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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – When the game was lost and has the game changed on the Jazz

David Locke

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SUMMARY:  The Sacramento Kings transition offense was too much for the Utah Jazz who lost to the Kings 119-110

  • A lot of the focus will be on the Jazz defense and what has happened that they are no longer capable of having the same impact on games they had last year, but if you want to look at one stretch of this game that determined the outcome it is the opening 7 minutes of the 4th  The Jazz had scraped and fought back from down 15 to make it a 1 point game heading into the 4th quarter.  The Jazz are tired, the road has been brutal, the schedule has been relentless but down 1 at home this is a game the Jazz need to win.

 

  • The Jazz opened the quarter missing 11 of their first 12 shots. The Kings in the meantime took over the game and took a 105-88 lead with 4:58 left in the 4th  The Jazz were outscored 21 to 5 to open the 4th quarter at home.   That is the game.  The Jazz made a valiant effort and fought back in the final 5 minutes.  Inside that 5 minutes the Jazz made some mistakes that prevented them from winning the game but that is noise. The signal is that the opening 7 minutes of the 4th quarter was a 21 to 5 run by the Kings.

 

  • The Jazz had good looks. The first play of the 4th quarter may have set the town.  Favors threw a pass to Exum in the corner but he had left the corner and it was a turnover.  That was followed by a Favors missed three, then an Exum missed three both open looks but both by guys that are not great shooters.  Alec Burks got another open three and nailed it.  Jae Crowder had back to back wide open threes and missed.  The first six shots were all threes and were all open and the Jazz went 1 for 6.   There is an argument that maybe these aren’t the guys you want taking them considering their percentages but I am not sure how you run an offense if you have open threes that guys are by passing.   If the opponent has decided you are not getting to the rim they are conceding the three you have to make them.  All six aren’t going down.  Maybe only two.

 

  • Ingles drove on the next possession and drew a foul. He made 1 of two free throws. Then Rubio threw a bad pass and then missed a 15 footer and a 5 footer.  Crowder and Rubio missed three and the game was done.

 

  • All of these misses on offense gets to where the game has changed and maybe changed the Jazz ability to defend.

 

  • Now to the defense. The league has gotten really fast.   The median pace of play team is playing 103 possessions.  Last year, the fastest team in the league was playing 102.   The median team was 99 possessions.   The year before it was 98 and so was the year before.

 

  • 19 teams are playing at faster pace than the fastest team last year.

 

  • Teams got too good at defense. Teams had figured out with switching and dropping big defenses how to make it nearly impossible to score in the half court.   The league wide reaction to this has been to accelerate the game.

 

  • The Jazz defense this year has been really good against the following Memphis (30th in pace) Houston (29th in pace), New Orleans (fast but without AD), Dallas (16th pace of play), Boston (23rd pace of play).   The Jazz have struggled defensively against Sacramento (2nd in pace), 76ers (6th in pace defense was ok not terrible), Toronto (10th in pace), Minnesota (12th in pace) Warriors who with Steph play fast but haven’t since he was hurt.

 

  • The Jazz good defense games have had the following pace: 98, 100, 112 (Pelicans), 101, 97, 104, 97 and 97.

 

  • The Jazz have had 7 really bad defensive games the pace has been 106, 105, 92, 102. 102, 105 and 98 (Indiana who is slow in pace of play)

 

  • The increased pace is rewarding athleticism. The Jazz are not the most athletic team they are good basketball players.  When they are tired from a brutal schedule or playing good teams every night and a little bit off their game then the areas where the athleticism is lacking becomes accentuated.

 

  • So the simple answer is the Jazz need to do a better job of getting people in the half court.  This is where I am most concerned.   According to the website cleaningtheglass.com the Jazz are the #2 team in the NBA at keeping people out of transition.    Teams are playing 82% of their possessions in the halfcourt against us.  Coming into the night we are 26th defensively against transition and only 16th in the halfcourt.  These are both significant drops from last year when the Jazz were 4th and 6th.   So maybe the Jazz can get back to that level and the increased pace won’t matter as much.

 

  • Tonight for example, according to cleaningtheglass.com the Kings played 80.6% of the possessions in the halfcourt. They had only played that many in 3 other games this year, Toronto, OKC and Utah.   So Utah has held Sacramento to 2 of its 4 games with the least transition.

 

  • The Kings last 5 games had been 75%, 72%, 76%, 71% and 76% of their plays in halfcourt tonight it was 80.6%. That is the Jazz doing a good job and still they had a bad defensive night.

 

  • The numbers say that Jazz have actually kept opponents in the halfcourt more than last year. So maybe everything I am saying is wrong.  This is what it feels like.  That the pace of play has changed the game and altered what defense is in the NBA.   In fact, the cleaning glass numbers claim that despite the increase in pace of play the median team plays in transition the exact same as last year.

 

  • Where does this leave the Jazz? If this isn’t a quantum switch in the league to how the game is played then the Jazz just need to get back to playing better halfcourt and transition defense.   If it is a fundamental switch in the league and what skills are being rewarded has changed then these games maybe a bad omen of what is to come.

 

  • Honestly, I don’t know.

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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