SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have hit a bit of a rough spot. After winning 22 of 24, Utah has now lost two of its last three games following a 129-124 loss to the Pelicans on Monday.
Here are the talking points from KSL.com commenters.
"Aside from the early-season stinkers, this is the worst loss of the season." — TheHollows
For the one or two listeners of our very short-lived podcast "Jazz Shorts" can attest, we have a thing for completely and totally meaningless rankings here at KSL.com. So, of course, we are going to use this as an opportunity to bust one of those out.
Where does Utah's loss on Monday fall? Let's find out.
Here's the rankings (from worst to best) of Utah's losses this season:
- Dec. 26 vs. Timberwolves, 116-111: This one has aged terribly. Minnesota has seven wins on the season, but at least they can see they handed Utah one of its eight losses.
- Jan. 5 @ Nets, 130-96: Brooklyn was without Kevin Durant and hadn't yet acquired James Harden, but the Jazz still lost by 34.
- Mar. 1 vs. Pelicans, 129-124: This avoids going higher due to a late rally that dang near won the game. But for the most part, Utah's defense was lethargic in the poorest performance since the Jazz got rolling.
- Jan. 6 @ Knicks, 112-100: Utah led by 18 and ended up losing by 12 one night after a listless performance against the Nets. At least New York has proven to be a decent team this season.
- Dec. 31 vs. Suns, 106-95: Phoenix led by 21 points in this early-season rout.
- Feb 26 @ Heat, 124-116: The Jazz couldn't contain Jimmy Butler's pick-and-roll game (really the same type of thing that plagued them against the Pelicans and Zion Williamson on Monday — something to keep an eye on).
- Feb. 19 @ Clippers, 116-112: A close loss to a fully-healthy Clippers team on the road — nothing to be ashamed of here.
- Jan. 31 @ Nuggets, 128-117: Denver's otherworldly 3-point shooting ended a long Jazz winning streak. This was a tip your cap game, nothing more.
"I have to be honest. The NBA refs drove me away from the league years ago. Now I'm seeing the same thing all over again. They are a train wreck of inconsistency." — Harvey C.
There are NBA referee tendencies that annoy just about everyone: the so-called star calls — when an official waits to see if the shot goes in before blowing a whistle — taunting calls of any kind (sports are supposed to be fun!), etc. It sometimes feels like James Harden gets every call and Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo can extend arms when others can't. It's not just fans, either. In 2019, the Rockets even officially made the case that the Warriors had been getting a friendly whistle in the playoffs (the irony of a Harden team making such a case was not lost) — and that whistle cost Houston an NBA Finals berth in 2018.
It's been reported that league officials have about 500 chances to make or not make a call per game, and they get it right about 92% of the time. That's a pretty decent mark, but those officials become part of the story if the 8% is deemed to have swung a game.
That brings us back to Monday's game. There were two plays down the stretch when officials had a choice to make — both decisions went against the Jazz.
The first: Rudy Gobert got whistled for an over-the-back foul on Zion Williamson — something Gobert said was "a terrible call." The Jazz franchise center is taller and longer than Williamson. While there was some contact, it looked pretty minimal, especially with how the game had been called to that point. Williamson scored 26 points Monday by bowling into Jazz defenders in the paint. If those weren't worthy of calls, why would a slight touch on him be one?
"I mean it looks good on the highlights but it's still an offensive foul," Gobert said of Williamson's attacks at the rim.
So maybe the Jazz felt like they were owed one, which might have been on Mike Conley's mind when he took a rushed 3-pointer on Utah's next possession.
The second: Conley leaning in to try and draw a foul that never came. Utah's initial action had been blown up, but there was really no need to panic here. The Jazz were down 3 and there were still 20 seconds on the game clock and 15 seconds on the shot clock. Conley didn't need to rush a look, but he leaned into Eric Bledsoe and put up a shot that was nowhere close. It was like he was hoping the refs would make what some would have considered a make-up call (another tendency that brings great annoyance).
The Pelicans were bailed out in a sense; the Jazz weren't. So, yeah, it can be frustrating, but at least for the most part, the officials do get it right.
"It's becoming painfully obvious that they can't win the close ones." — HouseDivided
Each day, the NBA releases a report of all the calls made in the final two minutes of games that were within one-possession at any point during that time. The Jazz have played 35 games this season. Tuesday's report will be just the seventh one that will include the Jazz.
In those seven games, the Jazz are 3-4. That's not a great record, but not terribly off league-average (only 14 teams have an over .500 record in such games).
If you expand it to what the NBA considers clutch minutes (a 5-point game within the final five minutes), Utah's record is actually a decent 8-6 — the ninth-best mark in the league. So Utah isn't necessarily a bad closing team, they just haven't been a great one either.
Turns out, it's easier to win games when you are up by 15 in the fourth quarter. Who would have thunk?