Utah Starters Fight Alone in Phoenix Defeat, 88 – 97

October 25th, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

The Phoenix Suns’ bench blew their Utah counterparts off the floor. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Story of the Game

Utah’s depth is supposed to a team strength. On the road against the Suns on the tail end of a back to back, that proved anything but the case.

While the Jazz starters looked lackluster for much of the game, very much like a squad having flown from LA in the early morning and depressed by missed shots by the bushelful, by nights end every starter had slogged his way to double digit scoring. Combined, Utah’s starters notched 79 points. That’s a full 20 point advantage on Phoenix’s starters.

But the bench bombed, mustering a futile nine points on 18 field goal attempts. The Suns bench countered with 38 points. That 29 point advantage ate up Utah’s starter’s hard – and undoubtedly tired – work, sending the Jazz home with back to back losses, both discouraging, and their first losing record since November 20th of 2016.

Utah has more back to back contests this season than any team in the NBA1. The bench had better have a better showing in the future or expect fatigued starters and a lot of losses in these matches.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio

While each put up impressive numbers, Gobert (16 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 blocks) and Rubio (15 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block) made a greater impact by being the only two Jazz players to exert any force during the long slog of the game’s first three quarters. Gobert fought to hold together an enervated defense by himself, frequently frustrated as teammates failed to rotate to or box out his man after he cut off penetration to the rim. Rubio tried to single handedly kindle the turnover fueled offense that served Utah so well in its wins early this season. Neither got much help at all until it was too late. If more teammates had followed and offered up the determination to match these leaders, this probably would be a win.

Secondary Star: Rodney Hood

Hood’s return from a mild calf strain didn’t disrupt his hot start to the season. He poored in 22 points on 16 shots, exactly the type of punch Utah should be able to use to ride to victory. 15 of those points came in a first half where Utah struggled mightily on offense, scoring only 41 points on 38 percent shooting from the field and a maddening eight – that’s right, eight percent! – from the three point line. Unfortunately, Hood failed to influence the game much beyond his scoring, notching only a single rebound and two assists in 35 minutes of play.

Secret Stars: None

Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles both contributed to a fourth quarter push that, much like the loss in LA the night before, put a little lipstick on this pig of a game. But their combined 16 points on nine shots in the final stanza doesn’t excuse the first three quarters where the duo combined for only nine points. No bench player approached anything nearing a net positive on the night. Even Ekpe Udoh, the Jazz’s plus-minus miracle worker, dinged the Jazz for a minus nine in under 12 minutes of play.

Stats of the Game

24 percent – Utah’s three point shooting on the night.

13 percent – Utah’s three point shooting through three quarters. For the second night in a row the team’s inability to hit from long range completely strangled both the offense and player energy and enthusiasm. Talking about dealing with a poor shooting roster – and Quin Snyder has done a lot of that already this year – is one thing. Watching it is something else. An ugly else.

9 – The offensive rebounding advantage for the Suns, which helped them to a 17 to eight advantage on second chance points. That’s the margin of victory.

14 – Utah’s disadvantage in the paint, which is simply unacceptable with Gobert and Favors both healthy.

0 – Times the Jazz held a lead in this game.

Sundries

  • Alec Burks took a Did Not Play – Coaches Decision. His defensive effort really wasn’t there in the Clippers game, and this shows that Snyder isn’t going to stand for that. If you aren’t putting in the effort on that end of the floor, you will not play for this team. Hopefully, Burks re-engages defensively when he gets his next opportunity. Everyone in Jazzland is rooting for him, and I’m sure that includes the coaching staff. They sure could have used his offensive punch tonight.
  • Tyler Ulis is a good player who helps his team win. He had 13 points, 5 assist, and 2 steals on the night. If the Suns are smart, they’ll have learned a lesson from a certain past tiny point guard who they traded to Boston for supposed magic beans and then watched him become an MVP candidate. Ulis is an NBA player in a racing jockey’s body, but he’s still a player.
  • Snyder has charged his offense with creating early shots off of misses to increase the team’s scoring efficiency. That strategy fell on its face and wallowed there most of the night. Over and over Utah’s offense bumbled into the final seconds of the shot clock and took a desperate heave at the rim. With an offensive rating of 97, the Suns were far from setting the world aflame with their shooting. There were shots to turn into points tonight, and the fourth quarter run did push Utah up to 14 fast break points and 29 points off Suns turnovers. But it was too little too late.
  • That was one empty looking Talking Sticks Resort Arena.
  • Derrick Favors took two three point shots this game. He missed both, one badly, though the left corner three he took as Utah’s first shot of the game rimmed in and out. He needs to keep taking that shot and get some confidence with it. When Favors thinks about his shot, it really hurts him. He missed two three pointers, both open, and painfully four of his five free throws on the night. Yet he made every other field goal, including going two for two from 17 feet at the top of the key.
  • Gobert and Favors combined for 31 points on 18 shots and 13 attempts at the free throw line2. That’s 1.7 points per shot. They need to get more field goal attempts for these two.
  • The Jazz now haven’t lost at home and haven’t won on the road.
  • Donovan Mitchell is really struggling. Another one of seven shooting performance. When your least efficient scorer leads the team in usage, as Mitchell has each of the last two games, it shows the offense is off its mooring.
  • For two games in a row the Jazz have looked bad: lethargic, hesitant with open jump shots, and without the consistent defensive intensity, aggression, and activity their culture is predicated on. It was a rough road trip.

The Jazz need to regroup. Thankfully, they have two days off until their next contest, a home tilt against the Lakers, where they can hopefully right the season’s early ship.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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