Due to a fantastic Chappelle show (possibly the last for a while? He implied so) I wasn’t able to catch the second game of the home and home with Memphis. I saw the highlights, and it looked a lot like the first, except without Memphis taking pity on us.
Then Saturday I went to go see Philly in person. An interesting game, but I got caught up more in the drama of it due to actually being in the arena. The energy of the crowd was pretty low; I had to lower my voice when talking because everybody was so quiet around us. That said, when Yogi got fouled with :00.2 left, it was the loudest I’ve heard the arena in person (and thusly, the loudest sound I’ve heard immediately die).
It was apparent halfway through the first that both teams were content to just keep launching threes, so I wasn’t too surprised to hear that they set a franchise record for made threes in a game. I was surprised to hear that Barnes had 7 of them; even though it was his outside shooting that almost got the game to OT, I’d rather not have his shooting getting positive reinforcement. The first half lead that Dallas built was just a reflection of a hot shooting streak; Philly was a little better and deserved to win. Ben Simmons is going to be really good, he’s the most LeBron-looking player since LeBron. When you see a game up close you can really get a sense of how NBA players are just bigger than normal people, so seeing Embiid make NBA players look like normal people around normal people was especially terrifying. He still looks like he’s just having fun out there, it was hard not to root for him by the end of the game (so I did). I can’t wait to see him getting crunch time plays in playoff games, which might be coming soon.
Anyways, to the Mavs’ trip to SLC:
- Gobert opens the game with an 18 foot swish. Scary.
- Favors hits a corner three. Stupid scary. (I mean that, it is equal parts stupid and scary)
- Rubio’s new look: a mid-level French arms dealer that gets killed after a long chase scene in the first act of a Bond movie. I love it.
- Utah is where one of my all time favorites, Boris Diaw, was put to pasture, but I think he passed his powers onto Joe Ingles. Slow but still gets to his spots, can get buckets inside and out but looks for the good pass, hangs in the background but makes the most of his touches.
- Random thought: the Mavs need to get better at getting Barnes his “Kobe assists” (extra possessions/shots after a missed shot). The Lakers actually developed their offensive rebounding around knowing when Kobe would shoot and where to be for the miss. Dallas already just stops all movement when Barnes gets the ball, the least they could do is make cuts or get early position anticipating the shot. As it is now whenever Barnes gets the ball the rest of the team may as well just get back on defense.
- Donovan Mitchell stays with his man on an elevator screen, causing confusion on the cut and getting the turnover. Good play for a rookie.
- The size issue with Gobert and Favors on the floor is apparent. Gobert is above what I’m calling the Mejri Line – when a player is using his size to dominate inside to such a degree that Carlisle is forced to play Mejri.
- Dallas is going full-Houston out of necessity and just taking as many three pointers as they can. And it is no problem, we seem to be better at hitting threes than twos, of which we’re one of the worst in the league. Guys like Dirk and Wes have shaken off early shooting woes, hopefully the slow start was just shaking off the cobwebs and the team can maintain something close to this level of success.
- Dirk pump fakes Thabo and gets a tarmac of a lane…
- …but he settles for pull up jumper. He hits it, but still, it looks like he has a step limit similar to Embiid’s minutes limit.
- Dallas calls a flare screen for Yogi that gets him in great position at the top of the key. It didn’t work out, but I haven’t seen that called much, it could manufacture a lot of good looks if it was run more.
- At one point Dallas is 9-13 from three, with Noel anchoring a currently-effective zone. They’re doing their best impression of a good team.
- JJ turns his ankle on a bad jump shot landing, and then apparently takes a senzu bean, because he shortly checks back in and starts to take over the game. He continues to make typical JJ plays on offense, and rushes to catch up to the break on defense and perfectly jumps into Rubio’s lane to draw a charge.
- Barnes gets the last-possession iso, and is totally outplayed by the master Iso Joe (though he still is able to spin around and lean into a decent miss).
- Rodney Hood finally shows up. It took him a half to look at the Mavs’ guards and realize he’s the best wing on the floor, which is a unique position for him.
- Dallas has some bad turnovers. Noel misreads Wes’ action on an offball screen, and Noel kind of pointlessly picks up his dribble and can’t find a pass he can make (not to hard for the Jazz to take those away).
- One Dallas possession has JJ and Dirk running their two man game repeatedly (two pick and rolls followed by a give and go) but Utah’s switching is like a chastity belt and refusing to allow any penetration.
- Gobert repeatedly is finding success sniffing out Dallas’ rotations, making the second pass after screening and getting the ball on the roll. He actually sets his career high in assists this game.
- Bad sequence: Dallas pulls out the zone, which gets promptly devoured with a Gobert dunk, and then Rubio draws an offensive foul on Dirk after Dallas gets what you would think would be a good matchup.
- While Dallas was finding success hitting open threes in the first half, Utah cranks up the switching slider and is now keeping everything in front of them. Dallas responds by playing matchup chess, but I feel like this is what Utah was goading them into. By seeking out mismatches instead of using motion to create looks, Utah is able to slow Dallas down and make them play individual basketball. which plays right into their hands. Utah’s defenders are talented and versatile; size mismatches don’t really mean much when that’s the case.
- Harris actually keeps the Mavs around in the final stretch of the third. He was drawing the weaker of Utah’s perimeter defenders as the third wing behind Yogi and Wes, and was doing a good job of using his speed to beat his man and force the action.
- When a hard hedge gives the screening Mejri a free lane to the basket, Wes’s defender leaves him in the corner to try and get to the rim before the ball does. Mejri makes a sexy touch pass to Wes when said ball does arrive, but Wes hesitates and the play resets. I’ll always have space to point out Mejri touch passes.
- By this point Utah is switching almost everything, on and off ball. Dallas doesn’t quite have the talent to respond accordingly, and is taking mostly contested shots.
- Dirk comes out hot in the fourth, hitting classic Dirk shots all over the court. I’m not sure exactly why, but it is totally obvious that, when a pass is headed his way, his next move is already decided. If he is going to shoot, he’s shooting, hopefully his defender isn’t that close. If you just turned the game on and didn’t know better, you might think that Dirk hasn’t really dropped off a cliff. Who knows how many stretches of play like this Dirk can muster, so let’s appreciate them while we can.
- Making my first DSJ mention just to put a fork in a very underwhelming performance. Utah showed him a lot that he hadn’t seen before, and you could sense the uncertainty in his game. He’ll do better when he sees them a second time, and third, etc.
- Rubio looks at home on this team. A lot of Utah possessions were just Gobert just being a fat high pick and letting Rubio probe around him until a look opened up. Yogi, whose defense has been one of my favorite things to watch on this team, and Rubio spend the fourth quarter basically having an epic anime battle (the second anime moment after DSJ’s dunk attempt on Draymond).
- Mitchell made a few more good plays down the home stretch, including a steal on an inbound and hitting a corner three that basically sealed the game. I’m still taking DSJ, but it looks like the Jazz found a great guard for them a few picks later.
- Dallas ends the game in a zone defense, a decision I really don’t get. They were giving Hood space to operate in the middle of the floor all night, and he was making them pay for it. When you’re playing catchup you can’t afford to not pressure the ball. Make Utah make the slightly more difficult play, at a minimum.
Personally, I though Hayward’s departure would be more detrimental to Utah. I really like Snyder, and the defense wasn’t going away, but I hadn’t been sold on the rest of the roster making up for Hayward’s production. Glad to see I was wrong. Rubio and Hood are great with the ball, and as long as one of them are on the court they shouldn’t have issues finding good looks (to make no mention of Gobert’s increasing offensive presence). Who knows how this playoff race in the west will play out, but they should be in the thick of it.