1. The Jazz’s clutch difficulties strike again.
While most of the attention will be on Gordon Hayward’s final missed FT that prevented the Jazz from tying the game, the opportunity really slipped away in a much more substantial way earlier in the quarter. With 8:28 left in the game, the Jazz completed a 10-0 run from a Bryce Cotton three, which put them up by 9 points. From that point on, they would only score 6 points in the remaining 14 possessions. So… that’s not ideal on it’s own. Maybe more striking is that Gordon’s 2-3 FT trip at the end of the game were the Jazz’s only points in the final 4:42 of the game: a period where the Jazz came up empty on 7 straight possessions as the game lay in the balance.
This isn’t that surprising: the Jazz have really struggled in the clutch offensively all season long. The Jazz are very last in the NBA on offense when the game is within 5 points or less with under two minutes to go. 1 In those situations, the Jazz shoot just 28.6% from the floor 2, make 8.3%(!) of their 3 point shots3, and turn the ball over at the 7th highest rate in the league4. It’s a tad bit ugly.
Some of this is just luck: the Jazz are going to make more than 8% of their threes in the clutch moving forward. I would also hypothesize that the Jazz’s offensive scheme is not particularly well suited for clutch time, when defensive intensity goes up and the number of actions you can run in any set go down. But I also agree with Quin Snyder’s explanation:
“Honestly, I think some of that is youth, rookies and 2nd year guys. Because those are new situations, there’s pressure involved in those shots… That’s the kind of game I was hopeful we’d be in. Of course we would like to win it, but that’s the experience we want.”
We’ll see if the Jazz’s experience in close games this season helps them next year.
2. The battle of the paint was epic, though.
The talk before the game was about the Jazz’s bigs vs. the Grizzlies’ bigs, as two of the remaining teams that use two non-stretch-4s pretty exclusively. So who won the battle? Let’s break it down:
Favors really struggled offensively in tonight’s game, getting just 5 points on 2-10 shooting, possibly knocked off rhythm by picking up 2 early fouls in the first quarter. In the end, Gasol and Randolph got their points through mid-range shooting due to their tremendous skillset.
After the game, both sets of bigs complemented the other. About the Jazz, Zach Randolph said “They’re a physical team. They got good players. They got Hayward and Favors and the big fella, Gobert. I like Favors. They got a good nucleus of young guys. I like what they’re doing here.”
And as Moni pointed out:
Jazz-Grizz would be an amazing playoff series
— moni (@monilogue) April 11, 2015
3. Bryce Cotton’s best NBA game yet.
Trey Burke’s now missed 3 of the last 4 games due to injury, which has opened up time for Bryce Cotton at the backup point guard spot. Cotton’s been a little bit up-and-down, but Jazz fans are used to that after 79 games of Dante Exum and Trey Burke. Tonight was a high: Cotton put up a career-high 11 points on 4-5 shooting, including 2-2 from beyond the arc.
As Snyder explained: “He’s quick. I told him before one timeout when I thought he passed up a look: when he has a clean look I want him to shoot it. They go under, I want him to shoot it. He’s a really good shooter. I’ve seen him in practice, we’ve put him through the 100 threes, I have a lot of confidence in him doing that. So obviously I thought his buckets were opportune when he got them, and we had a good stretch of pick and roll in transition in the 2nd quarter.”
Cotton is one of the Jazz’s 4 players with fully non-guaranteed contracts that last through 2016-17. He confirmed that he’ll be playing in summer league with the Jazz, where he’ll get a chance to further showcase what he can do going into camp next season. The Jazz didn’t just pick up Cooley, Johnson, Millsap, and Cotton because of the financial flexibility it allows them in trades this offseason: they also like those guys quite a bit as potential players who can become legitimate role players moving forward. Cotton, after spending time in Austin with the Spurs organization, is a natural fit for the Spurs-influenced Jazz moving forward as the Jazz try to acquire their “Danny Green”, a significant role player from the D-League.