1. Jazz’s inconsistency enough to win game against terrible Knicks squad.
Tonight’s game was interesting. Statistically, the Jazz did all of the right things.
On defense, they allowed their opponents to score only 88.7 points per possession. They allowed only one quarter where their opponent scored more than 20. They limited the Knicks’ best players to 50% or less shooting. They allowed only 2 fast break points. They forced the Knicks into 29 mid-range shots, almost 10 more than their season average. The Knicks shot just 36% in the paint.
On offense, it wasn’t pretty, but given the circumstances, it was effective. They committed only 13 turnovers without their best offensive player. They got to the line very frequently. Their rookie SF (Hood) achieved a career high. Both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors picked up double-doubles, and Favors scored 29 points in only 17 shots. They made big shots to put the game relatively out of doubt at the end. What’s not to like?
Well, watching the game revealed a whole host of issues that made Quin Snyder very perturbed when he entered his post-game media session, despite the win. I’ll leave Quin to explain his frustration1:
“Tonight was a case of getting out of character, and guys doing too much stuff on their own on both ends. Communication wasn’t good. First 3 plays of the game were breakdowns. We made just enough plays, and give our guys credit, they made plays when they needed to. Derrick was terrific. But we put ourselves in a position where we needed to make plays and make shots in order to win the game. We haven’t given up a a 30 point quarter in a long time… We didn’t come out of halftime ready to go at all. We didn’t come out to start the game ready. Didn’t matter who was starting. This is what we’ve talked about with a team learning. Tonight, that’s what that was.”
“We’ve got what, 5 rookies? I lose track2. We’ve got young guys. Derrick Favors was an absolute anchor. But we had some guys who weren’t ready to play, and some players who played out of character, and that can happen. It’s not a shock, that it happened, to me. But it still makes me mad.”
“I don’t think it was a lack of commitment or energy or anything. I commend them, and I love that about our group. I don’t think we were focused. We lost track of the things we need to do to play well, they were intermittent. There were stretches when we did them, and stretches where we didn’t. We were rewarded when we did them.”
“Our shifts defensively, we didn’t come over far enough. And when we did come over, we left Alexey Shved. There’s a line there where there’s got to be an understanding. I thought our pick and roll defense was, you know, not good. We changed coverages a number of times because we weren’t executing on Bargnani… We did a good job going to Derrick. But then they started to react to that, and I didn’t think we played off Derrick as well. That’s new for us, really, to play off of him like we did. And then just guys not following the game plan. This guy would go over on a screen, this guy would go under. You go under, and he scores. It’s things like that that I could list for you, but that’s basically what I’m talking about. Gameplan discipline. And what that tells me is that we weren’t focused on the right stuff.”
Quin’s frustration makes sense: the Jazz’s four closest games in the 10 since the All-Star break have been against the Lakers (a loss), the Celtics (a loss), the Sixers (a 6 point win), and the Knicks (a 5 point win). While they’re 8-2 in that stretch3, it must be frustrating for a coach to see his team play at its worst against some of the league’s worst teams.
2. Derrick Favors’ performance saved the Jazz.
I don’t think the Jazz win this game without the great performance of Derrick Favors, who scored 29 points on 17 shots by dominating inside. Here’s Derrick’s shot chart tonight:
Notice how many shots he gets within 3 feet of the rim. Favors took advantage of New York’s weak interior defense by just bullying them, especially in the beginning of the game:
Favors’ rebounding game was great tonight too, getting 12 rebounds on 16 rebound chances4. That 75% success rate is far above the NBA big man average, to give you an idea, both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors generally average actually gathering less than 60% of their rebounding chances.
Favors has been stellar this season, and Quin repeatedly singled his great play out tonight, calling him an “anchor”. Favors’ leap in efficiency, and the raise of the number of possessions he uses, has provided a one-two punch in which Favors is one of the 50 best players in the NBA by almost any overall metric.5
3. A young media covers this young squad.
Beat writers Aaron Falk (of the Salt Lake Tribune) and Jody Genessy (of the Deseret News) were both out of action at tonight’s game, a rare occurrence. So tonight, Salt Lake’s younger media took a step to the forefront: 6 of tonight’s 8 questions in Quin Snyder’s post-game press conference were asked by reporters under the age of 27.6I’m included in that group, as is Salt City Hoops’ Ben Dowsett, who wrote this piece tonight on Rodney Hood’s game.
I’m still trying to figure out what the consequences of this are, if anything. A younger media has grown up in an age of technology: we use shot charts, Vines7, and even interactive embeds in our articles, tweet furiously to promote our posts, and probably react a little bit more quickly to breaking news. On the other hand, a more established, experienced media has a greater context in which to understand the game, and has developed a wider network of sources to break and report verified news and information.
This may just be an overreaction to an aberration of just one game, and it’s even more likely that I’m the only one who finds this interesting. But with basketball media having changed so much in just the last 5 years with the proliferation of blogs and websites covering teams, I wouldn’t be a good Managing Editor if I didn’t think critically about where basketball coverage goes in the next 5 years, and how Salt City Hoops can succeed in that environment.