EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Impossible to swallow loss with ton of great outings.

Emptying the Noggin
• Am I allowed to take a night off from Emptying the Noggin (it is not in my job description) tonight would be the night – goodbye. Could you imagine if I just posted that, can’t tell you how tempted I am. Ok here it goes to the best of my ability.

• Chris Paul is the second best player in the NBA and he simply willed his team to not give up. Down 19 in the 3rd quarter this game was all but over and he wouldn’t allow it to happen. That is what truly great players do and his performance was amazing.

• I am going to work backwards on the final few plays. The final play with 2.9 seconds left there are not a lot of things you can get done and with the players we have right now Foye is probably the best option, the only guy who might be able to do better 1 on 1 is Burks. That would have been a pretty wild call but without Mo there are not a lot of guys who can make a 1 on 1 play. I thought Tinsley’s pass was late and too high but I am sure he was just trying to be certain.

• The foul by Al Jefferson is completely inexplicable. Why would you possibly reach? What are you going to accomplish? Slide your feet and stop his progress that is the job of the big in that circumstance. The Clippers put Al Jefferson in the pick and roll every play late in the game. I don’t have an answer as to why there was no offensive defensive substitution other than some coaches don’t like to humiliate their players late in the game. The Jazz did make a substitution late with Burks in for Tinsley but then subbed it back out the opposite of the offensive/defensive substitution it was the first time so I am not sure what the reason for that was other than Jamaal had 5 fouls and the Jazz didn’t want to make him foul and then the Jazz didn’t need to foul again.

• Jefferson has been amazing at the line this month. He has not missed all month and for a guy who last year went 5/12 in clutch situations he has been incredible this year. He has made 30 straight free throws and he made all of his free throws in the 4th quarter. He took 8 free throws tonight.

• I didn’t think it was a foul on Griffin on Millsap’s cut to the basket. That was a great pass by Al. That is a time where Millsap is just too short and doesn’t have the athleticism to get over the top. Millsap lack of height was an issue a few times tonight when Jordan grabbed offensive rebounds and finished plus the foul . That cost the Jazz 6 if not 8 points in the Clippers run back into the game.

• Derrick Favors played a great defensive game. He needs time to be able to learn how finish. That is all that is left and he becomes an absolutely amazing player. He will learn. The more contact he gets, the more attempts he gets he will get better and better. I love his aggressiveness. These are baby steps but he is better than he was a bit ago.

• If you want to talk improvement Enes Kanter had his best defensive game of the year. He had 2 assists after having 8 all of last year. Think for a moment where he has come from and where he might be going. He has played 12 months of NBA basketball – we had just started at this point last year.

• Blake Griffin did nothing on Derrick Favors. He hit one incredibly tough shot and then he never went after him again. He got one back door play and other than that he was totally shut down by Favors.

• Hayward held CP3 to 1 for 6 shooting in the 4th quarter.

• The Starters tonight were -10. All other line-ups were +8

• The bench unit of Watson, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter brought the Jazz back in the 2nd quarter against the best bench in the NBA, they swung the game 19 points. The defense was terrific. After they whopped the bench they continued it against the front line guys. Favors 3rd foul ended the run for this group and Burks got a 3rd foul shortly thereafter.

• Hayward had a ton of big plays – huge 3 in the 3rd quarter to stop the run and then a block of CP3 on a fast break to prevent the Clippers from tying the game. He is having a very good month of December

• Jazz point guards tonight 1 for 3 shooting – 5 assists and 6 turnovers. That makes them 1 for 8 in the last two games with 12 assists and 13 turnvoers.

• Great to see Randy Foye find his shooting stroke after a dreadful stretch – 8 of 12 for 26 points.

• Clippers are the 23rd team in NBA history to win 16 straight. See them Sunday.