably win.
- But the Jazz were down 18 points with only a couple of minutes left before an Alec Burks-fueled run to get the margin down to eight to end the game. Even worse shooting from George wouldn't have done it.
- On the other hand, the Jazz were only down nine when they switched to the aggressive pick and roll trapping defense to prevent George from shooting. That backfired thanks to some nice OKC passing, and maybe the lead would have stayed there had the Jazz stayed in their base pick and roll coverage.
And so on and so forth. But after practice on Monday, it seems like the Jazz aren't panicking after the Thunder's terrific shooting performance.
"We did what we wanted to do," Mitchell said. "We made them take tough shots. We have to pick it up a little bit more on the defensive end, but we did what we wanted to do."
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder agreed, though said the defense wore down late, possibly due to the pressure of all of Oklahoma City's made baskets.
"It's nothing magical. They're a very, very good team with some excellent players and they played really well," Snyder said in summary.
Getting the offense going
Beyond stopping the Thunder offensively, it'd be nice if the Jazz had a better game on the offensive end of the floor. It actually was a pretty solid performance in the end, as the Jazz put up an offensive rating of 108. That's basically league average, and for a playoff game against one of the league's top 10 defensive teams, it could have been a lot worse.
That number might flatter the Jazz a little bit, as a lot of those points came during a late-game flurry when the Thunder had clearly switched off. Taking those last few minutes out, the Jazz's offensive rating was about 100.
The Thunder had a pretty creative strategy, to be honest. Rather than using George to defend Mitchell, they used him to stop Ingles. Ingles might be Utah's most reliable catalyst and playmaker, but he never really got going. Per Brett Dawson, Thunder beat writer for the Oklahoman, Joe Ingles last night was 1 for 5 from the floor in 36 possessions when guarded by Paul George, but went 4 for 4 in 21 possessions when defended by anyone else.
"He's 6-8, athletic," Ingles said. "He can be in the charge circle and defending a 3-point shot in a split second."
That was actually part of the problem for Utah, according to Snyder. Too frequently, George and other Thunder defenders had the opportunity to help off their man because of some poor spacing from the Jazz.
"More than anything, our spacing wasn't good," Snyder said. "When you don't space against a team that's aggressive on the ball, it makes it harder. You're playing east to west."
The Jazz will try to play with more space, and with more ball movement, on Wednesday.