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SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 94-93 loss to the Sacramento Kings from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz lose again, but not for the reasons you think
If you had asked me to make a list of "keys to the game" for the Jazz tonight, it would have looked like this:
- Win the DeMarcus Cousins/Rudy Gobert matchup
- Get scoring from Gordon Hayward after he scored just 6 points last night
- Avoid turnovers
Rudy Gobert did win the DeMarcus Cousins matchup: Cousins scored 21 points, yes, but on 5-18 shooting from the field. He didn't make a single basket in the second half, but instead got to the line for 12 total FTAs, but 10 of those came in the final three minutes of the game. Cousins added eight rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, and one block. Meanwhile, Gobert scored 17, but on 6-9 shooting, had 14 rebounds, one assist, zero turnovers, and three blocks.
Hayward was great, scoring 28 on 9-18 shooting and adding 10 rebounds, until his final shot, when he missed this layup with 5.9 seconds left. It still counts as a real bounceback game for Hayward.
And then yep, just 11 turnovers for the Jazz, and only one from their point guard rotation of Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto (Dante Exum sat out of tonight's game with left knee tendonitis). I would have taken that all day, had that been offered pregame.
So why did the Jazz lose the game?
First, they missed shots. Yeah, this is always the excuse. But Joe Ingles going 2-7 from three is surprising at this point. Joe Johnson shot just 2-7 overall too. Favors 2-6 is below his usual standards, etc. Mack missed his two fourth quarter shots. And of course, Hayward missed his fadeaway layup with six seconds.
2. The Jazz had problems dealing with quick guards on defense
This has been a problem for the Jazz in so many games when they don't have George Hill to play defense: defending quick, small point guards at the point of attack.
"I thought Ty Lawson's penetration was the biggest factor for them offensively," Quin Snyder said. He just controlled the game on that end, both at the rim and finding people."
Lawson scored all 19 of his points in the second half. He played the final 16 minutes of the game, when the Kings outscored the Jazz by 14. That's a trend that had been laying dormant for a while, but the Jazz just really didn't have a player who can defend those kinds of players. Mack isn't quick enough, Neto is struggling in limited minutes. Ingles and Johnson are very slow shooting guards.
Ideally, you work on this as a team, so that if one guy is blown by, the team can deal with it better. But honestly, I wonder if Lawson was a big part of the Jazz's scouting report. Tonight was his best game since his DUI-influenced career downtown that began two summers ago.
"All of the things you work on as a defense, that's why you do it together, so it isn't on one person to stop their man," Snyder said.
3. Trey Lyles' secondary skills
Trey Lyles' game hasn't developed as much as some hoped in his second season. I think the shot not falling is the most obvious thing that's going wrong: his 3-point shooting percentage is down to 30 percent, and his 2-point percentage is just 47 percent. I think a lot of those problems are shot selection related: when he catches the ball on the perimeter, he's making the wrong decision on whether or not to shoot or drive.
But these sort of stretches happen for every player, where a shot isn't going in for a while. But I think what's been a little bit discouraging is his secondary skills, the kind of skills that allow a player to contribute even when things aren't going right.
I'll look at one characteristic tonight: Lyles' willingness to pass to the open man.
Check out this play. Lyles drives from the outside, but ignores a wide open Raul Neto in the corner. Instead, Lyles picks up an offensive foul, though it was a sketchy call.
I understand that Lyles is trying to get out of his slump by just continuing to shoot, and that's a good idea! But when his team has a better shot, he probably needs to find it.
Here's the good news: the Jazz's coaching staff tells me Lyles is a sponge. He likes watching video and likes to apply himself to improve the player he can be, even on the small stuff like defensive positioning. We'll see if he can apply his really impressive talents and become a positive influence on his team's scoreline.