The Utah Jazz have returned home after a very successful road trip. They went 3-1, and were seconds away from a 4-0 sweep. The good guys beat the Memphis Grizzlies 93-82, lost at the buzzer to the Boston Celtics 84-85, regrouped and then beat the Philadelphia 76ers 89-83, and finished off the Brooklyn Nets 95-88. That's 361 points on the board for Utah, and 338 for the opponents, which translates to an average 90.25 ppg, while giving up a very stingy 84.50 ppg. The average margin was +5.75, which isn't dominating. But for a team that won only 25 games last season, it's a very positive sign.
Utah is playing very constrictive defense right now, smartly anticipating passing lane activity, and hustling for lose balls. Length helps as well, it's pretty much the alpha and omega for this team right now, and our young guys are learning to use their bodies correctly. It's helping, and the defense is frustrating for teams. A good defense with a slow pace of play makes it nearly impossible to go on an extended run and blow a game open. The Jazz last four games had a pace of play clocking in at 87.8, 84.6, 92.3, and 84.7 possessions. Last night Matt Harpring talked about how the Jazz weren't good on defense just because they were slow, and I agreed with that. But he did say that the team was playing fast. Evidence disagrees with Harpring here, but it's such a common occurrence now that I don't even think we get upset when he stumbles when using math.
Our boys gave up 62 turn overs in four games, 15.5 times each outing. That's not great, but it's better than some other road trips. The Jazz also collected 84 assists during the road trip. So that's 21.0 dimes a game. For those nerds out there, that's a 1.35 to 1.00 assist to turn over ratio; and a 1.56 to 1.00 FGM to AST ratio. (131 FGM / 84 AST) The team play and team game is working on both sides of the court. Offensively our team is lagging a bit, but that's just a consequence of not having an Alec Burks out there to take over sloppy time. But there is no let down on defense for this club.
Utah was hit or miss from deep, but made plenty of them to stay in close games, or stay just out of reach from the other team. As the team continues to find comfort on the court I hope to see less 'check swings' on open three point situations, and have the guys just let it fly. But if that's really all I can complain about right now then there isn't much to complain about. (Besides free throws, but that will always be something we complain about as Jazz fans.)
Player Stats: Shooting and Scoring:
- Dante Exum really caught fire from outside. He went 7/13 from deep this last week. Sadly, from two point range he went 1/6. Yikes. Still though, his three point shooting has been great after a lull for a few weeks. He was perfect from the line too, but was 2/2 in four games. That's not nearly as fun as it could have been. Dante still rarely takes shots (one shot every 5.02 minutes on the floor).
- Joe Ingles is reaching Ben Wyatt level of being a human disaster. He's just not a scorer. That's fine. He wasn't billed as one.
- Gordon Hayward is scoring 20+ ppg on 15 shots, which is something Big Al Jefferson couldn't do in Utah. I couldn't be happier with his play. His clutch scoring is off the charts as well, but that's for another post.
- Derrick Favors has some out of nowhere to be the heir-apparent bigman scorer for this club. He's doing a great job of it and finding new, creative ways to score off the bounce, or just plain dunking on guys.
- Rudy Gobert did not have the best week of his career on offense. He shot under 50% for the first time in what appears to be forever, and while he doesn't take a lot of shots, he did still get to the line quite a bit and was effective there. (4.0 FTA / Game)
- Trey Burke is shooting the ball a lot. He's shooting it once every 2.05 minutes on the floor. He's shooting it 12.8 times a game. He's shooting poorly by percentage, and by production (PPS). That said, you can argue that his scoring ability late in games has been instrumental in getting these wins. I can't justify the poor percentages even if he's not explicitly jacking shots. Invariably he's on the floor with a few passive guys who influence him to shoot more with their extra passes. It's not great, but even at his worst he's still getting the job done when the team needs him to score the most. That is an Allen Iverson -like ability which, again, does not condone or pardon the poor shooting in the first three quarters. Trey started off this trip shooting 0 / 9 from deep, and finished it shooting 3 / 7. Shooters gotta keep shooting, I guess.
- Elijah Millsap seems to make shots we remember, but he doesn't stray from what got him into the league. He's here to play defense and facilitate this ball sharing offense.
- Rodney Hood is back out on the court, which is great because we missed his shooting, ball handling, court vision, and ability to drive. He's behind the curve quite a bit from missing most of his rookie season, but that just means he'll have to finish this season strong. His percentages are fine for where he is right now, they'll only go up with more experience and opportunity.
- Trevor Booker is hard to figure out. You don't see a lot of spot up energy guys out there who also crash the offensive glass. But that's who he is. His scoring numbers weren't great on this trip, but that's not why Quin Snyder puts him out on the floor.
- Jeremy Evans played in three games this last week. He continues to be ridiculous. So ridiculous that he didn't even get in the last game of this road trip. He is so ridiculous that his head coach cannot even comprehend playing him more minutes. It's Lovecraftian, we can't make the sample size any larger for fear that it drives us insane and rips our universe asunder. We cannot risk it.
Player Stats: Everything Else:
- Exum continues to chug along, helping out in small doses on the glass, passing the ball, and playing 'box score' defense. His real benefit is 'actual' defense, and while he's not an offensive threat right now -- if all he does is play defense and make threes he'll have a very long career.
- Ingles is in much the same boat, but while Exum's boat is a cruise ship, Ingles is like a craigslist old wooden canoe. $20 O.B.O.
- Hayward is just the man. His GO RATING is Star player level, and he RARELY gets called for fouls. He does a lot when he's on the floor, and he can stay on the floor forever because he's never in foul trouble.
- Favors, on offense right now, is like about as good as peak Yao Ming was. Not in points produced, or FT% or whatever, but in his ability to be someone the other team HAS to account for now. (So, basically, I am basing this on his GO Rating) His rebounds weren't as high as I would like, but he rededicated himself to blocking shots. He is clearly our second best player.
- Gobert. 16.5 RPG. T-Mac wants to retire again after seeing that stat. He can't.
- Burke: This is the funny thing, if Trey and Dante's lines were reversed would people be more happy or less happy? Trey can't make his threes, but is perfection with the ball in his hands -- while coming off the bench and being a leader. Dante is doing okay as a starter, spreading the floor, but not getting to the line or displaying much diversity to his offensive game. Both have about the same SPG and BPG. Both are very close in RPG. Trey scores more at a worse clip. Dante's numbers make him the "shooter". Trey is better at taking care of the ball and assisting than Dante. Four games is a small sample size, but it seems like their production is reversed from what is expected.
- Millsap: +27 in +/- despite never shooting. DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!
- Hood: I'm just happy he's out on the floor for nearly 20 mpg right now. If he ups his Go Rating by 12 points next year he's a specialist bench threat.
- Booker: Utility man has to do a bit of everything, still no where near as good as Enes Kanter is on offense though. Miles ahead of him on defense though.
- Evans: Every season he gets more ridiculous. Per minute he was the best player last week.
The desire to play a perfect game is still there because this squad hasn't put one out there yet this season. But I think they probably will some time later on this month.