Utah Jazz vs. Maccabi Haifa reactions: What went right/wrong?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 4: Ricky Rubio (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 4: Ricky Rubio (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /
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There was little to complain about in Utah’s dominant 39-point preseason victory over the Israeli League’s Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday.

The Utah Jazz were back in action for their second preseason bout as they took on Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday and despite the fact that the team they were playing was far from an NBA-caliber squad, in many ways the Jazz appeared as if in midseason form. Not only did they log a commanding 117-78 victory, but they also shot a red hot 56 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from deep.

With that kind of performance, it’s pretty clear that the night went overwhelmingly well for the Jazz. Nevertheless, some things certainly stood out more significantly than others, while it’s apparent that there are still some minor issues that the Jazz need to work out as they prepare for their first NBA opponent on Friday when they’ll take on the Phoenix Suns.

With that being the case, let’s take a look at what went exceptionally well as well as where Utah can still make some strides based on their performance against Maccabi Haifa.

What Went Right?

First and foremost, as I already touched on, how about that shooting?! The Jazz are certainly facing a number of questions about their offense, but if they can continue to put the ball through the hoop at the rate they did on Wednesday night, those concerns are sure to quickly dissipate. Of course, that high percentage came against a very subpar opponent, but it was still impressive nonetheless.

And part of what led to Utah’s high shooting percentage was their incredible passing. The Jazz put up an amazing 31 assists on 42 made field goals. For a bit of perspective, during last year’s regular season, Utah averaged just 20.1 assists per game on 37 made field goals. Given that the Jazz don’t exactly have what you’d refer to as a go-to star, their offense is going to have to come largely from sharing the ball, which they did wonderfully on Wednesday night.

In terms of individual guys who stood out, the first two that come to mind were Alec Burks and Dante Exum. With Rodney Hood and Donovan Mitchell sitting out the contest, it was critical that both Exum and Burks step up which is precisely what they did. Burks finished with a team-high 16 points on an impressive 5-of-7 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 outing from deep.

He looked much like the Burks of old and if he can maintain a similar level of play, it’s going to be very hard to keep him off the floor. Meanwhile, Exum didn’t have nearly as efficient of a night as he went just 3-of-8 from the field, but he showcased an exceptional aggressiveness and confidence that was absent for much of last year while also logging six assists.

As he continues to attack and increase his offensive arsenal, he could turn out to be quite the weapon for the Jazz this season.

Most of Utah’s starters played limited minutes, but a handful of the other reserves stood out as well. Jonas Jerebko had an efficient 4-of-5 night and Royce O’Neale continued to impress with aggressive defense and a perfect 3-of-3 performance from behind the arc. Although fellow fringe player Joel Bolomboy has looked much better in preseason than he did in Summer League, O’Neale is certainly putting up a case that he will be a tough player to cut.

All in all, the win over Maccabi Haifa was a solid team effort in which Utah’s bench guys were given ample opportunity to thrive and they took full advantage of it. Although replicating their shooting and passing performance against an NBA-caliber squad will be much more difficult, if the Jazz can make even a semblance of their play tonight become a routine, they’ll be in good shape come regular season time.

What Went Wrong?

It’s hard to get nit-picky about what could have been done better when a team wins by 39 points, but there were still a few minor concerns about Utah’s performance on Wednesday. First and foremost was their pathetically slow start. The drastically less talented Haifa team came out of the gates with much more energy than the Utah Jazz and it allowed them to take an early lead.

Fortunately it was very short-lived as Maccabi’s largest lead of the night was only two points, but it still wasn’t a great look for the Jazz. Avoiding slow starts and sluggish stretches at any point during the game will be key for them if they hope to stay on pace with opponents this upcoming season, so that can’t be something they get accustomed to.

Furthermore, especially against such an inferior team, the Jazz logged far too many turnovers as they finished the game with 21 giveaways. Part of this, of course, comes from players getting accustomed to new teammates as well as unique rotations and end of the bench guys logging significant minutes, but it’s still enough of a concern that it needs to be addressed.

Last of all, for a second straight game, the play of Ricky Rubio was somewhat concerning. The Jazz largely knew what they were getting in the Spanish point guard, but there was still high hopes that his shooting could see major improvements this season. We’re only two preseason games in, but so far that has been far from the case.

Rubio once again went 0-of-4 and his five assists, while a nice bonus, weren’t enough to make up for his empty scoring output. Not only that, but Rubio also logged six turnovers. A negative assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t exactly a stirring result for a player known for his flashy and effective passing. It will obviously take some time for Rubio to adjust to his new teammates and vice versa, but so far it would appear that the Jazz have a ways to go before he is integrated effectively.

Next: Utah Jazz: Dante Exum receiving praise headed into make-or-break season

But, once again, it’s hard to complain after a 39-point win. Sure, the victory came against a much less talented squad, but it was still good to see several aspects of Utah’s efficiency and cohesiveness.

The real test will begin on Friday when Utah takes on the Phoenix Suns and it will be absolutely critical for the positives the Jazz showed on Wednesday to carry through against heightened competition.