Well, dang, you can’t win ‘em all.
You can’t blame Jazz fans for being greedy: Taking a 7-game winning streak into New Orleans to play the struggling Pelicans, an 8th win seemed a decent bet.
But it wasn’t to be, as the Pelicans rode a solid game from Jrue Holiday and a late run from Anthony Davis to beat the Jazz 100-96. Perhaps the Jazz were tired, as evidenced by their high turnover total (17) and mediocre defense (the Pelicans shot 48 percent.)
However, I’d also take a step back and point out that as fun as the Jazz 7-game winning streak was, most of their wins were close — and at home. And the Jazz likely beat just two playoff teams during that run. (Chicago and Dallas.)
For much of the season, the Jazz could partly attribute their below .500 record to having played a tougher schedule. However, after the relatively recent easy stretch, they now have nearly a perfectly average schedule.
Here’s the truth that most Jazz fans may not quite want to hear. Even healthy, and with the ascendant Rodney Hood, the Jazz are unlikely to just tear through their remaining schedule. They will plenty of tough games — against good teams, on the road and on back-to-backs. The Pelicans may not be good, but the other two criteria fit.
A few other observations about tonight’s loss:
The Pelicans leading scorer and most consistent player tonight was Jrue Holiday, who had 21 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Let’s take a moment and take a look at Holiday, who might possibly be available for a trade from the struggling Pelicans and who would be an upgrade for the Jazz.
I and other Salt City Hoops writers have long coveted Holiday, who is an intriguing blend of young (25), underappreciated and above average at nearly everything. He’s also, less delightfully, injury prone, with a series of lower leg injuries have plagued him for several years.
Over the past 10 games, he’s averaging 18 points and 7 assists in 29 minutes per game. On the year as a whole, despite early minute restrictions, he’s actually having his best season statistically. His assists have remained high and he’s getting to the line at a career best rate, which along with his always decent shooting numbers, have lifted him to a career high PER of 19.5.
It’s not clear if Holiday’s defense, generally considered decent, is as good this year. The Pelicans are woeful defensively and he bears at least some responsibility for that.
Would the Pelicans trade Holiday? What would the Jazz have to give up? Who knows, but if I’m Dennis Lindsey, I pick up the phone and ask. He’s signed for this year and next at a reasonable price ($11 million a year.)
The Pelicans ultimately beat the Jazz in part due to their successful three point shooting. Their percentage hovered around 50 percent all game and included several wide-open 3s. The Pellies ended the game shooting 7-19, or 42 percent, still an excellent mark.
That led me to wonder: Do the Jazz give up a higher percentage of 3 point shots than other teams? Anecdotally, it feels like they do, especially on corner 3s.
The quick answer is Yes, a higher percentage, but not a higher volume.
Why? I wish I was smarter at breaking down a defense and explaining exactly where the Jazz fall short on their rotations, but I can at least show you the data on which Jazz players are worse at preventing 3s. Here’s the data for each of the Jazz who have played significant minutes at the wing this year, from NBA.com. The number is how well the opponents shoots from 3 when guarded by each of the following:
|Player||3 Pt % Defense|
Small sample size warnings abound, but it would be interesting to see what Hood and Ingles do well. It’s also very possible that they tend to guard wings who shoot the ball less well, as Hayward and Johnson, for example, tend to draw tougher assignments.
Regardless of the player-by-player variation, however, it’s safe to say the Jazz could stand to tighten up their 3-point defense. It certainly was a factor in their loss tonight.
OK, time for some days off! Here’s to rest — and maybe a trade???!!!