Throughout this season, I’ve said that the best way to look at the Jazz is in 10- or 20-game stretches. Last night, the Jazz played their 60th game of the season, completing the sixth 10-game stretch. Over the last 40 games the Jazz are 17-23 and far better than they were in the opening 20 games of the season.
Here’s how the Jazz rank offensively and defensively in the NBA over the six 10-game stretches:
And here are Utah’s rankings in the Four Factors over the six 10-game stretches:
When the schedule came out for the season, I thought this trip would be a great litmus test for this team. Nothing is new anymore. No more excuses about first time this and first time that. The end of season is in sight. Rest is not an issue. They haven’t played a ton of games in a short period of time like the trips to open the year. So here it was a test. A non-sexy team on the back end of a back-to-back after a tough, physical game against the team with the best record in the NBA. Have you learned how to prepare? Have you learned how to fight through the mental fatigue? Have you found a way to get your mind and body connection going on a “boring” night? To these questions, Hayward and Kanter could say “yes” tonight. The rest of the team can’t.
In the first half I thought the night was fine. The team didn’t come out with a lot of juice, but they stayed in the game. The Bucks were making some shots they don’t usually make and the Jazz kept it close going into halftime. Then the Jazz came out terribly to open the third quarter. The Bucks opened on a 6-0 run. Corbin called an early timeout … to no avail. The run continued to 18-6, and the Jazz were suddenly down 23 and the night was over. Awful stretch.
The Bucks had only led by 10 points or more for 4% of their minutes this season. They had only led by 15 points or more for 49 minutes the entire season. They led by 20 or more tonight for the final 18 minutes of the game.
Enes Kanter is showing great signs of growth. His passing is remarkable considering where it was. Kick-out passes to the right guy on a double team from the post. That never happened before. He is recognizing defenders and defenses. He is learning when to make the hand-off and when not to. At times this season, Enes would throw 11 passes in a night and none of them would travel farther than a body length. It would kill the offense. The opposite is now happening. This is where time on the floor is really helpful.
Enes is getting better defensively as well. Tonight was a dumpster fire defensively so it’s hard to give credit to anyone, but it felt as though Kanter had another night of improvement defensively.
Milwaukee came in 29th in FG% and shot 57% tonight.
Strange thing is that Utah’s defense had been so much better recently. Over the last 20 games, Utah’s EFG% against was 7th in the NBA. Tonight they allowed an EFG% of over 60%. That is insanely bad.
This road trip for Derrick Favors has been non-impactful in Cleveland and awesome in Indiana. He was dominant in Indiana. He killed Hibbert and had 11 points, seven rebounds and one block in the first quarter on Sunday. And then tonight he was non-impactful again. Interesting to see what he does the rest of the trip. The Jazz really need Favors to play and impact games every night for him to assume the roll he is slotted for in this franchise.
Interesting to see what happens next. The season of discovery continues, and the next three games might teach us as much as any others.
This was as good a game as I can recall this year. It was carried by our five youngsters for most of the night. All of them showed what they are capable of doing in this league, and all of them made significant errors against a great team—and when you do that you pay for it. That is why I loved this game. The kids showed what they can do, and at the same time their weaknesses got exposed. Milwaukee can’t do that. Boston can’t do that. Only great teams can do that, and that is how they will learn.
Utah’s defense continues to make major strides. The Jazz came in the game 7th in the NBA in EFG% defense over the last 20 games and held the Pacers to 41.5% shooting (and 5-for-15 from 3-point range. This is a big development with this team.
The Pacers could have been a real problem for the Jazz and they battled through it. We’ve had a bunch of guys who have been struggling, and this could have been a night that derailed them. Instead, they all ended with solid offensive nights.
Derrick Favors’ first quarter was awesome: 11 points, 6 rebounds and one assist, and he dominated Hibbert. He got Hibbert out of the game with foul trouble and was the best big on the floor.
Favors and Kanter had a very exciting two-play sequence. On one end, Kanter hit Favors on a paint-to-paint pass and Favors was fouled, and then Favors hit Kanter on a paint-to-paint pass for a Kanter dunk. These are huge developments for both of these guys. They have to be able to pass if they are going to be able to play together. Favors’ passing is so much better this season. He is really become an ok passer. Kanter has a long way to go, but he is getting better all the time.
Both Hayward and Burks continued their upward trend. Gordon finished with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, and Trey hit 5-for-9 shots plus he drew a foul and finished with 16 points.
18 turnovers was too many and guys got loose with the ball at times. Very poor outlet passes, not secure with the handle, bad passes above the free-throw line, moving picks, etc. Can’t do these things against great teams. They cost you points, and the Jazz allowed 24 points off of turnovers.
Utah had a good offensive game plan. The understood how Indiana’s defense was going to rotate and what Indiana was taking away and where to get some good looks.
Alec Burks went 5-for-16. This is a bad matchup for him. This is the best rim-protecting team in the NBA. But this is where he has to become a better mid-range shooter. His 32.9% is the fifth-worst mid-range percentage in NBA among players who have taken at least 125 attempts. Only Rubio, Prince, Millsap and Jeff Green are worse. However, he did a ton of other things tonight. He made some great passes and finished with seven assists and grabbed nine rebounds. He played a very strong complete game.
Enes had his best two-play post sequence of the season. He drop-stepped to the baseline and came up the reverse side, and then on the next play hit a rolling hook across the middle. He has been working hard with Alex Jensen on his post moves to make them quicker and less “Al Jefferson lite”—and it is working and it shows. Couple that with his jumper, and you have a makings of an offensive player. The only concern is he has stopped getting fouled. Zero free throws in 13 shot attempts.
It felt as though Kanter played some of the best defense I’ve seen from him this season on the pick and roll. He made mistakes and got split on occasion, but overall you can see his understanding of the concepts and major growth from even the beginning of the month.
The Jazz played a good portion of the game with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors. They played nine minutes together and the Jazz were outscored in those 9 minutes 26-14. The Pacers shot 9-for-14 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range while hitting 6 of 7 from the line. In those nine minutes, Utah’s offensive rating was 88 and the defensive rating was 152. For the game, Utah’s defensive rating was 104.
The Jazz were down by four with 13 seconds left and ended up taking a 2-pointer. I thought the first look was for a three and it wasn’t there. However, it is not obvious when you look at the numbers if you should shoot a three or a two. If you walk the numbers down, it is really close over two possessions what the right call is. You need the opponent to miss one free throw, which if they are an 80% free-throw shooting team should happen 60% of the time. Even if it is only one possession, an 80% free-throw shooter makes both 64% of the time and misses one 32% of the time or both 4% of the time. When you shoot the two you are banking on that 36% chance coming up, and that might be a better chance than a forced 3-pointer. If you are down five you MUST shoot the three or you are banking on the 4%.
A ton to talk about in this game. I hope I hit it all. Lots of really good signs and lots of room for improvement. Also, how cool would have that been if Hawyard’s shot had gone in?
Bad night for the Jazz. Bad matchup for the Jazz. Minnesota and Cleveland are similar—they are bad fast-break defensive teams who don’t defend the paint or the restricted area well. The Jazz are not capable of taking advantage of those areas, and in turn Minnesota and Cleveland suddenly look much better than they are and we look worse than we are.
The Jazz went 14-for-29 from deep, 11-for-25 in the paint and 3-for-26 from mid-range. This is somewhat how Cleveland defends. They are one of the worst teams in the NBA at preventing 3-point shots. So what do you do? The Jazz were getting threes and hitting them. Then they went away from it because at some point you have to get into the paint … or are you just playing into their hands? The Jazz went 6-for-7 in the first quarter from three and then in second went 2-for-6 and in the third they were 3-for-6 again before falling to 3-for-10 in the fourth quarter. But the real issue is that the Jazz didn’t make their 2-pointers or their paint shots. In the second quarter, they went 2-for-7 in the paint (and 1-for-7 from mid-range). In the third quarter, the Jazz went 4-for-8 in the paint (and 0-for-7 from mid range). And in the fourth quarter, the Jazz went 2-for-5 in paint (and 1-for-5 from mid-range).
Gordon Hayward had another strong game and opened it by hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter. He added seven rebounds and seven assists to his 18 points. He also had two steals and two blocks.
Trey Burke’s no-free-throw streak continued. He has taken four free throws (two techs and one foul on a defensive rebound) in 488 minutes. He averaged five a game in college.
In the first half, the Cavs were 5-for-15 in the paint when Favors was in the game and 5-for-8 when he was on the bench, but from the opening of the third quarter on, the Jazz didn’t put up any defensive resistance.
Utah’s a very slow-paced team. They had some early opportunities in the first half but then slowed to a halt as the game went on—and the half court offense also left.
The bench unit had a very poor second quarter.
Kyrie Irving is really good. The Jazz dealt with him well in the first half—he was 2-for-8 and feeding others rather than getting himself going, but that all changed in the third quarter (similar to the game in Utah).
The Cavaliers fronted the post after the first quarter when Favors got deep position on some post-ups and the Jazz couldn’t take advantage. They tried to go high-low and they tried to swing it, but it never materialized.
Alec played a little at the point. Kanter and Favors played together. Corbin tried a little bit of everything and none of it worked.
Burks’ mid-range shooting from the left side is an issue for him.
Brandon Rush was disengaged in his first appearance in a few games and got pulled quickly.
Poor night. It doesn’t get any easier with the vaunted Indiana defense up next.