Four-Point Play: Brooklyn Nets Hand Utah Jazz Most Damaging Loss of the Season

Feb 27, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Thaddeus Young (30) takes a three-pointer in the third quarter against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Utah Jazz 98-96. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Thaddeus Young (30) takes a three-pointer in the third quarter against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Utah Jazz 98-96. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Utah Jazz squandered a chance to move back into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, losing in stunning fashion to the Brooklyn Nets.

The Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets squared off on Saturday night in what most fans expected to be a home romp for the Jazz. Instead, the Jazz struggled offensively, while Brooklyn shot a blistering 50 percent from behind the arc to beat the Jazz 98-96.

Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 27 points despite being plagued by foul trouble. Rudy Gobert added 12 points, along with a season-high 19 rebounds and six blocked shots to have his best game since returning from injury. However, it wasn’t enough to wrest control of the game back from the Nets.

The rest of the Jazz did not show up. The usually reliable Derrick Favors had a weak 13 points on 14 shots. Rodney Hood was equally inefficient, scoring 15 points on 15 shots.

Thaddeus Young paced the Nets with 21 points, along with Wayne Ellington (16 points) and Brook Lopez (19 points). The Nets had 23 assists on 40 made field goals while Jazz struggled to move the ball, registering only 14 assists (John Stockton is shaking his head somewhere).

96. 118. 98. 147. Final

1) Rotation – The World Depends on It

Jazz coach Quin Snyder is a tremendous coach. Still, most coaches can settle in on a comfortable rotation with a shorter bench. This hasn’t been the case for the Jazz; a long bench and ever-changing rotation continue to prove troublesome.

Trevor Booker brings a ton of energy and some head scratching moments. To get him onto the floor, Snyder is moving Favors to center for stretches, which isn’t a very effective spot for him. All the while, the Jazz might be the only team in the NBA with two legit seven-footers riding the pine.

Defense should be the team’s top priority, which should mean more playing time for Jeff Withey from the bench.

Trey Burke‘s confidence seems low, probably to a point of no return. His parent’s Twitter rants notwithstanding, Burke has been a consummate professional for the team. However, a recent demotion to third-string PG seems to have had a devastating effect on his game. Since his move to the deep bench, Burke has scored six, 15, five and zero.

While this is a small sample size, the effect of demotion is visible in his game. He struggles to make decisions on whether to pass or shoot; earlier in the year, he acknowledged his role as a true gunner and the team’s scoring punch off the bench.

Burke may be able to rebound from his slump. Withey and Trey Lyles could play more as well. Whatever happens, Jazz rotations need to normalize so that everyone knows their roles.

2) Take the First Good Shot

For the past few games, the Jazz have not shot their threes well. As a result, there have been multiple instances of players pump-faking open three-pointers only to drive into traffic. The ball then gets kicked back out to the three-point line and the vicious cycle continues. Shooting is rhythmic, and one needs to trust their shot to hit their shot.

Passing on a good shot to take a better shot is the best thing in basketball. However, when you’re a good shooter like Gordon Hayward, you need to trust in your ability to hit that first open shot. Both Brooklyn and San Antonio packed the paint and dared the Jazz to shoot it from outside. Instead, the Jazz passed up most of their open three-pointers to drive into traffic.

Many of these drives have led to turnovers. The Jazz have averaged 17 turnovers per game since the All-Star break (before the break they averaged a decent 13.8 turnovers).

3) Bench, or the Lack Thereof

The bench has been the epitome of the team’s struggles since the All-Star break. The confused rotations, coupled with the absence of Alec Burks, have the Jazz bench lacking punch and getting outscored by opposing second units.

The plus/minus darling on the Jazz bench is Withey (plus-5.1). However, since he is not playing anymore, the Jazz have struggled to keep leads when the starters are off the floor.

Coach Snyder has tried to stagger Hayward and Favors and sprinkle them in with the bench. While this is a very good idea, this also means they are going to play less together. It’s easier for opponents to scheme for one guy instead of having to deal with two scorers. Some of the best Jazz runs in recent losses have come with both Hayward and Favors on the court together.

It’s a double-edged sword, and a conundrum Snyder must solve. That’s why they pay him the big bucks.

4) The Playoff Race

The Jazz and Houston Rockets have gone from fighting for playoff position with wins, to clinging to their spot after losses. Both teams lost yesterday, meaning Houston remains in the eighth spot in the west. With 24 games left, the Jazz need to string some wins together, as they did before All-Star break.

If they’re unable to do so, it’s hard to see them making the playoffs. Houston has a star in James Harden who can carry them during the stretch run. The Jazz do not.

Next: Are the Jazz Investing Too Much in Dante Exum?

Next up for Jazz is their four-game road trip, starting with a streaking Boston Celtics team on Monday. They’ll also face a rampaging Toronto Raptors squad who just beat up on the Cavs, a physical Memphis Grizzlies team and a sneaky dangerous New Orleans Pelicans team.

The road trip could be the death knell for Jazz’s playoff chances if they can’t escape with some wins.