1. Jazz bring fight against LAC.
The Jazz have had real trouble with top NBA offenses this year, getting blown out by Dallas, Toronto, and Golden State. So when the Clippers came in for their 4th matchup for the Jazz as the league’s #1 offense, it didn’t look good. Instead, the Jazz stayed with the Clippers throughout the whole game, a game that was within 7 points for its entire duration. Quin Snyder commented: “I thought on the whole, we really competed. For us to play defense the way we did against the best offense in the league, I’m pleased with our team.”
It’s worth pointing out, though, that some of that defensive success is due to the slow pace of the game. Yes, the Jazz only gave up 94 points. Given that they’ve been giving up 108 points per game on average to the top 5 offensive teams in the league, that’s a real win. But there were very few possessions in this game, only 82 per side, and so a 94 point total looks better than it really is: the Jazz’s defensive rating was a more pedestrian 110. But it’s clear that the Jazz wanted this game badly, bringing a real competitive edge to a game they really wanted desperately to win. Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes seem to excel at getting under the skin of Favors, Kanter, and Booker, but the opposite seems to be true as well.
They also did a good job in preventing fast break points, largely through not turning over the ball and getting back in transition D. Furthermore, they won the offensive rebounding battle, impressive for a team with a front line like the Clippers. Out of the 4 factors, I thought the Jazz did well enough to win in 3 of them.
2. Offensive execution slowed in the 4th.
Where the Jazz lost the game was on the offensive end in the 4th quarter, where they scored just 17 points on 6 for 24 shooting. The worst part was the last stretch of the game, in which they scored just 4 points after tying the game at 85 with 4:21 left to go. After that point, the Jazz scored only 4 points, 2 from the free throw line, and 2 on a Favors 15 foot jumper. All in all, they went 1-10 in this period. As Doc Rivers commented after the game, “We got key stops, and the stops were the difference in the game for us.”
The most damaging was the 0-9 3 point performance. I went back and watched those shots, and only 1 could be said to be heavily contested: the Burke corner trey with 42 seconds left. Everything else was pretty open: Exum and Kanter both had open corner threes; Burke, Jingles, and Hayward had open wing threes, and Hayward took two pull-up threes after switches on the pick and roll.
Dante Exum, who was 1-5 from beyond the arc in tonight’s game, credited the Clippers, saying “those wide open shots that look open, they’re just getting a hand up.” The Clippers do an excellent job of contesting at the last moment, true. But it’s still disappointing for the Jazz to shoot so poorly when they needed just 1 or 2 of those to go down to make it a different game.
3. Okay, let’s talk about the referees.
Tonight’s refereeing crew of Bill Spooner, Tony Brown, and Tre Maddox heard a lot from all parties tonight: from both sets of players, coaches, and the fans. Despite the game’s physicality, this set of officials called a below-average number of fouls against both teams1
I thought they were pretty poor throughout. The defining play was the non-call against Kanter with 47 seconds left, a play that was clearly a foul with Tre Maddox standing at the scene:
As Quin Snyder commented, “I thought Enes had the ball under the basket and went up strong, and it ended up out of bounds, I thought that was a big play.” That being said, I thought the Blake Griffin technical very easily could have been a double technical, a call that got the Jazz within one possession.2 Derrick Favors raising his elbows is often called a technical.
Maybe the most tell-tale sign that the referees weren’t 100% focused was a play at the end of the 2nd quarter. On the play, Dahntay Jones was called for a loose ball foul, but none of the referees remembered who the foul was committed against. They had to go to the review monitor to determine that it was Enes Kanter who was supposed to be shooting free throws.
Look, refereeing is a hard job, and in an extremely physical game like tonight’s, there are going to be a lot of judgment calls, and a lot of missed illegal actions. In my opinion, the refs should have established a tone early with these two teams to prevent the trouble that occurred late in the game. Instead, they let too much go for too long, and by the end of the game, all parties were exasperated. The best example of this was Chris Paul’s complaint that Hayward had head flopped to pick up a non-shooting foul:
Rock on, CP3.