After a truly awful second half showing by the Jazz against the New York Knicks, it was apparent that the one thing Jerry Sloan did not want to talk about was Deron Williams's absence.
"Can't worry about that. Nobody wants to hear about that," Jerry said. "We'd love to have had him back two weeks ago. But he's not here. That doesn't mean you just go out there and throw the ball away, give up thirty points on turnovers."
The Utah Jazz decided to hold Christmas early, gifting the Knicks with 22 turnovers in 107-99 loss in the Garden. This was a Knick team that came with passion and heart, a team that showed it was tired of being in the lottery every year and is rejuvenated under new coach Mike D'antoni.
The Jazz? Not so much.
After playing hard for two quarters, the Jazz started out decently in the third, but then things turned ugly. Carlos Boozer, instrumental in the Jazz's success to that point, picked up his fourth foul on an offensive foul not even three minutes into that quarter and had to sit. New York used the rest of the quarter to jump all over the Jazz and that was the ballgame, as the Jazz and Knicks played pretty much even in the fourth.
Now you might look at this and think that only Boozer's absence contributed to the loss, and you might be right, but the stats bring things a bit more in-depth as to why the Jazz lost.
During a stretch of time from eight minutes to go in the quarter to just under three, the Jazz did not attempt one shot inside of 17 feet. Not one. Either New York was clogging the middle, or the Jazz weren't driving inside, or both. Considering how much they were knifing the Knicks up inside in the first half, it's probably the latter. Jerry always preaches inside-out play, and the Jazz went away from it early in that quarter.
Seven of the Jazz's turnovers came in that period, including two shot clock violations. Players were holding the ball too long, or not getting into the offense quick enough and most of the blame, however unfairly, will fall on point guard Ronnie Price's shoulders for that. Players have to be aware of how much time is on the clock.
The Jazz also missed three layups in the period with at least one of Boozer's being uncontested. Also the Jazz only collected two offensive rebounds in the quarter. Boozer may have been lost for most of that quarter, but Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko have to be crashing the glass against this team. Instead, they hung around the perimeter and this was the result.
On the other side of the ball, between the third and fourth quarter, the Knicks got inside on the Jazz way too often. In the first two minutes of the third quarter alone, there were five layup attempts, despite all being missed. All in all there were a minimum of twenty layup or dunk attempts in the second half. That amount is staggering.
If you're playing solid defense, as the Jazz have done in the previous five games, you don't give up that many easy shots. When they weren't allowing the layups and dunks, they were having to foul to prevent them. When you fall behind, it makes it hard to catch up when you're allow such high percentage shots.
The question is, what can be most attributed to this loss? Sloan made a comment about it being New York itself, and it seemed some Jazz players were out and about the night before. With an afternoon game the next day and already having flown east, it seemed a little irresponsible. That might account for the lack of energy seen after halftime, where they seemed to rely more on their outside shot. Some other things stand out as well.
- The Jazz gave up eleven more free throws thanks to their porous defense.
- Seven different players had two or more turnovers.
- The Jazz were only 5-14 from three point range.
- Once again, a shooting guard hurt the Jazz dearly, as Jamal Crawford had 32 points, including 5-7 from three-point range.
- They gave up 14 offensive rebounds, half of which went to Randolph.
- Brevin Knight was the second highest rebounder for the Jazz.
That last point might seem strange but if your point guard is your second highest rebounder, then your bigs aren't getting it done. Okur, Millsap and Kirilenko were not crashing the glass the way Boozer was.
There were positives in the game for the Jazz however. They shot over 50% from the field and were 14-18 from the line. They had twelve steals, including seven from Brewer alone. They had 29 assists to New York's 19. They had five blocks.
The Jazz will need to work on their turnovers and fouls before the Philly game, though, or once again their play on the road will suffer.