1. The Jazz continue to be blasted in the possession battle.
Tonight, the Jazz had 22 fewer shots than the Pelicans, so despite holding the Pelicans to a lower shooting percentage than their own, they got beaten pretty easily in the end. The Jazz allowed the Pelicans to get 18 offensive rebounds, 8 more than the average NBA team. Then, Utah turned the ball over 18 times. The Pelicans were able to take advantage with 21 points off of those turnovers, including 17 fast-break points.
It’s been a battle this year, and teams are really taking advantage of the Jazz’s possession gifts. 14 games through the regular season, the Jazz have led their opponents just 4 times in number of FG’s attempted, they’re 2-2 in those games. They’re 3-7 in the other games.
I asked Quin Snyder about how worried he was about the shot differential this early in the season:
“[I’m] worried. You’d be crazy not to be. There’s just a carelessness at times with the basketball. We can’t work on some of that, there just has to be a realization that those things are killing us. It’s hard to overcome those turnovers. I don’t have a lot of answers for some of those plays. The offensive rebounds, we’ve got to be more aggressive. It’s like transition defense, no one guy can get the ball, it’s got to be a collective effort. The turnovers, we just have to take responsibility for what we’re doing. There are mistakes where it’s like ‘We can’t do that.’ Guys have to be accountable for that. We’re at a point now where you can’t accept those plays individually and collectively because it’s hard to win. It’s just that simple.
The Jazz’s biggest defensive struggles are due to the points off of turnovers and offensive rebounds for the opposition. The battle in those two areas1 may just define the Jazz’s season.
2. Anthony Davis: MVP front-runner?
He just put up 43 points, 14 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block, in tonight’s game, and the Pelicans didn’t even really use him as a go-to player2. He was 8-9 on uncontested looks, and even made 8-14 of his contested ones. And his 5 offensive rebounds helped in the aforementioned possession domination by the Pelicans.
Is he the front-runner in the MVP race right now? Durant, last year’s winner, still has significant time to miss before returning to OKC; you’d think that he wouldn’t be able to put up enough value in the short period of time after his return. LeBron is having a sub-par (for him) season, and his team is struggling. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both struggling somewhat in Clipperland. The two conference leaders, Memphis and Toronto, wouldn’t appear to have that MVP candidate for a voter-base to rally around. I get the sense that voters would rather jump off a building than give the award to either James Harden or Dwight Howard, who might split votes anyway.
Steph Curry is the other obvious candidate, and it’s true: Curry is having an incredible season. He’s upped his game defensively to go with the offensive brilliance he’s always had, and he’s putting on a remarkable offensive show. Curry’s Warriors are better than Davis’ Pelicans, so if the voters look at traditional measures, they’ll probably pick Curry.
But Davis has an 8 point PER advantage on Curry, and despite Curry’s defensive improvement, Davis might be the most impactful player in the league on both ends of the floor. Davis is as good of a rebounder as Curry is a passer, and remarkably, Davis has been putting up more points. If the Pelicans end up anywhere near the Warriors in the standings (certainly, a big if), Davis would probably get the nod over Curry.
3. One great NBA tradition: the halftime show.
With the Jazz down 17 at the half, there wasn’t much energy in the building. But then: the Amazing Sladek performed. What does the Amazing Sladek do? He stacks chairs on a table and then stands, then handstands on his own makeshift creation. Like this:
The Amazing Sladek’s act is brilliant. I’m pretty confident that, at one point or another, everyone has tried to stack things to make the tallest possible object. Sladek, though, ups the ante by acting as architect, construction worker, and rooftop attraction. It’s not quite as creative as Red Panda’s sadly retired act, but it is a great specialty.
It’s pretty amazing that we get to watch these sorts of things in the middle of NBA games; in no other sport do we get an interlude dedicated to the wacky. In football, the best we have is mildly entertaining marching band movements or the overwrought Super Bowl halftime show. In hockey, the entertainment is literally watching a Zamboni simply smooth out the ice. And while baseball’s various hot-dog and presidential races are entertaining, they don’t come close to the creativity, drama, intrigue, and mystery of the NBA’s great halftime shows. Thanks, basketball.3