11. February 2011 00:46
We've talked a few times in recent days about the many anomolies with the Utah Jazz. Those all came to a head when Jerry Sloan resigned as head coach Thursday...
The anomolies were clear in the results starting with that horrible Eastern swing in Mid-January.
*Utah lost on MLK day 108-101 to Washington, a team they were expected to beat.
*Utah lost two days later 103-95 at New Jersey, a team they were expected to beat by even more. Playoff caliber teams aren't supposed to look this bad, and they're supposed to bounce back after a loss. This wasn't a fatigue spot. It was just a poor effort.
*Utah lost two days later 110-86 at Boston. A rout.
*Utah lost in a back-to-back 96-85 at Philadelphia, proving they weren't holding back in Boston to save themselves for Philly! Four straight losses. Not much energy. Never a chip on the shoulder. Never a sense of urgency.
*Utah then lost very badly in LA 120-91, causing many in the media to marvel at the complete lack of defensive effort.
*Utah fell at home in a back-to-back to San Antonio 112-105, again playing awful defense.
We ran an article at the time about the poor defensive efficiency marks in that six-game stretch. It's as if Utah had suddenly become the worst defensive team in the league in a finger snap.
Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions
116.1 vs. Washington
114.4 vs. New Jersey
119.6 vs. Boston
103.2 vs. Philadelphia
125.0 vs. LA Lakers
115.5 vs. San Antonio
Average: 115.6...Midpoints 115.5 and 116.1
The worst defense in the NBA right now belongs to Cleveland at 109.8. Utah was playing MUCH worse than the worst teams in basketball.
Deron Williams was hurt in the Spurs game, and sat out for a few nights. At that moment...the finger snapped back, and Utah started playing defense again. Utah had stunningly excellent defensive efficiency numbers against Minnesota, Golden State, and Charlotte when compared to what they had been doing.
99.0 vs. Minnesota
104.3 vs. Golden State
86.7 vs. Charlotte
Average: 96.7...Median 99.0
The best defense in the NBA right now belongs to Chicago at 97.2
A lot of analysts are talking about the reported tug-of-war between Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams in terms of offensive play calling. It's worth noting though that chemistry issues, particularly if a team has broken into factions, often show up on defense. Players aren't helping each other...and NBA team defense is all about rotations. Utah wasn't playing much defense with Williams, but they were playing aggressively when he was in street clothes.
Confirmations of bad blood or fractured teams often don't come until way down the road when somebody writes a memoir...or a player in a new city makes a comment about how great things are in his new home compared to the drama in his old place. We may never know for sure who was on whose side the past few weeks. There were certainly numbers announcing that something was horribly wrong behind the scenes.
Not all anomolies are meaningful. One game oddities are often just a team taking a night off to save themselves from the grind. Playoff caliber teams don't take that many nights in a row off. Extremes in defensive intensity typically aren't linked to a point guard's presence or absence. Stat analysis wasn't close enough to know WHAT was wrong...but I think we uncovered fairly quickly that SOMETHING was going on!
*The LA Lakers beat Boston 92-86 Thursday Night. It wasn't quite the thriller fans had hoped for. Ray Allen becoming the King of Three Pointers was definitely a great moment. It's as if the Lakers weren't really there until it happened. Then, Boston lost its intensity just after it did. There weren't many sequences where you felt both teams were at their best.
Our notes yesterday about Boston's rebounding issues proved prescient. The Lakers won the battle of the boards 47-36. The Lakers offensive rebounding rate was an impressive 33.3 Boston's was just 25.5
LA won points in the paint 50-32 according to ESPN's boxscore. Be sure to check Hoopdata's shot location breakdowns in our game box Friday morning.
*The win for Kobe and company improved their Superleague record to 9-8. That may not sound great, but it's fourth best of the 13 teams we isolated weeks ago for head-to-head study.
San Antonio 17-6
Dallas 15-8 (pending Thursday's late game at Denver)
LA Lakers 9-8
For the rest...
At or Near .500: Chicago 9-9, Oklahoma City 12-12, New Orleans 11-12, Miami 9-11.
Off the pace: Denver 8-11 (pending Dallas), Utah 9-12, Atlanta 6-11, New York 7-13, Orlando 7-14.
This reflects back on an earlier comment about it being a relatively closed race for the championship. The Spurs, Celtics, and Lakers are already in the top four when the best play each other...and their experience might only help them find separation from the pack in the playoffs. Maybe Miami's superstar power can break through. Who else have we seen that could do that in terms of the lessons of playoff basketball the past several years? Chicago's got a nice profile. Young group.
Trades could make things more interesting. Dallas is interesting even if they don't make a trade.
Superleague games Friday: LA Lakers at New York, and New Orleans at Orlando.