1. As Favors’ returns, so does the Jazz’s interior defense.
And it’s not a coincidence: Favors is essentially Utah’s defensive plan at this point. Of course, the Jazz are 0-9 with him out of the lineup, and now 17-9 in this starting configuration where he patrol’s the paint as the team’s center. Take the last two games as an example: with Kanter at center against the Timberwolves, 1 the Timberwolves got 33 attempts within the restricted area, and made 22 of them. On the other hand, the Celtics got just 22 attempts inside that restricted area, making just 14. That’s a big difference.
But Favors’ presence also allows the perimeter defense to step up its game. The Utah Jazz’s cameras caught me asking Richard Jefferson about how that works.2
Click above for the long answer, but in short, as Jefferson says, “Heck yeah.” Favors allows the perimeter players to press a little bit more, ideally getting more steals and allowing less airspace for the opposing team’s guards to get off a shot. If they are able to drive, the team has confidence that Favors will be able to make an impact behind them. That’s pretty useful.
2. Rajon Rondo is a feisty dude.
After seeing a big man with the passing and shooting skills of a guard on Saturday (Kevin Love), it was fun to watch Rajon Rondo play the Jazz tonight. Rondo is the polar opposite of Love: a point guard with a big man’s fight and rebounding ability. Throughout the game, Rondo was jostling and elbowing his matchup for position, on both offense and defense. Whenever contact was possible, contact was garnered. In the 1st quarter, as a Celtic big man went to the free throw line, Rondo lined up alongside Derrick Favors to try to snag the rebound, and after battling for the board high in the air (and losing the fight due to Favors’ size), Rondo sneakily stripped it when the big man took the ball down low.
Later in the game, the trend continued: even as the Celtics were down 10 late in the game, Rondo fought as if the game still was within reach. It’s such good news for the watchability of the NBA to have Rajon Rondo back in uniform.
3. Ty Corbin on two point shots vs three point shots.
At shootaround today, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about his offensive philosophy, and according to Jazz radio play-by-play announcer David Locke, said “We all know a 33% three point shooter is better than a 47% 2 point shooter.” Locke noted at the time that it was “radical” for a coach to say that, and as the NBA continues to move towards the 3 point shot, I thought I’d ask Corbin about his opinion on the subject. Here’s how the exchange occurred:
Me: “Brad Stevens said earlier today that he’d rather have a 33% 3 point shooter than a 47% 2 point shooter, do you agree or is there more to it than that?”
Corbin: “That’s his philosophy.”
Me: “What’s your philosophy?”
Corbin: “I like to have a guy shoot 100% from both spots.”
Corbin’s right, of course3, but it’s worrying that he distanced himself from the mathematical truism of 0.33 * 3 > 0.47*2. Ahead of this weekend’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, 4 the influence of mathematics has over basketball will be in the limelight, and the Jazz’s coach is going in the other direction.
On the other hand, if Jerry Sloan had said the above, we’d all read it as a classic Jerry-ism, along the lines of suggesting to have an ice-pick fight in the parking lot. And there’s a certain amount of sense in crafting every possession to succeed, rather than just some of them. But the truth of the matter is that shots are going to be missed, and it probably makes sense to embrace that reality.