For a young Jazz team that’s been streaking of late and among the toasts of the league, Wednesday night’s loss to the Wizards was a reminder of the way this league can be at times. These games will happen over the course of an 82-game season – Washington hit a number of difficult shots, particularly late, and the Jazz were fully unable to discover some of their shooting magic from Monday’s blowout over Charlotte in a somewhat miserable game from both the floor and the line.
What can be taken away, however, are learning experiences. Just as Quin Snyder told me regarding his youngest rookies in Dante Exum and Rodney Hood the other day, failure is a chance to improve upon mistakes, and that’s the mantra here going forward. One such area of necessary development is the team’s response to physical games, something Snyder thought contributed to the hesitance and general ineffectiveness of Utah’s shooting. He addressed it while also remaining positive about his team’s general performance.1
“I think we’ve just gotta get stronger,” Quin said postgame. “We’ve got 21-year-old guys playing against grown men that have been in the league for eight, nine years…if there’s a physicality component I just don’t want us to back down, and I don’t think we did. They’re playing as well as anyone in the league right now, so in some sense I was pleased with our effort.”
There are other bits and pieces as well, areas where the Jazz can take away a lesson or two from a gritty game that may have swung on a few vital plays here or there. Utah took care of the ball well, posting only nine turnovers and forcing 22 of their own, but their focus offensively seemed to lack for much of the game, particularly the third quarter. This may have shown through in their miserable performance from the free-throw line to a point, and it certainly was prevalent as far as their sense of urgency down the stretch – the Jazz had multiple occasions in the fourth quarter where a bit more emphasis on getting immediately into a threatening offense may have saved a few seconds here or there and given them an extra shot to win the game.
Many of these are quibbles, little errors that are generally one-time occasions and shouldn’t be assumed as regular occurrences. Rodney Hood’s critical late-game turnover is among these2, as are one or two ill-advised gambles defensively from Elijah Millsap that may have cost the team a few points. The free-throw shooting is an obvious concern and has been at several points this season, and the team is sure to have that element fresh in their minds for Thursday’s date with the Lakers.
A single loss is far from the end of the world for a team that’s extremely unlikely to make the playoffs anyway, and in the long run, these sorts of tough finishes may do more for the group’s resilience and battle-readiness than anything. All is well in Jazzland, and expect a bounce-back game in Los Angeles Thursday night.
|Derrick Favors, PF 38 MIN | 8-18 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +6 +/-Derrick’s own box score numbers didn’t necessarily jump off the page, but he was instrumental down low for the Jazz. He collected nine of his 11 rebounding opportunities and was the only Jazz starter in positive figures per-possession on the night (Exum was exactly even).|
|Gordon Hayward, SF 35 MIN | 9-19 FG | 7-9 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 26 PTS | -3 +/-He couldn’t get a potential game-winning three to fall, but Gordon was aggressive from the start and kept Utah’s offense in the game when many of his teammates weren’t fully engaged on this end. He took nine trips to the line and it should likely have been a few more, and was unlucky to fall just a tad short in the end.|
|Rudy Gobert, C 37 MIN | 3-5 FG | 3-8 FT | 14 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -13 +/-Rudy’s 3-8 showing from the line might irk him right up until tip in Los Angeles, and it was a key to the game. He’s improved greatly here this season and can’t be faulted for a few common misses, but he’s harder on himself than anyone else and will hope for more against the Lakers.|
|Rodney Hood, SG 29 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -2 +/-After a number of recent plaudits, including from yours truly, Hood was oddly disengaged tonight and seemed far too nonchalant at several points. He turned the ball over three times and took a couple silly fouls, and will be expected to regain his focus in short order.|
|Dante Exum, SG 20 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2 +/-A rough night for Exum all around, as he learned a thing or two from John Wall early on (Dante did a passable job defensively on one of the league’s toughest marks, but still came up a bit short) and was benched down the stretch in favor of Trey Burke’s offense.|
|Trevor Booker, PF 19 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | 0 +/-Booker had one of his stronger nights of late, particularly in his usual hustle areas that don’t show up on the box score. He had several deflections and alterations, and the Jazz gave up just an 88.8 per-100-possessions mark to Washington while he was on the floor, a team-low among rotation guys.|
|Joe Ingles, SF 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +4 +/-He made several excellent passes including a beautifully drawn-up out-of-bounds play for a Hayward alley-oop to bring the Jazz within two late, but also had a few defensive miscues and a couple ill-advised long two’s.|
|Trey Burke, PG 28 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -6 +/-Trey gave the Jazz a boost in the second half offensively, with nine points and four assists. His defense rotated between acceptable and a bit wanting as he tried to check Wall, though to his credit several of the All-Star guard’s makes in the second were on very difficult looks.|
|Elijah Millsap, SG 11 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -7 +/-Quin Snyder told us pregame that Millsap had no minutes restriction, yet he played just 11 minutes despite being easily Utah’s best defensive player on the night. Some lingering effects of his minor concussion may have played a role, or perhaps Snyder found more offensively-inclined players a better option with Utah trailing much of the second.|
His out-of-bounds play for the above-noted Hayward oop was masterful, and credit to any coach whose team gives up such a deficit on shots (including open ones) and is still in the game. A couple of his other late game sets seemed a tad bland and the Jazz definitely could have shown more urgency in getting into sets late in the game, but these are learning experiences across the board.