1. The Jazz got beat by the #1 offense and the #1 defense.
That the Jazz lost to the Warriors tonight was no surprise: Golden State is by far the league’s best team. They have the #1 offense and the #1 defense in the league once you account for pace. They were playing at home, where they’re now 33-2 for the season.
But I will admit to being a little surprised at how the Jazz lost this game. Coming in, I expected Utah’s vaunted defense, coming off a game where they allowed just 82 points per 100 possessions, to at least make somewhat of an impact on the Warriors offense. They succeeded in the 1st quarter, limiting the Warriors to just 19 points. But in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, they allowed 66 points total in just 47 possessions, which is wildly high. In those periods, everything the Warriors did worked:
Yes, the Warriors have the league’s best offense, a high-octane approach with great playmaking that is difficult to stop. But given that the Jazz had played so well against Golden State in their previous matchup, and had beaten other Western Conference contenders with that defensive approach, it was disappointing to watch that crumble when the defense faced its sternest test.
2. But Derrick Favors hit the first three of his career!
And in the first play of the game, too! It was a corner look, and surprised everyone when he shot and made it. I had honestly thought it was a called play, a psychological ploy to say “Golden State? You think you’ve scouted us? Well now Derrick Favors is shooting and making corner threes. Game plan for THAT.” But sadly, real life is less interesting.
I asked Quin Snyder about the play:
“The play was designed: it wasn’t designed for a three, it was designed for a jumper. I like to get him a jump shot early in the game, I think it gives him some juice and confidence. He backed out to three, so, that was okay.”
It’s actually really interesting that Snyder likes to get Favors going through his jump shot, rather than through a designed post play. Matt Harpring talks frequently on the broadcasts about how getting layups early in the game “makes the basket seem bigger” going forward: getting the easy make gives you confidence. Harpring isn’t alone on this thinking: I’ve heard this time and time again from players. But instead, Snyder draws up a Favors jump shot, which is a pretty hard look! But having Favors shoot that long jumper means it’s more likely that opponents guard it for the rest of the game, which opens up more space for the rest of the offense, including Favors himself down low. It’s counter the conventional wisdom1, but actually makes more sense.
3. The Trey Burke/Dante Exum conundrum.
Trey Burke played the majority of minutes tonight at the point guard position, playing 28:42 compared to Dante Exum’s 17:462. This made sense: Dante Exum never really looked like scoring, taking only 1 shot in the whole game, and Trey had 20 points. Especially as the Jazz struggled to score in the early stretches of the game when Exum played the majority of his minutes, the Jazz needed Burke’s offense.
But then the traditional Trey Burke problem showed up: when he’s in the game for his offense, the defense suffers:
|Off. Rtg||Def. Rtg|
Tonight, as you can see, it made sense: Burke’s offensive help outweighed his defensive deficiencies. The Jazz tried to put Burke on Barbosa as much as possible tonight, but Barbosa ended up with 19 points on 8-10 shooting3. But as Dante Exum improves offensively faster than Burke improves defensively, which is probably likely given their statures, it will be interesting to see what happens to Burke’s role on the team.