SALT LAKE CITY — Before Monday’s scrimmage, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder said it was still too soon to know if the smaller gyms being used in the NBA restart will have any effect on shooting. Yes, they are clearly different than the nearly 20,000-seat basketball cathedrals the players are used to shooting in. But that doesn't necessarily mean shot percentages will change.
“You hear that that has been the case and even with the layoff, that shooting can be affected,” Snyder said before Monday’s scrimmage. “When the game is started, I haven't felt that way. In fact, the other night (Saturday against the Heat), we missed a fair amount of 3s early on, but it never really occurred to me that the reason for that could be the smaller gym.”
In fact, he said it’s entirely possible teams might end up shooting better — there just needs to be more data. His team provided a pretty positive data point on Monday.
The Jazz were 10 of 22 from 3-point range in the first half on Monday in a 112-107 win over the Nets in the team’s final tuneup before the games begin to count again starting Thursday.
And plenty of Jazz players contributed to the hot shooting night. Donovan Mitchell was 3 of 3 from behind the arc on his way to 14 points, Mike Conley was 4 of 6 from 3-point range for 18 points and Jordan Clarkson connected on 3 of 8 3s to finish with 12 points.
A majority of the totals came in the first half — where the Jazz played more of their normal rotation before giving way to unique lineups and end-of-bench players. That’s good news for the Jazz, whose plan to replace the injured Bojan Bogdanovic is to fire 3s early and often.
“I think it's very crucial to our game,” Mitchell said. “Getting in there and knocking shots down; just being confident taking the early shots. When you lose a top scorer like Bojan, it's definitely tough to kind of replace him in every way but one way he really impacted the game was the 3-point line; we're doing our best to kind of get open looks and continuing just to knock them down.”
The Jazz have fallen into the trap a number of times this season of being too unselfish, of passing up open looks only to lead to end-of-clock situations where they are hoisting up bad shots. That’s why Snyder has been prodding his shooters to let the shots fly.
“They're all being as aggressive as we want,” Snyder said. “And I think for a team that can shoot it, that'll open up a lot of other things and it has.”
Case in point: center Rudy Gobert. With the Jazz's outside shooting opening up the lane, the Jazz were able to find Gobert for easy buckets inside. He finished the game with 20 points and was 6 of 8 from the field.
For the second straight scrimmage, he and Mitchell displayed a strong on-court connection. After throwing three lobs to Gobert in Saturday's scrimmage win, all four of Mitchell’s assists on Monday were to Gobert.
That’s extremely notable considering Mitchell and Gobert have only connected three times in a game once during the 2019-20 season
“I think we both been doing a great job on each of our ends to make it easy for each other,” Mitchell said.
Turns out the relationship is indeed salvageable.
After needing some time to get going in the first two scrimmages, Conley was effective right from the jump. He scored 15 points in the first half to lead Utah to a 12-point lead at halftime.
The three scrimmages have allowed the Jazz to work some things out and rediscover their identity — if not discover a new one. In that sense, it’s good sign the Jazz had their best performance of the quasi-preseason to finish things off.
“I think offensively we're still figuring it out,” Snyder said pregame. “But, you know, our identity as a team and what we're trying to accomplish, I think is something that we'll continue to emphasize and every time we play we get an opportunity to kind of groove that identity, so to speak.”
Now, things get real. The NBA officially returns on Thursday.