In the Jazz’s two losses this week, forward Derrick Favors stayed on the bench through the fourth quarter and overtime at Milwaukee and was on the court in the last eight minutes when the team blew an 12-point lead at Cleveland.
So maybe Favors is not the issue.
Factoring in last week’s overtime loss to Boston, there’s a more consistent thread to these defeats: Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin’s mismanagement of Gordon Hayward.
Corbin likes having Hayward on the court in the fourth quarter — and who wouldn’t? But the pattern of Hayward’s playing time creates a problem. Because he’s not starting Hayward, Corbin sends him into the game midway through the third quarter. That means Hayward is playing about 17 consecutive minutes — or more, in overtime games.
There’s an extra media timeout in the fourth quarter, which mitigates that long stretch. But it’s evident that fatigue inevitably affects Hayward, who recently missed 10 games with a shoulder injury. If not for wearing down at the end, Hayward may have made the shots he missed against Boston, defended better in overtime at Milwaukee and finished stronger at Cleveland, where he missed a free throw and lost the ball in the last two minutes.
Overall, Hayward has been the Jazz’s best player since he returned to action, but not at the end of games, when he ordinarily is dependable. Corbin has to find a way to spread out Hayward’s second-half minutes to get the most out of him.
One other observation: Tonight’s game at Chicago might be the biggest of the season to date. The Jazz almost certainly will lose Saturday at New York, so if they lose to the Bulls and look bad in the process, their season will be in danger of collapsing.
Obviously, this week would have a much different look if Paul Millsap had made another free throw at Milwaukee and Mo Williams’ layup had fallen at Cleveland, but the fact is the Jazz are reeling and their mistakes are being magnified.
They panicked in the last two minutes Wednesday, when their offense did not produce anything resembling a good shot, until Williams’ burst in the last few seconds. That’s Corbin’s fault.
Corbin’s responsibility is to find a way for his team to finish games better, starting tonight.