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SACRAMENTO — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 114-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
1. Jazz's defensive switch was firmly in the off position
Every single Jazzman was off on the defensive end Tuesday, and it cost the Jazz a win in a decent offensive performance. The team really doesn't have an excuse: they had two days off for rest, the team flew into Sacramento Monday afternoon and got a good night's sleep.
Usually, I'd single out one or two players who were subpar on the defensive end, but tonight, I'm just going to link to a defensive mistake by literally all 10 players the Jazz played tonight. Ready?
- Raul Neto: Neto gets beat to the spot a little bit as he goes under the screen, which starts the series of rotations that allows McLemore to hit the three. I know, this one isn't that bad, but Neto played only 11 minutes tonight and didn't look like the problem while he was on the floor.
- Rodney Hood: Hood lingers as he holds his follow-through on the three point shot. Rudy Gay takes off while Hood stands still and gets a three point play.
- Gordon Hayward: Here, Hayward tries to go under on a semi-screen by DeMarcus Cousins against Darren Collison, who is a pretty decent 3-point shooter. The shot misses, but there's just no reason to leave him here.
- Trey Lyles: Omri Casspi just blows by Lyles, who compunds his mistake with a foul.
- Derrick Favors: Here, Rajon Rondo comes down the court, gets the screen leaving Burke out of the play, and Favors just backs up, and then backs up some more, until Rondo easily scores. At some point, Favors needs to challenge him here!
- Trey Burke: Burke just stops guarding Marco Belinelli here... why? So, Burks has to come over to help, then he leaves his own man, Gay, who scores. Also, where is Burke running to at the end of the play?
- Alec Burks: Why does Burks help so much on this play? He's not really helping anyone, just kind of leaving his guy to sink into the paint.
- Joe Ingles: Jingles just loses track of where Gay is, so when he receives the ball, he has a nice easy head start to the rim.
- Trevor Booker: Gay just blows by Booker here.
- Jeff Withey: This one's not too bad either, but Withey leaves Kosta Koufos here when he's probably too far away to contest. Koufos gets a dunk.
It wasn't pretty, all of the way around. The Kings had a good strategy of attacking Lyles early, then Booker once he entered the game. Normally, the Jazz's defense can rotate and help enough to still make it tough for the opposition, but tonight Favors was very ineffective at help defense (0 blocks), probably because he was so worried about Cousins.
2. Evaluating Jazz's defense without Rudy Gobert
All in all, the bad defensive performance meant that the Jazz allowed 120.6 points per 100 possessions tonight, which is a really, really bad number. Yes, you knew the defense was bad after the Kings shot 56 percent, and scored 114 points, but the number of possessions doesn't save them here.
It's been a really troubling three games defensively for the Jazz since Rudy Gobert went down with injury. Overall, their DRtg since then is 26th in the league, and they've given up triple-digit point totals in each game.
In the end, I think we're relearning the lesson from the 2013-2015 Favors/Kanter era: Favors is a good defender, yes, but he's not an impactful defensive center when he's playing next to a poor defender at the power forward spot. Favors just isn't enough of a deterrent when playing down low to dissuade opponents from shooting, and making, layups when he's defending near the basket by himself. Tonight, the Kings shot 11 for 11 when Derrick Favors was defending the rim.
That being said, this mostly isn't Favors' fault. The Jazz's perimeter players are used to having Gobert's length behind them but without him, they're just letting opponents get to the paint, way, way too easily. Everyone on the team who plays the guard or wing positions needs to take some pride in not needing help when they're guarding their man. There wasn't any of that against Sacramento.
3. Difficult schedule coming up
One reason this loss was so discouraging for Jazz fans and players alike is the difficulty of the upcoming schedule. Tuesday night's game against Sacramento was the first in a stretch of 5 games in 7 nights, a stretch that ends with the Jazz playing the Oklahoma City Thunder in consecutive games, then facing the San Antonio Spurs, in San Antonio, on a back-to-back. Ouch.
Realistically, a 2-3 record for Utah during this stretch would be a good outcome, but the easiest place to get those wins would have been against the struggling Kings and then at home against the Knicks Wednesday. They failed at the first task, we'll see if they can bounce back, despite the travel, against Kristaps Porzingis and company.