1. Jazz consistently did just barely enough to win in tonight’s game.
You could see it in the Jazz’s play tonight: the Jazz felt they could easily win tonight’s game, from start to finish. Some of that feeling was no doubt due to their victory in their last game that was in every way more difficult than this one. After all, if you’re able to get a win in Sacramento on a back-to-back by running away with the game in the 4th quarter with your bench when the Kings are at relatively full strength, you should be easily able to get one at home with 2 days of rest when Sacramento is missing their two best players.
This translated into an on-again, off-again performance where the Jazz didn’t really put a full effort out there for 48 minutes. The Jazz played pretty poor defense in the 1st half, getting only 2 turnovers and lazily fouling to send the Kings to the line 17 times. As Quin Snyder said, “I don’t think, to a man, the first half, that we were as active. They played really hard, I thought they played harder than us.” At halftime, “There wasn’t a lot for us to feel good about.” As Dante Exum put it, the halftime talk consisted of “They’re an NBA team, they came ready to play, and we could easily get beat.”
So naturally, the more-talented Jazz came out with more effort in the second half. But again, the Jazz displayed their level of confidence in the eventual victory: every time the Jazz went on a run, they sloppily let Sacramento back into the game. The starters went on a 12-3 run to get the Jazz’s lead back, then gave it right back to little 5-0 and 6-0 spurts by the Kings. Then in the 4th quarter, even when they went on the 15-0 run that got them the game for good, they promptly allowed a 8-0 run to get the game within single digits.
That’s okay in a lot of ways: against a McCallum/McLemore/Casspi/Landry/Thompson starting 5, there’s a lot of bad that can be made up for later in the game; you might as well save the energy for later. But of the Jazz’s 8 losses since the all-star break, 5 of them are against sub .500 teams. That’s something that the Jazz will need to clean up for next season: they’ll need every win they can get against every type of team in order to make the playoffs in the strenuous West.
2. The Jazz’s thoughts on Monday’s championship game result.
Okay, it’s somewhat old news by now. But with the Jazz’s head coach and leading scorer for the last two games hailing from Duke University, there’s been a lot of talk around the practice facility and EnergySolutions Arena about the Duke/Wisconsin game.
Quin Snyder’s thoughts on Duke’s impact on him were interesting:
“It was the majority of my adult life, from 18 to age 32, I was there in school, in graduate school, or in coaching. It was a family to me. And for players that go through there, it’s not a stretch to say that there’s a brotherhood that exists. Johnny Dawkins comes through here and practices at our facility. It’s a special thing for guys who have played there. It’s the beauty of photographs now and text messages that I got to be there vicariously in a lot of ways.”
Rodney Hood was excited:
Though Gordon Hayward wasn’t a fan when asked about his happy teammates and coaches:
“They were pretty happy I would say. Everyone else was not. Everyone else was a Wisconsin fan. So it was very tough to see. It definitely brings up pretty bad memories.”
3. George Karl attempts to meld two philosophies.
George Karl’s in an interesting situation: he’s always been a coach who has pushed the tempo, taken a lot of threes, and, in his words, been “outside the box a little bit, tinkering with the game, tricking the game a little bit.”
So he’s got a little bit of an interesting problem to deal with now, being the head coach of a team with its star player being DeMarcus Cousins, who would seem to necessitate a slow-it-down approach in order to take advantage of his best talents. In the pregame interview, he stressed the importance of matching your system to fit your best player’s talents, which makes a lot of sense, but how well will Karl be able to coach that system? It’s up in the air.
Karl was also asked about the impact of analytics on the game:
“I think it’s incredible. It’s powerful. It’s scary, a little bit. I’ve heard some analytics guys say they can coach the game by numbers, I think the game has gotta be played and coached by feel. You’ve got to play that way and coach that way. But, it’s empowering when my head and my heart sync, and when that matches with the analytics, it becomes powerful. It can’t just be the numbers, and it can’t just be my opinion. It’s got to be a philosophical discussion. I’ve been tilted at times to say, ‘I need to change here.'”
George Karl’s role is so difficult in Sacramento because he’s tasked with melding those two philosophies. Does he coach in the way that he’s always coached, or does he adapt his system to his players? Does he go with the analytical, fast-paced approach, or a slower, matchup-based system around Cousins? That’s an interesting mix of two worlds for a coach. And then, he’ll have to balance the wishes of owner Vivek Ranadive and new lead decision-maker Vlade Divac. Are those juggling acts going to be possible? Karl has an uphill battle here, and I’m not sure he’s going to win it. I think Karl’s a fantastic coach, but man, what a rough situation.