1. Jazz’s defense dies in the 4th quarter for the 2nd consecutive game.
This is a little bit of a worrying trend now. After allowing 36 points to the Timberwolves in the 4th quarter of Monday’s game, the Jazz allowed 37 to the Trail Blazers in the 4th quarter of tonight’s game, having played stellar defense before that in each contest. For the 1st 3 quarters tonight, the Jazz held the Blazers to only 55 points in 69 possessions (79.9 points per possession), a remarkable total for 3/4ths of an NBA game against an elite offense.1 Then it all broke down in the 4th, when the Jazz allowed 37 points in 24 possessions (154.4 points per possession).
Part of Portland’s success, no doubt, was going to a small lineup against Utah’s traditionally sized one. Robin Lopez played only 2 seconds in the entire 4th quarter, and the Blazers played only one of Aldridge or Freeland simultaneously. That meant that Rudy Gobert had Dorell Wright guarding him, a matchup the Jazz struggled to take advantage of on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Portland took advantage of Derrick Favors guarding Wright, creating spacing problems for the Jazz defensively. The problems didn’t come as you’d expect: instead of scoring via bombs from long range, the Blazers were only 3/10 from the field in the 4th quarter. But down in the paint, the Blazers had massive success in the 4th, scoring 20 points on 10-10 shooting in the 4th. 9 of those were layups.
That’s also surprising given that Gobert was on the floor for 9:10 of the quarter, including for 9 of those layups by the Blazers. Gobert’s specialty has been locking down the rim, and he’s had a lot of success against Portland doing so. But tonight, as the Blazers went small, the Jazz’s defensive advantage with Favors and Gobert came to a halt. That could provide a template for teams to try to get around the Jazz’s stellar defense since the Kanter trade, and it would be wise for the Jazz to develop a counterpunch, if possible.
2. Jazz’s offense without Hayward or Hood.
So much of the Jazz’s offense is predicated on playmakers at the wing positions finding open men for shots. The Jazz’s sideline out of bounds plays are designed for the SF to get the ball first. Hayward is in the top 20 in total touches in the league, one of only 5 non-PGs.2 Hayward’s led the Jazz in assists 26 times this season. And when Hayward didn’t play against New York last week, Hood took the ball in late-game situations.
With them both out, the Jazz really lack at those playmaking spots. Tonight, the Jazz had only 12 assists total, and no Jazzman had more than 3. Only 2 secondary assists total for the game. Only 36.3% of FGs had an assist, compared to their season average of 56.9%. And the Jazz even made fewer passes than they usually do: they average 355 passes per game for the season, but tonight they had only 303.
To their credit, the Jazz also avoided turning the ball over, with only 10 TOs for the game. But Elijah Millsap had 4 of those, and you can see he’s really stretched when he has to have the ball in his hands for any period of time. And none of Jingles, Burke, Exum, or Millsap had any consistent luck with shot creation. The result: mostly hard looks for the Jazz tonight, as they had 50 contested shots compared to just 30 uncontested looks.
3. Wow, was the refereeing terrible in this game.
Just uniformly terrible. I’m not accusing the referees of having a bias either way, for calling the game too closely, or calling it too lightly. I’m accusing them of consistently making the incorrect call.
Tonight’s ref crew was John Goble, Leroy Richardson, and Brent Barnaky. Goble was probably the worst, but Richardson was pretty bad too.
Let’s look at some of the lowlights:
Richardson here had one play where he stopped to argue with the Portland bench, thus forcing him to sprint back to cover his assigned angle. Watch how late he arrives to the play, 14 seconds into the shot clock. In the 1st half, Portland had just 2 free throws.
Quin Snyder chewed out Richardson on this Gobert play that really should have been a non-call.
Goble here called the foul significantly after the supposed contact, but really, he was bailing out Lillard, who recklessly drove the lane with no chance of scoring. This was the game’s go ahead basket.
By no means do I think the Jazz lost this one because of the officiating: it was bad on both ends. But it was very frustrating to watch, and somewhat spoiled the end of a close game by having referees interfere when they probably shouldn’t have.
The Jazz players and coaching staff were upset after the game too, though they successfully avoided any fines. Quin Snyder, after the game, said “I don’t know. It’s, obviously, we, tried to and couldn’t get, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to tell from where I was. It’s a tough situation.” Derrick Favors nearly exactly echoed his coach when asked about the officiating: “I don’t know. Um, I don’t know to tell you the truth, man. They blew the whistle. That’s all you can do. I don’t know to tell you the truth… It’s a tough call and we have to move on from it.”
Rudy Gobert also got in the fine avoidance game:
Im gonna stay away from that fine and get off twitter for the night
— rudy gobert (@rudygobert27) March 26, 2015