EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz fight hard against Thunder but Thunder have too much

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN
• Jazz are just the 4th team to hold the Thunder under 90 points, just the 4th team to hold the Thunder under 40% shooting and the Thunder still find a way to win. That is the sign of a super elite team. The Thunder are the Western Conference Champs and on their way to a second straight finals in all likelihood and one of the main reasons is their ability to win games in numerous different fashions.

• Watching the Thunder what jumped out at me most is how comfortable they are together. They know each other and trust each other. For the last 5 years they have had almost no injuries and since Perkins joined the team they have had the same starting five playing together. Those 5 have played 1,200 minutes together this year and they have probably played over 4,000 total and done it in every circumstance imaginable. They aren’t going to get flustered or troubled when things aren’t going the way they want and they just keep focused at the task. Very impressive.

• The Jazz didn’t allow the Thunder to score on back to back possessions in the third quarter. Not sure they ever got the three stops in a row but this is the #2 offensive team in the NBA.

• Jazz missed Kanter tonight. When the Thunder went small and Millsap was defended by Durant Millsap couldn’t beat Durant for anything offensively and if Kanter was available the Thunder may not have been able to go to their small line-up.

• Kanter’s absence has allowed Favors to prosper he played 30 minutes tonight had 8 points, 8 rebounds to go with 5 block shots. He is terrific on defense. However, the burden on Millsap and Jefferson may be wearing them down a big. Millsap went 37 minutes tonight and he has no lift at all. He was 4 of 11 shooting had 8 points and 6 rebounds but also had 5 turnovers. He had his 2 steals and he battled but he just doesn’t have any bounce.

• Hayward had a strong third quarter scoring 10 points, grabbing 3 rebounds and getting 2 assists but his first half was 1 for 6 and he really seemed to settle compared to how hard he went to the basket in the 3rd quarter. He finished with 17.

• The Jazz just couldn’t get in the paint and the Thunder defense had 8 to 9 feet in the paint at one time with regularity . Jazz hit just 7 of 25. The Thunder are the defensive model for the future they are so long. With Thabo, Durant, Ibaka and Perkins they can close on anything.

• Ibaka is really greatly improved.

• If I was a Thunder fan I would be very concerned about Kevin Martin when the game gets physical he wilts.

• I can’t ask for much more from this group than what they gave tonight. They really battled. The game was insanely physical. There were very few rebounds that were grabbed cleaning, everyone was being grabbed and held and bumped and scratched it was bedlam

• This was not playoff basketball because playoff basketball is a completely different breed but this was as much as any regular season game can feel like a playoff game. Every possession was battled for and every play was contested. The guys fought hard and stayed in the game.

• The thing I am most pleased with is when things got super tough in the 3rd quarter and the Jazz feel down by 14 they didn’t wilt. They stayed in the game and kept battling back and stayed in striking distance. Against Denver it was at that point they seemed a bit overwhelmed and started to make mistakes they hadn’t make all game long. Tonight they stay engaged in the game all evening.

• See you Friday. Need the next three.