Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 117-113 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Can the Jazz get a rebound?
When you want to know what the difference was in a game, it’s always good to look at the Four Factors: shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free-throws. Which told the tale in tonight’s game?
Ah, it was the rebounding! The Jazz allowed the Suns to have 16 offensive rebounds tonight, which they converted for 18 second-chance points. That’s not a bad conversion rate to allow, but that number of offensive rebounds is disappointing.
You can basically break the offensive rebounds into 4 categories:
1. Jazz bigs getting beasted
Derrick Favors, you’re a big, heavy person. I understand that Dario Saric may have fouled you here. But the flop isn’t going to work that well in the playoffs, when referees start allowing more contact. Just do the one job: box out Saric.
To be clear, Favors isn’t alone… Gobert has to be stronger here too, using his lower body to move Deandre Ayton a little bit.
2. Jazz bigs help on outside, but no one helps on the glass.
With how talented the Suns are from mid-range, you have to contest their shots. That means the big man will sometimes have to do it if the perimeter player gets caught up on the screen.
But once that switch happens, the other Jazzmen have to be ready to help on the boards with aggression — even foul if you have to. Donovan Mitchell, in the end, just watches this one… he neither goes for the rebound nor gets his body into Ayton. It’s a pick and roll, so he has to know Ayton is there… pull a Kyle Lowry and get your butt into him!
This might be the single biggest thing preventing the Jazz from switching more, because Gobert and Favors are actually pretty decent perimeter defenders in isolation. But if they can’t rebound, it doesn’t matter if they miss.
In particular, Bogdanovic and Ingles need to do better. Two 6-8 guys played a combined 67 minutes and got a combined two rebounds in a game where the Jazz obviously and desperately needed rebounding effort.
3. Not enough perimeter defense
Royce O’Neale was in foul trouble, so this blow-by is more understandable. But to a certain degree, when you let Devin Booker drive past you that easily, that forces Gobert to rotate. And Bojan Bogdanovic has an impossible job after that, trying to prevent the kickout to Jae Crowder in the corner and prevent Ayton from rebounding.
That’s why Quin Snyder puts such an emphasis on staying attached to your man. It means that Gobert doesn’t necessarily have to leave Ayton, which means he has a much better chance of getting the rebound himself.
4. Unlucky bounces
No team gets every rebound. Sometimes, it happens to be a long rebound to the center who was drafted No. 1 due to his generational length and athleticism.
This is one big concern with the Jazz — can they rebound in the playoffs, when every ball is going to be contested with gusto? O’Neale’s foul trouble clearly played a part; he’s really their only good rebounding wing. But Ingles, Bogdanovic, Mitchell and Clarkson have to do more.
For what it’s worth, both Bogdanovic and Mitchell acknowledged that when we spoke to them after the game; they were disappointed in their own rebounding performances. Tonight, it was the difference.
2. Bogdanovic’s hesitation
In basketball Twitter parlance, we call this a record scratch.
He’s open the whole way, even raising his hand to call the for the ball. He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. And then when he catches it… skreeeeeeeeet! He’s brings the rotation to a halt!
He does get the shot up in the end, but by that time, his timing is all off, and it’s a contested look.
Bogdanovic is a vastly different shooter this year if he’s open or not. If there’s not a defender within six feet (as I think there wouldn’t have been if he just shoots the ball immediately), he’s a 50.5% 3-point shooter. It’s as good as a shot can be, efficiency wise. It’s not quite cash money you can take to the bank, but you might start taking your $1.50 points per possession and grabbing the keys on your way out the door to go buy some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at 7-11.
Once that defender is within six feet? Well, he’s only a 32% 3-point shooter. You stay on your couch.
Again, this was something Bogdanovic admitted after the game, saying “Those are the type of shots that we’ve got to take right away. It’s going to be it’s going to be a better percentage for us. I was — I was hesitant. That’s why I missed it.”
Now, the good news for Bogdanovic is that he did have a very good game inside the arc, attacking Jae Crowder with repeated success. I never thought the Jazz would be able to say that was a big reason they stayed close, but it was.
3. Honestly, some pretty promising things, too
There are other things you could point to in this game as things the Jazz could have done better. Again, transition defense continues to be the No. 1 bellwether stat for the Jazz, and again, they were a poor transition defensive team tonight. Jordan Clarkson’s in a slump and made poor decisions, and Conley couldn’t score. Even Mitchell’s second half was scintillating, but his first half showed still some definite deficits.
And yet, there’s some stuff to be excited about. That was the Jazz’s worst 3-point shooting game of the season — yes, even on Monday, they shot better than 25% from deep. You’d also expect them to shoot better than 66% from the free-throw line, and maybe a different ref crew bites on more of those offensive rebounding flops they tried.
They clearly were effective at bothering the Suns’ mid-range game. It didn’t feel that way at times, but I thought Ingles and Conley did a good job of staying attached at times, and Favors and Gobert contested some shots, especially late. And overall, the Suns shot below their percentage from there. They forced Devin Booker into a rough shooting night. Mikal Bridges lit up the Jazz in Game 1, and was a complete non-factor tonight.
Both of the Jazz’s last two games against top-2 conference opposition have been road overtime losses — neither indicated that the Jazz were frauds by any stretch. Better refereeing means the Jazz win the first, better 3-point shooting means the Jazz win this one. I guess you can be concerned about not pulling out the win, but they still have another chance to beat the Suns later in the season.
Thanks to a difficult Suns road trip coming up, the Jazz are still overwhelmingly favored to be the No. 1 seed, even if they lose that game too.
Look, I’m not trying to make this a moral victory here. The Jazz lost, they lost because of things they didn’t do, and they should fix those things. But it’s not like the Jazz have been exposed as frauds here. They got out to a slow start, and then punched back rather than capitulating. They didn’t win, but one loss doesn’t define a regular season.
Heck, a regular season doesn’t even define a regular season — in the NBA, it’s all about the playoffs, baby.