Late Game Execution Costs Utah in 102 – 103 Miami Loss

January 7th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

Derrick Favors (15) is unable to stop Josh Richardson’s (0) game-winning layup with less than five seconds left in Utah’s one-point loss in Miami. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Story of the Game

The Jazz haven’t had that many close games this season and it showed in their execution down the stretch in a brutal one point loss, 103 to 102, in Miami.

This contest progressed in fits and starts, with neither team really holding momentum for long. To Utah’s credit, they managed to prevent the Heat to going on the prolonged, demoralizing runs that have hurt them of late, such as Denver’s 38 to 16 third quarter last game. When they needed scoring in the second half, a player rose up to provide it, be that Donovan Mitchell scoring 13 in the third or Rodney Hood tallying seven in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter.

The net result was a seven point lead with 4:12 left to play. In that span, all the following happened:

3:54 – Josh Richardson grabbed on offensive rebound off a missed Goran Dragic three and kicked the ball to Tyler Johnson for a made three.

3:08 – Joe Ingles is standing in the left corner where an uncontested pass bounces off his hands and goes out of bounds.

2:33 – Mitchell smartly passes the ball ahead of the defense to get Ingles a wide open three that he misses.

2:23 – Kelly Olynyk is fouled on an offensive rebound and makes one of two free throws.

1:08 – The ball escapes a double-teamed Mitchell going out of bounds.

0:14 – Hood barely (more on this later) manages to escape a backcourt violation call and misses a late three after no ball movement.

0:01 – Mitchell receives the ball in the backcourt with less than five seconds less and charges forward for a terrible 17 foot contested runner that misses at the buzzer.

In those last four minutes and change the Heat outscored the Jazz 14 to seven. Utah turned the ball over twice, sent Miami to the free throw line six times, allowed two offensive rebounds, and didn’t generate a single assist – all while playing with the lead. Mitchell made two of his three shots in the clutch, but outside his ability to create his own shot – which Erik Spoelstra took away by double teaming him on the touch or even with the ball out-of-bounds –  Utah had no way of creating offense. The rest of the team shot one of four in this span.

This was a more-than-winnable road game for a team that desperately, DESPERATELY, needs road wins. They should have had this one.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Donovan Mitchell

While Mitchell wasn’t particularly efficient, requiring 25 shots to get his 27 points, he was obviously Utah’s most impactful player. Spoelstra’s decision to double team Mitchell late was largely responsible for the Jazz losing this game. The rookie has easily been Utah’s biggest star this season and opposing teams are beginning to treat him that way. He’s going to have to learn how to deal with things like double teams down the stretch of close games because the ball will be in his hands then. But in his favor, Utah did outscore Miami by five in the 36-plus minutes Mitchell played.

Secondary Star: Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha had an excellent and complete game, scoring 13 on perfect shooting (four of four from the field, the same from the stripe, and making his only three attempt) while adding six rebounds, two assists, three steals, and a block.

Secret Star: Joe Johnson

Johnson’s nine points on eight shots doesn’t seem super impressive, but he added seven rebounds. Also, when he plays the offense often runs around and through him, and tonight the team outscored the Heat by two in Johnson’s 19 minutes of play. His role is often to provide enough points to prop up the offense when scorers like Mitchell are out of the game, and he did that tonight.

Stats of the Game

18 – Lead changes in this game.

5.1 – Seconds left when the final lead change of the night came on a Josh Richardson layup.

Minus-10 – Utah’s scoring disadvantage in the paint, a problem that is becoming chronic.

90 percent – Utah’s free throw accuracy on their 20 attempts, a statistic that nearly won them the game.

111.2 – Utah’s defensive rating tonight.


  • Utah entered this game ranked 26th in the league in defensive efficiency on the road with a 110.2 rating. The only teams that have been more porous defensively away from home are the Kings, Bulls, Magic, and Mavericks. It was a problem again tonight as they allowed Miami 103 points on 48 percent shooting and only induced the Heat to turn the ball over eight times. Their defensive rating for the game was just a point higher than their norm on the road.
  • On the road the Jazz have allowed nearly 48 points in the paint per contest, which ranks 23rd in the league. Per 100 possessions only the Pacers are worse and really shows one area where they miss Rudy Gobert. The problem hurt them tonight as well.
  • While his results were mixed, Hood continued playing with determination to take the ball to the hoop. He took six shots in the paint today. However, only two were in the restricted area and he missed them both. He doesn’t have either the build or the mentality to shrug off physical contact near the hoop, though he clearly is trying.
  • Mitchell’s jumper has been a little shaky recently. In his last 13 games he’s shot only 30 percent from three, exactly what he shot tonight. He’s still taking six attempts a game and his stroke is pure enough fans shouldn’t worry, but it’s one of many contributing factors to Utah’s slump right now.
  • There were so many things that happened tonight that are discouraging in a one point loss, including several situations involving the refs. At the end of the first half Hassan Whiteside made two free throws on a foul that was originally called a shot clock violation. Somehow when it was reviewed, Whiteside was awarded fouls shots on a legitimate foul by Mitchell that had been missed on the floor yet, it appears, was awarded during the review despite fouls not being reviewable plays. Then with a minute left, Mitchell and a Richardson both dove for the ball on the sideline. The ball was given to Miami despite what looked like Mitchell hitting the ball into Richardson’s arm as he lay out of bounds. After this when the Heat doubled Mitchell, Hood received the ball in the backcourt and probably should have been called for an eight second violation; when it wasn’t called, Utah stood staring at each other in confusion until Hood had to jack a terrible last second three – which essentially wasted 15 seconds of the last minute of play.  These weren’t calls that clearly victimized the Jazz, but they were odd calls, questionable all, at pivotal moments in a very close game.
  • In December there was a stretch where the Jazz were losing games despite often playing well against really good competition. Recently, they’ve been losing and not playing well. They look skittish and the offensive scheme that carried them during Gobert’s first injury absence simply hasn’t been working, certainly not well enough to compensate for their poor defense. Not only are they not winning games, they don’t look like they know how to play in a manner they believe will win games.

Quin Snyder will have two days off before his team suits up in Washington to face the Wizards, a team looking for payback from a 47 point shellacking earlier this season. It’s been a long time since the Jazz have managed anything resembling that type of play.

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.
Clint Johnson

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  1. Tom Calarco says:

    Clint, you are doing a great job with your analysis and coverage. Thanks for your efforts.

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