CHICAGO — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 95-86 loss against the Chicago Bulls from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz shut off in fourth quarter, lose game
Certainly, the Jazz weren't good in the second and third quarters of the game in Chicago Saturday night, being outscored 45-41. But thanks to a good performance in the first, the Jazz still entered the fourth with a 3-point lead, and even with nine minutes left, the Jazz had a 4-point lead.
If the Jazz can survive until the starting unit comes in, they're usually good from there to finish off a win. Tonight, though, that wasn't the case: once the starters came back in for the Jazz, Chicago went on a 23-13 run to finish off the game.
Both sides of the floor were worrying. On offense, the Jazz had so many possessions where they didn't get inside the arc until very, very late in the shot clock. The Bulls were going under every screen in order to force that, but the Jazz never made any counters: they didn't get great looks from outside, nor did they relocate the screen to try to get contact. That makes it really difficult to score, and we saw that down the stretch.
Defensively, the Jazz weren't strong enough on the ball, nor with their help. It seemed like they were the Bulls played more physically than the Jazz, which is very worrying, given that the Bulls were on the second night of a back-to-back and the Jazz were fresh. That's what worried head coach Quin Snyder the most, that the Jazz gave up a 34-point fourth quarter, and it didn't include any "try to catch up" free throws for the Bulls.
Postgame, the Jazz gave the Bulls a lot of credit for their shotmaking, especially Bobby Portis (who had a career high 22 points), Denzel Valentine (had 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds), and Michael Carter-Williams. But that the Jazz were being beaten by those guys isn't especially promising.
It's a bad loss to a team that had lost seven of their last eight, and was without a major threat in Dwyane Wade. Now, the Jazz have to win Monday against Indiana to salvage a 2-2 road trip that could have been more.
2. Dribbling the air out of the ball
Everyone has loved what veterans George Hill and Joe Johnson have brought to the Jazz this year. There's no doubt: the Jazz wouldn't be in the fourth seed of the Western Conference without them, and they've come through countless times in important moments.
But I think it's fair to point out when they play poorly as well. In particular, I felt they held onto the ball for way too long for portions of tonight's game, limiting the number of actions the Jazz could use in their possessions and just generally being very easy to defend.
Hill's stat line is great: 18 points on just 11 shots, seven rebounds, four assists. But I don't think it's a coincidence that he was a -12 tonight. Too frequently, Hill would just go around screens and find that his defender had just gone under the screen. Given that he can't push off very well with the state of his toe, he didn't attack the paint, instead just dribbling and trying again.
We've seen that very consistently from Johnson this year, albeit due to age-related decline of speed rather than injury. Usually, Johnson makes enough shots to make up for it, but on Saturday, he was just 3-12 shooting for only eight points. He also had a plus-minus of -12.
There's a lot of talk about the benefits of the veterans slowing the game down, "not getting sped up", and making the right choice with the ball. But sometimes, the game needs to be sped up in order for you to have a chance to win. For example, down seven points with two minutes left, you can't wait until the shot clock is down to two seconds to get a difficult look.
It's a tricky balance. If you go too fast, you can play like Alec Burks sometimes does, wildly out of control. But too slow also has its own set of problems, as the Jazz found out tonight.
3. Jazz winning the boards
One real positive of tonight's game was the battle of the boards: the Jazz won 49-39, including having 17 offensive rebounds to the Bulls' seven total.
I usually hate quoting rebound totals like that because generally, there's a reason for the discrepancy that usually has more to do with opportunity than execution. And you'd think that tonight would be the perfect example of that: after all, the Jazz were missing more shots, so of course they were getting more offensive rebounds. But that they got 10 more offensive rebounds on only eight more missed FGs really is something.
SportVu's rebound tracking numbers give us an even better look: the Jazz had 30 times when a ball fell within 3.5 feet of them on offense, and got 17 of them. That's great! Compare that with the Bulls 24 times the ball fell within 3.5 feet of their player on an offensive rebound, they only got seven of those.
And then the defensive rebounding tells the same story: the Bulls had 66 times when the ball fell close to their man, compared to only 46 times for the Jazz in defensive rebounding situations. The Jazz got the ball 70 percent of the time when that happened, and the Bulls only got it 48 percent of the time on their defensive end.
Alas, the Bulls converted every single one of their offensive rebound chances: they had 16 second chance points on only seven offensive rebounds! That's crazy! Meanwhile, the Jazz turned their 17 offensive boards into 21 points: good, but not great.
So while the rest of the gameplan didn't go so great, the Jazz do deserve credit for that part of the action, at least.