Emptying the Noggin — Hayward, Hayward, Hayward

Summary:  A Gordon Hayward-led third quarter explosion carried the Jazz to a 105-98 win over the Denver Nuggets. Hayward finished with 32 points to lead the Jazz. The Jazz’s 23-point lead was cut to four in a Nuggets flurry late, but the Jazz held on.

·       The first half of this game had very little feel to it, which is not surprising considering the amount of starting line-ups these two teams have used this year. Both coaches went to their benches early. The Nuggets showed their hand early in this game: They had no intention of playing a center and wanted to speed the game up as much as possible. As a result, Nurkic played just 13 minutes.

·       The Jazz went to halftime leading by two points, and it didn’t feel like any spectacular was about to happen. The game had been close, neither team had gone on any run, neither team had lead by more than six and we had nine lead changes and 11 ties.

·       Then — boom! — the Jazz erupted. More specifically, Gordon Hayward erupted. The Jazz scored 33 points, blowing out the Nuggets 33-16 in the quarter, with Gordon Hayward scoring 21 of the team’s 33. He hit 8 of 11, two of three from three and three of three from the line in the third. He outscored the Nuggets 21-16.

·       The Jazz assisted on 9 of the 13 field goals in the third. Five different players had assists in the quarter, lead by Joe Johnson with three.

·       Hayward finished the quarter with a thunderous jam for his 30th point on the game, making it the first time in his career that he has scored 30 in three straight games. It was his seventh straight game of 20 or more — also the longest stretch in his career.

·       Hayward is a completely different player than he has been. We talked about how easy the game looked for him all preseason before he broke the finger. He had worked incredibly hard all offseason to take the next step, and then a fluke injury in practice seemed to derail all of it. Hayward started the year with five straight games of 20 or more. Then, he hit a miserable three-game stretch that followed his finger getting hit again and there was real concern on his stability. Now, the finger is feeling better (other than dunks) and Hayward has reached a level we have never seen before.

·       Over the last seven games, he is averaging 27 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 49% from the field, 47% from three and seemingly never missing a free throw. Over the past three games, he is averaging 32 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and both his field goal and 3-point percentages are over 50%.

·       He isn’t forcing the game, either — that is what makes this exciting.

·       Dante Exum bounced back nicely from a tough start the other night. He finished with 10 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.

·       Joe Ingles played 26 minutes and was important in the win. He added 4 rebounds and 3 assists.

·       Nice to have Hoody back it — allows the guys to be in the spots where they can be most successful.

The Jazz have won 5 of 6.

Emptying the Noggin — Pure and simple, a complete whooping

Summary: The Rockets blitzed the Jazz early with a 16-9 lead, but from that point on the Jazz dominated the entire game. The Jazz notched season-high in points in a quarter, half and game in a contest that was never close once the Jazz took control. The final score was 120-101.

·       This is a “Wow, we might be really, really good” win. The Rockets have been rolling, and the Jazz blew them out. The game was never close. The Rockets got it to within 9 a few times, and each time, the Jazz immediately were back up by 17. This was a super impressive win.

·       The score leads you to believe that it was a high-paced game and the Jazz won at the Rockets’ game, but it actually was one of the slowest paced games of the season, played below 90 possessions. The Jazz are the slowest paced play of team at 93. The Rockets don’t want to defend a lot of actions, and the Jazz got them in their half court sets and then got good look after good look. The Jazz’s offensive rating was 134, with league average at 103.7 pts per 100 possessions. I am sure this was the best offensive night of the year by the Jazz.

·       The Jazz have not been shooting the three-point shot well at just 33 percent for 21st in the NBA, but they busted the top off tonight. The team hit 15 of 28 and got threes from seven different players.

·       Rudy Gobert changes everything. Harden didn’t look like he wanted to drive to the basket tonight because of Gobert. Then he got caught in the middle and looked uncomfortable. Capella and Nene caused the Jazz problems last game, and tonight the two of them had much less of an impact as Rudy was able to control the paint and stay attached to his man. He is going to make a strong run for defensive player of the year.

·       Having George Hill along with Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward meant that James Harden had to guard someone. In the last game these teams played, he was assigned to Dante and got the night off guarding Dante.

·       The Jazz did a much better job tonight when Harden was off the floor defending the Rockets.  The Rockets finished 7 of 20 shooting when Harden was off the floor.

·       Hayward looks to have his shot back. He went over 20 for the fifth straight game and finished with 31 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. He torched the Rockets in three of the last four games with amazing efficiency.

·       The Jazz are really good when Joe Johnson is on the floor. He finished with 11 points and was +16.

·       Having Hill, Hood and Hayward all on the floor at the same time means they don’t all have to be great every night. Tonight, Hill played a great game but he didn’t need to score, finishing with eight points. It was Hood with 19 and Hayward with 31

·       Trey Lyles nailed some threes tonight, and if he starts to make his shots, the Jazz are simply unguardable.

·       The Jazz are now top 10 in offensive and defensive rankings — that is really elite.

This was a blow out. Pure and simple, a complete whooping.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz get a ‘we-are-better-than-you’ win

Summary: The Jazz win their third straight with a runaway fourth quarter. With the game tied at 80-80, the Jazz went on a 11-0 run to end the game before it got tight late. Rudy Gobert was fabulous and George Hill and Gordon Hayward each had 24 points in the 112-103 win.

·       This was a “we are better than you win.” The game was 80-78 with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter, Quin Snyder went back to the starters and the Jazz ran away with the win. Gobert, Hayward, Hill and Hood all scored in the midst of a 11 -0 run and Boris added a three to make it a 17-7 run.

·       The Jazz are better than Minnesota and they showed it. Minnesota is insanely talented, but the pieces don’t fit yet and they are very young.

·       Rudy Gobert is a force; He dominated around the rim. The Jazz are the number one defense in the NBA at defending the paint. Through three quarters, the Wolves were shooting below 50 percent in the paint. I haven’t seen Rudy’s rim numbers tonight, but his impact is constant.

·       Andrew Wiggins has struggled against Gordon Hayward, and tonight Gordon and friends forced him into 6 of 16 shooting with no free throws. Before the game, Hayward said the key is to force him into contested mid-range jumpers and keep him off of the line. He shot 2 of his 16 shots as three pointers and zero free throws. The defense couldn’t have been more perfect.

·       The Jazz put the second quarter defensive clamps down again, but this was an offensive win.   The game was played at 93 possessions, the Jazz’s offensive rating was over 120 and their defensive rating was 110. League average is 103.7 and anything over 110 is really rolling offensively.

·       How to make a good win feel less good is to have a delay at the airport. We have been sitting outside the airport gate for the last 40 minutes.

·       George Hill was terrific. When Tyus Jones tried to guard him late in the game, he destroyed him. Ricky Rubio was in on him tough. The Wolves had extra high pick up points tonight and it caused the Jazz some difficulties for a few possessions and then they reacted. The same thing happened at the start of the game when the Wolves switched everything — and I mean everything. Then the Jazz figured it out. This is where this team is so different — they understand how to react to various defenses.

·       The Jazz trailed by 5 after one quarter, then outscored the Wolves 28-18 to take a five-point halftime lead. They lead by 11 in the third, but it was back to five when we started the third and then the Wolves gained momentum. Coach Quin went to the starters earlier than he usually does and it was a great move. The Jazz immediately took control of the game.

·       Trey Lyles did a nice job coming off the bench, playing well against his college roommate as he always seems to.

·       Rodney Hood has worked hard on defense the last two games, and with George Hill healthy the Jazz don’t have to have him play well offensively to win the game. He is a threat. He helps open things up for George and Gordon, and on nights when he is hot the Jazz are going to be really tough to beat.

·       Rudy Gobert was as active and tough early in the game as I have ever seen him. He had six defensive rebounds in the opening moments.

·       Rudy went 6 of 8 from the line. He is well over 70 percent in the last 10 games.

·       Boris Diaw was terrific. His ball moving and passing make him a great threat. He made Karl Anthony Towns really work. Quin went with an interesting move to have Boris start on Karl Anthony Towns and it worked. It got Towns into foul trouble and it kept Rudy out of foul trouble.

·       A we-are-better-than-you win by the Jazz – three in a row.