LOS ANGELES — The Utah Jazz lost a tough game on Monday night.
Head coach Will Hardy called the game frustrating because the Jazz were kind of all over the place. They started out slow, kind of gritted their way through the first half, were trailing by as many as 17 in the third quarter, fought back and were leading by five heading into the fourth quarter and then things soured once again and the Jazz lost, 121-114.
“We played very well in stretches, and we were extremely poor in some stretches,” he said. “And that cost us the game.”
It would be pretty easy to look at the box score and say that the Jazz could have used more out of Malik Beasley, who, after scoring 56 points over the previous two contests, finished with just six points on Monday. It would be pretty easy to blame this game solely on the fact that the Jazz were without Mike Conley, who is the calm and collected maestro that’s been at the helm of this ship. It would be pretty easy to say that transition points hurt the Jazz once again.
And all of those things would be absolutely true. Even so, the Jazz were in this game and had a chance to win, but they were on the wrong side of poorly-timed, momentum-shifting runs that gave the Clippers control.
Three such stretches came in the fourth quarter alone. So let’s take a look at those.
Clippers 7-0 run in the 4th
Like I said above, the Jazz went into the fourth quarter with a five-point lead. The Clippers chipped away at that lead until they’d tied. Then after an Olynyk bucket that gave the Jazz a two-point lead the Clippers called timeout with 7:35 left in the game.
Coming out of that timeout the Clippers went on a 7-0 run.
Two offensive boards and just not quitting at the rim started the run.
On the Jazz’s ensuing offensive possession, Beasley and Olynyk just aren’t as focused as they need to be and they aren’t careful with the ball. A turnover ends up being an easy two points for Nicolas Batum on the other end.
Then, Collin Sexton misses a layup, Jarred Vanderbilt fumbles away a rebound and the Jazz get caught moving back down the court at half speed, so the Clippers push the ball quickly to an open Norman Powell, who knocks down a transition 3.
Ouch, ouch and ouch.
“That was kind of the turning point in the game,” Hardy said. “Couple of turnovers and poor transition defense in that little 7-0 run cost us.”
Vanderbilt’s flagrant foul
The Clippers are trying to pull away but the Jazz are still right there. They still have a chance. But these momentum shifts that I’m talking about can be deflating for so many reasons. When it’s a 7-0 run by the Clippers, caused by Jazz mistakes, it makes sense for the team to be deflated and down on themselves.
On this next play, it’s not like the Jazz make any kind of huge mistake and allow buckets in transition. But it’s equally deflating.
Jarred Vanderbilt, guarding Reggie Jackson, ends up getting called for a flagrant 1 foul when he kicks out into the shin of Jackson. It’s a pretty easy foul to call. In the slowed down video below it looks very weird. Obviously the Clippers broadcast is a little biased and they’re going to see it as intentional, but intent here doesn’t matter in the eyes of the officials.
I don’t think this was intentional. If anything Vanderbilt seems to be trying to sell some contact (very poorly) from the Zubac screen and he reaches out toward Jackson immediately when he sees Jackson falling. Again, slowed down, of course it seems weird. Look below at the real time video. Not nearly as weird.
No matter the speed of the replay or the circumstances of the foul, the Jazz had been trailing by just six points with 4:17 left to play. That’s a two-possession game. But because it’s a flagrant foul, the Clippers get two free throws and possession of the ball. By the end of it all, the Clippers come away with an 113-105 lead.
That’s a huge shift and in those final minutes of a game, an eight-point lead feels a lot less manageable than a six-point lead.
The overturned Talen Horton-Tucker call
The Jazz still stay with it after all of that when Talen Horton-Tucker drives the ball on Amir Coffey. Horton-Tucker scores the basket, Coffey is called for a blocking foul and Horton-Tucker is headed to the free throw line.
“Him making that free throw it would be a two-point game, 55 seconds to go,” Lauri Markkanen said. “I think we’re right there where we want to be — on the road, a two-point game, we get a stop and it gives us a chance to win the game.”
But Horton-Tucker never took the free throw. Clippers coach Ty Lue challenged the call and was successful. The basket did not count and the call was changed to a charge on Horton-Tucker.
There were many who didn’t agree with the call, but the officials took a while to look at every angle and Salt Lake Tribune reporter Andy Larsen gave a great example on Twitter from NBA’s video rule book that leads me to believe the officials got this one right.
Whether you agree with the call or not, that’s how it all unfolded. So rather than it being a two-point game, the Jazz were still trailing by five, and with less than a minute to play, they’re forced to play the foul game after a couple of late misses.
It felt like that was the last bit of wind the Jazz had in their sails and the momentum just continued to shift back to the side of the Clippers.
Had Beasley scored more, had the Jazz played better in transition, had Conley been on the court, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about these moments. But these were huge stretches for the Jazz and they came out on the wrongs side of every one of them and couldn’t recover.