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The Utah Jazz are evolving in the NBA Playoffs

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What do the numbers show from the game to game changes?

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Five Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are one win away from getting to the second round. They haven’t won that game yet, so it’s too early to count any pre-hatched chickens. But I feel good about the odds, and it’s strange to have this feel. What do I call it? A happiness with my team and the expectation that they will win tough games against good teams? Man, it’s been a while since I’ve felt that . . . pride in my team.

Of course, a big reason why the team is filling their fans with pride has been their on-court production, especially in crunch time. Thank you Iso-Joe!

But it’s a team effort. The Jazz have been doing things in the playoffs without rotation players in every game. So it has HAD to be a team effort. NBA Math has us covered in showing the individuals though. (And visit NBAMath.com for more info on their metric.) And this is still worth taking note of. Behold what the team looked like after tying up the series 2-2:

And here is what the Jazz player’s TPA looked like after Game 5:

What do we see here? Two things: change and specialization. The change from Game 4 to Game 5 is kind of fun to see. I put it up in PhotoShop and used lines like a kid using crayon.

NBAMath.com, AllThatAmar

Joe Ingles really didn’t shoot well at all, missing everything in Game 4. But his defense remained stellar - best on the team - and that’s why he’s so important to this team. Gordon Hayward went from being below the line to being way ahead of everyone not named Johnson on offense. This is what happens when you go from 9 minutes and food poisoning to making the other team sick. Joe Johnson got better on offense as well. Boris Diaw got better on offense but worse on defense. Rodney Hood got worse on defense and offense - despite making clutch threes when we need him to. The big movement is a normalization of seeing Rudy Gobert as a defensive force. He didn’t have a great offensive game but he locked down the interior. And that’s reflected here with NBA Math’s TPA values.

And it shows some level of specialization here.

NBAMath.com, AllThatAmar

If we add one of these curves that give us ‘dat asymptote’ we can see guys who are really absurdly amazing on offense, or defense, but not both at the same time. Hayward and Johnson? I can’t put it better than this:

Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Joe Ingles? After five games they are really causing a lot of problems for the other team on the other side of the ball.

Raul Neto and Jeff Withey are good at both, above the line here, but not really, really good at any thing. They are net positives on both ends of the court and don’t hurt you by playing them.

George Hill, Boris Diaw, and Dante Exum are on that line - Dante being good on offense but below average on defense. The opposite for Boris. And Hill is close to the origin, but not quite there yet.

The big surprise is Shelvin Mack, average on defense and really bad on offense - isn’t this the opposite of what he was in the regular season? Rodney Hood is streaky, so I get how overall he doesn’t impress, but in the right moment can be fantastic.

I think that these numbers are mostly accurate to what we expect. Of course, we’d want to see better numbers for all of our players; but specialization isn’t bad. You need that for teams to break through the opponents game plan in the playoffs. And that’s what Quin Snyder is currently getting from his players.

#TakeNote