Thanks for stopping by in between leftovers.
Take a break from the cold turkey sandwiches and help yourself to a nice heaping portion of our new-ish weekly feature recapping a 168 hours of all things Jazz. It goes great with stuffing.
Utah’s three-wing lineups have been a hot topic of late, including on our site, where Ben Dowsett delivered you a comprehensive look that included thoughts from Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
The chatter makes sense. The combination of Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks had produced 118 points per 100 possessions in their 93 minutes together going into Wednesday, per nbawowy.com. While the defense needs some fine tuning1, the trio has been effective. Even when the third guy is Joe Ingles, it really works2.
The lineup has been discussed primarily as a means of keeping a traditional point guard off the floor. But here’s a thought: what if “Triple T” can help just as much to help bridge the minutes when Utah’s starting bigs need a blow?
While it’s true that Utah doesn’t have star quality at PG, the point guards have hardly been the weakest link for Utah so far. Raul Neto has actually brought plus-minus magic, and Trey Burke has been playing much more confidently and providing efficient perimeter scoring. Neither of those guys is leaving as much to be desired as pretty much all of Utah’s backup bigs.
So far only one lineup involving a point, three wings and one traditional big has even cracked double digit minutes: a group whose 15 minutes were spread across 5 games.
Trevor Booker is theoretically important to the Jazz’s versatility in frontcourt combinations, but he just hasn’t had it lately. And I’m not talking about banishing him, just giving a few more minutes to small-ball lineups. The rookie bigs have mostly looked a step behind everyone else, and while Jeff Withey makes very few mistakes, he also hasn’t impacted a game since first crashing the rotation.
Let’s put it this way: if Gobert needs a breather, but Utah’s in a tough game with a small margin for error, which lineup do you like the most?
Obviously you’d like to know who the Jazz are playing, what the flow of the game is, etc. But in a vacuum, I think most people would feel more comfortable with option B… which is a bit surprising based on expectations coming into the year.
As Zach Lowe recently discussed, most really good teams at least have a good small lineup in their arsenal, most typically “four skilled guys around a rim runner.” The Jazz can have that if they shift the Triple Wing up as a smallball ace in the hole, instead of siphoning minutes from their best rotational Net Rating guy or their best three-point shooter.
Number of games this year in which a big man other than Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert had double figures3 All told, the four backup bigs are shooting 33 percent combined.
The impact Hayward has on a guy’s usual FG% when he guards the shot. This is just once the shot goes up, by the way, and doesn’t include chasing a guy off his shot, denying him the ball in the first place, or forcing a turnover. He has just been stellar on D so far this year.
I already had a quote of the week, but I loved when Snyder responded to a query about Hayward struggling with a chuckle and then added, “I’m sorry for laughing at the question, but any criticism in Gordon’s direction has simply been misplaced.”
Only one to give out this week, and it was as easy as the pie you’re considering having another slice of4.
Jazz 102, Clippers 91 – Hayward
Gordon was otherworldly on Thanksgiving Eve, playing great defense, exploding for a season-high 33, and rocking a team-best +22. More importantly, he had the kind of game fans have been dying for: a game where he put his stamp on it by demanding the ball and coming through with big play after big play. FOURTEEN 4th QUARTER POINTS, including three ridiculous off-the-bounce leaners and one catch-and-shoot corner three. So it is that Hayward finally gets on the game ball board.
Horns action has become a ubiquitous way of initiating offense because it provides many of the same permutations of a high P&R but with twice the options, and because it has the added benefit of bringing two defenders away from the hoop. Utah uses horns a lot too, but this one is different from the standard two-big horns, because in this case it’s a 1-3-4 set-up5 that ensures that, one way or another, a small is going to wind up on Favors.
They get the switch they want and Hayward smartly clears to the weak side to isolate Favors6. Eventually the big has to come help, so KD is left to monitor Gobert as he cuts up. Part of what I love here is the particular cut Rodney Hood makes, sliding behind the play right as his man is forced to follow Gobert out of his position in what Utah calls the dunker7.
Favors makes a really nice pass — truly, not every big man can make this one — and then it’s fairly easy work for Hood in a simple two-step read. From there, he’s bound to either get the floater or the lob to Rudy.
“We’re making dumb plays on defense that I know we know not to make. It’s just a lack of concentration collectively. I feel like we can be better.” -Snyder
“A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of breakdowns. I think mental breakdowns more than anything.” -Hayward
Coach and pupil were on the same page after Utah got humbled in back-to-back games against the Mavs and Thunder. Their DRtg in those two games was 117.5 and not a single Jazz player had an individual on-court D number better than 109 in either game.
Utah saved the seven-day period by turning things around in LA. Utah’s plan was to contain Chris Paul’s dribble off the high P&R but without bringing in a third defender. The result was a lot of open 18-footers for Blake Griffin, and he drilled most of them on the way to 40. But Utah’s wager was that LA’s offense overall would suffer if the other guys weren’t getting the usual looks that derive from the P&R help.
Good wager. Good win.
Just an excellent use the quote tweet function.
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) November 26, 2015
Utah has light duty between now and your next Salt City Seven installment: just two games in the next seven nights.
It starts a stretch with 14 of the next 19 at home through January 4. The Jazz won’t have as lengthy a stretch of home-heavy play all season8, so it’s extremely important that they pile up some Ws they’ll hope to be able to count in April. Their first chance at capitalizing comes with a visit from the reeling New Orleans Pelicans, winners of just four so far. Their second chance: not quite so cushy.
If Golden State can sweep a Phoenix/Sacramento back-to-back, the Warriors would bring a league-record 18-0 start and the third longest overall regular season winning streak9 to Vivint Arena. But the Jazz have had some recent success, splitting with the Dubs in SLC last season. In a 110-100 win last January, Utah focused on cutting off Steph Curry’s passing lanes and made it harder for the MVP’s supporting cast to impact the game. Curry went for 32, but the other Warriors never got into rhythm and Utah got a massive night from Hayward10.
Could Utah bust the league’s best-ever opening streak? If so, we’ll have plenty to talk about in next week’s Salt City Seven.