1. Trey Burke’s injury was the story of the game.
Trey Burke injured his finger in the first quarter of tonight’s game. He explained that at first it looked as if it was just dislocated, but once the finger was popped back in and he returned to game action in the second quarter, it still felt too sore. X-rays were then taken at halftime, which found the fracture. Corbin seemed legitimately upset that his core of young guys was so quickly interrupted by the injury, and prematurely ended the experiment of starting the young 5 together. Burke, though, was more upbeat about what happened, calling the injury merely “day-to-day”. The extent of the injury will be evaluated on Monday the next two days.
I don’t know that this a tremendous short-term loss for the Jazz. Yes, it breaks up the young core, but Burke had been playing poorly, including shooting just 1-6 in tonight’s game. He’s now 9-30 in the preseason, not showing tremendous improvement over what had been a difficult summer on the court for the Michigan PG. John Lucas III, on the other hand, has been much better shooting the ball, but isn’t a PG who gets his teammates involved. Lucas will surely move into the starting role, which leaves a hole for a new PG to be the backup. The most likely immediate replacement is Scott Machado, the training camp invite who has shown an ability to distribute the ball. Whether the Jazz make a move to find a new PG likely depends on the extent of Burke’s injury.
2. The Jazz struggled with regards to Dennis Lindsey’s three “D”s tonight.
At both media day and in subsequent interviews, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey made this season’s goals for the team clear. He calls them the three “D”s: defense, development, and discipline. The Jazz really regressed in all three categories against the Clippers.
The team gave up 106 points to the Clippers, allowing a 55.1% shooting percentage for the night. Every single one of the 10 players who played more than 12 minutes for the Clippers shot at least 50%. Rotations were missed, transition D was spotty at best, and the team couldn’t handle Los Angeles’ point-guard oriented attack (both LAC PG’s garnered 10 assists). While Doc Rivers credited Alvin Gentry’s offense for how open the Clippers were throughout the night, the Jazz have to be disappointed in giving up so many easy shots.
On both ends, the development of the young players was… not on display. Of course, Trey Burke’s injury temporarily stalls his development, but Enes Kanter too had a game he described as “in one word: bad.” Derrick Favors shot just 1-7 on the night, and didn’t display much of the offensive skillset fans so hoped he would pick up after working with Karl Malone. Gordon Hayward too had a below-par game, scoring just 9 points.
The Jazz also lacked discipline. Favors picked up 4 fouls in just 8 minutes of playing time in the first half. Coach Corbin angrily called a timeout after Kanter blew side pick and roll coverage by being in the wrong place and accidentally screening Alec Burks, allowing for an easy Chris Paul layup. And even veteran roster invitee Brian Cook showed no smarts; he forced too many shots on offense and gave up easy plays on defense. By the measures that the Jazz front office are evaluating the team, the Jazz deserve a failing grade tonight.
3. That being said… it’s just one game.
So early in the season, it’s easy to overreact to such a performance given our limited information. Despite our recency bias, this game means just as much as the impressive win against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Yes, the Jazz were bad on this night, but there were some important caveats (for example, the Jazz were on a back-to-back, usually resulting in a somewhat sluggish team). We now have an idea of the upper and lower limits of what to expect from the team, but the truth is that most games will be played with performances in between Tuesday’s high and tonight’s low.