Game Recap: Jazz @ Pistons 10/28/15

October 28th, 2015 | by Clint Johnson
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One loss with 81 games to go is hardly cause for panic. But for those so inclined, the Jazz’s 87 – 92 loss to the Pistons provided plentiful reinforcement for existing anxiety. Practically every concern heading into the season played out in the loss.

Inability to generate turnovers? 10 total for Detroit. Check.

A questionable bench? Other than instant Sixth Man of the Year candidate Alec Burks1 (18 pts, 6 rbs, 1 ast), the rest of the pine mob contributed four points on eight shots. Check.

Poor perimeter shooting? Two of 12 from deep (16.7%). Triple check.

Yet the Jazz’s greatest deficiency hurt them every bit as much as these more obvious grousing points: as of now, the Utah Jazz are incapable of entering the ball into the post. Worse, it appears as much a lack of willingness and awareness as lack of ability.

Derrick Favors was the best player on the floor tonight. He scored 26 points on 15 shots, including 6 of 8 from the line, and added six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. But his offensive consistency was the most impressive facet of his evening. He scored seven points on 3 of 3 shooting in the first, eight points on 4 of 5 shooting in the second, and nine points of 3 of 6 shooting in the third. That’s 24 points on 14 shots.

Then in a fourth quarter where the Jazz were consistently down but within reach, Favors shot the ball once.

This is a game where the Jazz’s best interior scorer should have shot the ball 25 times and headed to the line for 15 freebees. For much of the game he was guarded by Ersan Ilyasova, who when confronted by Favors’ two low post touches yielded an uncontested dunk and a desperate shooting foul.  Yet additional deep touches were few and far between, and non-existent in post-up situations.

This continues a trend several years in the making: sporadic and poorly thrown post entry passes, inability to take advantage of smalls switching onto Favors, and allowing the team’s only interior scoring threat to disappear for large stretches of the game, especially in key moments.

The Jazz are a young team still battling several notable flaws, but their inability to maximize the value of Derrick Favors’ interior scoring is glaring. He is not only their best all-around player, he is their best player.2 Tonight, Favors led the Jazz with 26 points when he could have had 40. If the team improves its ability to feed the ball into the interior, Favors will have a monster season and the Jazz will be truly frightening. If not, I think earning a playoff spot will be more than they can deliver.

The Player Behind the Player of the Game: Rodney Hood

Of the Jazz’s three staring-caliber wings, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and Rodney Hood, the young second-year player from Duke struggled the most with his shot, going 6 of 15 overall and a demoralizing 0 of 7 from three. Yet an eye to the long-term interest of the team shows he, more than his wingmates, stood up in support of Favors’ interior dominance.

While Hood missed all seven of his threes, at least he took them.

Raul Neto, a rookie point with a broken shot3, took and made two WIDE OPEN threes. The rest of the Jazz — and I mean the entire rest of the Jazz roster –attempted three shots from distance. Three. Two by Hayward and one by Joe Ingles.4

The Jazz must shoot better to attain their goal of making the playoffs. But to even make that a possibility, they have to possess the confidence and courage to take open shots that are there. If Hayward, Burks5, and Trey Burke combine for two attempted three point shots a game, it won’t matter how much Favors is rolling. There won’t be a defender who steps a foot outside twelve feet.

Props to Hood for taking the shots he needs to take, missing, and keeping his finger on the trigger. The Jazz need their veterans to show such guts.

Neeto Neto!

If there is such a thing as a perfect start for a role-playing point guard on the Utah Jazz, Raul Neto just had it: eight points on six shots, including hitting both attempts from deep, three assists to one turnover, a rebound, and an entry back into a game after a nasty-looking twisted knee.

Toughness? Offensive efficiency and low usage? Respectable defense when healthy and gutsy defense when gimpy?

I was a major skeptic of Neto heading into the season. Not now. I think this kid will do just fine in Utah.

Booker’s Suspension Turns Costly

I loved it when Trevor Booker palm-slapped Roy Hibbert up the front of his melon in the preseason. Talk about buyer’s remorse! The only bench big Quin Snyder tapped all evening was rookie Trey Lyles, who managed a depressing -15 plus/minus in a scant 8:14 of play.

Booker’s testiness and aggression is needed on a team of mellow personalities. But he has to keep that fire constructively hot rather than raging out of control. This team needs some front court stability off the bench, and without the senior citizen on the Jazz roster, that was sadly lacking tonight.

For Now, Multiple Offensive Options Means Uncertainty

For two years now, Gordon Hayward has slogged under an offensive burden greater than anyone desired. Tonight showed those days are over. Both Rodney Hood (15 FGA) and Alec Burks (14 FGA) took more shots than the Jazz’s offensive leader (11 FGA). While I don’t expect that to be true most nights, the days of Hayward being the only stick that stirs Utah’s offense are gone.

Having three perimeter players who can both initiate offense and score from multiple levels will prove invaluable to the team’s continued development, but at the start of the season, it’s clear no one knows how to fit three sticks in the same jug. It’s transparent that at this point, the Jazz have little ability to utilize their three wings in unison, allowing for synergy.

In Rodney Hood’s only efficient quarter (the 2nd), he shot 4 of 5 from the field. Meanwhile, Hayward and Burks combined for three shot attempts.

Then in the fourth quarter, No-Conscience Burks6 dragged the slogging Jazz offense along with 4 of 9 shooting. Again, Hayward took only a single field goal attempt in that span, a total matched by Hood until two desperation shots at the very end of the game.

Snyder’s motion offense is designed to bring multiple offensive weapons to bear on an opponent simultaneously through unselfishness and frequent ball movement. Tonight, the Jazz’s offensive orchestrators took turns leading the way single file. That isn’t the plan and isn’t an approach the Jazz’s second-year coach will tolerate. These three versatile players will learn how to feed off of rather than compete against each other, but its a synchronicity they don’t possess now.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

11 Comments

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    What was up with Hayward tonight? Did someone drug him before the game? Hayward should miss a free throw only about as often as what Jeff Hornacek used to do (about 1 time in 40 free throws). Tonight he shot 3 for 6. If Hayward would have made all of his free throws, I think the Jazz would have won this game. Also, why was he so hesitant to drive past players like Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova. He could beat both of those two guys 10 times out of 10. Maybe he ate a “regrettable dish” before the game and didn’t feel very well. He looked like he really didn’t want to take any responsibility on offense tonight.

    I thought there were a lot of bad foul calls and “no calls” that went Detroit’s way tonight. In the last 2-3 minutes alone, there were at least 3 horrible “no calls” by the refs. Alec Burks drove to the basket and made a layup, but Aron Baynes did a full body slam into him on the shot, so it should have been an “and one” call–but there was no foul call. On the next play, Hayward drove to the basket and made a layup, but Andre Drummond did a body slam into him, and there was no foul call. Kentavious Caldwell Pope hit Rodney Hood’s wrist and hand on a three point shot by Rodney with less than 10 seconds left in the game. You could easily tell by the trajectory of the ball that it was a foul, but Joey Crawford swallowed his whistle. Earlier, Raul Neto took a shot by stepping and jumping off of one foot (which looked just fine to me), which Andre Drummond goal-tended, but inexplicably the refs called traveling. I’ve seen players take 7 steps on a layup without being called for traveling, and then they call what Neto did a travel? What a crock. From what I have seen Joey Crawford needs to retire–he was absolutely awful. He missed calls that would have been called in an LDS church ball game by the low quality referees who referee those games. Detroit shot 13 more foul shots than the Jazz, but were every bit as physical as the Jazz, if not more so–that’s a problem. I thought the refs “spotted” the Pistons about 8-10 points by such lopsided refereeing.

    If Adam Silver wants legalized gambling on basketball, he had better fix the referees, so it doesn’t appear that they are “throwing” games. I don’t care if a referee calls a bad game, as long as he calls it equally bad for both teams. What I hate is when the refs swallow their whistles on one end of the court for one team, and then call phantom fouls on the other team on the other end of the court–like what happened tonight.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Two thoughts about Hayward. First, his shot’s off. He shot less than 70% from the free throw line in the preseason as well and has missed some threes badly, including airballing another yesterday. He’s a better shooter than that but not a great shooter like Hornacek. The shot will come back. As for the aggression, I’m fairly certain much of that is the plan. With Hood in his second year and Burks healthy, they can and need to spread the offensive load. However, learning to do that is going to require Hayward not to take over all the time. He should have been more aggressive yesterday, but we should be patient as he figures out when to assert himself and when to trust his teammates to step up.

      As for the refs, I thought they were poor overall. However, I agreed with both the Neto traveling call and the blocked shot on Hood. Burks probably should have taken several more free throws. The loss is on the Jazz, though: they had too few contributors, didn’t maximize their one player who was really rolling, and their shooters were skittish. On the road, they shouldn’t expect to win often when they give that kind of effort.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        I agree that the Jazz should have played through the bad calls and still should have won the game. That was a characteristic of the great Jerry Sloan teams, and hopefully, will become a characteristic of this team.

        The Jazz had many chances to win the game in the fourth quarter, but squandered many opportunities to do so in the last 5 minutes of the game. It is encouraging that they still almost won the game on the road, despite all of those squandered opportunities.

  2. Tim says:

    Preach on!
    I have been saying since Quinn got here that Favors needs to be fed! there is no reason that he did not have 40 tonight and see the ball on just about every possession down the stretch. He could not be stopped.
    I know he is an assistant girls basketball coach now, but if Quinn (wasn’t he a Duke PG?) can’t teach them how to throw an entry pass maybe Mrs. Miller can convince THE GREATEST PASSER IN NBA HISTORY to spend some time at practice teaching the art of the entry pass…

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Quin was a point guard for Duke. A three-year starter and Academic All-American, if I recall. As for incorporating more play from the post, I simultaneously understand why it’s difficult in this context while also being frustrated by that. In short, it’s hard to play in and through the post without the ball sticking. (The Al Jefferson Jazz offense, for example.)

      This wouldn’t be as great a problem if the team had a dynamic playmaker who thrived in pick and rolls, whether that be in the mold of Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Penetration compromises the defense which provides opportunities for roll men and bigs near the hoop. Pair favors with an elite pick and roll threat and he immediately becomes one of the best scoring bigs in the league. Without that, however, and his offense becomes reliant on open mid-range jump shots, offensive putbacks, and post offense.

      As for getting one Assistant Coach Stockton to help, honestly, I don’t think it would change much. Quin knows about timing, technique, angles, and everything else you need to enter the ball into the post within his system. The problem is it takes an advanced awareness of the offense and uncommon court perception to feed the post well without stalling out a motion offense. Those are hard to develop, and even when they do they take time.

      • Tim says:

        Favors does not take as long as Big Al used to to make a decision. Also, he can hit that mid range all day long.
        From what I have seen Hood as well as Hayward are guys that could run the pick and roll effectively with Derrick all night long.
        Maybe I am nostalgic for the greatest PnR duo of all time, but when I see that my team needs buckets and we have a guy that has been unstoppable all night long it drives me nuts
        Now don’t get me wrong, I love you analysis of the game and I think you are pretty spot on

        On a side note, Jordan fouled the Mailman AND pushed off

        • Clint Johnson says:

          One reason I’m high on Favors is I’m convinced he’s a better passer than his numbers show. I agree that he could be used in the offense without becoming a black hole. I do think any post player requires some time to work, so getting him opportunities early in the shot clock would be key.

          As for pick and roll players, Hayward is adequate and Hood should become so. But there’s a big difference between players who can score or assist off the pick and roll and those who are a threat to do either at any time. Hayward and Hood are largely either/or players now: they decide whether to get their own or set up the pass and can do that thing they’ve planned. But they can’t make snap decisions between the two. Remember, Steve Blake had 7 assists in 17 minutes of play essentially just running the pick and roll as an old-school point guard. None of the Jazz wings can do that. Pairing Favors with someone capable of doing such (Neto maybe?) could make him lethal.

          • Paul Johnson says:

            Is it possible Steve Blake might become available in a trade when Brandon Jennings becomes able to play for Detroit? I’ve always liked Blake as a very competent, low-key, backup PG, and I think he could help the Jazz become a better team on a short-term basis, with his veteran leadership. He seems to be the type of player whose personality fits well with the Jazz, and who could adjust quickly to a new team. Detroit is currently carrying 4 point guards, so it’s likely the Pistons will make some sort of move before the trade deadline, whereas Detroit is currently slightly over the luxury tax cap (by approximately $1.16 mil.).

            Jennings would seem to be the more likely candidate to be traded, however, whereas his one-year contract is at $8.3 mil., while Blake’s contract (also a one-year deal) is only at $2.1 mil. Also, Blake is playing very well for the Pistons, while Jennings will be rehabilitating from an injury. Also, Jennings could create issues for the Pistons in the locker-room, because he may not like being demoted from a starter to a bench player, whereas Blake has always been a bench player and would not create any issues.

  3. Spencer says:

    Thanks for the analysis Clint. I needed a different perspective. My overall impression was that the Jazz looked like a team trying to run a bunch of plays and Detroit looked a little more interested in winning. There were a number of times I felt like our wings and Neto could have pushed the ball down the throat of inadequate transition defense, but they instead tossed it up top and began a set. That along with players not realizing they have an open three, or shooting it only after hesitating and looking for the next pass made the offense look like a car with no fuel injection and a bad carbirator.

    Great news! We can fix all that! Poor Detroit can’t fix the fact that they gave 80million dollars to a PG who can’t shoot, pass, defend, dribble or lead a team very well. I do think Detroit will make the playoffs in the east. Then poor Reggie is going to get swallowed whole by John Wall.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Ha! Very nice, Spencer.

      I see a lot of the things you do and think much of it can be traced to having to consciously think on the court. The deliberation is costly but it’s also unavoidable. As you say, its fixable with sustained effort and concentration from both coaches and players. I’m confident that’ll happen.

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