The Utah Jazz had a slow, and ugly start to the Memphis Grizzlies in Salt Lake City on Monday night, and weren’t able to recover, despite a late push that closed a 15 point deficit to six with less than a minute to play.
Ultimately, the Jazz fell to the Grizzlies 92-84, based mostly on a miserable offensive performance which saw the team shoot 35% from the floor and 25% from three. The Jazz starters were worse, finishing 18-54 (33%) from the floor and 3-21 (14%) from three.
Memphis is a good defensive team when healthy, and prevented the Jazz from making the extra pass, but there are some potentially big picture concerns starting to emerge for the Jazz through three games.
Ricky Rubio’s excellent preseason play hasn’t followed him into the regular season. After tonight’s performance, Rubio is shooting 25% from the floor and 33% from three. When Rubio shoots this poorly, he simply isn’t effective enough to have on the floor.
Against Sacramento, the Jazz were able to turn to Dante Exum for an improvement in guard play, but that wasn’t there tonight, as Exum finished 2-11 from the floor and 0-4 from three. These bad games put so much pressure on Donovan Mitchell to carry the offensive scoring load, that find himself with inefficient nights like the one he had tonight, scoring 14 points on 17 shots. While Mitchell hasn’t been efficient in any outing yet this season, he hasn’t gotten much relief from his backcourt mates.
Joe Ingles had his first bad game of the season, also shooting poorly, converting just 1 of his 7 three point attempts. As a prolific three point shooter, Ingles will have these nights, and the Jazz shooters around him will have to help carry the load.
These bad shooting nights are concerning for a few reasons. Mainly, the Jazz were only a mediocre shooting team last season, and didn’t do much to improve themselves in that regard this offseason. Additionally, the Jazz didn’t add another playmaker to the offense. This again saddles Mitchell with a heavy workload, and on nights like tonight when threes aren’t falling, the Jazz are going to struggle to score. This was a problem last year, it will be a problem again this year.
The one player who showed he might be able to combat both the Jazz shooting woes and their need for playmaking tonight was Grayson Allen, who made his NBA debut. Allen finished with 7 points in 11 minutes, on two makes from the floor and the free-throw line. Allen is already a floor spreader, after shooting better than 40% from the three point line during the preseason, and teams are forced to closeout hard on him. Allen is adept at putting the ball on the floor, getting to the paint and either finding the open shooter, or finishing above the rim. While this isn’t an adequate primary option for the Jazz offense, it’s a nice action on a kick out. At times Allen was too unselfish tonight, but he should be able to fix that quickly, and had the Jazz shooters made their looks, his passing on open looks would have been fine.
Jazz now embark on a four game road trip, and while they certainly aren’t in must win territory this early in the year, in an extremely crowded west, every early season win could pay dividends at season’s end.