It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves, it was the age of Snyder, it was the age of Vogel, it was the epoch of Gobert, it was the epoch of George… you get the picture, right?
It’d be hard to find many examples of a team playing much more differently between two halves of play than the Jazz did Saturday in Indiana. The first frame was an exercise in futility — the Jazz were lucky to get to 42 points and only be down seven, frankly. Drawing just four free throws to Indiana’s 20 through two quarters and making every bucket look like a miracle, the Jazz were completely out of sync.
And then, 20 minutes later, it was like a different team stepped on the floor. The Jazz didn’t allow a point for the first five minutes and change of the third quarter, quickly building a lead and pulling away with a dominant 28-12 period. Their offense was night and day; slow and hesitant sets in the first half were replaced by purposeful, up-tempo plays in the second as the Jazz found an offensive flow they’d lacked virtually all season to this point1. The third quarter, in particular, was a salivating preview of what this team can be when it’s clicking.
So many elements of the second half will serve as strong takeaways for this team that we’ll save them for the rest of the rundown.
53.7 — Utah’s net per-100-possession advantage over the Pacers in the second half. The Jazz had nine more made field goals, eight more made free throws, seven more assists, 12 more rebounds, and 28 more points than their opponents over those 24 minutes.
0 — Number of minutes (excluding garbage time) the Jazz played without at least one of Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert on the floor in the second half. Quin Snyder tightened his rotation and seemed to emphasize leaving at least two of Utah’s top players on the floor at all times, and it paid off in spades.
20, 46 — Percentage of available offensive and defensive rebounds, respectively, that Gobert collected while on the floor tonight.
Halftime adjustments are key: Failure to properly credit Snyder for what his team did in the second half after the lackluster showing in the first would be errant. Thrown out of whack to some degree rotations-wise in the first half with a couple guys in foul trouble and wildly inconsistent play from nearly everyone on the roster, Snyder regrouped at the break. Both he and his team were razor sharp to start the half, and a few lineup tweaks in the right spots2 proved timely.
Tempo, tempo, tempo: One of the largest issues facing the Jazz offense this year, and something Snyder and players have been open about in the face of numerous questions on the subject, is their pace. Over time, this has become less about their raw per-48-minute possession count (the actual “pace” stat, that is) and more about the flow of the offense in general. Saturday night was once again a totally different ballgame in the second half here; their movement had so much more purpose, their initiation of the threatening parts of sets so much more urgency. The Jazz were forcing the Pacers into tough decisions offensively in a way we’ve rarely seen to this point in the year — the third quarter in particular, where the Jazz took the game over, illustrated how much more potent they can be. Utah’s pace in that period was 99.76, at the very high end for where teams finished last season3. The stat isn’t necessarily a hands-down indicator of offensive success, but here’s five dollars to your five that no one will be displeased with the results the rest of the year whenever the Jazz can speed things up to that degree.
Hayward still struggling: That the Jazz were able to shake the cobwebs in such an emphatic fashion despite Gordon Hayward’s continued struggles has to be a big positive. To be fair, Gordon had one of the most difficult wing matchups in the league in Paul George, among the game’s premier defenders and ideally suited to stifle guys like Hayward. Hayward also played fantastic defense on PG-13 on the other end of the floor, with a fantastic energy and effort level. Utah’s captain has been pressing all year, though, and imagining what the team’s play can look like if everyone maintains their highest level and Gordon inevitably returns to form is a fun exercise.
Other standouts: Rodney Hood was once again excellent, looking more and more like another potential offensive centerpiece for the Jazz. He was the only reason the Jazz were even close in the first half Saturday night, and paced them offensively for their big run in the third as well. Derrick Favors couldn’t find his touch early, but rebounded for his usual consistently excellent game — he’s now averaging over 21 points and eight rebounds per game for the young season, and has firmly established himself as the team’s most consistent player early on. Gobert was a seismic force in the second half, with a six-minute stretch to start the third quarter that very few centers in the game today are capable of duplicating. He simply decided no one was going to score within the vicinity of his basket, gobbled up every rebound in sight4 and was hugely active on offense — even drawing help with an aggressive drive Ian Mahinmi wasn’t ready for before finding Hayward for a wide open three:
Not enough freebies: Despite the strong effort Saturday, drawing free throws looks to be something of an issue for the Jazz early on this year. They’ve allowed 28 more freebies than they’ve taken on the year, and while some of that is overly handsy defense and another bit is a few questionable calls (or non-calls) over a short sample, it’s still a tad concerning. Guys like Hayward can’t get frustrated that their usual tactics aren’t drawing the whistles. The group as a whole can find more opportunities to get to the line and grab easy points, though they improved here in the second half Saturday night and had their best evening of the season percentage-wise from the stripe.