Utah Jazz 96 – Sacramento Kings 103
The Utah Jazz lost their fourth game in a row, falling to the Kings by 7 points on the road. It is all too facile to try to coax a positive correlation between playing the veterans and losing; however, the relationship does appear to exist on some level. The Jazz held a slim lead with only 6 minutes to go in the game, and then Head Coach Tyrone Corbin replaced Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Shortly thereafter Alec Burks and C.J. Miles were themselves replaced by Gordon Hayward and Josh Howard. It was precisely during this phase of the game, some could call it crunch time, where the Jazz surrendered their lead and never again came close to reclaiming it.
For some that’s the game right there – the Jazz starters could not get the stops they needed to secure the win; and as a result it is all their fault. Because I’m a numbers guy I understand the prevailing idea that games are won and lost at the end, but they are also won and lost throughout the game. Had Jefferson and Millsap saved the day at the last second, and secured the Jazz a win, it wouldn’t have absolved their poor play during the rest of the game (particularly in defense). All of the Jazz players are responsible for this loss because it’s a team game. Limiting this game to the last 6 minutes is short sighted though. For example, the Jazz players on the floor for the last 6 minutes did not miss a single free throw. However, as a team, the Jazz missed 11 during the course of the other 3 and a half quarters. While the Jazz are at fault for not getting stops at the end of the game, they did themselves no favors by missing so many ‘free’ throws during less crucial moments of the game.
It is easier to place blame than it is to identify the actual breakdowns in play. Re-watching the game, or studying scouting software and box scores, gives us a greater look into the game. Yes, Jefferson and Millsap didn’t play their best game last night. Part of this was due to DeMarcus Cousins having one of his best games in his career – he almost had as many offensive rebounds last night as Millsap and Jefferson had total rebounds. The Jazz, for the season, were ranked quite highly in preventing the other team from snagging offensive rebounds – but after last night’s game the team’s over all rank has slipped to #11th best in the league. Identifying this as a trouble spot is more precise than blindly admonishing our starters who were having very poor games.
Let’s not forget that the Jazz, as a team, held Tyreke Evans to just 13 points. This is impressive because he has a history of having very strong scoring games against the Jazz. His career PPG average is 18.2 ppg, yet against the Jazz it balloons up to 24.0 ppg. There was some good in the last game, and some bad. In the end there was more bad than good – but the blame is not placed solely on one man.
I do contend that by rolling the dice on the veterans late in games (regardless of who is playing well or not), Tyrone Corbin has secured a number of losses. It is only natural for inexperienced people to make mistakes though. The odds are that veterans know how to finish games, it’s the smart move to go with them on paper. Alas, Corbin is getting an education on the court; and he should pay more attention to the individual ups and downs of a game. Removing Gordon Hayward after he made the first "three in a row FGM" sequences of his career seemed like a momentum killer. But now I am repeating myself.
Just like Corbin has been doing all season long with bringing in the vets after the youth brings the team back into games. The results so far have been quite predictable. At least we can hang our hats on Corbin being consistent . . .