SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz entered Thursday’s game against Portland fresh off two of their three worst 3-point shooting nights of the season; it was no coincidence they had lost both of those contests. Utah felt like it had generated good looks, but the team didn’t get points by just taking open shots.
“I think our shot quality has still been really good,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I don’t want that to be a fallback for us where we start looking and say, ‘Hey if we would have shot our percentage, this would have happened or that would have happened.'”
Utah generated open looks again from distance on Thursday — they missed a lot. Good thing Utah didn’t use that as a fallback.
The Jazz smashed Portland 122-103 at Vivint Arena despite only shooting 28.6% from 3, their fourth worst percentage of the season.
So how did the Jazz (39-13) make up for all those long-range misses? By doing things they failed to do against Phoenix a night earlier.
They pushed the ball in transition and attacked the rim, which led to an explosive offensive half despite bricking 3 after 3. Donovan Mitchell’s night encapsulated that; he led the Jazz with 37 points and was 13-of-17 from inside the 3-point line. He got to the rim, hit floaters and shook defenders for midrange jumpers. He was able to make moot a 1-for-8 night from 3-point range.
Utah, as a team, was 12-of-42 from the 3-point line; inside it, the team was 31-of-53. The Jazz used a 40-point fourth quarter where they outscored the Blazers (30-21) by 21 to blow the game open. Those 40 points came with only three made 3s.
“We took a lot of things from the Phoenix game,” said Mitchell, who also added five rebounds and four assists. “It was kind of fortunate that it happened last night because it was so fresh in the mind coming into today’s game. Whether it’s certain situations where it’s dribble handoffs or swinging the ball side to side, getting out even more in transition, I think that was really what you noticed a difference on offense tonight.”
In short, the Jazz didn’t settle for 3s and just expect them to start falling.
“There’s situations where guys have to create shots, and again Donovan was able to do that tonight,” Snyder said.
But while the offense was significantly improved from their last two outings, the Jazz pointed to another reason why they were able to get a comfortable win, even with their poor shooting: They rebounded the ball this time.
On Wednesday in Phoenix, the Jazz were outrebounded by 16 and were particularly slaughtered on the offensive glass. On Thursday, Utah allowed just nine offensive boards to the Blazers.
When Rudy Gobert, who had 18 points and 20 rebounds, and Derrick Favors went out to contest shots in the paint, the Jazz wing players collapsed inside to battle for the board. That was a change from 24 hours earlier.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about all year, and it’s something that we’ve got to continue to commit to,” Snyder said. “And it has to be a commitment on a high, high level. If we rebound the way we did tonight, last night we might have a different result (on Wednesday). We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, just like the other night, but we got on the glass.”
Gobert may have had the huge number, but it was a team effort. Royce O’Neale had nine rebounds, while Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell each had five. It wasn’t a grand schematic change; the Jazz just put more effort into it.
“It’s not so much grabbing the rebound, it’s the work you do before,” Mitchell said. “It’s the hits — the guys running from one spot to the next to hit somebody to prevent them from getting on the glass.”
That allowed the Jazz to rebound from two straight losses and extend their franchise record home-winning streak to 23 games.