Emptying the Noggin – Jazz experience Heartbreak hotel in Memphis

Emptying the Noggin
• What a game. Neither team lead by more than 6 at any point. The entire game was within 2 possessions. The first 9 baskets of the third quarter were lead changers. We went over 12 minutes straight with the game being within 3 points until Paul Millsap hit the three at the buzzer to end the third quarter.

• In a game like this there are so many sequences to go back through and wonder what if. Let’s run through a few.

• The first one went in the Jazz favor – Rudy Gay brought the ball up as the third quarter was winding down and someone on the Grizz bench jumped up telling him to shot for a 2 for 1 he mistimed it and shot an airball three and the Jazz went the other way for a Millsap three to take a 6 point lead going into the 4th quarter.

• Favors missed a shot at the rim that lead to a transition three for OJ Mayo and the Jazz went from what would have been up 6 to up 1 and on the next possession OJ hit another three and the Grizzlies had an 82-80 lead.

• The killer sequence was at 86-86 with 4:13 left – Millsap went to the line free throw line and missed both free throws then Conley got a driving lay-up on a pick and roll (more on that later) now down 2 Favors missed a 2 footer on an attack of the rim (more on that later) and out of frustration fouled Marc Gasol when got the rebound. Gasol made the first to make 89-86 and then missed the second and Rudy Gay got the offensive rebound off a missed free throw (can’t happen) and then Mayo on a pick and roll (see above) drove the lane for an easy layup and with 3:19 left the game was Grizzlies by 5.

• The Jazz battled back which they did all game – With 1:28 left and the game Grizzlies 94-92 Devin Harris was trying to get the ball to Paul Millsap in the post but it was as though he got caught in between. He changed his angle for the entry pass and it made the pass far more dangerous and that allowed Gay to get around Millsap, who also needed to do a better job holding him off and it was a huge turnover. The Grizzlie got one free throw, Hayward made an amazing pass to Favors who got fouled powered through and somehow missed, it was deep in the cup and came out, Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, (my call has no infamously become viral on the internet) Favors was awesome and nailed both free throws (only his 2nd and 3rd clutch free throws of the season). Now a one point game, 95-94, the Jazz defended the pick and roll with Favors cutting off Conley very well but the Grizzlies made a cross court pass and Gordon Hayward left OJ Mayo, who is on fire from three, too much air space and he hit the back breaking three with :45.8 seconds left.

• If you run through this and some other sequences every player on this team is currently on this very silent plane running through plays that he could have made better, Jefferson defending the pick and roll, Favors at the rim, Harris the pass, Hayward the defensive rotation, Millsap the free throws. This is how you grow. It is terribly painful. Tonight was about one team that has 14 games of insane playoff experience from last year and knowing and believing it knows how to win. That is exactly what Lionel Holins said after the game. This is why the Jazz have been trying to play meaningful minutes all season, why the Jazz have been playing to win and why the Jazz hope to make the playoffs at the expense of a draft pick . These moments. This game, this battle. And frankly, the loss last night as well in New Orleans is a hell of a message sender.

• Lionel Holins said after the game we just gave the ball to Conley and Mayo and let them run the pick and roll because we knew they had guys that couldn’t guard it. Al Jefferson was the big in every pick and roll and for all he tries he is not a good defender in the open floor. I am not sure how he gets better or what it takes for him to get better. But right now it is the white elephant in the room that every team tries to expose.

• Derrick Favors notched another double double. He is a beast and he is getting better every day. The big line-up has been terrific since it lets him play more. He is not finishing at the rim at all. Is it touch, is it balance, is it reps? Ron Boone tells me not to worry about it that with time he will make these shots. I am a little concerned if it is touch that it will never come around but I think it is more balance and strength issues. When he get this look out he is going to be one of the best players in the NBA. The Deron Williams trade is a crazy steal when Favors gets it all going. He had 10 points and 14 rebounds and messed up every post move he had today. In 28 minutes.

• Jazz offense missed 8 straight shots in the 4th quarter and finished shooting 7 of 21. We don’t have a best player, we don’t have that guy you can turn to and we had 0 fast break points in the 4th quarter. So when it gets into a half court grinder late it is hard on this team to find a way to make enough plays. The Grizzlies were doubling Al every time and he tried to make the right play most of the time we just couldn’t hit the shot.

• The big line-up played a lot together tonight and was very good for most of the evening.

• Overall this effort was terrific. The Jazz usually win games when they do what they did tonight. They got balanced scoring, they played from ahead, they got the Grizzlies under 50% shooting. Jefferson shot 10 of 17 and despite 0 free throws we usually win if he does that.

• Tonight just shows the difference between a little more experience both in years and playoffs compared to where the Jazz are right now. I am not sure if the pressure of playing for the playoffs is the reason but Al Jefferson is 4 of his last 20 from the field in the 4th quarter and 4 of his last 15 in clutch situations (under 5 to play within 6 points) . Al has no experiencing playing in this environment and may want to it too badly. For Hayward and Favors these are new experiences. Hayward only played in 12 games last year in clutch situations, this year he has played 35 and he is just 12 of 31 from the field and 1 of 9 from three, he has hit 26 of his last 28 free throws in the clutch but is just 3 for last 14 from the field.

• Jazz need to win the next 5 and if they play like they did tonight they will do it. Rock the house on Monday