If you ever watched Michael Phelps swim, Usain Bolt run, Manny Ramirez in the batter’s box, Federed serving, or Savion Glover dance you might notice something they all share: flow.
Bodies at ease while in motion. Mind not cluttering up the situation. You put in the preparation time, you study the film, you listen to the game plan, and when the lights are brightest and the cameras ready…you relax into the moment.
Terry Rozier is relaxed. He is draining three-pointers (7 of 9 in Game 1, 4 of 9 in Game 2) like he’s done this before in the playoffs. Don’t worry about the fact that he wasn’t much of a shooter after his two years at Louisville. Neither was Donovan Mitchell. In fact, their numbers and experience at Louisville were eerily similar. 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals. Both shot a combined 33% from the college three-point line. Rozier was drafted 16th by Boston in 2015, as Mitchell was heading to Louisville that fall as a freshman. Two summers later, Mitchell was selected 13th by Utah. Both are ridiculously quick and impossible to stay in front of. Both were thought of as defensively-ready, but offensively uncertain when drafted. Think about what having elite agility does: you get by every defender that is put in front of you. Long-range shooting is something that comes with time and repetition. When you’re young and explosive, you don’t need a 23–25 footer. You just need your first step and your hops.
Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart were both injured in February, when coach Brad Stevens turned to Rozier as the temporary starting point guard. In 16 starts, Rozier turned in 15.6 points / 6.4 rebounds / 5.6 assists, while shooting 39% from deep. Though he actually shot worse from the field than from deep, Rozier kept turnovers down, and just kept rising to the occasion…finding his flow.
Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season has been well documented. Entering training camp, coach Quin Snyder knew everyone would need to do more this year. There was a gaping hole left by Gordon Hayward’s departure and it quickly became clear that Rodney Hood will be a shooter more than a scorer, and couldn’t take on too much more. Hood was eventually traded to Cleveland in the deal for Crowder — man, that’s worked out well for Utah. Mitchell, on the other hand, excels in the pick-and-roll, and has a spin move that rivals Barry Sanders. With Rubio and Ingles, the Jazz have two great passers in place. With Gobert and his loping strides, the Jazz have an ideal rim-runner. Mitchell took the shooting guard spot, and ran with it. He’s still running, but now forced to do so at the point, due to Rubio’s hamstring injury. Though he shot 6 for 21 in Game 2, Mitchell’s penetration led to 11 assists and countless Ingles and Crowder threes. The Jazz suddenly stole home court due to Houston’s lackluster first half.
Back to the idea of flow. Brad Stevens and Quin Snyder are excellent communicators. They know that their young guards need to play with a focused relaxation, they need that extra bounce, that anyone who has ever been on a court and known that the jump shot leaving their hand is about to swish through the net knows…time slows and the size of the basket expands. It doesn’t matter how many times you miss…the next one is going in.
Will Terry Rozier and Donovan Mitchell play like this for their entire careers? It doesn’t matter. They’re feeling it right now.