1. Everyone agrees the Jazz didn’t bring effort tonight. But is that all that occurred?
The official topic of discussion for this game is that the Jazz, for whatever reason, didn’t bring the effort tonight. Here are the relevant quotes:
This is all somewhat true, and I don’t think the Jazz had an exquisite level of energy to begin the game. But the Jazz fought back from their early 9-2 deficit, and only trailed by 3 with 10:23 left in the 2nd quarter. It was only then that the energy really trailed off, and with a usually favorable lineup too: the Jazz’s preferred starting lineup of Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors allowed a 10-3 run during their 4+ minutes on the court in the second quarter. In other words, it wasn’t the inexperience of the lineup1, but something else that allowed the Piston run.
One continual issue for the Jazz: making uncontested shots. The Jazz were awful while not being guarded tonight, shooting a remarkable 29.5% without a defender within 4 feet. This killed them against the pack-the-paint Pistons. It’s hard to say what a coach can do to fix this.
2. A quick thought on analyzing game rebounding numbers.
The Jazz got beaten on the boards badly, garnering just 33 rebounds to the Pistons 53. This is true. But as with all basketball stats, context is important. The first important thing to look at when you’re comparing rebound totals is how many rebound opportunities there were on defense for both teams. That 20 rebound differential seems like a lot, but when you take into account that the Pistons had 12 more shots to rebound on the defensive end, it doesn’t seem quite as bad.
Another contextual point: the NBA’s SportVu cameras track rebound chances2 for each game. The Pistons garnered their 53 rebounds in 81 opportunities (65%), while the Jazz got their 33 rebounds in 56 chances (59%).
So yes, the Jazz still got beaten on the boards, but it’s not the game-defining advantage that it appears to be at first glance. Instead, the key to the game was the percentage that each team shot from the field.
3. The Jazz’s turnovers were low. But is that a good sign?
The Jazz recorded a season low 7 turnovers tonight, but still lost by 20 despite their carefulness with the ball. That’s a good thing, yes, but is another example of how little secondary advantages and disadvantages sometimes matter. eFG% remains king.
Weirdly, though, I’m kind of worried by this. Kevin Pelton of ESPN has done some interesting research which indicates that turnovers are actually a positive statistical indicator for young players: in short, it shows that the player has some fearlessness and playmaking potential that he’s at least trying to take advantage of.
In particular, Trey Burke has the 4th best turnover % amongst NBA starting PGs. Sounds pretty good, right? But it might indicate that he’s not going for the pass as often as he should be. In particular, the guys around him amongst the low turnover PGs are all much better shooters than Trey is right now. Names like Lillard, Calderon, Conley, and Irving probably should be shooting as often as they are with their relatively efficient jump shots. On the other hand, Burke has shot only 38% for the season, his team might be better served by trying to be a playmaker a little bit more often. If that increases turnovers, so be it: the Jazz don’t have a lot to lose anyway. It’s probably worth finding out what kind of offense Trey Burke can really create through playmaking for others.