1. Quin’s technical foul sparked the Jazz
Quin Snyder’s technical was the story of the game, and rightly so: the Jazz had a 28-40 deficit before Snyder’s explosion of fury, and then went on a 52-21 run afterwards. A 12 point deficit turned into a 19 point lead.
During the game, I thought, for certain, that Quin’s technical was a savvy bit of intentional acting. He had just used Jeremy Evans for the 4th time this season, then subbed him back out. He tried playing Jingles1 to unstick the ball in the offense. In his own words, he was “pulling this, pushing that” in order to try to get his team performing. What else is there to try but yelling at your team and referees from the opposition’s side of the-court?
But Snyder seemed embarrassed after the game, about his explosion and that it actually worked so well:
“I was getting on my team, getting on my staff, beating myself up for not having us ready, and I felt like there were no answers. And you get frustrated. Sometimes that frustration spills over into other parts of the game… I don’t plan on doing it all the time. I got frustrated. I think that happens. Normally, I’m pretty composed, and I believe in the referees. They’re like us, they work as hard as they can, we all make mistakes.”
When asked if he would add it to his coaching toolbox, he said “You make it sound like it’s an offense or something… I think we were about to respond.”
I probably agree with Snyder on this one: it’s probably unfair to the players to give the credit for the Jazz’s massive run completely to Snyder. The Jazz had shot 28% to that point, and they were always likely to improve on that. They were getting to the FT line, but had made just 7/12. They were always likely to improve on that. They weren’t getting drastically outrebounded by the Thunder, allowing just 4 offensive rebounds to that point. They weren’t playing great, but it probably would have turned around at some point.
But Trey Burke, for his part, gives all the credit to Quin: “I think Coach Snyder did it all. His tech basically set the tone throughout the whole building. He held us to a higher standard. Coming off the road, we looked tired. We needed a spark from somewhere.”
2. Alec Burks’ rebounding
Alec Burks picked up 14 rebounds in tonight’s game, by far a career high for the newly-extended shooting guard. Impressively, this came after a 10 rebound performance in Toronto Saturday night. Given that Burks has averaged just 2.7 rebounds per game during his career, what changed?
Alec had the answer: “[Quin] challenged me. He came at me with aggression one day about it. I took the challenge on.”
Trey Burke corroborated the story, saying “Coach got on Alec a couple of games ago in the film session about rebounding, and his lack of rebounding. In the last two games, it’s like it’s effortless, him getting all of those rebounds. It’s something we really need from him.”
Burks’ consecutive double-digit rebounding games are showing an impressive amount of coachability from Burks: Quin asked for something from Alec and he delivered in spades. That’s been something of a question mark for Burks as his career has developed thus far; I’ve heard Burks’ coaches being frustrated with his responsiveness to instruction, especially with regards to filling a role on defense. This is a complete 180 from those concerns – I don’t think even Burks’ wildest fans2 thought Burks could rebound like this. It’s a positive sign for his relationship with Quin Snyder, and if it continues, could see Burks blossom as an all-around impactful player as he plays the next 4 seasons under Utah’s extension.
3. Tonight’s game helped with the Jazz’s overall defensive trends.
Quin Snyder preached a defensive focus during training camp and preseason for the Jazz, indeed, Greg Miller said that Quin’s defensive focus was the main reason Snyder was hired as coach at all. But with the Jazz entering tonight’s game with the 29th ranked defense in the NBA, the play on the floor hadn’t matched the vision.
Interestingly, the Jazz’s biggest defensive problems were their opponent’s points off of turnovers and second chance points. In the former category, the Jazz allowed the 3rd most points in the league, in the latter the very most. It’s an especially interesting set of problems when you consider that the Jazz were 15th in allowing fast break points, middle of the road. That would seem to indicate that the Jazz were allowing a lot of points on secondary breaks, not necessarily on the first wave of attack. Likewise, the Jazz weren’t getting killed on the defensive glass (ranking 20th), but seemed to allow more easy putbacks than any other team.
When I asked Quin Snyder about these critiques, he agreed, and blamed much of it on a lack of awareness on the weak side of the floor in all respects. In other words, the points off of turnovers are coming once the opponents swing the ball to the weak side 3, and the missed rebounds are coming from a lack of knowledge of where potential offensive rebounders are coming from, mostly from the weak side.4
Besides those two troubles, though, Snyder felt the defense was coming along: “Minus the turnovers and the 2nd chance points, we’re doing a little better than you’d think [on defense], but it doesn’t feel that way all the time.” Indeed, the evidence backs Quin up here: entering tonight’s game, the Jazz were about 4.5 points worse than league average in both opponent’s points off turnovers and second-chance points. If you moved those aspects to the league average, the Jazz would indeed have an above-average defense.
Tonight’s effort helped. While the Thunder are a struggling offensive team, their 81 points tonight bumped the Jazz’s defensive rating up 4 slots to #25 in the league. While the 21 points off of 13 turnovers were still a concern, the Jazz did a better job on the boards5, allowing a below-average 13 second-chance points. Hopefully, with improvement in the Jazz’s defensive awareness, the full defensive package starts to come together.