If I had seen the final score of tonight’s D-League game between the Iowa Energy and the Utah Flash, (Iowa 126, Utah 112), without seeing the game, my first thought would have been, “Overtime?”
Then, upon seeing that the Flash gave up 126 points at home in regulation, my next thought would have been, “Wow, the Flash were about as attentive on defensive as a couple of Northwest Airlines pilots bound for Minneapolis – St. Paul.”
The thing is, I DID see the game and that was not the case.
Despite the score, the Utah Flash actually did play pretty good defense in the half court, forcing turnovers, and often forcing the D-League leading Iowa Energy to take shots deep into the shot clock.
Where the Flash let themselves down was in TRANSITION DEFENSE, especially in the fourth quarter.
Let me set the table for you properly.
The fourth quarter had barely started. The Flash were down by only 3 points (86-89). The crowd was energized behind the home team, but it was the Iowa Energy who lived up to their name, and the Energy ran like mascara in the rain.
Again and again, the Energy grabbed defensive rebounds and relentlessly ran the ball right through the Flash’s transition defense and right to the rim.
The Energy’s commitment to get the basketball to the rim paid off in free throws as well. In the first 3 quarters of the game, the Energy attempted 19 free throws. In the 4th quarter, the Energy attempted 17 free throws.
But just think about this for a minute: on the road, at Orem’s high altitude, the Iowa Energy scored 37 points in the 4th quarter, and only ONE of those buckets was a jump shot. That’s right, the Flash gave up 35 points on layups, dunks and free throws in Q4. Could they have made it any easier for the Energy to win?
As a fan sitting there in the crowd, I was flabbergasted as Q4 unfolded that the Flash just couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) adjust. Scoring 112 points ought to be enough to get a win, but the Flash’s lack of transition defense just wouldn’t give them a chance.
On the rare occasion the Flash did stop a fast break, the Energy immediately ran a play to get Flash guard Kevin Kruger defending in the post against a taller, more athletic player. The Flash would help Kruger with double teams and the Energy would make them pay by finding the open man near the rim.
I’m not really disappointed the Flash lost; after all, the Energy have the best record in the NBA D-League, and it isn’t even close.
And the Utah Flash did a lot of things very well tonight: their ball movement was the best I’ve seen in awhile, their shot selection was very good, they are playing offense unselfishly. And defensively speaking, the Flash look pretty good in the half court…
But wow the Flash needs to plug the holes in their transition defense.
And that starts with rebounding.
Opponents can’t run on you if they don’t have the ball.
In Q4, the Flash were -5 in rebounds.
Had the Utah Flash rebounded and stopped the Energy from running, there is a very real possibility they would have upset the D-League leaders, or at least given themselves a chance to.
A word about player rotations.
Andre Ingram was shooting 78 percent from the floor, was 4 of 5 from the arc, and was playing solid defense. I don’t understand why he was out of the game for so much of Q4.
Also, I wish they published efficiency plus / minus stats for d-league players like they do NBA players. Jordan Brady can play a bit raw and makes mistakes, but Brady has a Matt Harpring – like work ethic. What is better, it is contagious, especially since Brady is a crowd favorite. Brady gets the crowd going, and the crowd gets the team going.
I can see not playing Brady if the Flash are struggling to score, Brady isn’t likely to put up Kobe like numbers on the offensive side of the floor. However, on a night like tonight when the points are coming just fine but the Flash are flat footed on transition defense, not only would a guy like Jordan Brady hustle his tail off to stop the bleeding, but that hustle rubs off on his teammates and his team sure needed that tonight.
A word about composure.
It’s part of a coach’s job to advocate for his team, so I can see why he would “work” the refs. Likewise, the crowd provides a sort of immediate accountability the officials have to answer to, so I can see the crowd getting on refs… to a point. But players? That’s a different story.
Of course, I am not against a player respectfully approaching an official to clarify a call or point out something the official might not be seeing. I am talking about the kind of behavior that often wears out an official’s patience, leaving him unsympathetic to the complainer.
When a player complains about officiating, what he is saying is that he is a victim of an injustice. A victim mentality is poison to winning. Victims, by definition, are acted upon, and not proactive. They are not the masters of their fate.
Mental toughness, on the other hand, is a determination to find a way, regardless the circumstances, regardless the obstacles.
It is very counterproductive to winning for a player to complain and allow himself to feel the victim. If on a given night the officiating turns out to be an obstacle, it is unlikely that surrendering your mental toughness for the luxury of complaining will to turn your fortune. Don’t play the victim, play the game.
The Utah Flash bring far too many technical fouls down on themselves. The Utah Flash have had at least one technical foul called on them EVERY home game after January 2, 2010. That’s 8 home games in a row, and I didn’t bother researching to see if they are being T’d up on the road as well.
Let the crowd provide pressure on the officials. As a player, your job is to adjust to the officiating and find a way. Find a way to win.