Jazz Survive Awful Shooting Night To Down Hornets

Dec 20, 2021, 10:22 PM | Updated: 10:55 pm
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball shoots against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Photo by Alex Good...
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball shoots against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz survived one of their worst shooting nights in several years, knocking off the Charlotte Hornets 112-102 to snap a two-game losing streak.

Rudy Gobert scored a game-high 23 points while pulling down 21 rebounds, his first 20-20 game of the season to secure the Jazz win.

Three Hornets had three players that scored at least 20 points, led by LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges who each finished with 21 points but couldn’t complete their comeback win despite erasing a 22 point first half lead.

Jazz Shoot Horrendously In The Win

The Jazz shot just 35.4 percent from the floor, their worst shooting night in more than three years, despite getting relatively good looks.

The Hornets are the 30th ranked defense in the NBA and the Jazz were able to generate offensive movement but struggled to knock down shots after the first quarter.

Only Bojan Bogdanovic and Hassan Whiteside shot better than 50 percent from the floor, while several players had notably bad shooting nights.

Royce O’Neale made just 1-9 attempts, Rudy Gay shot 2-11, Joe Ingles shot 2-7, Donovan Mitchell shot just 7-20, and even Gobert only knocked down 4-10 attempts.

“We kept playing the right way, we just missed a lot of open shots, some nights it’s going to happen,” Gobert said after the game. “I didn’t feel like at any time we letdown defensively.”

It’s the first time the Jazz have shot below 36 percent in a game since December of 2018, and the first time they’ve won a game shooting so poorly since 2015 when they beat the Philadelphia 76ers with a 95-91 victory.

All-time, the Jazz have failed to shoot better than 36 percent only 86 times since 1974, and have a record of just 8-78 in those outings.

The Jazz didn’t play as poorly as their offensive numbers would imply, but ultimately the shots have to go in to reap the reward of their work.

Gobert knocked down a career-high 15 free-throw attempts, and the Jazz had 22 second-chance points which helped make up for the disastrous shooting. Charlotte also played poorly, especially in the first quarter when they scored just 16 points on 5-24 shooting.

For the night, the Hornets shot just 39 percent from the floor, the fourth-lowest by a Jazz opponent this season.

With the top two offenses going head-to-head, it was reasonable to expect a high-scoring affair, but the Jazz finished with an offensive rating of just 105.7, which would rank 27th in the NBA for the full season, while the Hornets managed an offensive rating of just 98.1, which would be 2.4 points below the Oklahoma City Thunder who rank dead-last in the league.

LaMelo Ball’s Transition Play

LaMelo Ball has quickly become one of the most enjoyable players in the NBA to watch. His desire to push the ball forward, his incredible vision and daring full-court passes are unlike any other player in the league right now.

As a result, the Hornets lead the NBA in transition opportunities, largely due to Ball’s relentless style of play.

“We encourage our guys to run with him, so he has that outlet to play,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “It’s been great for us this season, it’s why we’re number two in the league in offense right now — a lot of it’s built off of our transition game.”

Charlotte averages 21.9 transition opportunities per game which is nearly 20 percent of their possessions, resulting in 23.9 points per game, all of which lead the NBA.

While the Jazz don’t give up a ton of transition opportunities to their opponents, only 16.3 per game, good for 11th fewest in the NBA, they do allow a league-worst 1.19 points per transition opportunity.

That’s because teams are shooting a super-efficient 63.5 percent effective field goal percentage against the Jazz in transition which ranks second highest in the NBA, only behind the Hornets who are the league’s worst defensive team.

In what was likely going to be the determining factor in the game, especially considering how poorly the Jazz shot the ball, the Jazz outperformed expectations in transition.

The Hornets scored just 16 fast-break points against the Jazz, six below their average, while having only 10 true transition opportunities.

Ball finished with 21 points and 11 assists but wasn’t able to decimate the Jazz traditionally poor transition defense.

Playing Hard Vs. Playing Sharp

Last week Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox went on a post-game rant about playing hard versus playing sharp.

The guard said his Kings team plays hard, but due to the talent in the NBA, the lack of sharpness in their execution is what’s led them to a 13-18 start to the season. Here’s a family-friendly excerpt from his expletive-filled tirade.

“Everybody played hard to get here, everybody plays hard when they are here.  It’s just about being sharp, everything that you do.”

It’s a relevant conversation for the Jazz who, after losing two games to the less talented San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards over the weekend, faced questions about effort.

I asked Snyder about his thoughts on the balance between playing hard and playing sharp, and how it pertains to the Jazz.

“I would maybe use the word, at least as it pertains to us, precision is important,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you can go slow if you’re reading something it’s maybe better to go slow. So playing hard isn’t always what we think of, you’re not always was running a wind sprint when you play hard.”

With the Jazz’s desire to push the ball up the floor by running in transition, it’s easy to see they play hard most nights. But in losses like the two suffered over the weekend, when the precision isn’t there, it erases a lot of the value of playing hard, as Fox alluded to.

The Jazz played hard against Charlotte, and they were sharper in the win than they were in their last two losses, despite the poor shooting, but there is still significant room to improve.

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Jazz Survive Awful Shooting Night To Down Hornets