The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Utah Jazz vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 3/23/2015

March 24th, 2015 | by Andy Larsen
Zach LAvine's athleticism helped him make this very contested shot against Dante Exum. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Zach LAvine’s athleticism helped him make this very contested shot against Dante Exum. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. Trey Burke shoots the Jazz out of the game.

Trey Burke’s 4-22 shooting performance is really bad. No other player had shot more than 22 shots and less than 4 makes this season, until Monta Ellis did it last night that cost his team a win against the struggling Suns. Tonight, Trey Burke also did not have it all, and missed 18 shots, including 8 in the last 9 minutes of the game1 During those 9 minutes, he took 9 of the 16 Jazz field goal attempts. That probably actually understates his level of shot-domination, of the 7 remaining non-Burke shots, 4 were immediate 2nd-chance looks by Gobert or Favors. Millsap, Exum, and Favors were able to get one shot off each during Trey’s reign.

It was hero ball at its very worst led by a player who before tonight was shooting a robust 37.3% from the field. It was as if Trey felt that making any one of those shots would have erased his previous sins, but unfortunately, they didn’t; 4-22 is drastically more damaging than 3-14.

Trey, to his credit, stayed and answered questions after the game, though he sounded like someone who had been through a harrowing war experience:

“I really wasn’t trying to search for my shot. I feel like I shot too many threes. It’s not about me, but I kinda feel like I let my teammates down because I feel like I got some great looks, but I kinda shot too many threes. If I would have gotten into the paint more, it would have opened more things up, and that starts with the point guard, getting into the paint and making the defense collapse. I feel like I settled too much at the beginning of the game, and it kind of affected my field goal percentage and the way we shot as well… It was a bad night for me, and I gotta be better, period.”

There is some sense that these were open shots for Trey Burke: SportVu marked 15 of them as uncontested2 (he made just 2 of those). But Burke is a significantly below-average shooter on uncontested looks: he shoots just 37.4% on those looks, compared to the league average of 43.5%3. That’s a real problem for the Jazz, and honestly, Trey Burke’s career moving forward: teams won’t be afraid of him taking open looks whatsoever.

Update: Trey Burke’s “Win Probability Added”, a stat which keeps track of how a player contributed or hurt from his team’s likelyhood of winning, was -46.7% last night. Everyone else on the team summed up to a +17%.

2. Poor end of game execution cost them as well:

Okay, now that we’ve looked at the shooting from a macro level, let’s boil it down to the critical possessions where the Jazz needed more from their offense. The first came at the end of the game, with the game tied at 96-96, with 12 seconds to go. The goal here is to score points, any points, and minimize the amount of time Minnesota has the ball to match.

Here’s the play.4

Quin calls a logical, simple play here: Trey/Favors high pick-and-roll, with Ingles, Millsap, and Exum spacing. Trey accomplishes goal #2 very well, timing the pick well and taking a shot at the buzzer. Cool. Minnesota does a good job of trapping Trey to the corner, but he falls right into the trap: when he sees the two defenders guarding him, rather than passing it to the open man (Favors), he runs away from them. A swing to Favors would have allowed for a three-on-two situation, in which Favors could either take the 20 footer, or pass it to one of Jingles or Exum. Instead, Burke loses control of the ball, and is forced into a ridiculous shot he has no chance of making.

The second critical play: Jazz have the ball, down three, with 11 seconds left in overtime. The Jazz use their last timeout, and so probably need to tie here.

The second play.

When we asked Trey about his decision to take a two there, he said “It was a called-up play for a three, but I didn’t want to force up anything like I did the last shot.” Quin Snyder agreed postgame, saying: “At that point, with the clock running down, it would have been good to get a three.”

The Jazz have really struggled in the clutch this season. They have the 3rd-worst FG% in the clutch in the league, according to NBA.com, and have the 6th worst record in those games. Tonight, the Jazz were destined to struggle in the clutch with Hayward out and Hood falling ill during the game, but it was still discouraging to see the Jazz’s offense as one-dimensional as it was tonight.

3. But at least there was chin balancing.

There’s actually a ton more that I want to talk about in this game:

  • Rudy’s clutch 11 offensive rebounds that nearly saved the Jazz from infinite perimeter misses in the 4th and OT.
  • The Wolves somehow shooting 10/13 from above the break threes despite taking the fewest 3 point shots in the league.
  • That Minnesota played a passable NBA game with only 7 players, and those 7 players to boot.
  • That Jingles had his career high in points.
  • That Quin was so exasperated with the play of Dante5 and Trey that he gave Bryce Cotton 11:22 of playing time, including 5 minutes in the 2nd half.
  • The likelihood of Zach Lavine hitting the two 3s he did consecutively at the end of the 4th.
  • Relatedly, he will never play Ian Clark, no matter what the circumstance. I’m not sure I blame him.6
  • And, what’s going wrong with Rodney Hood’s stomach repeatedly?

But, the world needs to know about the chin balancing guy. Chin balancing guy7 was the winner of this year’s Jazz halftime show contest, which received submissions from halftime hopefuls everywhere, but chin balancing guy was the clear winner. Like most successful halftime acts, he has a simple premise: he balances weird stuff on his chin. Here are some relevant photos:

Photos taken by Twitter user @bholmesays.

Photos taken by Twitter user @bholmesays.

Chin balancing guy, if he wants to be, can absolutely be a big player in the world of NBA halftime acts. It’s up to him if he wants that lifestyle, but he can be. The Jazz may have just uncovered yet another rising star.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

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