I hate it when people say “it’s a make or miss league.”
It’s not that it isn’t necessarily true, it’s just that it’s so facile. Like, duh, teams that miss a lot of shots usually lose and teams that make a lot of shots usually win. It’s a frustrating and disappointing maxim.
But you know what? Sometimes the truth is similarly frustrating and disappointing. We’ll get into just how the Jazz lost this game in this recap, but before we do, I need you to chew on, swallow, fully digest, and then pass this gross statistic that the Jazz fell on the wrong side of tonight.
The Houston Rockets shot 22/45 from the three-point line tonight. In the history of the NBA, only 29 times has a team made 49% of a minimum 45 three-point attempts. Those teams are 28-1, per stats.nba.com.
Let me repeat that. Since the NBA created the three-point line in 1979, what happened to the Jazz tonight has only happened 29 other times. Only once has a team come out of that with a win.
So, like I said, we’ll get into tonight’s disappointing, frustrating loss. But try to remember that that was a truly remarkable performance by Houston.
Jazz defensive woes…
The Jazz finished with an offensive rating of 118 tonight. That’s a tick above the team’s average of 117, which is still the best offense in the league. We’ll get into the defense in a sec, but I thought it worth mentioning that without its star in Donovan Mitchell, and two key rotation pieces in Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside, the Jazz still managed to not really miss a beat offensively. But, then again, Houston is the worst defensive team in the league, so maybe it’s not that impressive at all.
Defensively, the Jazz crumpled in an all-too familiar fashion, reminiscent of its playoff exit against the Clippers last season, in which the Clippers stretched the floor with five perimeter players and forced the Jazz to defend in space. You’ll see lots of post-mortems tonight on who the culprit was, but really… It was a collective effort. The communication was obviously absent as the Rockets got wide-open looks off of dribble hand-offs, and backdoor cuts. Jazz perimeter defenders were either too aggressive on close-outs, yielding driving lanes to Houston ball-handlers, or didn’t show up at all to contest three-pointers.
Something is up with this team…
I had two pages of notes on tonight’s game. I try to scribble down thoughts, questions, and recurring themes in my game recaps. But, tonight, those all seem kinda moot. Instead, I’ll posit my unquantifiable, unsupported speculation here, and ask that you do the same in the comments. This is a safe space, Jazz fans.
I usually try to stay positive, and not miss the forest for the trees in an 82-game season. But something feels like it’s been burbling with this team for a while now. There was the overly-disected drama between Rudy and Donovan two seasons ago. Rudy indirectly calling out his teammates for their defensive effort (he’s right to do so), and weird, weird losses like tonight.
I’m going to take a detour to the point here: tonight’s game, and all this weirdness lately, has me thinking about Mike Conley. Conley undeniably busted his ass tonight, fighting through screens, chasing down loose balls, nailing big shots. It’s what the league has come to expect from him. He cut his teeth on those infamous Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies teams, remember?
This team feels like the opposite of those teams. Those Grizzlies scrapped, fought, and imposed themselves physically into a Western-Conference appearance. They were a grueling defensive team, with a methodical offense. This Jazz team still, despite the eggs it’s been laying recently, has the league’s best offense, and by a considerable margin.
But when teams get physical, or when the shots aren’t falling, and it comes time to dig deep and find different ways to win games, the Utah Jazz just seem… Lost.
The trade deadline looms less than one month away. Ryan Smith has spent heavily on this team, and expectations from ownership to the fanbase to the locker room are high. You have to think that Danny Ainge, who was in attendance tonight, and who has yet to put his stamp on this team, is eager to make a move. What will it be?