1. Was this a poorly-played offensive game, or a well-played defensive game?
I asked Quin Snyder, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward this question after the game, all of them said some version of “both”.1 So it’s up to me to answer the question.
I choose well-played defensive game. The Jazz allowed the Sixers to take just 29 uncontested shots out of their 74 total looks, well below average. While the Sixers are the league’s worst offensive team, tonight’s performance was their second-worst of the season by most metrics, including eFG% and points per possession. The Jazz deserve some credit for that.
When the ball was in the Jazz’s hands2, the Sixers played good aggressive defense until the 6th minute timeout of the 4th quarter, when it appeared they just ran out of gas. This makes sense, after all, the Sixers were playing the second game of a back-to-back. But Philadelphia’s defense is underrated: they ranked 12th in the league coming into tonight’s game once you adjust for their high pace of play.
In the end, both teams didn’t make many of their shots tonight. When Trey Burke was asked about the team’s sloppy offensive performance, he said “I wouldn’t call it sloppiness. I just felt like we didn’t hit shots. I didn’t think we were sloppy. I just felt like we had a lot of good looks that we didn’t make but our defense made up for it.” In the end, the Jazz’s offense played well enough, the shot luck just wasn’t there for whatever reason.
2. Jazz have won 4 of their last 5!
Sure, it’s included wins over 3 sub-.500 teams. They let a poor Charlotte team dominate them. But the win against Memphis on the road was, in my opinion, their most impressive on the season, and the Jazz haven’t won 4 out of 5 since the 2012-13 season, so this is a big deal.
What’s gone right over this stretch? Over their last 5, they’re putting up a 103.4 Offensive Rating and 100.5 Defensive Rating; not a huge differential, but at least it’s positive! While that offensive rating isn’t great (it would rank 18th over the course of the season) the defense has been much better. Over the last 5, the Jazz’s defense would be ranked 6th in the league, way better than the nearly-league-worst defenses that the Jazz were putting up in the season’s first 6 weeks.
Again, some of this is opponent strength: only Memphis has an above-average offense out of the teams the Jazz played in the last 5. But for a team that couldn’t stop anybody early, it’s encouraging.
Some of the differences that I’ve seen are:
3. Both point guards misfiring.
Trey Burke finished 5-18 from the field tonight, whereas Michael Carter-Williams finished just 2-20. Here are their respective shot-charts:
Which shot chart is worse? It’s probably Carter-Williams’, given that 2-20 is significantly worse than 5-18. Burke shot 7 FTs, compared to just 4 for MCW. But it’s a close call, given that at least MCW’s shots are coming from within the paint, but Trey’s are from that dreaded midrange. On the other hand, both players actually are decently efficient from both ranges: MCW shoots 40% from 3-16 feet, according to basketball-reference.com, and Burke shoots 41% from 16-23. Carter-Williams defended his shot selection, saying “No, I don’t think I was shooting too much… I think if I had to do it again I wouldn’t pass up any of the shots or shy away from the game.” I’m not sure what to make of that.