Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 95-86 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. A stilted offensive performance, to say the least
After an abysmal first half in which they only scored 37 points, I figured they’d go into the locker room, figure out some of their offensive issues, and come out and play differently in the third quarter.
It actually went the other way. For whatever reason, the Jazz played hesitant, tentative, sloppy basketball all game long. It’s hard to win with 23 turnovers. Here are 20 of them; one was a team turnover, and two didn’t have videos on NBA.com.
Here’s a fun fact: if you go to BennyHillifier.com, you can get any video sped up with Yakety Sax playing in the background. It’s proof that we live in the future. Here’s the specific link for this video, if you’re so inclined.
The Jazz were the fourth-worst team in the league in terms of committing turnovers last year. But by replacing Ricky Rubio with Mike Conley, it’s probably fair to expect one fewer turnover per game — Rubio averaged 3.4 per 36 minutes, while Conley had just 2.0 per 36. Snyder’s system might ask Conley to make more reads, so let’s guesstimate just one turnover per game difference. That in itself would have bumped the Jazz 10 spots higher in the turnover rankings.
Conley had four tonight, though, as he continues his poor early-season play. He explained the offensive struggles, saying “We’re all just trying to make the right plays and make the right reads, and tonight I thought we were just out of sync.”
That’s what it feels like to me, too. Everyone is trying to get everyone else involved at the expense of their own play, and while you admire the selflessness, someone at some point needs to score the ball. Mitchell got closest tonight, but even he had some bad early turnovers where he passed up layups to feed his teammates.
To be honest, we expected this, right? During the offseason, we talked about how Conley might struggle to work with Rudy Gobert early, and how it would take time for this team to gel offensively, and so on. The preseason convinced us that the offense was ready now, but really, success mostly came against the two iffy opponents, the Pelicans and the Kings. A late 4th quarter Georges Niang comeback saved the Portland scoreline, and the Jazz’s offense didn’t look great against Milwaukee.
Speaking of the Kings, it’s probably good that the Jazz are playing them tomorrow. Assuming they’re up to their old iffy-defense ways, it could be a tonic for Utah.
2. Bench busts vs. LA
The Jazz’s bench didn’t bring it tonight. The two largest Laker runs were the 10-0 run at the end of the first quarter and the 16-4 one at the end of the third. Those are bench times.
Here’s how Quin Snyder used his bench tonight, with Bojan Bogdanovic out. Graphic from PopcornMachine.net, you may have to click on it to zoom in and read it.
So Snyder took Joe Ingles and Mike Conley out early, so he could put them in later in the quarter with the second unit. Royce O’Neale, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Georges Niang roll for a little bit with Mitchell and Gobert, then Ingles and Conley come in.
That makes a lot of sense: you should be able to survive the first group because your two best players — Mitchell and Gobert — are in the game. And the second group features two outstanding playmakers in Conley and Ingles.
Except that Conley isn’t good right now, for whatever reason, and the Lakers never left Ingles. But they were very willing to help off Mudiay and Niang, and those players didn’t make the opposition pay.
Is the bench performance a concern? Well, I was worried about it in my season preview, but this plan certainly looks like it should mitigate some of those concerns: having Mitchell, or both Ingles and Conley out there at all times should be sufficient to keep the offense flowing. Bogdanovic should as well. Really, Friday night’s stinker in scoring was about Conley’s lack of contribution, and if that doesn’t change, the Jazz have bigger problems than their bench production.
3. Losing the rebounding battle
Believe it or not, the Lakers actually shot the ball worse than the Jazz did tonight. They just also had 16 more shots.
Usually, when you see that, there’s a free-throw discrepancy. One team is getting their points by getting to the line, and misses on shooting fouls aren’t counted in the FGA bucket. But tonight, the Lakers actually took more trips to the line than the Jazz did, 24-21.
The biggest difference was the turnovers; 23 to 14. We’ve already discussed that. But not helping matters was their rebounding deficit: the Lakers got 11 offensive rebounds, while the Jazz only had three.
Remember, the Jazz were the second-best defensive rebounding team in the league last year, though Derrick Favors was a huge part of that. Watching the Lakers’ 11 offensive rebounds, there’s no one reason for them, and certainly, some were unlucky.
But there is a consistent size problem that the Jazz faced, too. A few times, Anthony Davis or Javale McGee just snatched the rebound over Mitchell or O’Neale, even as those guys battled down low. Life would have been much tougher for those two giants had Jeff Green or Joe Ingles been going for those rebounds, but honestly, both of those guys have been poor rebounders in their careers.
It’s possible, maybe even likely, that the Jazz will slip a few slots in rebounding rate this season. I suppose the good news is that most teams don’t start two seven-footers next to each other. But in the Jazz’s next matchup against the Lakers, they’ll need to have a better five-man defensive rebounding effort.