1. The Pistons’ effort earned plaudits from Quin Snyder.
Before he even answered a question, and immediately upon taking the microphone postgame, Quin Snyder began by complimenting the Pistons’ fight.
“That team we played, played so hard. To be in a situation where you lose (Andre) Drummond and then you lose Tayshaun Prince, you’re obviously fighting for wins. You know we’ve been there. To come out on a back to back and play the way they did and as hard as they did, we were lucky to get out of there. I thought our guys were tough too. It was a gritty game. But what they did tonight, it’s a tough situation to come into and lose players. Like I said, it’s a gritty game. Both teams made some plays, we ended up making a couple more.”
That’s the first time Snyder has pre-empted a post-game presser, in my memory, so he was obviously impressed with the fight of a team that has now lost 10 in a row. The Pistons did play well tonight defensively, getting in the way of the Jazz’s offensive execution impressively: the Jazz were limited to only 29 uncontested shots for the entire game. And though the Jazz ended up with one more rebound than Detroit, you’d have to say the Pistons won the battle of the boards against the Jazz’s long frontcourt: after all, the Jazz had 16 more missed Detroit field goal attempts to rebound. The Pistons’ effort, especially with injuries mounting, reminded me of the Jazz’s good play recently. Had they not run into a team that also fought hard, they could have broken their losing streak tonight.
2. The 3rd quarter was short on baskets, but long on good execution, according to Snyder.
The microcosm of this game was the 3rd quarter, which the Jazz won 13-12 in an incredible defensive battle. Both teams made just 4 shots in the quarter, shooting under 25% each. When asked how he explained his team’s offensive struggles in the 3rd quarter, Quin surprised everyone by being complimentary of his team’s offensive efforts:
“Honestly, I thought we were playing really good offense. I mean, there’s a difference between scoring and playing good offense. Sometimes, you play bad offense and you score and someone makes a tough shot. I’ll have to look at it, but there were a couple times where we lose force, and we get up against the clock and we’re indecisive. But especially early in the quarter, I thought we were getting really, good looks, we just weren’t converting. And then invariably, we had some turnovers, which hurt. But I really do think that we were better than the score indicated.”
Quin Snyder surprises me often by being completely process-oriented, rather than results-oriented. Stan Van Gundy said before the game tonight, “All I see is the end result” about his team’s 9-game losing streak. On the other hand, Quin Snyder during his team’s 9-game losing streak was completely focused on how the Jazz were playing, rather than his team’s spiraling record. It’s that organizational focus on the process that’s very difficult to do, but has led to significant dividends during this recent Jazz 10-2 streak.
It’s funny: I thought I did “process-oriented” well. As a fan, sitting in the upper bowl, I started cheering before everyone else when the Jazz took a good shot. Sometimes, that made me look silly when a wide-open shot was missed. Quin, though, takes it to a level I didn’t think possible. The most disappointed he’s been this season postgame was this Tuesday, in a game the team barely won, but played poorly during, against the hapless Knicks. It’s really impressive.
3. This starting lineup of Exum/Hood/Hayward/Favors/Gobert is working well.
After the Jazz’s win against Houston on Sunday, radio play-by-play man David Locke wrote this in his post-game wrapup: “Exum, Hood, Hayward, Favors and Gobert started tonight. This could be the starting line-up for a long time… This is a super line-up. This is the future.”
That starting lineup was a +12 that night against Houston, and was a +3 tonight. Conceptually, it appears to be a good mix: it’s an incredibly long lineup, with every player above 6’6”, allowing you to switch often. It features two rim protectors, and 3 good perimeter defenders. Offensively, Hayward and Favors can work together to get good shots, and Exum and Hood can space the floor1. All 5 players can pass pretty effectively.
I asked Quin Snyder to evaluate how the new lineup is doing through 2 games: “I think it’s ironic: our 1st and 3rd quarters weren’t exactly juggernauts offensively. But that said, I still think we have two guys on the wing who can get a shot. With Dante, Rodney, and Gordon, there’s some length there. That helps. Our defense is able to present problems with their length. It gives us a little more balance on the court.”
The question, then, is if this lineup is “the future”, though that’s still not yet determined, what happens to the year’s starting backcourt of Trey Burke and Alec Burks? Conceptually, I actually like both of those two guys off of the bench. Alec Burks’ game has always fit really well as a 6th-man type player: he needs the ball in his hands to be really effective, but can drive and finish against weaker second-unit defenses. His defense, while good on-ball, has been inconsistent off-ball, and so doesn’t really make a great fit with the first-unit’s defensive teamwork that has been so effective over the last 12 games.
Meanwhile, Trey Burke’s level of play this season probably indicates he’s a backup PG type, unless he can take a large leap. He has neither the setup game, the scoring ability, nor the defensive length to justify a place in the starting lineup. He’s just 22, and point guards can take time to develop, but right now, I don’t think he has justified a starting spot. But now that both guys have tasted consistent starting roles, will both respond well to coming off the bench long-term? Trey Burke’s been fantastic about this, according to all parties involved, and Alec Burks can probably be sold on a 6th-man spot by showing, rightly, that it involves him getting more scoring touches than playing alongside Hayward and Favors. It’ll be interesting to watch.