1. Jazz’s shot luck doesn’t pan out for them this game.
The Jazz shot 19 more field goals, 11 more 3 point shots, and 1 more free throw than their opponents tonight, but they couldn’t get anything to drop. Both the Jazz’s defense and offense were working well, but when it came to the final part, whether or not the ball went into the basket, the Jazz struggled and the Wizards excelled.
Here are some stats to back that up: the Jazz shot 7 more uncontested shots1 than the Wizards tonight, 34-27. On those shots, the Jazz shot 29.4%, while the Wizards shot 51.9%. League average is 43.5%2 on those uncontested looks, so had both teams shot at the league average, the Jazz would have made 14.7 shots (instead of 10), and the Wizards would have made 11.7 shots (instead of 14). Even if you assume all of those are just two point shots3, that’s a 14 point difference on the scoresheet by that factor alone. That’s obviously a big swing in a 4 point loss.
But then you take into account the Jazz’s 50% free throw shooting on 24 attempts, which is obviously bad. Had they shot their team average 72.9% from there, they make an average of 17.5 free throws instead of 12, and that on its own wins them the game.
Now, the Wizards are a better open shooting team than the Jazz, especially their backcourt. But that doesn’t account for a nearly 20 point swing in shot luck tonight. Instead, for whatever reason, the Jazz missed their open shots, and the Wizards made theirs. And that was all the difference.
2. Still, the Jazz are taking the strides that coach Quin Snyder wants.
One of the worst aspects of this Utah team has been the turnovers, on both sides of the ball. Once you adjust for pace, the Jazz commit the 5th-most turnovers of any team in the league, and, even with their vaunted defense, they’ve only forced the 6th-fewest turnovers of any team in the league. The Jazz have lost the turnover battle in 42 of their 66 games coming into the season, and only won it 17 times.
But this, like most of the Jazz’s problems, has been improving, and they showed it tonight by winning the turnover battle 22-9 against a veteran Wizards team. That, plus the offensive rebounding, gave Utah the aforementioned 19 field goal attempt advantage.
I asked Quin Snyder about his team’s improvement in this category tonight:
“I think it’s a question of precision and concentration. They’re as aggressive as any team that we’ve played. The fact that we forced turnovers speaks to hard we played. I’m sitting there at times just watching us battle, and if there’s a long rebound, or if it’s tipped, then we do it again. I was happy with the fact that we took care of the ball… We didn’t help them by turning it over. That was good, it gave us a lot of opportunities.”
3. 1 thing I like: Trevor Booker one-handed rebounds
Every week in his weekly NBA column, Zach Lowe4 points out 10 things he likes and doesn’t like that are going on in the NBA. Sometimes they’re X&O things, sometimes they’re unique player skills, and sometimes they’re fun off-the-court shenanigans. Here’s one that I haven’t seen Zach mention, but I’d like to nominate: Trevor Booker one-armed rebounds. Whenever Trevor has an easy rebound in space, he likes to show off a bit by catching that rebound one handed, ripping it down, and mean-mugging a little bit. Here’s an example:
It’s fun. Trevor had two of those tonight, and they’re an emphatic end to a successful defensive possession.