CHICAGO — Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz's 103-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Inconsistent Jazz effort gives Bulls chance to win
It wasn't that the Jazz didn't play well during Wednesday's game, it was that they didn't consistently play well. It's just that, for a few minutes at different times of the game, the Jazz did each of those things really, really catastrophically. And so they never had a dominant run that would have won the game, and they pretty consistently trailed the Bulls.
For a majority of the game, the Jazz did what they wanted on the defensive end of the court: forced the Bulls to take tough contested looks, from mid-range or elsewhere. The first six minutes of the game when the Bulls only scored eight, the Bulls' 19-point second quarter, the stretch to end the fourth quarter when the Bulls were forced into fadeaway mid-range jumpers all qualify.
It's just that for other segments, the Jazz weren't impactful enough while defending on the perimeter, letting the Bulls take easier looks from the perimeter or, sometimes getting beat to the basket on backdoors or straight-line drives. So overall, you can't say it was a good defensive performance.
For a majority of the game, the Jazz rebounded the ball extremely well, allowing only four Bulls offensive rebounds through the first three quarters. It's just that they allowed five offensive boards in the fourth quarter, at some of the most critical points in the game.
And on the offensive end, the Jazz played well for most of the game, especially during the 25 minutes when Rodney Hood was available. During those stretches, the Jazz scored 110 points per 100 possessions. Unfortunately, things weren't as bright when Hood wasn't available. Donovan Mitchell was great, scoring 32 points, but the Jazz only had a 90 offensive rating when he was on the floor.
Finally, over the last 33 minutes of the game, the Jazz only had seven turnovers. That's great! It's just that they had 10 in the first 15 minutes of the game, getting them out to a poor start.
None of this back and forth is meant to absolve the Jazz of this performance against a Bulls team that is now all the way up to a 7-20 record after this win. What it does show is the importance of delivering a consistent, solid effort for all 48 minutes at all aspects of the game. Sometimes, the shots aren't going to fall, and you'll get dry spells, that's understandable.
But with defensive focus, rebounding, offensive execution and turnovers; those are mistakes that should be within the Jazz's control. They simply didn't do them consistently to win, even against a limited Bulls team.
"We're not a good enough team to overcome some of those moments where we lack urgency or focus," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after the game. "There's a lot of little things that you just have to do, that we have to do a better job of."
2. The difference between contesting a shot and impacting a shot
One consistent theme tonight was the Bulls hit a lot of tough looks, certainly more than you'd expect. Nikola Mirotic was especially brilliant, hitting 11-18 of his shots for 29 points to lead the Bulls. He honestly looked a little bit like Dirk Nowitzki out there.
I'm guessing, because that was a highlight video of a Bulls player, that you may have skipped it. But hit play on it, it's only a minute long. Look at the kind of shots Mirotic is hitting.
First of all, my first thought was: those are some tough looks! There's usually a hand in his face, they're deep and contested.
But on most of them, the contest doesn't actually impact the shot form. On the first one, Gobert has his hand up, but is actually pretty far away on the closeout, it doesn't really look like he impacted Mirotic's shooting motion at all. On the mid-range fadeaway, the third shot of the video, Jerebko's hand is up, but he stays groundbound. Again, you get the feeling that Mirotic has practiced this shot.
So yeah, the Jazz got a little bit unlucky with just how many of those shots Mirotic (and the Bulls in general) made. But they didn't ever force Mirotic to make an impossible shot, and as a result, lost a very winnable game.
That also happened on the Bulls' final normal possession. Up two, they need a basket with 30 seconds left. Kris Dunn goes for this shot:
That’s how you get it DUNN pic.twitter.com/OsD3vDrBhk— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 14, 2017
Again, that's a contested mid-range look. That he took it is in the Jazz's favor. But it's not so good that you can't imagine Dunn missing it, it's a shot he's practiced and hit before. And at the end of the game, the Jazz needed that stop, they couldn't afford to leave it up to chance. Dunn made it, and you know the rest.
3. Fun end-of-quarter wrinkle
We've talked about the "Spain" pick and roll before, where the offensive team brings a second screener into the action to deliver a pick on the big man defending the normal pick and roll. In case you haven't seen the play before, here's a breakdown of how the play works from BBallBreakdown.
So at the end of the second quarter, the Jazz went into their formation where they run that play. Since it was so late, the Bulls planned on switching everything. But instead of accepting that and attacking the mismatch, Ingles popped out for an open 3-point shot, surprising the Bulls' defense.
Here's the video: pic.twitter.com/g09WWnioqn— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 14, 2017
That's clever! This wasn't good defense by Chicago, but it's also just really difficult to manage switching when there are three people in the vicinity. I don't know if this was Ingles freelancing or a Snyder playcall option, but this was a nice wrinkle that got the Jazz three points at the end of the half.