Route 66 Complete! A few flat tires, but we made it all the way!
Last year Rookie Big Rig operator Tyrone Corbin drove into a ditch with his 8-20 finish. This year? He made the long haul through the arduous Route 66 (our compacted 66 game schedule), and finished with an astounding 36-30. Ty’s not going to toot his horn, but I will a little bit here and more this off season. Let’s take a look at this season, and some of the scheduling quirks.
There were not many absurdly high expectations for this team. Our front office did not do anything crazy, our coaching staff got larger, and our players mostly remained unspectacular. No one had us finishing the season with a playoff spot. Lots of people even questioned if the Jazz could win half their games this year. Even my conservative range (31 to 35 wins) was exceeded. I love that about this Jazz team. They knew a job had to be done. There were plenty of setbacks, but they finished the job. And they did it better than almost ALL of us expected. While this may elicit a complacent attitude from our brass, being better than you thought is always better than being worse than you thought.
The 2011-2012 Utah Jazz were better than the majority of NBA fans, players, and reporters thought they would be.
Looking at the lockout:
The Jazz had some better months than others – part of that was because of how good they were playing, who was playing (injuries), who they were playing against (the schedule), and how tired they were. The last part, fatigue, was supposed to make a bigger difference this season than in other seasons. Why? Because of the lockout, and greed, that’s why. To be fair, a 50 game season probably would have been better for everyone out there. We didn’t get a 50 game season. We got a full NBA season minus 16 games. That’s about a month and a half of games we lost. But the schedule also fails to mention the lost month for training camp, and the preseason. Everything had to be fit into less time than necessary because they wanted 66 games (16 more than the 50 they should have played). The inequality that remained hurt the players. (So this season was a physical punishment for the players as well as the economic beating they took in the negotiations – harsh.)
Because the Jazz were young, because the Jazz shuffled players around a lot (partly due to injuries), and because the Jazz ended up playing against some teams that were tanking down the stretch – the negative effects that cumulative fatigue was supposed to hurt our team with never really occurred. The lockout hurt everyone, especially the Jazz (which West playoff team needed training camp the most? Us.) – but the negative physically effects of the lockout necessitating* compacted schedule did not affect us like it did other team. As the numbers will show.
Looking *at* the months:
Each month has their own, more detailed, report here: December – January – February – March– April . However, if you don’t want to re-read old posts there are lots of new things to talk about. But first, this is how the months broke down for our Jazz:
As you can see, the Jazz were amazing in January (which was mostly due to playing bad teams who had injuries, and fatigue issues, in Utah); and then the Jazz were horrible in February (which was mostly us crashing back to reality). March was a killer month on paper, but the Jazz really showed a lot of heart by going 11-8 in that month, and then finishing up April (the knock out punch month) by going 9-4. What does this look like graphically? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The schedule was made to make January easy, and while the Jazz never got back to those heights, the trend is going upwards. As this season went on, as this team went through the gauntlet of an inhumane 19 games in 31 nights, this team got stronger. And at the end of the season when the Jazz were supposed to fade away facing so many guys who were supposed to be playoff contenders – and beating them – we went into over drive. We’re not done yet. I hope you saved room for some pie…
More than half (55.5555555% if you care) of our total wins this year were in the last two months. Less than half of our total games in the season (48.48484848% if you care) were in these two months. That’s a 7% difference. If I was a poet I would make some allegory about how that’s because we finally started playing the right 7 guys in terms of playing time – but I’m not. So no sonnets for you.
Days of the Week:
This year the Utah Jazz gave other teams a serious case of the "Mondays". Also, we were pretty much crap on "Humpday". Of course, the playoff schedule has the Jazz playing on Wednesday for Game 2 and Game 5; and Monday only once -- in Game 4.
These are the games that make any single game on paper more winnable or more impossible to win. These are things like being on a back to back, or being in worse situations of cumulative fatigue. The Jazz were in a lot of these games this year. Note: A game can be a back to back game *and* at the same time be the 3rd game in fought nights. These numbers do not all add up evenly per month as a result. Don’t worry though, I did not go nuts. This is just how the games played out.
|Back to Back (First)||Dec||1||1|
|Back to Back (Second)||Dec||2|
|3rd game in Four||Dec||1||1|
|4th game in Five||Dec||1|
|5th game in Seven||Dec|
|Back to Back (First)||Jan||4||1|
|Back to Back (Second)||Jan||4||1|
|3rd game in Four||Jan||5|
|4th game in Five||Jan||1|
|5th game in Seven||Jan||1|
|Back to Back (First)||Feb||1||5|
|Back to Back (Second)||Feb||6|
|3rd game in Four||Feb||1||6|
|4th game in Five||Feb||2|
|5th game in Seven||Feb||1|
|Back to Back (First)||Mar||3||4|
|Back to Back (Second)||Mar||4||3|
|3rd game in Four||Mar||7||5|
|4th game in Five||Mar||2||1|
|5th game in Seven||Mar||2||1|
|Back to Back (First)||Apr||2|
|Back to Back (Second)||Apr||1||1|
|3rd game in Four||Apr||4||1|
|4th game in Five||Apr|
|5th game in Seven||Apr|
That’s a lot of numbers, but the important thing is to see the improvement over time. While the Jazz did break almost even in back to back games during the last two months of the year (8-10 on either the first night or second night of a back to back), they were on the plus side of the margin in those "impossible" games. They went 4 and 2 on games that were either the 4th game in five nights, or the 5th game in seven nights. Those were the games the Jazz were supposed to lose due to fatigue. Instead those were the games the Jazz won. Part of that is the ‘sneaky’ issue that the compacted schedule compacted the schedule for all 30 teams. So other teams, more teams that usually had to, had to play a Jazz-like schedule. Being the Jazz, getting the short end of the stick in terms of the schedule is normal for us. For other teams, it was abnormal – and they crumbled under the strain. We, we became diamonds.
|3rd game in Four||18||13||58.1%|
|4th game in Five||3||4||42.9%|
|5th game in Seven||3||2||60.0%|
The two big things from this are 1) acute fatigue seemed to bother the Jazz more than prolonged fatigue (back to backs were way worse than any other situations), and 2) the Jazz destroyed teams in non-B2B games. No doubt a relationship exists between these games and being at home, waiting for an opponent. The Jazz played 23 non Back to Back games this year, 15 of them (65%) being home games. I’m sure a number of these home games involved playing a team that had just played against either Portland or Denver the night before. You know what they say are the three most important factors: location, location, location. Having that whole Rocky Mountain Range that road teams need to cross seems to help the Jazz.
In the playoffs there are ONLY non-back to back games to be played. The bad news is that we don’t face teams coming into Utah on the second night of a back to back either. I don’t know which is more important (our rest at home vs. the other team being tired); but whatever advantage it seemed to bring is now nullified. (Also: I don’t know what the Spurs record is on non-back to back games . . . maybe theirs’ is even better than ours?)
Of course, I’d love it if the Jazz could get more of those non-back to back games for next year. It’s an interesting thing to look into.
* - Because of the dreaded Back to Back to Back sequence, there is one extra game listed here to accommodate for the anomaly of the February 13th game at New Orleans being both the second night of a back to back, and also the first night of a back to back set.
Over all impressions:
I did not like the original 2011-2012 NBA schedule. It got both better and worse when the schedule was revised. I didn’t think we’d make the playoffs – and if anything – I over emphasized the negative effect the cumulative fatigue would have on us as a team. This was mitigated by a) being so young, and b) having our old guys get injured so our under used younger guys could finish the season off – as they were very fresh.
It was a crazy season. We lost to some really poor teams this year. We also beat a number of really good ones. I used to be the biggest Jazz homer, but I’ve tempered that quite a bit. I’ve seen this team burn up in flames before – and I did not want to get my expectations too high this year. I think I was justified in saying that. It’s not like this team was the #6 seed, we did *still* barely make the playoffs by the skin of our teeth. That said, I am very happy that the Jazz did. And I’m happy that they did it by giving the youth a shot. It looked like we weren’t going to make the playoffs this year, despite the singular goal of trying to make the playoffs. Thankfully Raja Bell and Josh Howard took one for the team, and got injured. True veterans always put the team first. And they did. If they go out, I don’t think we make the playoffs – because if they are both healthy, Tyrone isn’t forced into putting Sap at the three – meaning we never see our monster lineup this year.
The Jazz finished this season hot. They deserve everything they got this year. They also deserve our cheers. They have mine implicitly; but they also restored a lot of faith in me. I held off on going into homer mode this year (and for my efforts got emails almost every day telling me how bad a fan and human being I am for it). I try to fill in the under-served niche. I fight for the underdog opinion (or try to), it’s kind of why I became a Jazz fan in the first place so many years ago.
The Jazz are the underdogs against the Spurs. Does doesn’t really matter how many playoff games the Jazz win this year – because this season, a season in jeopardy because of the lockout, we finished strong. We are Utah Jazz. All of us. And we won this season by having one, by exceeding expectations, and successfully making it through this long Route 66 – all in one piece.