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Jazz-Suns rematch ends on a sour note

The Jazz won a close game against the Suns just two weeks ago in SLC and weren’t so fortunate down the stretch tonight

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns
Jarred Vanderbilt is met at the rim by Deandre Ayton and gets the raw end of that deal.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz fall in a close road battle with the Phoenix Suns Saturday night: final score 112-113.

Similar to the matchup two weeks ago at home, the Jazz played a tight game in the second half trading winning plays and boneheaded mistakes. Unlike that matchup, however, the Jazz failed to keep that ratio respectable.

Jazz found themselves down 1, on defense, with two seconds separating shot and game clock. Two things were obvious: 1) technically Phoenix can’t hold to the final shot and 2) there’s no route to securing a rebound AND advancing the ball AND getting a good shot.

Unfortunately, the Jazz focused on the former rather than the latter, electing to play out the clock instead of fouling.

Rather predictably, the Suns attempt clanged off the rim with sub-2 seconds and Deandre Ayton cleaned the glass one final time. Game over.

While a disappointing close, the match was hard fought. The game was within 5 points for all but one possession since the middle of the 2nd quarter. Both teams were shorthanded their floor generals (Paul and Conley).

Oh a pure anecdotal level, Utah’s Lauri Markkanen struggled most of the night with his shot and to get to the line. Meanwhile Deandre Ayton had one of his better contests and was a real presence in the middle.

Digging into the stats, however, reveal some big opportunities squandered by Utah in this one.

Looking at the 4 Factors (four common components of a game found to explain the result), we can see the Jazz generated a big efficiency advantage: +10.0% eFG over the Suns. You shoot that much better than your opponent, something else had to have gone horribly wrong...and it did.

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns
Lauri Markkanen and Nikeil Alexander-Walker gesture in frustration at a call during the game.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The other 3 Factors are measures of volume (aka “how many bites at the apple). Jazz were a -7.5% in turnover rate, a -12.6% in offensive rebounding rate, and a -0.9% in free throw attempt rate.

Translation? They gave Phoenix far too many opportunities to score that shooting poorly was offset by volume.

(Want to monitor these numbers for the next game? Check out Cleaning the Glass and their Games tab).

The Utah Jazz started the season staying relatively even in these categories which kept the other team from hanging around when the shots weren’t falling. But those habits have died off since the start of the year and unsurprisingly coincides with a rough 3-7 record in their last 10.

Possession Swing Graph
Possession Swing (net OREBs & TOVs between teams) by week
Metric and visualization by Adam Bushman, SLC Dunk

Here’s some additional notes and observations from the night:

  • Jazz found themselves with good 3P luck (40%+ from beyond the arc) but generated just 32 attempts. Clearly a focus by the Suns contributed to less opportunity for Utah.
  • Collin Sexton found himself with some real highlight moments in the contest but certain plays still prompt head scratching from fans and substitutions by Will Hardy
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit some big shots and played with good defensive pressure. By the eye test, a great game. The team was, however, a -12 with him on the court: a cautionary tale against single-game plus-minus.
  • Devin Booker scored 27 points on 42.4% TS, his second worst shooting game of the season. A combo of good fortune for Utah and certainly some game plan tweaks for their defense.

A rough stretch for Utah featuring a ton of back-to-backs and road trips has come to an end for a short time and it’s a time to potentially get back to their habits. The Jazz take on the Bulls Monday.

At 12-10, Jazz are 0.5 games out of the lottery and just 2 games out of top 10 odds. Pro-tanking fans will certainly sweat the upcoming stretch.

Also of note, December 15th (soon after this stretch) is the official kickoff of trade season as most every player signed to new contracts are eligible to be traded. We’re gearing up to find out what the front office might have in the chamber.