Feb 12, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz point guard Alec Burks (10) prepares to shoot a free throw during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 105-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah Jazz: Foul Troubles Tarnishing Progress

The Utah Jazz aren’t having a good season by any stretch of the imagination, but they have battled back to show some positive signs for the future. After going just 3-15 over the first two months of the season, they’ve gone a respectable 11-15 since the calendar turned. If they could get a hold of their foul trouble, that number could get even better.

For the season, the Jazz are called for 20.9 fouls per game to 20.4 for their opponents. That’s not much of a difference, but the fact that they shoot 21.8 foul shots to 24.2 for the opposing squads — that’s a much bigger deal. You may not think spotting the opposition two points per game is that much of an issue, but in reality, it’s a huge issue.

The difference between being down one, two or even three possessions towards the end of games changes the way teams have to play. Not having a bonafide superstar at those times also really hurts. When the Jazz are watching their opponents march to the line for easy points, they’re stuck having to play within their system to match those points.

Over their last five games, the discrepancy has gotten worse. During the stretch (in which the Jazz are 2-3), they’ve been called for 21.8 fouls to their opponent’s 19.0 fouls. They’re getting outscored at the line by 3.2 points during that time.

Although it’s a small sample size, it shows a major hurdle for the Jazz to clear if they expect to start winning. They’ve actually out-shot their opponents from the field (46.3 to 45.8) and from the 3-point line (41.4 to 35.1) during this stretch.

In their last game, a 114-88 thrashing at the hands of the Milwaukee Yucks Bucks, the Jazz were called for 21 fouls to the Bucks 24. Progress, right? Each team shot the same amount of free-throws (26), with the Bucks making two more.

The starting frontcourt for the Jazz included Richard Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams. They didn’t miss a free-throw all game…because they took none. By contrast, Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova of the Bucks combined to go 11-for-12.

In their previous game, a hard-fought 94-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Jazz were whistled for 28 fouls, with the Pacers getting called for 20. Indiana outscored Utah by eight from the line. Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Favors and Williams all had four fouls, with Jefferson being called for five.

As a team that doesn’t have an electrifying offense, the Utah Jazz need to maximize their chances at the line and minimize their opponent’s opportunities. They’ve done just the opposite. There’s not enough time to turn their own season around, but they should focus on addressing the free-throw discrepancy if they want to play spoiler the rest of the way.

Tags: Utah Jazz

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