Mexico City • Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 96-89 loss to the Orlando Magic from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz can’t put the orange sphere into the orange ring
The Jazz had an effective field goal percentage of 35.4 tonight.
There have been only two worse shooting games by any NBA team all season long. One was by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the depths of their Jimmy Butler-inspired drama on Nov. 4, they had a 34.9% eFG. The very worst game all season long was by the Jazz, of course, in their 50-point loss to the Mavericks. Their eFG that night was 34.6%.
So this was only 0.8 percentage points better than that. That feels about right: the Jazz couldn’t make anything. Early on, they couldn’t make threes or jump shots. Donovan Mitchell caught a pass in the corner for a three and had no Magic player even on his side of the court, and had so much time that he even took a dribble to get himself in rhythm. He missed.
Kyle Korver, even, was 1-8 from the field. This is a traditional Korver look, and it’s pretty open for him. It wasn’t even close.
Okay, so what do you do when you’re missing threes? You go inside, take shots at the rim. But it turns out that the Jazz were horrendous at that too, shooting just 12-32 (37 percent) on shots within three feet of the rim. Derrick Favors had half of those makes, so we’ll excuse him. The rest of the Jazz, though? Making 6 layups on all of those attempts? In a whole game? It’s a just shocking performance.
It would be easier to explain the shooting away as altitude or travel-related if this hadn’t happened before, but as you saw earlier, it has. But an NBA team just can’t shoot this badly in an individual game and have a chance to win.
2. Scoring from turnovers
The loss was especially frustrating because the Magic tried their very hardest to take it for themselves, by simply just giving the Jazz the ball over and over again early in the game. The Magic had 11 (!) turnovers in the first quarter. The Jazz scored three points off of those turnovers, and 14 points in the whole period. That’s not going to get it done.
This play happened in the third quarter, but it’s a good example of what was happening. The Jazz got a steal, great! But because Favors ended up with the ball and just stopped, while no one went to get it. That let the Magic flow back on defense like it was a made basket.
“I think a lot of it is just focus, getting turnovers and sprinting to get out in transition. We just kind of stopped," Mitchell said. "We’ve done it in spurts, and in certain games, but we haven’t been able to do it on a continual basis.”
This is where altitude might have played its biggest role: the Jazz seemingly didn’t want to run. But with the way Snyder managed his rotations on Saturday, giving Jazz players shorter stints, they should have been giving more of an effort to get up and down the floor.
3. The Mexico experience
Despite the loss, this trip has been the most fun I’ve had on the beat traveling with the team. Mexico City has such a fun and unique culture, and getting to experience it for even just a couple of days has been a real treat.
A couple of cool things to share. First, I went to Estadio Azteca, the site of the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals, for the first leg of the Mexican league finals between Cruz Azul and Club America. There, 80,000 fans cheered for the two clubs from Mexico City, with back-and-forth chanting and heckling throughout. It was an experience to remember.
The world-famous Museo de Antropologia in Mexico City was fascinating, too. Mexico City was built directly on top of an ancient city: in 1978, they found the Aztec High Temple just two blocks away from the main city square, Zócalo, and in 2011 a “major ceremonial cache” was found under the Manuel Gamio plaza. The result is one of the most complete and fascinating museums I’ve ever been to, with so many interesting exhibits and artifacts.
Back to basketball: the NBA is clearly trying to establish a foothold here with these Global Games, and commissioner Adam Silver has said they intend to open a G-League franchise here.
Could it work? I think so. The G-League season is more sparse than the NBA’s, with fewer games. Therefore, the trip to Mexico should have less of an impact on the game than it did with the two NBA teams. It’s also not the worst thing in the world for the uber-fast and frenetic G-League game to have to slow down a little.
I’m a little bit skeptical about a fully-fledged NBA franchise, though. That team would be at such a travel disadvantage, but an altitude advantage. It would go like 31-10 at home and 10-31 on the road. Both games were announced sellouts, and Saturday’s was legitimate, but for Thursday’s, there were definitely pockets of empty seats. I wonder if even this city of 20 million people has the interest, or the availability, to fill an the NBA stadium 41 times a year. Maybe they would for a team they could call their own.
Regardless, this was an excellent place to host a regular season game, and it really did have a tremendous atmosphere. I look forward to when the Jazz come back here.