I read a tweet this week that got me thinking.
That made me curious: how did the Jazz respond after each one of these egg-laying losses? What is the team showing as far as toughness and resiliency after difficult losses? And is there any sort of pattern to these losses?
I started by looking at each of these losses and looking at the numbers. Was there a pattern?
Eyeballing this, obviously a lot more of the egg-laying games (ELGs?) came at the start of the season when Trey Burke was out with a fractured finger and John Lucas III was our starting point guard, averaging around 30 minutes a game. A majority of the losses were away games, which isn’t all that surprising considering the Jazz’s road woes in the last decade. What does surprise me looking at this now is having the perspective of being nearly halfway through the season and having more context and understanding some of the storylines better. For example, we didn’t know when we played Brooklyn at the beginning of the season that they were going to be as bad as they were (at least until things started to turn around for them in the last week or two), which makes the loss to them even a bit more painful than it was at the time. We didn’t know that Toronto was going to be a much better team without Rudy Gay, but even with Gay, we still lost to them by 24.
Portland was a very hot team when played them on December 6, but I don’t think we could have anticipated a team shooting nearly 74% from three, nor a 32-point loss. The loss at Atlanta was also painful because it was another 30+ point loss within a couple of weeks, and while Atlanta’s a solid playoff team, they’re a solid playoff team in a very weak Eastern Conference. Looking at this chart, the one that stings me the most, somehow, is the Cleveland game. They were playing with a new player—the just-traded-for Luol Deng—and were able to integrate him into the lineup seamlessly, playing on the road, and beating the Jazz. Yes, Gordon Hayward was out, but I still shake my head at that loss. I don’t quite get it.
So if we’re looking at these 10 rough losses, that’s 25% of the games so far. Look at the defensive numbers: in these games, we’re allowing teams to shoot over 50% from the field and over 40% from three. Our defense isn’t nearly as good as we’ve been led to believe, in my opinion. If defense is one of the Dennis Lindsey’s goals, it looks like we’ve got a long ways to go.
Back to one of the initial questions: How has the team been responding to these games?
After the Brooklyn game, the Jazz responded with a 10-point loss to a Boston team that was also 0-4. Boston went on to play a pretty good stretch there for a while, so I felt a little less bad about our loss to them, but they’ve since gone on a very rough run, making me wonder how they were able to play tough there for the first month. After the 24-point loss to Chicago, the Jazz followed up the next night with a 24-point loss to Toronto. The game after that was a 19-point loss at home to Denver. So that’s three really difficult-to-take losses in a row. But, after that, a good pattern started to emerge: egg-laying losses started being followed by wins (with one exception).
After the Denver game came a six-point win against New Orleans. While the Pelicans aren’t anywhere near a top-tier game and the game was in Salt Lake City, it was still a much better response game than a loss. After the Portland debacle, we lost to Sacramento—Sacramento—at home. Ouch. The Jazz were without Favors, but the guards shot 18-53 from the field, and the Kings were looking to snap a six-game losing streak. After the Miami loss on December 16, the Jazz followed by beating Orlando in Orlando in a close, four-point win. The Dec 20 loss at Atlanta was followed by a three-point win in Charlotte the next night. Considering how poorly this team has played in back-to-backs over the last several years, I thought that was an encouraging sign. Then, after the loss to Cleveland at home, the Jazz responded by beating Denver by 13 several nights later.
That catches us up to our current situation: the horrible Minnesota loss where the Jazz shot franchise-low 28.8% from the field. How will the team respond? In a fun coincidence, we get to see that tonight against the very same Wolves, but on our home court. The latest word is that Gordon Hayward will try to play tonight after missing the last five games. Will he be rusty? Or will he be able to be the guy who gets all his teammates involved while also putting up solid points and rebounds?
This team is becoming more resilient, and part of that may be a team growing together—especially a team as young as ours—and it may have to do with Trey Burke and the ice in his veins. Regardless, it’s a very encouraging sign to see for a young and inexperienced team.