Last night was a once in a decade type of game. The Utah Jazz played four overtime periods against the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks had played two previous games in the two previous nights; but were at home and made the shots they needed to in order to win the game. It was a very sad game for Jazz fans who, honestly, I think were mainly upset because we let a game we could have won slip away.
We're able to look at things that happened in the game (and didn't happen) and postulate on how they would have affected the ultimate outcome. I am pretty vocal about our inability to collect fouls on Zaza Pachulia. Al Jefferson had zero FTA in 51 minutes. If Al was able to get a few more calls on Zaza in the first 4 quarters of the game then Zaza would have been out of the game earlier. He's the reason why the Hawks hung so tough in overtime because of his rebounds, blocks, and 2nd chance points. No Zaza, and the Jazz win.
But, no one single change exists within a vacuum. (Butterfly effect, I guess) It's hard to point at one or two things and see how they were wrong. That said, it's hard not to ignore the minutes distribution from last night. If you don't check out PopCornMachine.net you're missing out. Here's their game flow for last night. It shows a few things.
There are two very big points:
- The starters inherited a manageable deficit when they came back in for the 2nd quarter, and they made that margin even larger by halftime. The starters made the Hawks lead larger. Fact.
- Then in the third quarter the very same starters, who played for almost the entire 12 minutes straight, fought all the way back from -17 points to even take the lead. The starters fought back and were beating the Hawks. Fact.
After the jump -- how these two facts influenced the rotations of Head Coach Tyrone Corbin
What these two facts mean:
These two facts no doubt influenced how the rest of the game went. Tyrone Corbin isn't at his peak right now as a coach. He's getting better. One of the problems that he was criticized for previously was 'not playing the hot hand'. By going starters heavy he is attempting to play the hot hand, because they got the team back into the game. Of course, it's not like he played anyone on the bench long enough to develop a hot hand, but you can always nit-pick things as a fan. And I am just as guilty of it as anyone else. And I accept those charges.
That said, when the game went on . . . and on . . . and on . . . the situation became more desperate. The Jazz have a game tonight. The game was known about and on the schedule. So it's not like this is something that 'sunk up' on Tyrone. Do you play to win the game that you are supposed to win, or risk losing that game to by fighting in the game you were supposed to lose?
We're at a point where you just 'haveta' go for every win possible. The Jazz starters brought the team back. That idea was the most recent idea, and as a coach, you focus on that positivity, instead of remembering that those were the same guys who got the team down by 17 points before halftime. And you kind of win games with those guys finishing. (For the most part, let's not bring up Derrick Favors as a huge defensive producer for us in the 4th quarter of close games)
Tyrone had to play those guys to finish the game. That's the theory, and you have to stick with it. I love our younger guys, but with all the evidence that Ty had, you had to finish the games with the starters. The game just kept going on and on, so the 'finishing time' which is usually the LAST 5 mins of a game were extended to the LAST 25 MINS of the game. Why? Because each successive overtime period then became the LAST 5 MINS of the game. In the middle of Overtime #2 Ty had to coach for Overtime #2. It was impossible to think that we were going to go to Overtime #4. And is hard to get upset that he didn't play for how tired guys would be if they had to play in imaginary, hypothetical, future overtimes.
You need to win the game in the time you are in.
And if you play the starters as finishers for the Last 5 mins of a game . . . then Corbin stuck to the theory and followed the book by the letter.
The other side of the coin:
The Jazz have shown that they can finish games with Tinsley, Favors, Burks playing. The Jazz have won games down the stretch with those guys finishing. In some ways they actually bring something different to the table than the guys who finished for our team last night. Tyrone Corbin knows this because he's coached those 'alternate' finishers to wins. Put Earl Watson on that list too. There is evidence to support all of this.
Also, our normal finishers were getting really tired. They played the last 5 mins of the 4th quarter. Then the last 5 mins of the first overtime. This is already 2x the amount of crunch time they are used to playing. Then they played the last 5 mins of the 2nd overtime. Please not that all the mins in overtime are crunch time. So now they've played 3x the amount of time they usually play in crunch time -- in a row. That's tough. The Hawks were even more tired than the Jazz, but they space out their minutes more so that their crunch time lineup wasn't all gassed at the same time.
This is something that Corbin could adjust in the future. I am certain that he will in the future. He's very bright and learns from his mistakes.
That said, by the time OT #3 and OT #4 came along, why not go with some of our alternative finishers? He could have run the Hawks dead if we put in our faster guys who play tough defense and get transition buckets.
That's my take on last night. I'm sorry if this write up is still petulant.
It's very hard for Tyrone Corbin. And I've kept putting off writing about him all season long (which is why people don't get the full view of my feelings on him; only random outbursts where I'm critical) because his situation is so new and so unenviable. At the very least substitutions to go Offense / Defense would rudimentary things that even dumb fans are capable of identifying.
Performing poorly at your job, especially if it is a highly visible job, elicits a lot of Monday Morning quaterbacking. That's just the way it is when you are an NBA head coach. So I'm not going to tell anyone not to speak their mind about how Ty is doing his job.
I will point out, though, that there are plenty of examples of Ty getting BETTER at his job.
- Time outs at the end of the game: he didn't call them before, now he does
- Mixing / Matching our front court: he didn't do this before, does now (just not last night)
- Calls plays for different guys: it's not always dump it into Big Al anymore
- Works the refs: Ty works the refs a lot better now, it doesn't work much though, but he's young
- Plays the hot hand: before he'd take out guys hot for cold guys, doesn't do this anymore
He's not perfect now, but he's learning. Sure, maybe we'll foul when we're up by 3 in the future. Or he'll play the guys I want him to play more. Or go into zone defense more. Or so forth. He's got a lot to learn still. I'd be a huge hypocrite if I didn't give him the time to get better, while advocating for patience for our youth core. I want them all to get better together. And I never wanted Corbin to leave the Jazz. He's the right coach for us. Just like it wasn't reasonable to ask Frank Layden to still be the coach of the Jazz back then, it's not fair to Jerry Sloan to beg him to stay on now. And he's not coming back. This is Ty's show. There are always going to be some hickups during the first run.
Just ask Jerry Sloan who was fired from his first NBA head coaching job. Years from now, hopefully he's still the head coach of our team, this game will mean nothing in the big picture.
Ty's going to improve. Sorry for being critical of his failure to make the rotation changes in game that I would have. He had valid reasons to stick to his guns. But never ever have I personally attacked him, and never ever did I attempt to marginalize his future with the team I love. In fact, if Corbin was replaced next year I would be very upset about it.
Last night was just too insane, and highlighted a problem. But you know what? Ty learns from his mistakes a lot quicker than Jerry Sloan, kind of a stubborn guy, ever did.
Less funny Dog pictures on the front page.