There’s nothing flashy about the Utah Jazz. They rank in the middle of the NBA in most statistical categories. They don’t play at an incredibly fast pace. Even their key players like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Gordon Hayward are relatively low-key. That’s probably just the way Utah wants it.
At 29-24, the Jazz are currently sitting at the seven seed in the Western Conference. They’ve found their success this season by playing a tough and grinding style. That style was on full display on Tuesday in their 109-94 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Though the Thunder were able to shoot 55.9 percent from the field, the physical Jazz defense held them to only 68 shot attempts for the game. The 20 turnovers Utah forced also played a huge factor in limiting Oklahoma City’s shots.
They also dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Thunder 38-26 and only allowing the Thunder to grab seven offensive rebounds for the whole game. That’s more than solid against an Oklahoma City team that averages 10.3 offensive rebounds per game and averages a +2.3 rebound differential per game.
The style of play where they play suffocating, hard-nosed defense and pound the glass has been their bread and butter this season and the statistics back that up too.
On average in Utah’s 29 wins, they have forced their opponents to commit 15.1 turnovers per game, held their opponents to 43.4 percent shooting and have a rebound differential of +3.2 per game. That’s pretty telling. When you compare those statistics to the Jazz’s averages in losses, it becomes even more revealing.
In the 24 games that Utah has lost, the Jazz are only forcing their opponents into 13.3 turnovers per game, allowing their opponents to shoot 49.3 percent from the field and have a rebound differential of -2.1 per game.
Essentially, that means that the Jazz have to play that gritty style of basketball to get wins. But, once again, the Jazz rank in the middle of the league in many statistical categories, including ranking 14th in rebound differential, 15th in opposing turnovers per game and 20th in opposing field goal percentage. What that means is that the Jazz don’t play this tough style on a consistent basis.
If they want to secure a better seed in the West, they have to start playing tenaciously on defense and in the rebounding department on a more regular basis. That’s the style that gives them the best chance to win.
If Utah continues to only play that way sporadically instead of consistently, they’re going to stay in the middle of the pack, which really isn’t the place that they probably want to be.