The Weeks that Were
Well, it sucks to see the Jazz lose eight straight games. It sucks when it includes a home loss to freaking Orlando. Seriously, guys. It also sucks that several of the games were very winnable, but our guys just did not perform up to what was required.
This week offers some hope, however. First of all, Alec Burks has been cleared to at least practice. Hopefully this leads to playing, which hopefully leads to playing well. Second, although it's not a cupcake schedule, there are games that are winnable this week:
- Game tonight at Sacramento. Cousins is out with viral meningitis. Good luck to Cousins with his recovery. At the same time, it turns this into another winnable game for the Jazz.
- Home game Tuesday against the Spurs.
- Home game Friday against the Heat. Heat will on the second half of a back-to-back.
- Start of a long road trip Sunday, playing at Washington.
Stats of the Weeks
Really, a glance at the stats shows some of the basic problems the Jazz have had during this losing streak. And a pretty basic look at the games reveals the other main issues:
The starters performed fairly well the past six games, in terms of box score stats. Only Trey's below average in his scoring efficiency, and he's only barely below average (53% TS is about average). Favors beasted. But the bench ... egads. They're barely providing 20 points (most of Hood's contributions have come via starting in place of Burks), and they're doing it with pretty bad efficiency, overall. Just ugly. And you can see the results everywhere: assists are down for everybody (particularly Hayward's).
2. Free Throws
Gordon. Trey. Derrick. Dante. Gobert. Trevor. That's six guys shooting in the 60's or worse for the past six games. That ends up being a lot of points thrown in the trash. Some are not shocking, but some are pretty head-scratching (Gordon and Trey, we're looking at you).
They have given up about 105 ppg during the losing streak. But considering their pace, it's even worse than that looks. That said, I don't think the defense is really the problem.
4. When Things Get Bad, Things REALLY Get Bad
Every loss includes a major run by the other team. It often occurs in the first half, in the late 1st quarter or early 2nd quarter. This run proves to be simply too much for the team to overcome. Let's look at these runs:
- Chicago: The run was basically the entire first quarter: 30-14. Jazz had a shot at coming back, but fell short.
- OKC: 14-2 run over the end of the first quarter.
- Clippers: 20-4 run over the end of the first quarter.
- Nuggets: 24-5 run over the start of the second quarter.
- Toronto: 28-10 run over the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter
- Orlando: 32-16 run over the end of the second quarter and start of the third.
What I see in these, from the Jazz perspective, is that the team defends decently overall, but when these runs go off the players simply don't know how to stop them. They don't have that anyone who can calm everyone down and stop the bleeding. And when the run is over, the game is too out of hand to recover. The timing of the run is usually when all or most of the lineup is bench guys, which includes three rookies and one second year guy.
I don't know what the answer is. It's easy to say something like: "Put so-and-so on the bench, to provide some quality there." But the reality is that prior to Burks' injury, Quin did his best to ensure that either Hayward or Burks was out there when most of the bench was as well. It wasn't an all-bench lineup that's generally causing problems. The team has already been trying to have high-quality players playing with Exum and Gobert and Co.
The reality is that Exum is playing like a 19-year-old rookie, Gobert is still pretty limited offensively, Hood and Ingles are struggling to shoot well, and Booker is more energy and nastiness than he is effective. There is simply no amount of shuffling the lineups that is going to change any of this.
I think the return of Burks will help the team. I also think that there will be times that the bench performs better than it has these past six games. I would be a little shocked to see this losing streak go on for the entirety of the remaining schedule.
At the same time, I'm not sure the ultimate answer is currently on the roster. The team needs a lock-down perimeter defender, and it could probably use a high-quality veteran player with the experience, charisma, and know-how to help the young players stop major runs when they are in their beginning stages.
I said long ago that unless major problems ensue, the team should ride out its current lineup to give the players maximum opportunities to become who they can become. Unfortunately, this losing streak is putting the team into the area of "major problems ensuing." At this point, it may be necessary to make a change. Unfortunately, I don't know what that change needs to be without a roster change.