Hoo boy, to put it into old Ben Kenobi’s terms, this was not the road trip finale the Utah Jazz were looking for.
Utah got run off the court in the first half by the Philadelphia 76ers en route to an eventual 103-94 loss. That loss now sends Quin Snyder and company back to Utah with a 1-4 record on their five-game road trip. The lone win came courtesy of Utah’s best third quarter of the season in a second-half comeback over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The final score of this game is very deceptive. The Jazz spent most of this game down by 20+ points, getting to within 10 points was a garbage-time comeback. One positive though had to be Rudy Gobert’s 27-points, 12-rebound, three-block performance.
The Jazz are now a mere three games above .500 and sitting at sixth in the Western Conference after flirting with the top three spots not too long ago.
Oh, yea, and Mike Conley left the game with a hamstring injury. So that’s a thing.
Rational reaction #1: This was a bad game, not a treatise on the Utah Jazz
Yea, the Jazz didn’t play so well against the 76ers. Shooting 22.7 percent from three aint’ gonna cut it especially when Philadelphia shoots 50 percent on the night from deep.
It’s not like anyone in particular went off for the 76ers. Tobias Harris had 26, but a good chunk of that came in garbage time and Utah’s sort-of comeback attempt. It wasn’t exactly a one-man show. Instead, four players scored in double-digits by the start of the fourth quarter.
As previously stated, Utah kind of made it a game, getting close enough to start intentionally fouling for the last 90 seconds, but the only way the Jazz could have won was for the 76ers to miss every free throw and then bury several 3-pointers on the other end of the court.
But let’s keep this in mind for all it’s worth. The Jazz were on the back end of a five-game road trip and despite this awful five-game run are still comfortably in a playoff spot and are three games above .500.
Rational reaction #2: This game had multiple reversals of trends for the respective offenses
Utah came in as the fifth-best team in the NBA in terms of 3-point percentage at 37.8 percent. The 76ers came in as the 19th-best, a full 2.7 percent lower than the Jazz. But guess which team shot 50 percent from three? Yep, Philly did. It was only the second time this season they’ve shot 50 percent from deep for an entire game. It’s also the fourth-highest 3-point percentage the 76ers have had since 2010 when taking at least 25 threes. Mind you, Utah aren’t exactly scrubs at defending deep shots as they rank fifth in defensive 3-point percentage.
Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah’s top two scorers averaging 46.4 combined points on a 45.7 field goal percentage and 41.8 percent shooting on threes, scored just 27 while shooting 30 percent overall and 18.1 from deep.
That ain’t gonna happen many more times this season.
Overreaction #1: Finding bench play-making is now a top priority
This probably should, and may have, been said before this road trip. But whether or not it was brought up is irrelevant as the lack of consistency off the bench for Utah is becoming a huge problem. Every now and again we get solid performances from the likes of Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay and the very rare Georges Niang/Joe Ingles sparks.
Ingles was theoretically the man for this very job coming into the season. His playmaking abilities, shooting and veteran leadership made him the 32-year old a perfect candidate. He even had sixth man of the year buzz. But 21 games in he’s shown none of those things (except veteran leadership?). Ingles is shooting career-worsts across the board (except on free throws, those are okay) and his assist numbers are at their worst point in the last five seasons.
Since the season is now more than a quarter over, you can’t just assume that things will automatically get better. There’s room for optimism and hard work, but it’s about time Justin Zanik started picking up the phone and having a chat with other GMs.
Overreaction #2: Maybe it’s not the personnel...
Look, I know I just said the Jazz need better bench production, but team-wide problems often stem from more than one source; and one of those sources is likely Quin Snyder.
Now in the sixth year of his tenure, it’s pretty clear that offense isn’t Snyder’s forte. He’s done much better with his defensive schemes (like, really good). Utah’s relative offensive rating has more-or-less been slightly above or below league average since Snyder was hired. Some credit though is due to Snyder’s offense considering who he had to work with.
So far this season, the Jazz are nearly 2.5 points per 100 behind the league average — which would be by far the worst of the Snyder era — despite having one of the more talented offensive starting lineups in the NBA. This year the Jazz are one of the league leaders in inefficient shots. They’re second, behind the Grizzlies, in field goal attempts between 5-9 feet while being 24th in shots at the rim (with the holder of the single-season dunk record still on the team) and 27th in shots beyond (where most 3-pointers are taken).
For some reason, this current offense is either emphasizing the taking of lesser shots or is incapable of putting its players in the positions necessary to have open shots at the right spots on the court. Certainly some blame can be put on the players as Snyder can only yell so loud while wearing a suit on the sideline, but it’s literally his job to direct players on the correct course. Somewhere along the line, this isn’t happening.
This is NOT an argument in favor of firing Snyder. Let me say that again, THIS IS NOT AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF FIRING QUIN SNYDER. What it actually is is criticism. Snyder is clearly struggling to build an offensive with three scoring-heavy players with not a whole lot behind them. A slow start like this requires a lot of self-reflection and changes. If changes don’t happen, this will be the most wasted season in Jazz history.
Under-reaction: Being the sixth seed one fourth of the way though the year isn’t ideal
This is not what was expected just a couple of months ago as the season began. Utah’s current standing has a lot more to do with its more recent run of form but the Jazz have done little to bolster their record to be able to withstand poor stretches like this one. Clearly this is a decent team but this wasn’t supposed to be a decent year. Given the talent level among the starters and the quality of head coach, yet another relatively slow start is extremely perplexing.