Tuesday, January 24, 2012

it's not over

today's post inspired by what is possibly the greatest single punk rock song of all time.

so we're a quarter of the way through an NBA season that has seen the jazz go from inspiring thoughts of a season of terror to inspiring dreams/delusions of grandeur.  one thing is for certain:  december 2011 did not show the jazz roster playing to their potential.  with that in mind, i put together the jazz's numbers to compare the season in groups of five games.

the easiest way to break these numbers down is to compare the season in thirds; i'll be referring to the stats from games 1-5 as being from "1T," from games 6-10 as from "2T," and from games 11-15 as from "3T."

the most encouraging numbers, of course, are to look at the the production purely in terms of shooting.  the 1T jazz scored 91.2 points per game on just over 42% shooting; 2T jazz scored 93.4 ppg on 47.3% shooting; and the 3T jazz averaged 104 ppg on 48.4% shooting.  that's a 12.8 ppg bump and a 6.4% increase in efficiency.

less positive are the long-range numbers, at least in some sense.  the jazz started with 15.2 three-point attempts in 1T, dropped to 12.2 three attempts in 2T, and are down to 11 three attempts in 3T.  the plus side here is that the percentage of threes made is improving.  through the first five games, the jazz shot only 26.9% from beyond the arc, dipped a bit moving forward to 26.34% in 2T, and improved to 33.32% in 3T.  while a nice step forward, according to nba.com's sortable team statistics, boston is leading the league with 41.1% 3-point shooting.  on the season, the jazz are shooting just 28.85% from deep, which is good enough for 27th in the nba.  even looking only at the last five games, 33.32% from three is only good enough for 18, still in the bottom of the pack.

as for free throws, it's a mixed bag.  in 1T, the jazz were shooting 73.32% from the charity stripe.  things got worse through the next five games, with FT% dropping to an abysmal 68.04% (in comparison the clippers, at 66% on the season are second to last on the year).  but that has turned around for now, with the jazz shooting 79.22% in 3T, which would put the jazz third in the league against the season averages.  the upside of the free throw numbers is utah's ability to impact those percentage numbers, with the 1T jazz only making it to the line 24.6 times per game, 26.2 attempts in 2T, and 27 attempts per game in 3T.

on the boards, the jazz continue to improve, going from 41.2 rpg in 1T, 42.8 rpg in 2T, to an impressive 45.6 rebounds per game in 3T.  the pacers currently lead the league in glass-cleanery at 45.4 rpg, giving the recent jazz numbers league priority against all other teams' season averages.  the jazz's offensive rebound numbers haven't changed too much, going from 11.6 to 10.4 and finishing with 12.6 per game.  the defensive board numbers are marching steadily highward, with only 29.6 in 1T, 32.4 in 2T, and 33 o-boards per game in 3T.

assists have improved, but seem to be plateauing to some degree.  in the first five games, utah only averaged 14.2 dimes per game.  currently, the kings are dead-last in the league in assists with 15.56 per game, so those first five jazz games look pretty terrible in comparison.  but the 2T jazz made it up to 22.4 assists per game, and 3T showed 22.6 per game.  the season high 5-game assists average for the jazz thus far has been 25 per game in games 8-12.  denver currently leads the league in assists per game with 24.47; the jazz aren't putting up stockton-era assist numbers per game but the last seven or eight games at least have them among the top five or so teams in the league.

fouls committed haven't changed in any appreciable manner, starting with 23.4 in 1T, staying static in 2T, and dropping a hair to 22.6 in 3T for a season average of 23.13.  that season average is the third-highest in the league, by the way.  the lowest fouls committed in a five-game stretch by the jazz was during games 4-8, with 21.6 per game, which only bumps the jazz down in the fouls standings a handful of spots.

i've got a discrepancy in my steals numbers versus what the nba website says; i have the jazz averaging 7.87 per game, while the league's numbers say 8.4.  to eschew the appearance of bias, i'll proceed with my own lower numbers.  the 1T jazz averaged only 7.02 steals per game; the 2T team improved slightly to 7.4 spg,; and the 3T jazz jumped way up to 9.2 takeaways per contest.  9.2 steals per game puts the jazz in seventh in the NBA overall-not bad for a team who was sorely lacking on defense last year.

with block numbers, things aren't moving in a great direction lately.  1T jazz blocked 6.6 shots per game, the 2T jazz blocked 7.6 per game, and the last five games only had the jazz swatting 4.4 shots per contest.  on the season, the jazz sit third in the league with 6.2 blocks per game.  these recent lower-blocking games have come against teams with some pretty efficient big men, including denver, dallas, and minnesota.

finally, the turnover numbers have the jazz settling into the season average.  1T jazz turned the ball over 12.4 times per game; 2T jazz had 14.4 turnovers, and the 3T jazz slipped 13.2 times per game.  on the season, the jazz are allowing 13.33 turnovers between the tip and the buzzer.  which, by the way, is a pretty solid number, with only two teams holding onto the ball better (ATL and PHI).

i suppose the takeaway here is that the jazz are generally improving.  a lot of people are reminding each other (and the national media) on twitter that the first five games are looking more and more like an aberration against the rest of the jazz season.  that's fine, but it's important to remember that since january 1, the jazz schedule (and opposing injuries) has been very beneficial to the utah club.  but, unlike the past few seasons of jazz basketball, the jazz aren't playing down to "inferior" teams and are winning the games they're supposed to win.  february is going to be tougher, and march/april will both be pretty brutal.  but for those of us who only asked the jazz to improve over the season, we're certainly getting our money's worth through this first quarter of the season.

not too shabby.

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