Moore’s Wednesday Angles: Mavs Are Close, Denver Has Answers & Philly Is Choosing Not to Be Its Best
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Doncic
Angles for Wednesday’s Game 2’s based on trends and matchups…
1. Denver Has More Counters Than the Jazz
On the one hand, the Jazz took the Nuggets to overtime, led after three quarters, and carved up their defense. That’s promising!
On the other, the Jazz got 57 points from Donovan Mitchell and still couldn’t get the win. That’s a problem.
In the series lookahead, I wrote about scheme and how it would impact the game. For four quarters, the Nuggets played drop defense in pick and roll. They had Nikola Jokic play back to try and contain the lob to Gobert meant to allow shooters to stay home.
For all the threes Utah took (47), they only produced 15 points off catch-and-shoot opportunities. Gobert had 17 points, but six of those came off offensive rebounds. Generally speaking, he was quiet.
It was just Mitchell who was loud, to the tune of 57 points.
Mitchell was electric, incendiary, sensational. He hit threes and got to the rim and dunked and blistered everyone.
Most of it was vs. that drop coverage which gave him room.
Watch how far under Jokic is here:
He saw that all night, and the Jazz were mostly held in check while he blistered the Nuggets. The only player who did well against him was Torrey Craig; Mitchell shot just 1-of-5 vs. Craig. But Craig picked up six fouls in the process.
What was interesting was that in overtime, the Nuggets switched their coverage up. They started hedging and blitzing Mitchell, and because he was exhausted, he started coughing the ball up as the Nuggets ran away in the extra period.
Here the Nuggets hedge twice, first on Mitchell then on Ingles which forces the turnover.
So going forward, Denver can mix and match their coverage more to give Mitchell a harder time. He probably won’t shoot that well again, though I still expect big games from him. The gameplan was solid.
Denver may not shoot as well as they did in Game 1, but they got three levels of scoring. Despite taking Denver to OT, I’m not convinced Utah has enough behind Mitchell to hang before Mike Conley gets back.
UPDATE: OK, everything I wrote in the angles for today’s games is true. The Nuggets do have more adjustments than the Jazz do.
But I slept on it, and I listened to the “Game Notes” podcast from the Athletic including Jazz writer Tony Jones. A discussion came up of the Jazz using more blitz coverage vs. Jamal Murray. Murray’s biggest weakness after his defensive lateral first step (he’s slow-footed) is his handle. He can be pressured.
If Quin Snyder dials up the pressure on Murray, that leaves Jokic open. But Murray won’t read it fast enough every time to get the ball out or on target so that Jokic can make the quick read before the Jazz defense scrambles back into position.
Denver can throw more looks at Utah, but they still have to execute those. And games often don’t play out in a chess manner, where the Nuggets move Knight to Q4 and the Jazz move Bishop to King’s Rook 4 etc.
So I’m going ahead and betting Utah to win this game, even if I still like Denver for the series. I just can’t imagine Denver winning five straight games against Utah with how close these games have been.
Plus… the majority of spread tickets are on Denver, but the majority of money (91%) is on the Jazz moneyline.
I’m buying back on Utah +140 moneyline, after initially taking Denver -4.5
2. The Mavericks Are a Lot Closer Than the Game 1 Result
Literally everything went nightmarishly bad for the Mavericks to start Game 1.
The Clippers started with an 18-2 run and Luka Doncic turned the ball over five times. Kristaps Porzingis was ejected on a really nonsense technical after picking up a really bad first technical. (Marcus Morris definitely is on the Clippers to start fights. That’s a thing, and it worked on Porzingis in Game 1.)
And despite all that … they were in this game late. There were a lot things that went wrong for the Mavericks and they kept finding buckets. Until the six minute mark of the third, the Mavericks had a 115 offensive rating.
Dallas found layers of defense to attack by running the Clippers off multiple screens. The Clippers smartly put Marcus Morris on Porzingis and then switched to get Morris onto Doncic and Morris played him great. But as the game went on, Doncic forced double switches to get Ivica Zubac onto him:
The Mavs used back screens like this to create space:
The Clippers have adjustments to make, but they’ll also likely get fewer turnovers from Doncic and a full game from KP.
I like Dallas’ team total over 112 (-106) and I’m tempted by the moneyline, which is +225 at DraftKings.
3. The Sixers Choose Not To Be Their Best
Nikola Jokic had 12 post touches vs. Rudy Gobert in Game 1.
Joel Embiid had just 7.
Al Horford had six. Think about that. Al Horford had only one fewer post-up possession than Joel Embiid.
The Celtics absolutely make entry passes hard on the Sixers. They pressure the ball-handler, front Embiid and challenge on the catch, push him out.
But Embiid lets them do these things and the Sixers don’t remain committed to getting him the ball. Embiid is a monster, and the Celtics have no one to guard him beyond Enes Kanter. But the Sixers just drifted. They ran pick and rolls and ISO’s and random possessions.
They could have bent the Celtics backward with Embiid. They instead had him standing around at the 3-point line on possessions. It’s maddening.
I liked the Sixers in Game 1 and liked them for their series price because of Embiid. But the one thing that can mess up a massive tactical advantage is a coach simply not designing a gameplan around it.
That’s what Brett Brown did. My confidence in that series is gone, and the Sixers at points looked very ready to quit. I’m not taking Boston in Game 2 but I’m staying away because the Sixers are just going to apparently let the moment go by.