The Triple Team: Andy Larsen’s analysis of the Kings out-hustling the Jazz to win at the end

(Rich Pedroncelli | AP) Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, right, shouts about a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. The Kings won 102-101.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 102-101 loss to the Sacramento Kings from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. The will to win

There might not be a worse clichè in sports than a game being decided by a team’s “will to win.” Honestly, so few games are decided by this factor in comparison to shotmaking, or coaching decisions, or talent, or a million other things that go into an NBA game.

Also, have you met NBA players? (I freely admit that this answer may be no for many of you.) They’re brokenly competitive people: it’s one of the core traits required to dedicate the practice hours that make average basketball players into NBA-level guys. They would bite their own arm off to win a match of Hungry Hungry Hippos against a group of kindergartners, if that would help get the victory somehow. Overall, they are all going to try their hardest to win no matter what, just because that’s the way they’re wired.

And yet, I must admit that tonight’s Kings/Jazz game was in large part determined by the fact that the Kings really wanted to win this game more than the Jazz did. It mattered more to them: the Kings desperately wanted to show that they weren’t the team that got blown out last weekend, and that they were going to at least win one game this season.

The game-winning points were the most notable example: Bojan Bogdanovic looks at Harrison Barnes three times before deciding “nah, it’s fine, I’ll just go stand here and hope the rebound falls to me.” Instead, Barnes crashes and beats him to the ball.

But I also have to blame Rudy Gobert here too. Gobert is the Jazz’s best rebounder by a huge margin. Why is he so content to stand 10 feet away? He even steps away from the basket! Why, Rudy?

This play was the perfect microcosm of a lot of other Jazz “eh” moments Friday night. Ed Davis looks at Dewayne Dedmon three times before allowing him to beat him to the ball. Sound familiar?

I think Emmanuel Mudiay actually tried to box out Richaun Holmes here ... for exactly .1 seconds before he gave up and then drifted off into the corner.

Did you know that the NBA tracks box outs? They do! The Kings had 21 marked boxouts tonight, while the Jazz had 11. Did you know that the NBA tracks loose ball recoveries? They do! The Kings had nine, the Jazz had four. At some level, the Jazz just have to try harder than this.

2. BoCoDoGoJo nearly wins the game for the Jazz

I don’t know if BoCoDoGoJo is the best name for the Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Joe Ingles lineup, but it’s the one that I know of right now. It does fit, and is fun to say, especially five times fast.

That lineup played just over eight minutes tonight and outscored the Kings by a 23-9 margin when it was on the floor. That was especially true down the stretch, as the Jazz got multiple stops and scores to turn a 9-point deficit into a 1-point lead until the Barnes putback with 2.9 seconds left.

I understand why the Jazz don’t start the lineup: Ingles is a valuable second-unit piece, Royce O’Neale generally fits in better with the starters (though he had a poor night tonight), and in general, the already shallow bench might get a little bit rough if they started their five best players.

But it is a fearsome offensive lineup. It’s four shooters around perhaps the league’s best screener in Gobert, and all four guys can dribble, pass, and shoot well. It seems to be effective on defense as well, thanks to Gobert’s presence next to four decent to good perimeter defenders.

The only question is the rebounding, which we saw might be a problem. (I should note that Barnes’ final basket wasn’t BoCoDoGoJo, but BoDoGoJoRo, as Snyder substituted O’Neale for Conley for defense on the game’s final play.) O’Neale is a better rebounder than Bogdanovic or Ingles. Coming into tonight, the Jazz were the best defensive rebounding team in the league, though that obviously wasn’t the case tonight.

3. No timeouts left?

Somehow, despite leading the whole game, the Kings ran out of timeouts with 6:36 left in the 4Q.

Kings coach Luke Walton only had one timeout remaining as he entered the fourth, leaving the Jazz with a trick to use. So long as the Jazz didn’t call timeout themselves until the seven minute mark of the 4th quarter, a TV timeout would be charged to the Kings at the first stoppage after the seven minute mark. And from there, they’d have no timeouts to use the rest of the game, nor could Walton use a coach’s challenge.

I actually think this made a difference: the Jazz’s run from nine points down to get back in the game likely would have been interrupted by a timeout at some point, but Walton was helpless to watch as they took the lead. There is some evidence that timeouts to stop a run have some value, as shown by Sam Permutt in his paper.

But the Kings also got a break to end the game. Gobert was whistled with a loose-ball foul after Mitchell’s layup that gave the Jazz a one-point lead with 11 seconds left. This meant that the Kings got a chance to call a play and communicate it to everyone in the dead time that ensued. Without that foul, maybe they don’t get as good of a shot to end the game. Even though Bjelica missed the look, open shots are offensive rebounded more frequently than contested ones.