clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Utah Jazz Losing Streak Is Over...For Now: The Downbeat #1493

Tough games lie ahead for the Utah Jazz. Also: scoring by quarter, team defense, Trevor Booker goes Hulk, and your FanPosts.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Man, it's nice to get a win, isn't it? Especially against the Spurs -- even sans Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills. Feels great to get the nine-win losing streak off our backs. You could see the team needed it, too -- Enes Kanter especially was beaming in postgame interviews. (And he had a great game, so I don't blame him.)

That's the good news. The bad news is that the schedule doesn't get any easier for Utah, as the team will host Miami on Friday, then embark on its annual pre-Christmas road trip. Six straight road games, four against teams currently in playoff position. Yikes.

Then again, the last time the Jazz took a long road trip, they won a solid two out of five and could easily have had more. And as we've discussed, records get inflated in the Eastern Conference. What looks daunting now might not turn out so bad, especially if the team can capitalize on the momentum from last night's victory. Let's hope things go better than expected.

While the Jazz's offense has been coming along steadily this season (16th in the league, via Basketball Reference), the defense has been...well, not as good. Here's Grantland's Zach Lowe with more:

The Jazz are 28th in points allowed per possession, ahead of only the Wolves and Lakers, and their perimeter guys are too often asleep at the switch off the ball. The banged-up Alec Burks isn't the only offender, but this Denver triple is indicative of his struggles navigating screens:

Utah's weakside help is unreliable across the board, and Enes Kanter is bad at just about every part of defense. They'll all get better, but Utah should be better than 5-16.

Fortunately, we saw better defense across the board last night (surely helped by the absence of Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter for the Spurs). But we were promised improved defense under Quin Snyder, and we haven't seen much of it yet.

A couple of weeks ago, Salt City Hoops' Ben Dowsett pointed a finger in Burks' direction as well:

Possibly the single most significant issue plaguing this Jazz squad has been their off-ball defense. Despite a simpler and less labor-intensive scheme put in place by Snyder, the team continues to operate at a bottom-five rate leaguewide in large part due to their inability to stay focused when their own man doesn't have the ball in his hands. Opponents are feasting on actions that introduce even the slightest layer of complexity, and Jazz players are caught leaning or cheating as much as any team in the league.

Alec Burks, suffering from a bevy of issues all over the court following his lucrative extension, remains one of the guiltiest culprits in an area he's struggled with his entire career. His attitude toward the defensive possession as a whole seems to frequently flop between "not interested at all" and "interested in entirely the wrong thing", and his inability to navigate simple off-ball screens continues to obscure what's become excellent man-to-man defense when he's engaged.

Now, we know Burks has been battling injuries -- that flagrant foul didn't help, Aaron Afflalo -- but it's not just Burks. Most of the Jazz roster is better at ON-ball defense, but when trying to fight through back screens or track movement and rotations, they struggle mightily. I'd like to think this is just due to the youth of the team and the newness of Quin Snyder's defensive scheme -- he has historically been a better offensive than defensive coach, anyway -- but at some point we will have to take a hard look at the composition of the roster and decide if these players can ever play defense together at even a league-average level. I think they can, but we've yet to see it. And that may determine some personnel decisions sooner than later.

(I don't mean to give Coach Snyder a pass here, by the way. It's too early to blame anyone for anything, but I certainly expected to see more improvement from a Snyder-led defense than I have so far. Yelling, murderfaces, and timely technical fouls can only do so much.)

Then again, maybe Snyder is making more subtle defensive changes to create a sturdier foundation, as Beeblebrox42 explains:

We all know that the Jazz aren't doing so well on defense. Our defensive rating is 111.9, which places us as the 3rd worst defense in the league. We're also allowing an eFG% of .522, which places us as the 4th worst team. While this looks really bad, we need to understand that implementing a defensive scheme takes time, and you can't fix everything at once. My theory is that Coach Q is improving the defense one aspect at a time, and that the defense is improving much more than we can see. Below are the things the Jazz are doing well, and why this will help us in the future.

Next in this week's FanPostery, marvin_is_joe recounts the 10 best Jazz games he's attended in person:

Living in Idaho I dont make it to alot of Jazz games but I usually attend at least 2 a season. The last 3 years I have been covering North Utah, primarly the Ogden Market and that puts my in range of the Delta (thats when the best times were) Center, now ESA. I had plenty of experience of Stockton to Malone, AK47 All Star team, Jerry Sloan cussing and D-Will pick in roll in the post to Boozer or kick out trailer to Memo for three! Good times.

Lastly, you may have heard of the plight of the "Jazz Doctor" and his free-throw distraction props. Big_B talked with the Doc, and he's got some insight:

I was real close friends with the Doc's son back in high school and I have been trying to get in touch with him. Fate took a nice turn and I just happened to run into him at a brewpub on Sunday. He was at another table with his wife and another couple. I let him eat in peace for awhile, but when he was finishing I had to go talk to him. I got right to the point and told him that I was part of the online community at SLCdunk and how much we all stood by him and appreciate all his efforts over the years. I let him know that we've missed him recently and we'd love to help out if we could. This brought a huge smile to his face and he gave me a fist bump. We had a great conversation that I should tell you about and it turns out we might be able to help him out a bit.

Thanks for the FanPosts, y'all!

Pretty much out of curiosity and a desire to confirm my own suspicions and observations, I compiled this table containing the quarter-by-quarter point differentials for every game this season:

Point differentials by quarter
Game 1st 2nd 3rd 4th W/L
HOU 0 -8 +5 -8 L
@DAL -16 -9 +5 +2 L
PHX +11 -7 +10 +13 W
@LAC -6 -7 +10 -3 L
CLE +9 +2 -10 +1 W
DAL -7 -1 -8 -7 L
@DET +6 -6 -5 +6 W
@IND +3 -9 +3 -8 L
@ATL 0 -3 +9 -9 L
@NYK +8 -7 +2 -1 W
@TOR +2 +1 -7 -14 L
OKC -9 +7 +15 +4 W
@GSW -15 -7 -6 +15 L
NOR -2 -15 +12 -7 L
CHI -16 +1 +14 -1 L
@OKC -2 -6 -4 -3 L
LAC -17 +5 -2 -2 L
DEN -3 -16 +13 +4 L
TOR -7 -9 +1 -4 L
ORL -3 -9 +5 +2 L
@SAC +8 -14 +6 -9 L
SAS -1 +2 +5 -2 W
Quarters Won 7/22 6/22 15/22 8/22
Total +/- -57 -115 +73 -31
Average +/- -2.59 -5.23 +3.32 -1.41

Some conclusions to pull from this:

-- The Jazz are FAR better in the second half, and the third quarter is by far their best (and the only one with a total positive point differential). In five of the Jazz's six wins, the team "won" the second half. This speaks well to both the team's desire to improve as the game goes on, as well as Quin Snyder's ability to make halftime adjustments. (And/or give terrifying motivational locker-room speeches.)

-- The downside to this is the Jazz's second-half efforts are often wasted, because they fall behind by too much in the first half. So either the Jazz close the gap to a competitive margin, then fail to sustain the effort, or they make the final score of a blowout look more respectable in garbage time.

-- The second quarter is by far the worst. This might be due to the Jazz's relatively weak bench and lack of depth (especially when Alec Burks and/or Rodney Hood have missed games). Maybe Coach Snyder needs to reconsider his rotations in that quarter, Whatever the reason, that's where the Jazz are losing games.

There's probably more interesting research to be done here regarding player rotations and seeing precisely who's on the court when these margins are won and lost. In the meantime, what else, if anything, do you see from these numbers? I'm curious to know what stands out to you.

Let's end with Mizuho art, because Mizuho is the best: