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:
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:
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.