SALT LAKE CITY — Such records aren’t kept, but the number of alley-oop passes the Utah Jazz converted in Thursday night’s blowout victory over Sacramento could very well have been an all-time high for a Jazz team.
From Joe Ingles’ lob pass to Rudy Gobert early in the first quarter to Georges Niang’s pass to Tony Bradley late in the fourth quarter, the Jazz were throwing alley-oops all night against the Kings, who had no clue how to stop them.
The Jazz had at least eight alley-oops – passes from a smaller player (usually) to a big player, like Rudy Gobert or Derrick Favors, who jumps and throws down a dunk – as well as several layups from good passes near the rim.
That was a big reason for the 39-point victory and why the Jazz shot 60 percent from the field as two-foot shots or dunks are always more likely to go down that 20- to 25-foot shots.
According to coach Quin Snyder, the lobs didn’t just happen because of Sacramento’s lack of defense.
“We’ve had an emphasis on high passes,” Snyder said. “We have that length at the rim with both Rudy and Fave. It has to be a good pass. I’d rather have them throw it high rather than low, at least that gives them a chance to get it. The confidence to throw those passes is a good thing.”
Gobert received another three alley-oop passes from Donovan Mitchell in the first half as well as a pair of passes from Ricky Rubio for layups and another from Ingles for a dunk. On the night Gobert finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in just 17 minutes of action as he sat out the entire second half. Even backup center Ekpe Udoh was the recipient of a couple of alley-oop lobs in the second half, from Grayson Allen and Dante Exum.
“It’s a great weapon that we have and we have to use it,” Gobert said of the lobs. “We’ve been putting an emphasis on it the whole training camp. We’ve got great passers and bigs who can catch lobs. It’s very hard to defend and puts pressure on teams and something that can make us a better team.”
Not only were the Jazz extremely efficient around the rim with all their lobs, but they shot well from outside as well, going 14 for 30 from 3-point range as Mitchell hit 3 of 5, Alec Burks 2 of 3 and Ingles and Allen both 2 of 4.
It was the best game of the preseason for the Jazz against a young Sacramento team that features eight players with two years or less of experience among its top 10 scorers in the preseason, including rookies Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III and first-year players Justin Jackson, De'Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III.
Sacramento coach Dave Joerger made a point of that after the game in explaining the discrepancy between the two teams.
“Physically we’re at a deficit — we’re smaller, shorter and not as strong,” he said. “Of their top 9 or 10 guys, one guy (Donovan Mitchell) is on his first contract and he’s pretty good. Of our top 9 or 10 guys, one guy is on his second contract. It’s just a difference in age and maturity and it’s going to take a little bit — a lot.”1 comment on this story
That doesn’t mean the Jazz should expect another 39-point blowout on Wednesday when they make a return visit to Sacramento for the season opener for both teams.
“The regular season is a totally different game than tonight,” said Snyder. “We can’t expect anything to be the same. Both teams have some time before the game. Any game, no matter who you play, you’ve got to move forward — you got to be ready to play. That’s the way the NBA is.”
After the Wednesday opener, the Jazz return home to play Golden State in their first game at Vivint Arena and then play Memphis at home on Monday night.