The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Raptors 12/3/2014

December 3rd, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
(AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)

(AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)

1. Jazz defense was under-aggressive under an elite Raptors offense.

This is by now somewhat of a broken record: the Jazz’s interestingly poor defense cost them another game. In this one, the Raptors shot 57% from the floor, including 57% from 3, got to the line 24 times, and were forced into only 9 turnovers. The Jazz allowed 69 points in the first half and 54 in the second half in only 89 possessions, which isn’t ideal. This was a team on a back to back, playing at altitude.

A lot of the credit for this goes to the Raptors: they are the league’s 2nd best offensive team. Tonight, a lot of what they did tonight was simply make shots: 22 out of 32 uncontested shots doesn’t sound stellar, but actually exceeds the league average percentage on uncontested shots by more than 25%.1 As Gordon Hayward explained, “Tonight, [for them] it was just pull-up threes on pick and roll. Those are tough shots.” Indeed, the Raptors shot only 16 shots from within the restricted area, matching the 16 shots they shot from above-the-break 3s.

The Jazz liked the kinds of shots Toronto was getting, but didn’t like the defense on those shots. As Quin Snyder explained during his post-game press conference, “We were there, but we weren’t there.” Several times, the defensive player was in position but didn’t get his hand up to contest the shot, leaving Quin to turn around the bench with his hand up in the air, motioning what his players should have done.2 As Quin further explained, “And these guys, they don’t feel you if you’re in the area. You have to impact the ball.”

The Raptors are an elite team in the NBA at getting to the free throw line, ranked 2nd, so before the game, Quin showed his players “seven different clips of guys shot-faking us” from the game against Denver. The Jazz, perhaps almost too coachable, stayed down tonight, at the expense of the Raptors making their shots. Good defense walks a fine line between intensity and overaggression, right now, the Jazz are wobbling like drunkards.

2. The wing rotation had career nights! But that’s not saying much.

Earlier today, Utah announced that Alec Burks would miss at least tonight’s game and Friday’s game against Orlando. Without Burks, the Jazz are very thin on the wings: they promoted rookie Rodney Hood to the starting lineup, who achieved a career high of 10 points in his expanded starting role. Taking the backup wing minutes were:

  • Ian Clark was the first Jazzman off the bench, but played less than 3 minutes in each of his 2 non-garbage-time stints off the bench. In both, he was badly exposed on defense, and didn’t contribute much on offense. In the end, he didn’t play in the second half and finished with 5 minutes and 35 seconds of playing time.
  • Jingles3, who played nearly 25 minutes and had his career high of 12 points. Jingles has been an incredibly low usage player4 over his career thus far, but described a new approach postgame, saying “if it’s an open one, I’m going to shoot it from now on.”

I bring up the career highs in the low teens5 because it’s a really easy indicator of just how inexperienced this Jazz wing rotation is without Burks available. The other options are:

  • Steve Novak, who really is incapable of doing other things besides shooting 3s. As the Jazz try to tune up their defense, he’s just not a viable candidate for many minutes.
  • Toure’ Murry, who was just called up from the D-League yesterday. I asked Snyder pregame about his chances of getting into the game tonight, he said “We’ve got some other guys that are probably a little bit more prepared.” Murry didn’t play, but might get a look soon with the deficit of options.
  • Dante Exum, who played all of his minutes at PG tonight with Trey Burke on the bench. To me, this seems like the best option long term, but it’s hard with the Jazz’s lineup as currently constructed. Essentially, given that Exum should play the backup PG minutes, it’s difficult to adjust the rotation so that he also plays significant backup SG minutes. Exum certainly looks like a PG long-term, but more minutes on the court in any position might help his long-term future.

But it’s kind of dreary right now. Pending Burks’ diagnosis, some help might have to be acquired.

3. The Jazz’s motion offense was effective.

The Jazz’s offense was a bright spot tonight, scoring 104 points in only 86 possessions. Probably most impressive was that Utah only committed 8 team turnovers despite 405 total passes. That’s actually 134 more passes than the league average, so that the Jazz were moving the ball so frequently while still getting assists was a good sign. Whereas the average NBA team during a game makes 2.82 passes per possession, the Jazz passed it 4.70 times per possession tonight.6

It didn’t seem like overpassing: the offense was working and finding guys for open shots. Despite the difference in scoring, the Jazz had 11 more uncontested shots and 15 more shots in the restricted area than their opponents. For them to keep it to 8 turnovers, despite averaging over 15 per game, was a major win.

Quin was pleased in this regard after the game, saying: “That’s one that’s been killing us, right? Turnovers and offensive rebounds. We took care of the ball and took care of the glass. When we’ve done that in previous games, we’ve had good results. Sometimes, they’re just shooting and you just tip your hat.”

The big opportunity for the next Jazz win is Friday, at home against Orlando. If they can toe the aforementioned line of aggression on defense and continue taking care of the ball on offense, the Jazz should be in for a much-needed win.

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 and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

One Comment

  1. Steven says:

    I thought for once in a long while that the offense was balanced and reasonably effective, without a quarter where it dramatically fell off a cliff. It did hurt a little that the normally effective Hayward missed a few of his early shots but really the offense wasn’t a problem at all – most nights you can expect to have a good result when you put up 104 points in 48 minutes, but when you score 29 points in a quarter and get outscored by 9 points you are in deep trouble even if the defensive intensity gets increased dramatically its hard to imagine this Jazz team as it is constructed scoring much more than 29 points for any length of time. This Jazz team just doesn’t have the weapons to allow teams to go off like they have allowed teams to do in recent weeks. Defensive intensity has to be increased, pressure has to be applied in just about every play, until then we can expect more of the same.

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