EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz miss

Emptying the Noggin
• This was the game that could have changed the narrative. A win and the talk of road basketball goes out the window. A win and the Jazz finish a road heavy stretch at 10-8 and winners of 6 of 8 yet somehow this one game sorta switches that discussion back to the steps this team needs to take to improve and get better.

• The Jazz were missing their two best defensive players in Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams and that was abundantly clear for the entire game. The Jazz defense was on the ropes the entire game and the Rockets ended up shooting 55% FG and 50% from three – this is not that different than what the Rockets have done in the past. Over the past 5 home games (all wins) the Rockets have averaged 113 points while making 50% of shots and 46% from three.

• The Jazz defense is making the first rotation but it is not helping the helper at all. For example if a team runs the pick and roll the and the ball handler comes into the lane the first rotation to cut off the ball handler is being made but then their needs to be a rotation to help the man who cut off the ball handler and that is not happening. Another example is if a ball handler goes baseline the big slides over now the weak sided defender has to come over and help the man who cut off the ball handler and guard his man. Not happening. The first rotation was pretty strong for much of the night and then it breaks down after that. This has to be rectified for the team to get better. This is probably progress since the first rotation wasn’t being made earlier in the year.

• Moreover, the little things aren’t getting done. That seems so cliché and maybe it is. It is so easy to look at one or two or three or four plays and say see the focus isn’t there. However, I go back to a George Karl comment early this year that teams forget how hard it is to win on the road. I am not sure this team is playing with the level of detail it needs to win on the road. It is really hard to win on the road and missing a possession or two is just a killer. Three plays jump out as examples (not to single out) Mo Williams throws a pass that it seems Lin kicked and Lin gets the steal and Mo is pissed so he grabs Lin, but three guys were back and the Jazz were in the penalty and it gave the Rockets two points. Hayward threw a poor entry pass to J. Evans trying to post up the angle was bad, one dribble and the angle is better for that pass and in the final minute Patterson is open on the left corner three and Al Jefferson runs at him and Patterson misses and then three guys watch as Millasp battles three Rockets for the rebound and the Rockets get the rebound score and are fouled. The other one is I understand not getting in foul trouble but this team has to contest the rim better and not just let guys roll down the lane early because they don’t want to pick up another foul.

• Gordon Hayward broke out his slump. He hit 8 of 12 and 3 of 5 from three and finished with 21 points. Hayward has been shooting very well from the right angle and the left baseline and that is where he took his opening shots of the night and it seemed to give him a rhythm.

• With Marvin out Alec Burks got extended run tonight and played very well. This was the best he has played all year. Not just the 11 points in 12 minutes but he was engaged defensively and made smart plays. This was a good sign. He earned some more time tonight. Once Marvin is back I am not sure how Corbin gets him time. It has to be at the two guard but he played well tonight and added an element the Jazz are lacking.

• Earl Watson got the time at the point instead of Jamaal Tinsley. This is another incredibly difficult call for Tyrone Corbin. The Jazz offense has been very good with Tinsley, he is the Jazz best plus minus player at this point. However, when both were healthy last year Watson was the back up point guard and he brings things Tinsley can’t. This is a super tough decision.

• Jazz defensive rebounding come in was 25th in the NBA – tonight they got 26 of the possible 36 (72%) that is a strong outing on the defensive glass.

• Late in the game the Rockets let Jeremy Lin go one on one on Mo Williams on back to back possessions and he took him to the rim and scored on both of them. Lin had one of his better games tonight scoring 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting.

• Patrick Patterson outplayed Paul Millsap for much of the first half of the game hitting jumper after jumper. He finished with 20 points on 8 of 17 while Paul had 12 points and 11 rebounds on 3 of 11 shooting. When was the last time Paul out played the opposing power forward? That is what the Jazz need from Paul and this has not been the elite murder’s row of power forward the Jazz have been facing. Paul lost his rhythm sometime around the move to small forward and then not finishing the two games when Favors stayed on the floor. Is that a coincidence? Did that set something off? I have no idea and it is hard to believe that to be the case when it comes to Millsap but it is clear this is not the Paul Millsap we are most commonly seeing.

• This team is better than it was a few weeks ago. The progress is slower than we would all like but it is heading in the correct direction. At times it feels like a lot of outside stuff is protruding into the team but I think that will subside and the progress will continue. The Jazz have played 12 road games and 6 home games and are 9-9. They had one or two they could have added on and then it would be really fantastic. If this team keeps getting stronger then this is a nice foundation.