A change in the starting lineup didn't have the desired effect so many had hoped it would. It was speculated, rather widely, that inserting Gordon Hayward for Andrei Kirilenko against the Philadelphia 76ers might give the Utah Jazz a shot in the arm. The lineup change came on the heels of a Deron Williams comment concerning head coach Jerry Sloan, the floor general saying, "It's never been his characteristics to change anything."
Despite the switch, the Jazz were typically out-scored in the first quarter, right on their season average, 26 to 22.
It wasn't the only tweak Sloan made either. It had been suggested that maybe tightening the rotation would make a difference as well. However, despite playing only nine players, instead of the usual eleven or twelve, there again was no difference to be found in the Jazz's efforts to break out of the startling slump they're in.
That's two popular suggestions down in the process of elimination in the quest to fix what's broken. As fans become increasingly restless their next suggestion in the ESA's comments box will surely become more seriously considered, or at least more loudly vocalized; make a trade.
I've said all along it's not a personnel problem, and I stand by that more than ever. Besides, what makes folks think yet another infusion of fresh blood will speed up the learning curve after the team already added seven fresh faces in the offseason?
It really begins and ends on the defensive end.
Through the first quarter of the season the Jazz were a top defensive team with a middling offense. They went 15-5.
Since then the script has been flipped. Now they are hovering around 6th in O-Rating and 17th in D-Rating, 12-12 since and on a heinous four-game slide with no end in sight. Clearly, the most glaring deficiency is on the defensive end of the 94 feet that comprise a basketball court. Here's how bad defensively they've actually been over the last five games, by position, highlighting noticeable areas.
Jazz opponents over last five games:
C 21.2 pts, 13.6 reb, 2.6 blk, .519 FG%, 8.4 FTAs, .619 FT%, +2.4 Differential Efficiency
PF 23.4 pts, 10.0 reb, 16.4 FGAs, .537 FG%, 6.0 FTAs, .833 FT% +3.6 Diff Eff
As for the Jazz over the same span, the C is putting up 20.4 pts on 15.4 FGAs, and 11.0 rebs, and the PF 22.4 on 16.4 FGAs, and 11.2 rebs, two 20/10'ers offensively. That should be enough offense from a frontcourt to win a game, provided a modicum of defense is being played. It's not.
As a team, over the last five games, the Jazz have given up the fourth-most points in the paint and second-most free throw attempts, 44.6 pts and 14.4 FTAs. Opposing teams are waltzing into the paint, leaving it with a smug smile and pile of points on their way out.
PG 20.0 pts, 10.6 ast, 5.6 TOs, -3.2 Diff Eff
Nice job by Deron to force the majority of the opposing turnovers comprising that 5.6-per-game. Unfortunately it's effectively negated by his own. The PG position for the Jazz has made 5.6 TOs of it's own over the sample span. "Jazz basketball" is comprised of staunch defense and execution on offense. We are seeing neither.
And those PPG and assist numbers should belong to Deron, not his opponent. The differential efficiency shows he's out-scoring his man. A perennial leader in the dimes category, while the Jazz as a team are putting up the third-most assists, they've also given up the second-most assists-per-game over the last five, 25.6. Again, the Jazz have made scoring too easy for their counterpart.
SF 17.4 pts, 2.6 TOs, 60% FG, 50% 3-PtFG, -1.4 Diff Eff
This is the only other position the Jazz actually have a positive differential efficiency in over the last five games. It's also the lowest scoring opposing position.
It also happens to be the position that most Jazz fans would like to see traded away, Andrei Kirilenko's starting spot until the last game. Since AK frequently slides to the 4-spot in the rotation he's only partially to blame for those poor opposing FG percentages. And when you take into account that the least actual damage to the Jazz's side of the scoreboard is being done here it makes less sense to point the finger at him as the problem or the lineup change solution.
SG 21.2 pts, 6.6 rebs, 6.6 ast, .953 FT% on 5.4 FTAs -12 Diff Eff (league worst over last 5)
OUCH. Shooting guards should not be getting that many rebounds or assists, especially when you take into account how many of the league's lame ducks the Jazz have played in the last five games, Cleveland, New Jersey, Washington, and Philadelphia.
And when we factor in the amount of points that the center, power forward, and shooting guards are giving up at the free throw line alone in the last five we find the Jazz putting themselves deep into a 15-point hole every game. Fifteen (15) opposing points-per-game just from freebies at only three positions! That's outrageous. It's an indication that the team is playing virtually no defense other than weakly swiping at the ball when they repeatedly get beat by their offender.
Yes, I said "offender." Because frankly, I'm offended by this atrocious defensive effort.
As a vocal defender of Raja Bell in the starting lineup, this analysis indicates that he and his 32 minutes-per-game over the last five needs to take a seat for a spell in favor of career-year-all-around CJ Miles, despite his recent team-high, and ever-improving 3-point shooting. The trade-off on defense is simply too stark, ironic for a guy brought in touted as a defender.
Of all the lineup changes that could be made, Sloan chose the one that statistically had the least impact and chance of actually improving the team. Not that it was on purpose, but in hindsight it wasn't a high-impact maneuver by any stretch.
If there's another to be made that might make a defensive impact on the team it's statistically-speaking Paul Millsap that needs to take a break. He'd no doubt sulk about it, but frankly, I'm sick of the slumped shoulders and whining anyway.
Your body language in a battle of any kind sends a loud and clear message to your opponent. You show 'em they've beat you like that and they smell blood in the water. Half the battle is already lost.
Deron wants the team to get it's "swagger" back. But swagger isn't a word, it's a state of being that makes the opposition think twice about challenging you. The entire team has taken it's lead from moody-Deron and begun giving their opponent an edge by physically showing them that they've been gotten to, that they're reeling. It's only a small step from there to the knock-out punch.
He, rightfully, wants to lead, and readily admits he's at a loss at times as how to go about doing so. Not letting your opponent see that they just got you down would be a start.
So would be doing a little more homework.
The Boston Celtics won their recent game with the Jazz exactly 3 minutes and 42 seconds into it. That's when Rajon Rondo forced Deron Williams into his second foul of the game, sending him to the bench.
Deron quipped after the game that the Celtics knew exactly what the Jazz were about to do offensively before they even got to running the play. How did they know?
Minutes before the game Rajon Rondo was seen intently studying frame-by-frame film of Deron Williams, specifically his offensive moves. He would also have realized that a Utah team that just lost two games to the dregs of the NBA would come out aggressive, ready to try and win back their confidence at the expense of his own mental well-being.
Armed with this in-depth knowledge and a sound game plan, Rondo focused all his efforts into shutting down the oppositions best player by beating him to his spots on the floor. He succeeded in mere moments, effectively winning the game for his 'mates less than four minutes in, allowing an elderly-in-NBA-terms Celtics squad to further their careers all the more, this time having been saved by Rondo from their biggest enemy at this point, time itself.
In other words, he did it with defense.
Everything else you get after that is icing.
Deron Williams halftime buzzer beater in Philadelphiano comments
UTAH JAZZ (27-16) at PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (17-25) Game #44 • Away Game #22 • Wells Fargo Center • PHILADELPHIA January 22, 2011 • 5:30 p.m. (MT) • TV: FSN Utah and NBATV RADIO: 1320 AM KFNZ/B98.7 FM and 1600 AM ESPN DEPORTE
Philly- Andres Nocioni (Right Middle Finger Fracture/Dislocation) is a GTD
The 76ers are 3-1 @ home against the Western Conference and have won two straight road games are sitting a half game out of the playoff picture right now.
The Jazz have won 16 of the last 18 games in this series, they sure as hell better win tonight.
Spencer- Deron either has it tonight or against L.A., but I think he is on the verge of a huge game or an ejection. He usually handles himself very well on the court and I expect tonight to be the game where he just goes off for 32 and 11 or something like that. Jazz win 112-98
Jake Jeppsen- Jazz will regroup. Need for defensive dominance, will lead to instant offense. Jazz win 101-95
Jimmy Bragg- Easy win. I say we win the first quarter and win the game by 25! Oh and Elson goes for double digits. Jazz win 113-88
Brendan Kenney- Well the Sixers suck so this is anyone's game.
Kalun Merrill- Jazz finally show up and win by 8. Dwill goes off for 28 and 12.
Scotty Mckell- If the Jazz want any piece or chance against the lakers they must beat the Sixers tonight. We have to get some time of silver lining out of this road trip. Confidence buildup starts tonight and the Jazz finish off the road trip with two wins, one tonight and one in L.A
Jerry Sloan has probably filled a palette of swear jars in the last few games. Al Jefferson literally doesn't know what to do. Deron Williams doesn't want to even talk about it anymore. And Utah Jazz fans are left searching for answers with ever-more radical personnel solutions. I've heard everything from "bench the entire starting unit" to "go get Carmelo Anthony." And they're dead serious about it.
That's not a good sign.
It's also not the problem, and therefore not the solution. It's like putting an Ace Bandage on a broken leg, or taking an aspirin for a heart attack. Ask Jerry Sloan and he'll say his squad lacks toughness, but the days of "just rub some dirt on it" are gone, replaced by leather sofas and sympathetic ears in a confidential setting that includes textured windows and a guy or gal you call "Doc."
What I'm getting at is that this Jazz team's problems are mental.
They have the talent. They've been given the tools. But for whatever inexplicable reason they refuse to use them for more than a few minutes at a time. Is it a lack of communication either on or off the court? It's been suggested, by Big Al, at least as far as on the court goes, and that's surely part of the problem.
Last season, when they started scraping the bottom of the barrel early in the season after getting shot down by the Boston Celtics like Mikhail Prokhorov shoots down distracting trade talks, an off-the-court impromptu dinner meeting was held, one that would act as a catalyst for a major turn-around. While they're once again down and in Beantown, it certainly couldn't hurt to get together as a team once again, off the court, since they clearly can't seem to do so on it.
It's now or never for the Jazz. They are fortunate to still be deadlocked with the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Northwest Division, but they won't be for long if they don't address their issues promptly; three of the next four games are against the elite of the NBA for the Jazz, while the Thunder are staring squarely at the soft underbelly of the league for most of the next month. (And don't look now, but the Denver Nuggets are re-focused and about to steamroll both clubs)
Having failed to make hay while the sun was shining, Utah must now, as David Locke put it, "steal cookies from the cookie jar," an unappealing prospect since the Jazz couldn't whip a tub of cream with an electric egg beater the way they've played over the last month, especially with a defense that has more holes in it than a pound of Cache Valley Swiss cheese.
I don't think this Jazz team knows who they are. They lack an identity, instead morphing into some bastardized version of whomever they happen to be playing on a given night. It seems like common sense that you aren't going to be any better than .500 when you don't have a will of your own to impose on the opposition, rather opting to try and beat them at their own game.
Deron wants to push the ball, but maybe that's not who they are. You have to pick your spots. His team-high usage rate is highest in the first quarter, even as the Jazz are one of the worst first quarter teams in the league. When they're successful they start the game inside-out, as the offense was designed to work and we saw in the recent victories versus the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Williams recently quipped that maybe the reality is that the Jazz are a .500 team who overachieved early on. Well, if that's true I can pinpoint an area that happens in.
When Deron has 10 or more assists the Jazz are 16-4. When he has under that they are 11-11, exactly .500. In wins this season, Williams averages 10.5 dimes and 1.6 three-point field goal attempts, compared to 7.6 dimes and 2.3 three-point tries per game, in losses.
He wants badly to put the team on his back and carry them to the promised land. However, in the current era of superteams that's simply not going to happen. You gotta have help. And he does, if he's willing to use it.
Williams is rightfully the leader of the team, but he has yet to grow fully into the role. Case in point, every time he's asked after a loss what changes should be made. Every time --every single time-- he defers to Jerry Sloan, saying "you'd have to ask him about that." It comes across as distant and petulant. If you can't go to your coach when you have a basketball-related problem who can you go to?
Are we to believe that Sloan would turn him away if Deron approached him as a floor general, the role he's in, that Sloan would hang up the proverbial phone when Williams asked him?
This team isn't on the same page right now. Hell, they're not even in the same library.
Even she is laughing at how bad we played last night.
The Jazz lost their second straight game to lottery teams. If you watched, I am sorry. If you didn't, be thankful. Anger, frustration, and sarcasm filled twitter last night.
Deron continues to blast the team in the media with this comment.
Like most Jazz fans I don't have all the answers, but have tons of questions. Anger is the cause of this short, negative, post.
Here is the rest of the Crew's thoughts
Craig- It was a DAMN Disgrace!!! I felt like I was watching Monday's game all over again.
Spencer- Paul Millsap where are you?
Scotty- This could be that moment in the season where the jazz need to regroup and start playing more together than ever. These losses are totally unnecessary, They can do better and must if they want to progress in the West.
Brenden- I am not Angry.. I am just disappointed (sounds like a mom after her daughter gets home from prom night, the next morning).
Jimmy- "Honestly, we played like horse shit." I love that Jimmy was so specific here, not dog shit or just plain shit shit but horse shit. I think all jazz fans would agree.
A Good Read for Sports Fans
AK is at number 76
Karl Malone at 26
The Russian Edition
Bloguin Nets Blog http://www.whoopdedamndo.com/
Read his open letter to the Nets Owner.
UTAH JAZZ (27-14) at NEW JERSEY NETS (10-31) Game #42 • Away Game #20 • Prudential Center • East Rutherford, N.J. January 19, 2011 • 5 p.m. (MT) • TV: FSN Utah RADIO: 1320 AM KFNZ/B98.7 FM and 1600 AM ESPN DEPORTE
• Damion James (broken right foot),
Anthony Morrow (strained right hamstring)
Troy Murphy (illness) are out
It is Russian Night tonight in New Jersey owner Mikhail Prokorov will be in the house and AK will be on stage for the New York Media.
Matchup of the Night
The Nets bench has outscored their opponent's bench in seven straight games. I imagine that most of this is due to the starting five putting up horrible numbers 55 ppg. The Jazz starting five is averaging 76.2. This game should be over before the fourth quarter, however Vegas has the spread at Jazz by 6.5 with the Nets getting 3 points for being at home. The Jazz need to outrebound the Nets and run their sets. When the Jazz run the flex @clintonite33 they win basketball games. Period.
Derek Fisher has the longest active games streak in the NBA. Ugg
Deron and Al are the second best PG/C duo in the league 38.6
Rose takes over as the best PG in the league?
Our thoughts VIA Text
Spencer- Jazz 104 Nets 93 the spread has it close than this but I have a hard time seeing the Nets score more than 95 points.
Jimmy- This game is the difference between a successful road trip and a five game losing streak.
Jake- Boils down to execution, as seems to be the reocurring theme. If Jazz play inside out, relying on each other for screens and cutters...double digit win.