One Team, One Stat: No finish in the Jazz
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Utah Jazz, who came up short in close games.
The Utah Jazz had the fifth-best point differential in the Western Conference last season, outscoring their opponents by about two points per game.
Despite a top-five point differential, the Jazz missed the playoffs with a 40-42 record. The problem is that they went 14-28 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Only the Phoenix Suns (12-27) and Philadelphia 76ers (5-30) had worse records in close games.
What’s interesting is that the Jazz’s defense was a bigger problem than their offense with the game on the line. They ranked eighth defensively overall, but 28th defensively with the game within five points in the last five minutes, allowing their opponents to shoot 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. Even with Rudy Gobert — the league’s best rim protector — on the floor, Utah’s late-game defense was pretty terrible (120 points allowed per 100 possessions).
Those opponent shooting numbers in the clutch are a fairly small sample size and they could regress to the mean this season. The top-five point differential could portend a sizeable jump in the standings. But the Jazz, one of the league’s youngest teams last season, still need to learn how to win close games.
New addition Joe Johnson has been one of the league’s most clutch shooters over the last several years. Among 23 players that have attempted at least 65 shots in the last minute of the fourth quarter or overtime with the game within three points over the last five years, only Kyrie Irving has a higher effective field goal percentage.
But George Hill, one of the best defensive point guards in the league, may be the more important addition for a team that struggled to get stops with the game on the line.
10 MORE JAZZ NOTES
The Jazz have been a below-average offensive team in each of the last three seasons, after a streak of seven straight years with an above-average offense.
According to SportVU, the Jazz have led the league in passes per possession in each of Quin Snyder’s two seasons on the bench. Last season, they averaged 3.79, down from 3.96 in 2014-15.
Utah got only 35.5 percent of its shots in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock, the lowest rate in the league by a wide margin. Toronto was 29th at 41.3 percent and the league average was 50.5 percent.
The Jazz were 4.9 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 4.1 points per 100 possessions worse defensively in the second half of games than they were in the first half.
Utah 26th defensively against the league’s top 10 offenses, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions in 32 games (itwent 8-24) against the group. It allowed just 96.3 points per 100 possessions in 50 games (32-18) against the rest of the league.
The Jazz’s four most-used lineups (those that played 100-plus minutes) outscored their opponents by a combined 8.8 points per 100 possessions. All other lineups were outscored by 0.2.
The Jazz were 8.9 points per 100 possessions better at home (plus-6.0) than on the road (minus-2.9). Only Portland (11.0) and Miami (9.1) had bigger home-road NetRtg differentials.
According to SportVU, Gobert averaged just 9.7 field goal attempts per 100 touches, the third lowest rate in the league among all players with at least 2,000 touches, higher than only point guards Jose Calderon (9.1) and Steve Blake (9.6).
Boris Diaw recorded assists on 25.5 percent of his possessions last season, the fifth highest rate among 146 forwards who played at least 15 minutes per game in at least 40 games. Joe Ingles ranked 15th at 20.9 percent.
Johnson had an effective field-goal percentage of 58.8 percent after the All-Star break last season, up from 47.1 percent before the break. That was the biggest increase among 136 players that took at least 250 shots before the break and at least 200 shots after it.
NBA TV’s Jazz preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 17.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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