1. Enes Kanter was pulled in favor of Rudy Gobert twice tonight.
Coming off a performance in Los Angeles in which Enes Kanter led the Jazz in scoring, Raptors coach Dwane Casey built his game plan around preventing Enes Kanter from scoring in the middle. Pregame, he spoke at length about Enes, calling him a “manchild”, and emphasized that Jonas Valanciunas’ most important task was stopping the young Turk.[ref]Dwane Casey even said he “juiced him up a little bit this morning, teasing him about Kanter got after him in the Euro League.”[/ref] While Enes had 10 points on 4-8 shooting, the Raptors’ double teams forced the ball out of Enes’ hands for much of the game. Worse, his rebounding was pretty poor, getting just 3 rebounds (all defensive). In response, Jazz coach Ty Corbin pulled Kanter in favor of Gobert for most of the second half (though there was a short stretch in which they played together).
Regarding the switch, Corbin commented “[Gobert] tried to play hard. He was big inside, and held the middle down for us for the most part. He was in the right spots. Offensively, we didn’t get as much there[ref]Gobert had 0 points in his 31 minutes.[/ref], but I thought he was trying to do the right thing for us.” Of course, all of that said about Gobert implies that much of the above isn’t true while Enes was on the floor.[ref] Indeed, Corbin said “I thought, whatever it was, Enes didn’t have the energy. Valanciunas got going early on him.”[/ref]
Stats like plus/minus were invented for situations like this: Kanter’s putting up pretty good traditional stats, but unfortunately his impact on the floor is hurting the team. This is reflected in his +/-: the team is 14.5 points worse per 48 minutes when he’s on the floor. (And yes, the Jazz’s record when they start Kanter is now just 1-21.) Now, to be sure, that statistic isn’t fair to Kanter: early in the season, he wasn’t able to play with Trey Burke, and now he’s only making it into the starting lineup if Favors or Marvin Williams are out.
Luckily, we have adjusted plus/minus, which adjusts for such things automatically. Sample sizes are an issue here, but ideally, adjusted plus/minus adjusts for lineup differences with players playing with or against different players. Unfortunately for Enes, he still grades out extremely poorly in this stat (as you can find on 82games and Talking Practice blog). It’s an instance in which the stats verify what the coaches are seeing on the floor, a negative overall impact when Kanter is in the game. Corbin took action tonight.
2. The team looks tired.
Corbin spoke at length before the game about how tired his team was going into the all-star break. Of course, the injuries to Derrick Favors and Jeremy Evans impact the team negatively, but Corbin says the entire team is tired. It looks that way on the court too, with Trey Burke not looking as lively as he did earlier in the season, and of course Gordon Hayward is now in a 3 game slump of his own. The energy also isn’t there defensively: the Jazz forced just 6 turnovers tonight.
Of course, every team in the NBA has played a lot of games by now, and the Jazz should be the benefactors of a relatively spaced out schedule: they’re coming up on their 3rd break of 3 days in the last 2 weeks. That hasn’t been the case, as they’ve now lost 3 straight for the first time since December.
Interestingly, Corbin commented that it was the young players who are most affected by the tiredness, as they haven’t learned how to accommodate their bodies being at less than 100%. He shared a story from his career, after he moved from being a bench player to a starter: “I can remember the ball came off the rim, saying ‘I got it’, and I just couldn’t get off the floor.” Instead, guys who have been through the experience of a lot of minutes have learned how to anticipate, thus requiring less from their bodies. It’s an interesting theory, and it would be worth finding out whether or not it’s true statistically. Who declines most at the end of a season: young guys (especially rookies hitting the “rookie wall”), or older vets? Let’s put it in the “upcoming SCH stats projects” queue.
3. Jazz return to “Stand By Me” at the end of losses
It’s been a while since the Jazz have lost 3 in a row, and as such, the team’s audio department went back to a standby[ref]No pun intended.[/ref] from early this season: playing “Stand By Me” after the Jazz lose another game. It’s cute, and appropriate, of course: the Jazz want their fans to stick through them during a trying season, and especially through 79 point losses to the Raptors at home. Who can turn down an appeal to loyalty through “Stand By Me”? It’s just a fantastic song, and KSL Jazz writer Jarom Moore and I like to sing it together after losses. I can’t imagine we’re the only ones who do that, right? Right?