The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz at Hawks 11/12/14

November 13th, 2014 | by Clint Johnson

Alec Burks responds to the Jazz’s 100 – 97 loss to the Hawks despite his 22 points. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Tonight the Jazz could have, should have, would have, but didn’t.

The game had the feel of a contest that could swing either way going in, perhaps because of the multiplicity of connections shared between the two teams.  Not only do the Hawks employ three prominent former Jazz men in Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carroll,1 as starters, but tonight was a homecoming of sorts for both Derrick Favors and Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.  Favors is a true Georgia product: born and raised in Atlanta, he attended Georgia Tech for a single season before being drafted third by the Nets in 2010. Meanwhile, at this time last season Snyder graced the Hawks bench as lead assistant coach to Atlanta’s head man Mike Budenholzer.

Add two teams that employ motion-heavy offenses seeking to employ a Spurs-ian model2 to their organization, and it should be no surprise the game came down to a final shot.  But tonight’s 100 – 97 loss is the product of a unique triple double, or three pairs of players who determined the game’s outcome.

1. The Jazz’s Starting Guards Heavily Impacted This Game for the Better…and for the Worse.

Trey Burke and Alec Burks have not started as hoped this season, and pressure on the young guards only mounted following a combined 6-of-25 garbage game against a wounded Pacers team.  A quick glance at this game’s box score shows significant improvement.  The Burk(e/s) Boys were major contributors against the Hawks, with Trey posting his first double-double of the season (11 points, 11 assists along with 3 steals) while Alec notched his first 20-point game of the year (22 points, 3 assists).  The pair showed definite improvement and played significant roles in Utah commanding much of this game.

However, a closer look at the numbers gives cause for concern.  The Jazz’s starting backcourt required 30 shots to produce their 33 points.  More worrisome, they combined for a paltry 2-of-10 from the three point line.3  Under pressure after sluggish starts to the season and not confident in their three point shooting, both players relied upon a large number of long two-point shots to get themselves going.  36.4% of Trey Burke’s points came from midrange, while Alec Burks racked up a full 54.5% of his from the least efficient spots on the floor.

For stretches when those shots went in with frequency, the Jazz looked sharp and in easy control of the game.  When they stopped falling, the Hawks made several major runs to swing the game back in their favor, including a 20-4 walloping to end the second quarter and a crushing 18-9 fourth quarter collapse.4  If the Jazz’s backcourt can’t find a way to right the ships of their respective games by taking more efficient shots, it will be extremely difficult for them to maintain leads once they have them, putting pressure on the team to win close games–a pressure they’ve shown they aren’t yet ready for.

2. Former Jazz Players Killed Utah.  Yes, again.

It’s the well-worn refrain played yet again: former Jazz players won this game for the Hawks.

Going into the game, it was clear that even with DeMarre Carroll out, the Hawks would lean heavily on Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap.  The pair entered the night as two of Atlanta’s three top scoring options, and by game end they had scored a combined 47 points. And Worse was their combined efficiency–it took them 33 shots to produce those 47 points, and they threw in 27 rebounds and 9 assists.  Perhaps most lethal, they combined for a torrid 8 of 15 from three.

Millsap’s night jumps off the stat sheet: 30 and 17, including 2 steals and 2 blocks.  But it was Korver who knifed the upstart Jazz at the end, burying a three point shot in Derrick Favors’ face–despite being a good four feet behind the line–to give the Hawks the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter with a mere 58 seconds left in the game.  They never relinquished that lead.

The Jazz defended Korver aggressively, showing hard off of screens and frequently committing to full traps in an effort to keep him from getting long shots off.  A few times, they induced him to turn the ball over; far too often, he either drew the double team then passed to a wide open Paul Millsap or simply shot from a step or two beyond the line.  Back to the drawing board for the rematch in ESA.

3. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter Dominated Offensively – When They Weren’t Lost in the Shuffle.

Within Quin Snyder’s guard-initiated motion system, it’s easy to become overly focused on the perimeter game.  But  in this game, points in the paint from front court players was more of a litmus test for the Jazz offense.  When it’s humming, with plentiful motion and purposeful, quick passing, defenses scramble into breakdowns, and the most dangerous of these leave skilled Jazz bigs near the hoop with the defense out of position.

That was largely the story of the first quarter.  In the first 7:40 of the game, Favors and Kanter combined for 7 of 9 shooting for 15 points, including 8 points in the paint.  The team fed their bigs, who rewarded the trust by punishing the Hawks.

Then the Jazz stopped.  In the last 7:13 of the second quarter, Favors and Kanter combined for one shot, a gorgeous dunk by Favors after a silky spin left off the dribble.  Otherwise, nothing.  The Jazz went from being up 7 to down 3 at half.

The third quarter found the Jazz using their power players once more, as Favors and Kanter combined for 6 for 8 shooting and 11 points.  Not coincidentally, the team led 88 – 82 entering the fourth.  Yet in that decisive period, which saw the Jazz score only 9 points as Hayward, Burke, and Burks missed 8 long jump shots, Favors and Kanter combined for 2 of 4 shooting and 5 points.  Both misses were three point attempts by Kanter.

The duo ended the night 16 of 22 for a combined 36 points – 26 of which came in the first and third quarters.  In the second and fourth quarters, where the team was outscored by 12 to cost the Jazz the game, they combined for only 10 points on a mere 5 shots.

Snyder trusts his ball handlers to play with the pass as well as with purpose.  If the team wants to win games like this, they need to continue to involve the big guys, who are shooting 73% from the field in tandem.

The next chance to see if the Jazz learned anything from this loss will be Friday at Madison Square Garden against Carmelo Anthony.



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.


  1. Paul Johnson says:

    I thought Burks had a great game and shouldn’t be lumped in with the shooting failures of Hayward and Burke–who clearly combined to shoot the Jazz out of the game in the second half.

    Burks went 1-5 from three, but one of those shots was a half-court heave just before a quarter-ending buzzer. Burks went 8-10 from 2-point range, 3-3 from the foul line, and 1-4 from three–not counting that half-court heave–overall 60% from the field and 100% from the line. If he would have made one more three, we would all be gushing about what an incredible shooting night he had (and the Jazz probably would have won the game).

    On the other hand, although Hayward shot 1-2 from three point range (while shooting only two 3-point shots out of 16 shots taken), he only shot 4-14 from 2-point range, and 0-3 from the foul line, including missing his last 9 shots–while going all “iso-hero-ball,” and passing up open three point shots to step up and take uncontested long 2-point shots, which he repeatedly clunked off the front rim. He looked exactly like the “retro-Hayward” of 2013-2014, under the tutelage of Ty Corbin.

    Similarly, Trey Burke missed his last 4 shots, going 4-10 from 2-point range, 0-0 from the foul line, and 1-5 from 3-point range, and was also taking (and missing) some long twos at the end of the game.

    If the Jazz would have just continued to run their offense in the 4th quarter, instead of Hayward and Burke playing “iso-hero-ball,” I believe the Jazz would have won this game going away.

    • gotag says:

      Clint is saying that even though Burks’s shots were going in he was taking bad shots. Burks made a lot of long twos which is a lot of what G and Trey were missing, sure they went in but that is more flukish than part of a winning formula.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Gotag, I agree with what you are saying, and that is also shown by the fact that Burks only shot 3 foul shots (which means he was not driving to the hoop). In fact, all three of Burks, Hayward and Burke were hitting those bad jump shots in the first half at a pretty good percentage.

        The difference between what Burks did and what Hayward and Burke did was that Burks didn’t keep jacking up long-2s when he was missing them time after time after time, like Hayward and Burke. Also, I noticed on at least a shot or two, Burks was shooting a pull-up 2 off of a drive to the hoop, which is a much better shot than the type of shot Hayward was taking (Hayward would drive around a screen and get reasonably open on a three off the dribble, but would then take a step forward to shoot an uncontested 2–which he clanked off the front of the rim about 4 times in a row in the fourth quarter). That was Hayward’s go-to move last season, which did not work well. It also did not work well last night.

        If you are making your long-2s, you are a good mid-range shooter (a rare player in today’s NBA); if you are missing long-2s over and over and over, you are shooting your team out of the game by taking bad shots–perhaps an artificial distinction.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      gotag understands my point. Burks shot well, Burke did not, but both used the same solution to try to break free of the funk they were in: resorting to inefficient shots. As the game went along, the Hawks contracted their defense, moving under screens and giving the Jazz players room to shoot from around 20 feet. The perimeter players took the shots the defense gave them rather than running the offense to create better shots. Hayward certainly holds responsibility in that, but he also took seven shots at the rim. He missed four, but he took them. Even Burke, as much as he struggled, took four shots at the rim. Burks took one, plus one floater in the paint. Of his 15 FGA, 2 came in the paint.

      When you take that many inefficient shots, especially when they aren’t assisted, and many of the Jazz’s weren’t, you end up losing games and getting the explanation that was so common last season: “They just didn’t go in.”

  2. robert basinger says:

    Great analysis. Exum should get more playing time.trey has a difficult time defebdig. He gets beat quite often

    • Clint Johnson says:

      The Burke/Exum balance is a really tricky thing,I think. Exum is encouraging, but part of that is that they are being very careful with the amount of responsibility they place on his shoulders, which is wise. He has shot 25% or worse four times on the season; that’s the same number of games as Burke. For argument’s sake, imagine if Exum were playing starters minutes and had shot those percentages taking double the shots. All the criticism and pressure that is on Burke would be on Exum. That’s a lot of stress on a very young player.

      That said, the simple truth is Trey Burke needs to make more shots, especially from the three, to be a good player in this league. His defense is getting better, as is his willingness and ability to get some points at the rim, and he can run a team – but he doesn’t do any of that well enough to compensate for consistent poor shooting. I’ve endorsed Burke as a better shooter than he’s shown for a long time, but my confidence is starting to wane. He needs to show he can shoot efficiently without dominating the ball like he did in college. It’s that simple.

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