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Analysis: The Jazz gave themselves a chance, then blew it on the final play against the Suns

SHARE Analysis: The Jazz gave themselves a chance, then blew it on the final play against the Suns
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Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy watches the game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PHOENIX — After Jordan Clarkson hit two free throws, the Utah Jazz were trailing the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night by just one point.

With 26 seconds left on the game clock, the Suns had the ball.

And then the Suns kept the ball and basically nothing happened.

“We did not execute on the last play defensively, at all,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “I will take responsibility for that. I clearly did not communicate very well what we wanted to do on that last possession.”

Had to be to foul, right?

If the Suns were going to keep the ball for the entirety of their allotted 24-seconds, the Jazz would have just two seconds to make a play, and that’s hoping that the Suns miss whatever shot they attempt and the Jazz secure the rebound, which… was not their strong suit on Saturday.

The Jazz were outrebounded 13-3 in the fourth quarter alone, with Deandre Ayton outrebounding them by himself with just offensive rebounds.

So the Jazz clearly should have fouled someone, sent them to the line, and then even if the Suns player made both free throws the Jazz would have had time to make a play for a 3-pointer to tie the game and go into overtime.

The plan certainly couldn’t have been to just let the Suns eat the clock, right?

Right. Fouling was the correct plan of action, and it was what Hardy wanted.

“I wanted to get the ball out of (Devin) Booker’s hands and then foul,” he said.

But that’s not what happened.

The Jazz doubled Booker and he gave it up. Then they kind of doubled Mikal Bridges, but they didn’t foul.

Jordan Clarkson forced Bridges left with about nine seconds left on the clock, and Bridges actually fumbled the ball, but it went through the legs of Malik Beasley and back to Bridges, who gave it to Cam Payne in the left corner.

Still no foul, and there were only six seconds left to play. Payne passed back to Booker with just four seconds left on the game clock, two seconds left on the shot clock.

Collin Sexton collided with Payne and nothing was called, then Booker took a shot. By the time the ball was bouncing off the rim, there were only 1.1 seconds left in the game and no chance of the Jazz making any sort of play.

Kelly Olynyk fouled Ayton after the Suns center came down with the rebound, but after review, that was after the clock had already expired.

Game over.

“Obviously try and go for a steal, see if we can get one,” Olynyk said of the plan. “We got the ball loose, kind of hurried them up a little bit but didn’t come up with it.

Then we kind of lost track of time. Probably should have fouled. We didn’t. Shot went up, the rest is history.”

I know that Hardy took responsibility for this and I heard what Olynyk said about going for a steal and then everything happening so fast.

I know that those moments can go by very quickly, but I feel like someone on the court, anyone of the Jazz’s five players, should have understood the situation.

Someone should have been screaming “Foul,” someone on the court should have understood what the best basketball decision was at that moment.

“We all pretty much have got to just be on the same page when it comes down to it,” Sexton said. “A few of us weren’t and we’ve just got to make sure we communicate throughout the court, especially in crunch time like that.”

YES!

The Jazz players had a combined 28 years of NBA experience on the court for the final possession and they went the entirety of 26 seconds without really making the play that needed to be made.

If the plan had been to force a tough shot and then fight for the rebound then maybe we could point the finger at Hardy with more ferocity in this situation, but the players absolutely have to be better and understand the moment.

The Jazz played a really good game through three quarters, were offensively excellent in the fourth and then kind of stopped playing any sort of effective defense down the stretch, punctuated by the final play of the game when they really did nothing at all.

Essentially, the Jazz made it a one-point game and then let the Suns win, 113-112.