12 February 2012
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
The Jazz have hit the skids losing three in a row with their back-to-back-to-back of the compressed season looming large, and it's a puzzling matter to pinpoint where exactly they've gone wrong of late.
Some want to pin it on the starting bigs for not defending, but is this fair when opposing point guards have either strolled through a perimeter saloon door defense and into the paint, breaking down the D in doing so, or just plain been hot from mid-range as Russell Westbrook was?
David Locke, statistical-search guru, breaks down the numbers at Locked On Jazz here, but no one has solved the puzzle yet. Is it simply scouting by the opposition that has stalled out what was the most potent frontcourt to start the season, in Al Jefferson-plus-Paul Millsap, allowing teams to pack the paint and dare Utah to bang from range, something they haven't been able to do outside of a revitalized Raja Bell?
Maybe. But I've found another piece to said puzzle. And it's a doozy.
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What's happened during this three-game skid is the Jazz's turnover rate is simply dreadful. Utah is turning it over in the last three games at a higher rate than the worst team in the league do, the Detroit Pistons, while at the same time Jazz opponents are turning it over at a lesser rate than the league-leading Boston Celtics do.
Over the last three games the Jazz:
• Have turned it over 18.3% of the time, that's nearly one in every five possessions, a worse rate than the league's worst of 17.8% for the season
• Have not forced turnovers, letting opponents flourish on offense with the ball by forcing turnovers only 16.3% of the time, less than the league-leader at taking care of the ball, at 16.6%
• The Jazz have been one of the best in the league this season in both categories until the last three games, 5th-best at taking care of the ball and 9th-best at forcing opponents to cough it up
What we've got here is a stretch of carelessness with the precious rock coupled with a coinciding stretch of failing to do their due diligence on defense, creating a perfect storm that's caused them to sabotage their own efforts to win a ballgame. Defense of the turnover variety not only stunts opposing offensive abilities, but also often creates transition opportunities, and when that happens too often a defense gets gassed much sooner for having to scramble to get back and play catch-up all game long. It's incredibly hard to finish a game as it is this season, let alone contributing to your own demise in this way. Opponents have found an easier path to victory by using their defense to create offense.
This is one of the biggest contributors to the Jazz's demise of late, and they must turn this around first if they are to win many more ballgames this year. Here is the Jazz's turnover rates on the season, courtesy BasketballReference.com. I suggest scrolling down to the Advanced Stats section and viewing the rate under the TOV% column, as this is the most accurate way to equalize for the different minutes played among players, especially since minutes on the Jazz are so spread out compared to most other teams.
Let's see if they can manage to cinch up their belts and rectify this egregious aberration sometime soon, in time to right the ship before it's too late and the season is sunk.
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