Sarah Todd covers the NBA and Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.
Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy was extremely frustrated after Thursday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
In the first game back home following a six-game road trip — in which the Jazz had a 2-4 record — Hardy was hoping his team would get back to playing a close-knit, gritty style of basketball, the kind that he knows this team is capable of playing.
And for large parts of the 127-124 loss to the Sixers, the Jazz played a tight game. But in the moments when they failed to recognize situation and personnel, they hurt themselves.
The Jazz went into this game knowing — KNOWING — that the Sixers were going to need a huge night from Tyrese Maxey.
Reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid is sidelined with a knee injury. Maxey is the Sixers second-best scorer who averages upwards of 25 points a night and has proven that he’s fully capable of going off for much more than that.
Maxey hit seven 3-pointers on Thursday night en route to a career-high 51 points against the Jazz. Six of his seven 3s were made in the first half. Here they are:
Maxey's 6 first-half 3s: 1. Kris wanted to guard Harris on the fb. Understandable. 2. Collin should be on Maxey, John gets caught and is late to react. 3. Kris gets shook. 4. By now, he's hot. Collin goes under a screen. Maxey hits from long. 5. Keyonte too relaxed. 6. Wide open. pic.twitter.com/guFgD2NKDN
Hardy was particularly upset with how much space Maxey was given on his seventh 3-pointer, late in the fourth quarter.
But had Maxey not been given the ability to get off so many 3-pointers and get into such a good rhythm in the first-half, maybe he doesn’t make that last 3 and tie things up.
By the time Maxey has hit three, the Jazz should be guarding him so closely that he can barely move. There’s no way he should be given enough room to shoot, especially the kind of room he was given.
“At the beginning of the game we gambled a lot on Tyrese Maxey and he got going,” Hardy said. “I thought the defense on him in the second half was much better outside of a couple of possessions...That 3 with a minute and 20 seconds left when he’s got 45 points, I think an awareness that he has the ball would have been good.”
The Jazz have to do a better job at recognizing the hot hand and shutting it down. Even more so, they have to stop letting guys get the hot hand to the point that there’s no stopping them.
Jump ball position
Unless a player is significantly outmatched because of size against the person he is jumping with, I can’t think of any reason a team should line up for a jump ball without someone in the back court. This is just wrong and it’s a huge mistake.
"You're gonna think I'm crazy, but I'm most upset about our alignment on the jump ball with 16 seconds left. It's the biggest play of the game, and we don't have anybody in the backcourt on Maxey. That's really frustrating." - Will Hardy . To me...this seems like a Collin mistake pic.twitter.com/4moKyZYOLi
“You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I’m most upset about our alignment on the jump ball with 16 seconds left,” Hardy said. “It’s the biggest play of the game, and we don’t have anybody in the back court on Maxey. That’s really frustrating.”
You’re wrong, Will Hardy. I don’t think you’re crazy at all. I think you’re right!
It didn’t seem like in the moment Hardy recognized that there wasn’t anyone in the back court. Whether he couldn’t see through the play, or frankly didn’t think to look, believing that the players would be there, is not really of concern to me.
There are five NBA players on that court on the same team. At least one of them should have had the mental wherewithal to understand that the positioning was off.
Mo Bamba is jumping against John Collins. Lauri Markkanen is matched up against Patrick Beverley, with great size in case of a tip from Collins. Simone Fontecchio is with Kelly Oubre, Jordan Clarkson is with Tobias Harris. Those all make sense.
Collin Sexton is guarding nobody and the guy that is nearing 50 points is all alone behind Bamba, the taller and longer guy who is jumping for the ball.
“Trying to build yourself into a really sustainable winning program is hard and there’s moments of pain and this is one of those moments of pain,” Hardy said.
“But we’ve got to up our ability to learn. We’ve got to up our awareness to what’s going on in the game because I think that we’re fighting hard physically, and at times we just seem a little bit mentally unavailable.”