Tonight featured another late game letdown where the Jazz lost in overtime after leading by 16 points earlier in the evening. At one point, it looked like OKC was going to run away with it after roaring back in the third quarter in a ridiculous 19 point swing. However, Utah showed the grit that fans have become accustomed to this season, and responded with their own run and regained control. Yes, it fell apart in overtime, but instead of rehashing all the heart-wrenching specifics (like Hayward’s errant pass that gave OKC a chance to win in regulation), let’s look at two things we learned from this game.
Tonight marked the first time Coach Snyder started a game with the triple wing (Burks, Hood, and Hayward). The Jazz stymied the Thunder in that quarter, limiting them to 16 points. After that quarter, triple wing lineups (including Ingles and Millsap) ranged wildly in effectiveness. For those that value single game plus/minuses, the triple wing lineup in this competition might look like a loser (-12), but tonight it created a versatile offense with lots of options. It also helped limit the impact of Westbrook, who seemed to struggle more with lengthier defenders on him. Much has been written about why the triple wing works, but what made a big difference tonight was that Rodney Hood was making shots. He scored a team high 23 points while shooting 4/9 from three and 8/17 overall.
This version of Rodney Hood makes the Jazz an entirely different team.
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) December 14, 2015
As Andy Bailey points out, when Hood takes and makes shots, he changes the game and makes the Jazz hard to beat. Hard enough to beat that it required the Thunder an extra five minutes and stellar play from their three stars to finally overcome, which is nothing to scoff at.
A game is never won or lost for one single reason — it’s always a combination of elements that decides a game.
Having said that, as Salt City Hoops contributor Ryan Hess so frequently mentions, free throws hurt the Jazz tonight. As of now, Utah ranks 21st in the NBA in free throw percentage, averaging 74.1 percent. Of Western Conference teams currently on track to make the playoffs, only the Clippers shoot worse than Utah (67.4 percent), and that’s skewed because of the infamous Hack-A-Jordan tactic used against them. Unfortunately, tonight Utah only hurt their average shooting just 60 percent from the line. If they had even shot their average, the game likely wouldn’t have gone to overtime. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City beat their average by 11 percent and walked away with the win.
So while Utah probably shouldn’t count this game as another moral victory (which seems to have become a pattern), the team did learn some things about the triple wing that could help them win games in the future.