1. Jazz’s turnovers gave them no chance in an otherwise great performance.
The Jazz did so much well in this game. They shot well from 3, at a 50% clip. They won the battle of paint points, 44-32. They won the rebounding battle on both the offensive and defensive glass. They passed the ball quite well, making the extra pass to find either open shooters, or in some cases, big-man passing to find the open man down low. They out-hustled the Clippers, especially in the first half. It was, in truth, one of the Jazz’s most impressive performances, especially in recent weeks. This is especially true given how well their opponent had been playing:
— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) March 14, 2014
But the Jazz didn’t respond well to LA’s pressure defense. They gave up 20 turnovers on the night, giving up 31 points on those 20 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Jazz scored just 12 points on the Clippers’ 11 turnovers. That deficiency, all by itself, was enough to cost the Jazz the game when they outperformed the Clippers in nearly every other way.
So why did it happen? The Clippers matched up cleverly on the Jazz: they generally had one player they tried to prevent from getting the ball, thus confusing Utah’s offense somewhat. They often forced the ball into Alec Burks’ hands, who had 5 turnovers in a night he’d like to forget. Paul and company also knew that the Jazz’s centers are relatively turnover prone: Kanter turned the ball over twice, and they attacked Rudy Gobert for another 2 turnovers in his only 1:52 on the floor.
Still, efforts like these in which the Jazz are clearly capable except for in one or two areas of concern are vastly preferable to those on last week’s road trip. Then, they were being blown out in all phases of the game by miserable teams. Outpacing the Clippers in multiple respects shows progress.
2. Doc Rivers’ thoughts pregame on player battles and minute unhappiness.
The Clippers have an interesting situation: as a contending team1, they have almost a surplus of talented role players who can help their team. Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu, and Willie Green all have shown that they’re deserving of minutes, but the Clippers also have Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, and J.J. Redick injured and coming back this season.
But Clippers coach Doc Rivers wasn’t concerned about the playing time dilemma when his team returns to full health: “I’m not going to get them all on the floor, so I’m not going to try. We’re trying to win. We’re not trying to win who gets to play the most. We’re trying to win basketball games and be a great team. With that comes sacrifice. Guys will sacrifice minutes.” When Rivers was asked if his players were embracing that sacrifice, he said “So far so good, but you never know. But I don’t think anyone’s ever happy, at least I hope not, when they don’t play. I don’t like those guys. I want them to be unhappy, and that’s a good thing, and push each other every time they get in. I think that competition is very healthy.”
It’s an interesting philosophy for a coach to actively embrace healthy unhappiness. It seems as if conventional wisdom is to ensure that your role players are team-oriented, so as to prevent discord in the locker room. Rivers feels differently: that this particular kind of discord means the best for the team as a whole as it pushes players to improve their games. This may be especially interesting for the Jazz as they acquire a marquee player in this year’s draft: at every position on the floor, the Jazz have a young player who would like to start. How would a positional battle between Randle and Favors or Kanter turn out, for example? How about one with Dante Exum and Burke or Burks? The Jazz will acquire more good players, and these sorts of positional battles will become more commonplace. It will be interesting to see if they can be used to push players to new heights.
3. Fun highlight plays in this game.
Of course, it was against the Clippers, perhaps the team most well known for their assortment of highlight plays, but the Jazz responded with entertaining plays of their own. Below are two of the best, an Enes Kanter dunk and a Gordon Hayward chasedown block. If the Derrick Favors dunk or Evans transition deflection are uploaded to Vine or YouTube, I’ll be sure to add them to this post.