1. Utah lost the battle of pace.
This was going to be an interesting test for the Jazz, as they put their (thus far) wildly improved transition defense against the speed attack of the Phoenix Suns. It didn’t work out as well as Quin Snyder and his staff had hoped, as the Jazz allowed the Suns to get 20 fast break points for the game. That’s actually above their average from last season, when they averaged 17 fast-break PPG. Quin, naturally, wasn’t thrilled: “There were points in the game where I thought we didn’t react mentally as quickly as we needed to from offense to defense.”
That being said, Quin brought up how he felt the Jazz’s offensive pace wasn’t very good either: “All of a sudden we kind of got bottled up a little bit individually and all of a sudden the shot clock was running down. We took some ones that didn’t have a chance of going in. They’re basically turnovers.”
There were a lot of possessions in tonight’s game, about 107 of them. While that’s a good pace (and the Jazz do want to run), with so many transition points, the Jazz were basically letting the Suns score quickly while they struggled against the shot clock. While Time of Possession SportVu data isn’t available so quickly after the game, the Jazz had 95 more passes than the Suns despite having 4 fewer assists. That’s a good sign that the ball is moving aimlessly, leaving the Jazz in trouble deep in possessions. Our Dan Clayton has written about the difference between pace and using the shot clock well, and that difference was on display tonight.
2. The Jazz made an impression in the preseason.
Last year, the Jazz won their first preseason game and then proceeded to lose the next 15 combined preseason and regular season games in one of the worst stretches in franchise history. This year was drastically different. They went 5-3, and in the end had the 12th ranked offense (at 100.37 points per 100 possessions) and the 2nd ranked defense (allowing 92.12 points per 100 possessions) of all preseason teams. That’s massively meaningful for a team that finished 29th on defense last year, and while they took the preseason more seriously than their opponents at times by playing starters larger minutes, it still sets a precedent for Jazz success.
They also made an impression on their opponents. Eric Bledsoe called tonight’s game against the Jazz “By far, the hardest game of the preseason to me. We got beat up a lot.” Likewise, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said about the Jazz, “These guys are very good. They execute their offense well, and we couldn’t get anything in the 1st quarter because they were scoring every time.”
The Jazz’s 5-3 preseason reminded Hornacek of another preseason team from last year: the Suns went 5-2 last preseason before shocking the NBA with their 48 game win total. “I think the Jazz are doing a lot like we did last year, really trying to win the games. I think [Quin Snyder]’s doing it the right way, cause when you’re coming off a losing season, you gotta establish the mentality of winning.”
While the Jazz lost tonight, they feel rightfully proud of their progress thus far. The real test, of course, comes in the regular season, especially in the season’s first 6 games. In that stretch, they’ll take on the Rockets, Mavericks twice, Cavaliers, Suns, and Clippers. If they’re able to show flashes of success in that stretch, the team could surprise throughout the rest of the year.
3. Though the game wasn’t televised, at least the Jazz livestreamed it.
Neither of the last two preseason Jazz games have been available on TV whatsoever, indeed, just 4 Jazz games have been televised in preseason. This is actually more than most teams (for example, Oklahoma City televised just 1 of theirs), but is still disappointing for the numerous Jazz fans who want to watch every preseason game. Interestingly, though, all 8 games, including the one in Oklahoma City, have been available from the illegal video streaming websites that the internet is littered with. Somehow, those streaming sites in Sketchoslovakia have access to the in-house Jumbotron feeds, and are displaying it for the entire world to watch.1
This is an amazing technical feat, especially given that I am sure that the illegal streaming sites have smaller budgets than the Jazz, ROOT Sports, and the NBA overall. Remember:
But ROOT, the Jazz, and the NBA have chosen not to cover all of the preseason games, probably because it was cheaper not to send announcers and the production crew. This is a shame. In 2014, this shouldn’t be an issue, one of those outlets should find a way to get video of games to the public, even if it’s a PPV service.
To their immense credit, the Jazz listened to the complaints and tonight implemented a livestream of the game. It was based on the Jumbotron feed, but they displayed it on UtahJazz.com for all to watch, not just those brave enough to visit the sketchy websites in question. Due to NBA broadcasting rules, they could only show the feed to users within 75 miles of EnergySolutions Arena, but at least it was an admission that these games should be available for fans to see. Thanks, Jazz, for listening and doing your best to put a solution in place.