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Monson: The Jazz need a visit to Dr. Freud to address shooting woes

Published May 7, 2017 3:40 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As the Jazz left the floor after Game 3 on Saturday night, their heads down and their brains abuzz, they had to be baffled by the part of their collective game that betrayed them. It was the same part of the Warriors' game that served them so well — at the very moment it was needed.


Accurate shooting.

There's a difference between the two, and don't the Jazz know it.

Either way, it was fitting that one of basketball's most basic elements is the one that changed a game played at the highest level. Clearly, good for Golden State, bad for the Jazz.

What isn't so clear is the psychology of shooting. It's one of the vagaries of the game that nobody completely understands. Why does the ball sometimes rip the nets for a player or group of players and sometimes, with the same mindset, the same fundamentals, the same motions, the same distances from the hoop, the same spots on the floor, it cannot go in, it absolutely will not drop?

Why is it, when efficiency is required, Rodney Hood goes 1 for 8, Shelvin Mack goes 3 for 11, Joe Johnson goes 3 for 12? How come one second Gordon Hayward can't miss, the next, he looks as though he's wearing boxing gloves, like he's heaving refrigerators into the back of a delivery truck?

The answer probably has more to do with Freud than it does Auerbach. It is buried deep, like a Kevin Durant 3, hidden in the far reaches of the human mind. Certainly, the Jazz had no explanations for what went down, what didn't go down.

"There were times when we got some bad shots," Hayward said. "That's going to happen, they're a good defensive team. But the ones we did get, that were open, it seemed we didn't knock them down the way we normally do."

There were other factors that contributed to the outcome, the Jazz's third loss in as many games in this semifinal playoff series. But the cliche that the NBA is a make-or-miss league was played out for everyone to see here. It's a cliche because it's true.

With rugged defense being played at both ends by both teams, the Jazz shot 39 percent, the Warriors 44, a number greatly elevated by Durant, who made 15 of 26 attempts, including 4 of 8 bombs, for 38 points. To say he was clutch at the end, after the Jazz had taken a sizable lead, is like saying Pavarotti could sing a little. It was a virtuoso performance, as the Warriors outscored the Jazz in the fourth quarter, 30-21.

Even Steph Curry, who uncharacteristically struggled with his accuracy — again, the vagaries — for most of the night, going 6 for 20, 3 for 11 from behind the arc, came alive in the closing minutes, hitting big baskets.

Afterward, Curry, a shooter's shooter, a master shooter, a shooter with a Ph.D in shooting, tried to explain the deep mysteries of effective shooting, but his explanations remained cloudy, at best.

"You've just got to see one go in," he said, "and never lose confidence in your shot. Never lose your aggressiveness. … You always have the same mindset — that the shots you take are going in."

Confidence is, in fact, a key component. It is the word a thousand shooters have used to explain their ability to hit impossible shots. Psychologists and physiologists say the mind and body really do act and react differently under pressure. But Hood, a capable marksman who has struggled to find his range throughout the playoffs, has felt pressure before. He recently said he almost always thinks his shots are on target. And, still, he's made only five of his last 21 attempts in this series.

Pete Maravich, the former Jazz player who was an all-time great scorer, made a series of instructional videos after he retired discussing the fundamentals of proper shooting. The information ranged from mechanics to visualization, from concentration to attitude, from correct release to body positioning. Which is to say, there's a whole lot of stuff going on in every attempt.

The mindset Curry described, that his shot is always going in, is rooted, he said, in a positive frame of reference and diligence: "We trust that because of the work that we've put into it."

Either that, or they're just better than everyone else, blessed with one of basketball's greatest gifts: touch.

Quin Snyder, a disciple of hard work, probably nailed it when he said after Game 3: "You look at two of the best players in the game and you say they made some unbelievable shots that were timely. That's why they are who they are."

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.






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