SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 7: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs hugs Devin Harris #5 of the Utah Jazz after Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at EnergySolutions Arena on May 07, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Spurs won the game 87-81 and swept the Jazz four games to zero. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
I'm happy that the Utah Jazz made the playoffs. It was not an outcome I expected. But it happened. We fans appreciated what the Jazz had to overcome in order to make the playoffs. And I think one of the best regular season wins of the whole history of the franchise was that second-last game of the regular season win at home against the Phoenix Suns. However, the playoffs are a different animal than the regular season. And astute observers have made some good points regarding this disparity -- and the uphill challenge of our Jazz team just to get there.
@allthatamar last time we ended the season on a 5+ game win streak was 93 94 Spurs are fantastic but may have gave all to get to the dance.— Spencer Campbell(@theutahjazzblog) May 20, 2012
I think that this is very fair to say. There are other contributing factors that we all can agree upon: the San Antonio Spurs are a super amazing team, they have more experience, we have little experience, our offense was predictable and defense was weak, and so forth. Every team will look worse against the San Antonio Spurs. Our team looked really, really bad.
And some of the statistical odds and ends point out some very funny things.
Statistical Odds and Ends:
- The Jazz got blasted by the Spurs. The Jazz lost Game 1 by 15 points, Game 2 by 31, Game 3 by 12, and Game 4 by 6.
- The final tally for four games was Spurs 409 - Jazz 345. Our calling card this season was offense, by the way.
- We lost with a final margin of -64, meaning that we lost each game by 16.0 points on average.
- Our defense isn't much to talk about. For the season the Jazz defense gave up 99.0 points per game. In the playoffs this rose to giving up 102.3 ppg. So that's only a difference of 3.3 points. Not bad.
- What was bad was what happened on offense. For the regular season the Jazz averaged 99.7 ppg, and in the playoffs that plummeted to 86.3 ppg. That is getting WORSE by -13.4 ppg.
- Part of the whole "playoffs are a different animal" theory is that what WORKS in the regular season works less in the playoffs. I think a number of our high use offensive assets are def those "regular season stars", and not playoff stars. Look at how the Spurs beat us -- they used speed (Tony Parker), selfless passing (Manu Ginobili, so many others), their bigs went to the basket (even Boris Diaw was going into contact), and exploited floor spacing in their favor to get open shots.
- The Jazz did not use speed (Devin Harris didn't push the ball up the floor, perhaps by gameplan of the Jazz), had selfish players starting (Josh Howard, don't pretend he wasn't as bad as he looked), our primary big continued to avoid contact (Al Jefferson -- when Diaw is going harder than you . . . I just don't know), and our offensive floor spacing made it easier to defend us.
- The numbers reflect all of this as well.
- As a team, there were only four players who had a PER value of 15.0 or above. That means we only had four players who had a PER value of average or above average. They were Blake Ahearn (34.7), Jeremy Evans (25.3), Al Jefferson (21.7), and Derrick Favors (18.9). Ahearn and Evans played a combined 15 total minutes in the playoffs -- so they don't really count. Our next best player according to PER in the playoffs was Enes Kanter (12.9). So we played a lot of non-bigs who did not show up.
- I'm super critical of Al Jefferson -- but he was among the only guys out there who stepped up on offense (defense? we talkin' bout defense? not offense. not offense that I die for.... defense?) Big Al bumped up his fg% from 49.2 fg% in the regular season to 52.9 fg%. That does not absolve him from only going to the FT line 4 times in 4 games, making only 1 FT, and averaging 8.5 rpg.
- Outside of Big Al, no one else really showed up in terms of fg%: Enes Kanter (43.8%), Derrick Favors (41.7%), Devin Harris (39.6%), Paul Millsap (37.0%), Josh Howard (29.4%), Alec Burks (25.0%), Gordon Hayward (18.2%)
- Those numbers are abysmal
- The numbers are even worse when you look at our three point shooting -- the Jazz went 9/45 from deep which is not going to get it done.
- Even for the regular season the Jazz some how bumbled their way into shooting 32.3% from deep. In the playoffs it was only 20.0%. It's not like the Spurs were going out there to stop our three point attack. I think they were daring us to shoot. We just didn't make any.
- Which is even MORE upsetting -- because Devin Harris (4/15) and Gordon Hayward (1/12) were absolutely ON FIRE in the last 10 games of the season
- I guess a big part of shooting is confidence. And it's not like getting your butt kicked is ALWAYS bad. Kobe Bryant looked bad in his first playoff sojourn too.
- Another part of shooting is getting the ball in a good place / having a team mate make an easy shot for you.
- Devin Harris is our starting PG and averaged 3.8 apg in the playoffs. He finished the series with 15 total assists. Didn't Tony Parker have 15 in Game 2 alone?
- The dude who seems to have flown under the radar for criticism has been Paul Millsap -- what he did in the regular season (even at the 3) was miles ahead of what we got from him in the playoffs. Which is sad because out of our entire team, he's the dude with the MOST career playoff minutes. (Yes, even more than Jamaal Tinsley, Josh Howard, and Devin Harris) Sap hit the glass, and blocked shots, but we was our #2 offensive guy in the season, but in the playoffs shot only 37.0 fg%, and 0.5 apg -- which doesn't make up for his 12.0 ppg (regular season was 16.6 ppg).
- It's not just a handful of guys though, in the playoffs we got beat as a team. And almost everyone looked beat at times of the series. We made the playoffs as a team, and looked so great then.
- I guess the question is -- which Jazz team is the real one?
- Are we the team that beat up on a bunch of tanking opponents (Portland Trail Blazers) and pulled out gritty wins at home against the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns down the stretch . . .
- or are we the team that looked so out of sorts in this series that Jeremy Evans was #4 on the team in AST% ?
- Or is it somewhere in between?
Spencer at TheUtahJazzBlog.com is right. We may have had nothing left in the tank by the time we got to the playoffs. But while there was nothing left in the tank, there were plenty of things we can learn from this road trip to the playoffs.
The number one thing is that, perhaps, our offense that worked well in the regular season (the very reason why we made the playoffs) doesn't work in the playoffs. Will it be easier to fix our defense (one of the worst in the league), or re-adjust our offense (one of the best)? What do you think?