The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Hawks 3/10/2014

March 10th, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. Former Jazz players got the best of their old team.

Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and DeMarre Carroll combined for 60 points and 9 for 13 shooting from 3 point land in their return against the Jazz. Despite the 3 point barrage, their production was evocative of the old style of Jazz basketball, as the Hawks combined for 30 assists on their 38 made field goals. All three showed off their skillsets against their old team, but in a new system. It was both impressive and informative.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer had really positive things to say about the former Jazzmen before the game, but especially Paul Millsap:

“His defense probably isn’t talked about enough. His activity, deflections, blocked shots, changing passing angles, he’s just a really smart, active defener, and he just a ton for us on that end. Offensively, he does a little bit of everything. He creates a lot of great looks for his teammates, he scores for himself, he’s got a high basketball IQ, he’s increased his range and added the 3 point shot. And his leadership: when times are tough and we need somebody to pull the group together, oftentimes it’s Paul that pulls our group together. From leadership to defense to offense, he brings everything.”

As a longtime Paul Millsap admirer, it’s been nice to see him get the admiration he deserves this season. Of course, he’s now been recognized as an All-Star, but his plus/minus statistics and defensive contributions were often overlooked in Utah. It’s great to hear Budenholzer sum up his game so positively. As for the current situation in Utah, Ty Corbin probably summed it up best: “We miss Paul Millsap.”

2. Should a coach give his players the hair-dryer treatment when they’re underperforming?

That was the main topic of discussion before the game amongst media and coaches, and it was a fascinating glimpse into how a coach considers the psyche of his players. In particular, Corbin asserted that a main separator of good and bad teams was whether or not they had the self-discipline to know when they weren’t putting forth their best effort. “Good players and good teams know it,” Corbin said. By the time you jump on them, they’ve jumped on themselves and they’re going at each other a little bit.”

Of course, this is not a particularly good Jazz team. But according to Corbin, despite that, the Jazz are like a good team in that “they know when they haven’t put down their best effort or best performance. We’re trying to narrow it down so [the bad stretches] are not a game, but a half or a quarter.”

In the first half tonight, the Jazz didn’t give their best performance. They didn’t share the ball, garnering only 5 assists, and were giving up easy looks to the Hawks, who scored 59 in the 1st half. Corbin felt that it was time to act, trying to shorten the bad play, just as he said the team was trying to do before the game. Trey Burke said that “Coach got into us at halftime”, and it showed: the Jazz won the 3rd quarter 36-19, changing a 15 point halftime deficit into a 2 point 4th quarter lead. The halftime turnaround was a drastic improvement over the team that seemed to give up when down early on the road last week.

3. NBA’s new immediate player tracking shows some pretty interesting insights:

As you’ve probably heard all about by now, last weekend was the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. I attended, representing ESPN, and one large topic of conversation was about how to best share the analytic revolution with fans. The NBA has embraced the statistical revolution, installing SportVu cameras in all 30 arenas this season, and even better, it’s started to share some of the results of that data immediately after the game ends with fans. Here’s tonight’s “Player Tracking” boxscore, from NBA.com:

Player tracking data from Jazz vs. Hawks

Player tracking data from Jazz vs. Hawks

It’s immensely helpful in trying to figure out what actually happened during a game. A few quick hits:

  • The Jazz shot just 42% on uncontested shots tonight, shots in which a player has no defender within 4 feet of the ball. That’s not very good. In particular, Hayward, Burks, and Kanter’s low totals indicate some fairly worrying shooting problems when left open.
  • Gordon Hayward may be the Jazz’s lead facilitator. Even playing alongside a true PG in Trey Burke, Hayward picked up 7 assists, then added 2 secondary assists and 2 passes in which the receiver got fouled leading to FTs. On the other hand, Burke had just 4 assists, and just 1 “hockey” assist. While Burke still holds the lead in assists per game, Hayward’s actually pulled into a tie with Trey in another category: they both have 29 games this year in which they led the team in assists. It will be interesting to see how that “battle” develops going forward.
  • Burks had the 3rd most touches on the team. This is why the team believes he should still be on the bench: not because Jefferson or Williams are better players, but because he has a bigger role when he’s not in the starting lineup. While we don’t know for sure that Burks would receive fewer touches if he were starting, it seems likely: after all, there’s only one ball. Because of his place on the bench, Burks got the ball more than either Jefferson or Williams in fewer minutes. That’s true even in a game in which he scored under his season average.

I wish the NBA would release the entire SportVu dataset to fans: as is, there’s too much proprietary work being done, creating unreproducible results and an information barrier between the haves and have-nots. But the release of the above data is a really great first step.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
Andy Larsen

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2 Comments

  1. Point two is somewhat consistent with how Gregg Popovich has his players police themselves so often. Not a bad philosophy, with the right personnel.

  2. Pingback: Millsap’s Return: The Other Stretch Four Salt City Hoops

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