SALT LAKE CITY — Like most NBA teams, the Utah Jazz have fully incorporated the 3-point shot into their offense, where 39 percent of their field goal attempts have come from this year.
In Friday night’s 114-104 loss to Memphis, the Jazz took it to a new level, firing up 48 3-point shots, breaking the old franchise mark of 46 set earlier this season. You knew right from the start it would be a record-breaking night when the first 11 Jazz field-goal tries were 3-pointers. It took until the 4:46 mark of the first quarter for the Jazz to attempt a 2-pointer. And that turned out to be perhaps the longest shot of Rudy Gobert’s career, a jumper from just beyond the foul line.
Until this season, the Jazz record for 3-point tries was 40 and already the Jazz have surpassed the 40 mark a dozen times. You can’t argue with success. Going into Friday’s game, the Jazz were 9-2 in games where they attempted at least 40 3-point shots.
Still, even coach Quin Snyder, who has defended the team’s 3-point use this year, encouraging his players to shoot them when they’re open, thought his team might have overdone it a bit Friday night, saying, “I thought we settled at times.”
Snyder believed his team’s leaky defense contributed more to the loss, but acknowledged his team may not have attacked the basket as well as it should have.
“Yeah, we shot a lot of threes,” he said. “We had some guys that I thought had good looks across the board. But it’s good to mix it up, too, and have opportunities to drive the ball. Frankly, we didn’t space really well. When we aren’t spaced, we aren’t going to see that lane and put the ball on the floor and attack the rim and then make an extra pass. A lot of the shots came without us being able to get the ball in the paint and drive it first.”
Kyle Korver and Jae Crowder shot the most threes, 11 and 10, respectively, and each made three. Donovan Mitchell, who attempted nine 3-pointers, making five, said the Grizzlies’ defense was a reason for all the Utah threes.
“They just clogged the paint and made us shoot jump shots for most of the game,” he said. “The shots were there for us all night. Sometimes the shots just don’t fall.”
The Jazz more than doubled the number of 3-pointers by Memphis, which shot just 22, making nine. Instead, the Grizzlies were able to score inside as center Jonas Valanciunas scored 27 on 12-of-17 shooting, while 6-foot-10 backup forward Ivan Rabb scored 15 points on 7 of 11 from the field.
Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff noticed all the threes the Jazz were taking and was just grateful they didn’t make more than 37.5 percent.
“We didn’t want to give up 50 threes,” he said. “Those guys play the pick and roll as well as they can and when they make passes out of the pick and roll, they’re hard to guard. Fortunately we were able to pull it out.”
Looking at the big picture in the Western Conference, the Jazz should make the Western Conference playoffs for the third straight year. The Jazz stand in a virtual tie for sixth place in the West with the Los Angeles Clippers at 37-28 and are four and a half games ahead of the ninth-place Sacramento Kings. They also have the easiest schedule remaining in the NBA.
However, that doesn’t mean anything if they can’t beat teams like Memphis, which came in with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, and New Orleans, a lottery team that the Jazz lost to at home earlier in the week.Comment on this story
“We can’t take teams lightly and think we’re going to come in here and win,” Mitchell said. “We’ve just got to be ready to get everybody’s best shot from here until the end of the season.”
Now the Jazz must get ready for Monday night’s game against Oklahoma City, the team they beat in last year’s playoffs, but one that holds a 3-0 edge in this year’s series. It’s one of just two games left against teams with superior records to the Jazz.
“We’ve got a big one Monday and we’ve got to be ready,” Mitchell said.
After playing OKC, the Jazz will head to Phoenix for a game Wednesday, before returning home for games Thursday against Minnesota and Saturday against Brooklyn.