The Triple Team: Andy Larsen’s analysis of a last-minute Jazz loss to the Miami Heat

Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio (3) dribbles to the basket past the Miami Heat defense during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec 2, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 102-100 loss to the Miami Heat from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Jazz lose by 1 possession in very close game

“Very close game, you say? But the Jazz were up by 19!" I know these are the words you’re saying. But it’s true: the second half of that game had nine ties, 11 lead changes, and only two minutes where the game was separated by more than one shot. And neither team ever had more than a six-point lead in the second half, every possession mattered greatly.

For a team that’s at the end of a 3-game road trip, and at the end of a 12-game stretch which featured games in 11 different cities, that’s really rough. It didn’t give them a chance to breathe. Normally, the Jazz try to play Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert about 35 minutes per game, but tonight Snyder pulled 37:40 and 37:15 out of both because he needed to in the second half — Mitchell only had a 3:36 break, while Gobert had a 5:30 break. I think that was the right call, though, because the Jazz really needed them.

And when a game is that close for that long, so many plays are so important. The missed Mitchell three at the end, the Wade free-throws, the missed Mitchell layup, and all of that obviously mattered. But I also think of two Wayne Ellington threes, in which Joe Ingles was supposed to be guarding Ellington closer to prevent exactly what happened. Ingles just loses him here. He’s not helping, he just loses focus.

Or this Josh Richardson offensive rebound, which if the Jazz get instead, allows them to set up a 2-for-1 in better circumstances than the 3 seconds they got late.

Or this Gobert alley-oop, which just slips through his hands:

Of course, there were the same number of good things that the Jazz did to set themselves up: Rubio’s great performance, Quin Snyder’s playcalling, and even Mitchell’s shotmaking were big factors that got the Jazz in a position to win. But mistakes big and small cost the Jazz a winnable game in the end.

2. Let’s talk about refereeing

Gobert was clearly unhappy about the officiating in tonight’s game. Here’s the full quote, from beginning to end, when Gobert was asked about whether he thought the game’s final and defining whistle was a good one.

"I just want it to be consistent, at one point. Every night is the same shit. Every night has been the same shit. If you call something one way, you have to call it the other way. Once they start doing that, I'm going to have a little more respect. I'm just tired of it. Every game is the same. We're a small market and we know it. But they gotta be more consistent. It's not even personal, they're doing their job. We all make mistakes. I make mistakes. Tonight we made a lot of mistakes, we could have won this game anyway.

They can’t be deciding the issue of a game just like that. If you call a foul on the play on D. Wade, Donovan got pushed harder right before. And he’s not Dwyane Wade, it’s fine. But just respect us, as competitors, as players. I sacrifice everything to do this job, and I would like to be respected as a basketball player."

The “small market” part of the quote will be the headliner, but I don’t think that part of it is supported by the evidence. For example, 538 did a study last year that showed that the Brooklyn Nets were the league’s most disadvantaged team in the NBA’s Last Two Minute reports, and Brooklyn certainly isn’t a small market. I did a study of the same thing two years ago, and while the Jazz were at the bottom then, they were tied with big-market Philadelphia.

And in general, the Jazz have been sent to the line about 4.1 times more frequently per 100 possessions than their opponents this season. Some of that is the Jazz’s tendency to lose games by big margins: there’s no reason to foul late when you’re down big. But I think, with the evidence I’ve seen, it’s hard to say that the Jazz are by-and-large being unfairly officiated.

Tonight was a little bit rough though, in my opinion. Gobert was called for a hanging-on-the-rim technical foul, while the Heat hung on the rim later for similar lengths of time with no whistle. That’s always a judgment call, but one I’d wish they had the judgment not to call. The referees called shooting fouls on jump shots for Wade, but not for Mitchell after Whiteside landed in his landing area here.

And finally, it did seem like the refs did allow the game to be played physically, except for some ticky-tack fouls which sent Joe Ingles to the bench with foul trouble.

To me, the biggest refereeing issues came early. The late whistles, I think the referees largely got right, except for I do think Mitchell was slightly pushed on his drive to the basket with 32 seconds left.

When every play matters, though, each call matters too. Overall, though, the Jazz cannot let officiating be an excuse for not winning games like tonight’s.

3. Bench can’t lose a 19-point lead

In the list of things that will cost you a basketball game, here’s an easy one: if you hand your bench a 19-point lead, they shouldn’t lose literally all of it.

But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday night. Gobert subbed out with the Jazz at the 1:57 mark of the 1st quarter, with the Jazz enjoying a 17-point lead, 33-16. On the next possession, Raul Neto scored a layup. And after that, they didn’t score for another eight minutes and seven seconds.

Guess what happened then, though: Gobert checked in, with the score at 35 a piece. And while the scoring didn’t immediately start, the run immediately stopped: Miami would only score one more point (a technical foul) for the next four minutes.

Favors' -19 is ugly, but so is Korver’s -18. Watching that stretch, I actually thought the Jazz’s defense was mostly okay — the run involved plenty of tough Miami shots. But the offense was really, really awful, as the Jazz ran up against the shot clock nearly every time. In particular, Korver didn’t take any shots in the Miami run until the game was tied, as the defense felt free to focus on hm and leave, say, Royce O’Neale alone.

Snyder made some changes to the bench in the second half, including playing Dante Exum over Raul Neto. Mostly, though, the bench just played better in the second half when they needed to, with more pressure on them. It’s easier said than done, but playing with consistent force on offense is so important for this Jazz team. If they go through the motions, they can’t get good looks.