The Utah Jazz lose 116-111 against the Portland Trail Blazers in Salt Lake City. Playing their third game in four nights, the Jazz had little juice in the first half, forcing them to play catch up for the rest of game. In the fourth, poor clock management, empty possessions, and unforced turnovers proved too much, as Utah falls to 14-12 on the season. Here are some notes from the game:
Poor defense and rebounding strike again
Anfernee Simons finished the night with a career-high 45 points, along with 4 assists and 2 rebounds on 60 percent shooting. Jerami Grant ended with 33 points and 5 rebounds on 55% shooting.
In the first half alone, Anfernee Simons scored 33 points. Shooting 7 for 12 from three, Simons repeatedly berated Utah’s defense with pull up triples off screens, step-back jumpers, and aggressive drives to the basket. Take a look at this Simons first-quarter highlight reel:
Sure, Simons hits some really tough shots here. But thats only after the Jazz allow him five wide-open looks to get going. They went way under screens, didn’t close space when they went over, and inexplicably lost him in transition. It’s the perfect way to allow someone to score 23 points in a single quarter.
This type of three level, high volume scoring from opponents has turned into a theme this season. Remember Devin Booker’s 49 points in Salt Lake? Joel Embiid’s career 59 point night? As I’ve stated before, Utah has respectable individual defenders on the roster. Each of Jared Vanderbilt, Nickiel Alexander-Walker, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Walker Kessler, to name a few, have shown glimpses of high-level defending. But as a collective, Utah simply doesn’t hold any answers to containing talented shot creators. For as fantastic each of those players have performed on defense in moments, Utah lacks a hard-nosed defensive stopper on the perimeter. It’ll lose them as many games as anything else.
The same can be said for Utah’s rebounding. The Jazz allowed 12 offensive rebounds tonight, counting a few costly ones in the fourth quarter. Not to beat on a dead horse, as this has stood as a constant over the last couple weeks, but Utah needs to find a way to corral late-game misses better.
Iffy late game clock management
Against the Phoenix Suns, the Jazz had a late-game situation: down 1 point, 26 seconds on the game clock, with Phoenix inbounding into a fresh shot clock. Utah failed to foul early, allowing the Suns to dribble out the clock and force a shot with nearly no time left in the game. The Jazz lost.
Exactly one week later, the Jazz were in an almost identical situation. With 26 seconds on the game clock and Portland in possession, Utah failed to foul early in the clock or trap the ball effectively, allowing the Blazers to dribble the clock out to 6 seconds before a foul. Had Utah fouled earlier, say at 15 or 18 seconds, they could have given themselves an opportunity for either (1) a quick score for two points or (2) a more developed set for a three point shot. And if you watch this clip, here, it seems as if Will Hardy had a similar idea:
Will Hardy said after the game he liked the Jazz execution on the late foul, but you can see him calling for a foul for at least 6 before before they finally grabbed Grant. pic.twitter.com/DGm6uDOkCk— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) December 4, 2022
It’s easy to forget that Utah has a fourth rookie on the roster with coach Hardy. With time, I have no worry that these types of miscommunications will sort themselves out. Nonetheless, it’s disappointing to see nearly the exact same late-clock blunder happen only a week later.
Commentary on the Utah Jazz broadcast
A few weeks back, Andy Larsen had some fantastic things to say about the Utah Jazz in-arena operations. If you want to read what he had to say (which I advise you do!), go here.
I want to piggy-back off that for a second in regards to the Utah Jazz’s broadcast experience. All things considered, Utah’s TV viewing experience has improved over the years with the introduction of people like Holly Rowe and Thurl Bailey. Sure, they might not be the most energized broadcasting crew in the league, but in combination with Craig Bowlerjack, the team does a good job of providing a solid commentating experience for viewers. I’d go as far to say that they are one of the better commentating cores in the league (spend some time listening to other team’s broadcasts and you’d say the same).
My criticisms focus more on all of the other stuff. The graphics, the in-game statistics, the over the air fan interactive segments (where are you watching type stuff). I’ve spent a considerable amount of time watching NBA games through local broadcasts, particularly the Portland Trail Blazers, and have continually noticed that Utah’s broadcast seems a few steps behind.
The Blazers broadcast, like a few teams in the league now, uses live Spectrum statistics on replays to display the distance and shot-making probabilities for Portland players on broadcasts. Sure, it might not be vital information for the viewer, but it increases the production quality and experience for a fan. It’s fun to see how, depending on where Anfernee Simons is driving on the court, what his expected shot-making probability is. Or, even better, Portland has an on-call analytical analyst that hops on in moments to describe interesting statistical facts or analytically-favorable courses of action for the Trail Blazers. On top of that, general graphics, team-oriented advertisements, and player cameos hold a level of modernity and creativity that Utah’s broadcast lacks. Frankly, some of the stuff Utah uses looks like it's from a decade ago.
Although there are ongoing rumors about where Utah’s broadcasts will move to in the future, in this moment, Jazz fans deserve a better at-home viewing experience.