1. The Jazz’s shooting woes are nearly entirely outside the paint.
The Jazz shot 38.5% tonight, another negative mark in their campaign to avoid being the worst shooting team in NBA history. When an NBA team shoots 38%, it’s probably at least a little due to luck.
But at the moment, they’re terrible at midrange jumpers. They made just 8 outside of the point shots total. Worse, in the 2nd and 4th quarters, when the team scored 17 and 15 points respectively, the Jazz were just 1-21 from outside of the paint. The league-wide average 16-23 feet jumpers shots is 38%, so the Jazz underperformed relative to that. The more shots the Jazz take from outside, the more they doom their shooting percentage.
I asked Ty Corbin what he thought of the shot selection of the team tonight, he responded positively, saying “I thought we had some good shots… We missed some good open looks.” In my view, the Jazz did have some good shots, but certainly not enough.
2. But the defense, especially through the first three quarters, was fantastic.
This is what Jazz fans wanted to see from their defense. The Spurs run a very-screen heavy offense, and their big men set solid and deep screens to free up Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to move the defense to their whims. The Jazz have had heavy problems with their screen defense; just a week ago, the team was ranked 30th in Synergy in guarding the pick and roll ballhandler. Tonight, though, both the guards and bigs were terrific: the point guards (the 6’4′ Diante Garrett and the 6’6” Alec Burks) used their length to slow Parker down, as the bigs guarded the strong side with aplomb. As a result, the San Antonio offense often had to make the kind of weakside quick passes that key their success against good defensive teams, but the Jazz were reading those too, leading to 9 steals on the night for the Jazz. Credit to Corbin’s scheme.
Individually, Derrick Favors was stellar all night, doing an impressive job on both stopping Tim Duncan, including 2 blocks on the all-time great. Even better, he locked down the paint, preventing the Spurs from taking shots inside. Favors finished with 3 steals and 3 blocks, but his defense may have even been better than that. This was the kind of performance that Dennis Lindsey imagined when extending Favors two weeks ago.
3. Ty changed the rotations to mixed success.
Coach Corbin gave Alec Burks the first start of his NBA career tonight, which keyed a 29-16 Jazz advantage after the 1st quarter, which Burks played the entirety of. It was an impressive start for Burks, and the new look starting five, against the almost reigning-champs.
The problem with playing your best players in the 1st quarter, though, is that it tends to make your bench pretty weak. As the starters needed a break, the Jazz had to go to some really sketchy lineups out there. The best was a John Lucas III/Diante Garrett/Richard Jefferson/Mike Harris/Marvin Williams lineup that both defies understanding and would have been just incredibly unbelievable last season. Seriously, do you realize all that went wrong for the Jazz to even have those players? Here’s a recap:
John Lucas III had to be so remarkably terrible in Trey Burke’s absence that the team signed Jamaal Tinsley to replace his starting role, except that Tinsley was even worse, so the Jazz went and found Diante Garrett from the D-League just two days ago. Richard Jefferson’s career had to fall to the point where he was being traded along with 4 draft picks for a non-guaranteed contract, he’s got just a 9.1 PER now. Jeremy Evans got injured, somehow, and Andris Biedrins somehow had the most remarkable fall from grace of a young player ever in order to be included in the aforementioned trade, and then even got injured after that, so that the Jazz had to sign Mike Harris despite playing pretty poorly in his preseason appearances largely because he played a position of need. Marvin Williams, of course, is a former second pick who then disappointed, the Jazz received him in exchange for Devin Harris, who disappointed the Jazz when they acquired him in exchange for Deron Williams. Deron Williams was the best player for the Jazz since Stockton and Malone, but his attitude was so poor that the Jazz felt that they had nearly no choice but to trade him. See how much has gone wrong?
Let’s just say that it’s not especially surprising that this lineup failed to score effectively. I’m in favor of playing your best players for more minutes, and starting Burks was the right move. But the rotations probably need to be managed so that this sort of lineup catastrophe doesn’t occur again.