The Week That Was
I was disappointed. Not only because I had hoped our guys would hit that two-win threshold that I wrote about last week, but for a more simple, basic let down.
You expect teams to play better at home. You especially expect OUR team, the Utah Jazz, to play much better at home. But they didn't. They didn't play nearly as well as they had on the road trip. Everybody's stats were down (except Rudy Gobert's). The defense was worse. And it was just a major disappointment.
And sure, we were playing Western Conference teams this weak, as opposed to the Eastern Conference teams on the road trip. But still. The Jazz competed in all five games on their road trip, winning two but being in position for a win in all five games. They were not this week. They almost got blown out by OKC (thanks, Quin, for going postal on us). And then got their butts kicked by the Warriors. And then gunned up what should have been a winnable game against the Pelicans. I know Anthony Davis is awesome (best player in the NBA right now), but the Pelicans as a whole are a good team, not a great team. And the Jazz need to be able to beat the not great teams at home. That's what a young team taking the next step does ... it beats the good, but not great teams when they play at home.
It was just a week. It's pointless to get too caught up in every high and every low of an 82-game season ... especially when wins aren't really that important this year.
But still. Disappointing.
The Jazz have three games next week:
|Monday||At home vs. Bulls||7:00 MST|
|Wednesday||@ the Thunder||6:00 MST|
|Saturday||at home vs. Clippers||7:00 MST|
That's three games against 0 great teams. The Bulls have been missing Derrick Rose for most of the year (again), and they've been average-ish offensively and average-ish defensively. We know the Thunder's situation ... it's the same as last week. And the Clippers haven't been close to great.
The Jazz play the good-but-not-great teams at home. The lousy team is on the road.
All three of these games should be winnable. Great teams would sweep this. Good teams (what we want to see the Jazz becoming) would take at least two of the three.
I'm hoping to see all of our guys improve this week.
Stats of the Week
I knew it was a crummy week overall before I started writing this, but when I started compiling everybody's performance for the week I really saw how disappointing it was. Everybody had a down week. Well, except Rudy Gobert. I guess that's how you have a disappointing week ... have everybody perform worse than expected.
Oh well. These things happen, even to great teams. I still remember the Jazz losing to the Clippers WAY back in 1999. The Jazz had the best record in the NBA (21-6) at the time, and the Clippers had the worst (2-24). And the Jazz got blown out, 103-77. Karl Malone broke a streak of consecutive games in double figures broken. It is still one of the most inexplicable losses I have ever seen.
I guess that I should have said that, for him, Trey didn't actually have a down week. But that's not exactly praise.
We need everyone to find their inner Gobert this week.
About the Defense
By now, you no doubt realize that the team's defense is not so good this year. Again. I decided to really watch the past few games and look at the defense. Maybe it's easy for some of you to see the difference between good and crummy defense ... but it's not for me.
Sure, I see the Jazz struggle against the P&R ... but then P&R is hard for everyone to stop. That's why teams use it. And then you see moments of strong defense (the Jazz did this really well after Quin went ballistic against the Thunder). So I started really watching, and I think I have found at least a part of the problem.
This isn't actually defense that I'm showing, here. But I think it is a great visual of a general mindset problem that the Jazz have. This happens to be Trey messing up, but I saw similar things from almost everybody.
What has happened is Trey just made a bad pass, the ball skated over to the corner, where Jrue Holiday chased it down and picked it up. But Jrue has a problem ... he's too close to the sideline, and his momentum is going to take him out of bounds. So he does what every NBA player in the world does (and what every NBA player in the world should anticipate). He's going to quickly spin around and look for a teammate to throw it to before he goes out of bounds.
Look at Rudy Gobert ... he knows what Jrue's going to do, so he's chasing after Withey, getting into position (hopefully) to disrupt a pass with his amazing arms. You can see the other Jazzmen rushing back to set up the defense ... something that Quin's been trying to have them do habitually.
And then look at Trey. What is he doing? He's just standing under the basket. He's not getting back on defense. He's not covering anyone. The ball has left his general proximity, and so he just stands there. Which leaves Tyreke wide open. Jrue doesn't have to do a (sorta) risky pass to Withey with Gobert right there. He can just huck it in the air in the general vicinity of Tyreke, because nobody's within 20 feet of him.
I mean, you couldn't find a more useless thing for Trey to be doing right there if you tried to hand-pick one. Just standing there, for a second or two, under the basket, a foot out of bounds, watching the ball bounce, watching Jrue pick it up, watching Jrue turn around a look for a teammate. Just watching.
The lack of awareness here is just stunning to me. The way Trey doesn't anticipate what Jrue is doing. The way Trey doesn't notice where Tyreke is. The way Trey isn't even trying to get back on defense.
So here's Jrue's pass to Tyreke, and Trey's "Oh! He's passing to Tyreke!?! I need to try to get there!" reaction (notice he hasn't finished taking a single step toward Tyreke, and the ball is half-way there.
And finally, Trey's position when Tyreke gets the ball. He's still 5-6 feet away.
It's worth noting that had Trey been there, Jrue would have probably tossed it to Withey, and Gobert probably was far enough away that he couldn't have disrupted the pass.
But that's not the point.
The point is that Trey's lack of awareness of the weak side has left an opening so big that it's impossible to recover. In a half-court defense, this is how the Jazz end up off balance and playing catch-up, resulting in a whole lot of made shots for the bad guys. And everybody on the Jazz is guilty.
There's a classic video/gif of former Raiders coach Art Shell. He's jabbing to Randy Moss on the sidelines, when Moss kind of nudges him and points out that the game has started. Shell does this hilarious jolt, eyes wide, spinning around, fumbling to get the headset back on his head as he realizes: "WHOA! How did a game start without me noticing?" I looked and looked for it, but I couldn't find it.
But that's what the Jazz remind me of as they play defense. A pass is whipped to an open guy on the weak side and the Jazzman who's supposed to be covering that guy jolts around, swearing and saying to himself: "Wait! How did that guy get wide open over there." And then rushing to try to recover.
But it's too late. The defense is already off balance. And sure the bad guys will still miss some shots. And they'd still make some if they were guarded better. But it's probably the difference of about 3-4 made shots every game, and that would make a big difference.
There's a lot I really like about Quin Snyder. Lots. I love how he is focusing on only a few things at a time. You can't fix everything all at once. Quin's focus right now, defensively, is rebounding and getting back to stop easy transition buckets. We know this because he's said so. And the Jazz clearly don't do this habitually yet. Which means that, from my perspective, it's okay to not add additional things to worry about. Habits take longer than 12 games to become, you know, actual habits. I think we'll all be thrilled if, by the end of this year, the Jazz simply do those two parts of defense well all the time.
But at some point, he's going to have to address this. Players need to be aware of where their guy is. Players need to be able to anticipate where the weak side opening will be. Players need to be aware of where the offense is trying to prod a hole into the defense.
Hopefully it happens sooner than later.