EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Lots of really good performances and an awesome legend

  •  First of five games against Western Conference playoff teams who can not afford a loss to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz did very well tonight. They battled all the way until two minutes were left. The game had 18 lead changes, 17 ties and for only one possession did a team lead by more than two possessions.
  • The best part of the night was the Jazz taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Mavericks. There are two levels of NBA success. First, you have to be good enough to take advantage of the other teams weaknesses, either scheme or personnel. Second is you become good enough to dictate the matchup yourself. We’re not at the second one yet. The Jazz doing the first was a good sign. The Mavericks are 29th in the league in restricted area FG% defense and 28th in FG% defense in the paint. Tonight the Jazz had an awesome night in the paint, scoring 56 points. In addition, the Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the NBA at defending the ball handler on the pick and roll. Trey took advantage with 20 points and six assists. This is a really big deal. If you can’t take advantage of weaknesses, it is an issue.
  • Kanter was solid off the bench tonight—18 points and 11 rebounds for the night. He is not holding his defensive verticality, though he thinks he is. He is getting better defensively, though the numbers are still startling when he plays lots of minutes—whether this team wins or not. This is simply a sign that he still has a lot of development ahead of him, but his offensive skill is becoming clear.
  • The Jazz played a lot of the fourth quarter with Burke, Burks, Jefferson, Kanter and Favors. Gordon Hayward stayed on the bench. I have not talked to Coach Corbin, but my thought is that without Marvin on the floor the Jazz needed a shooter on the floor. With Kanter and Favors in the post and Trey and Alec at the guards, those are four non-shooters. Jefferson is a 42% 3-point shooter. Plus, Jeffferson’s ability to be in the corner for a three spreads the floor. Jefferson is one of the top five corner-three shooters in the NBA, and Hayward is one of the bottom five corner-three shooters, so when it was decided that Burks was going to stay on the floor to create, it may have meant that Hayward’s lack of shooting prevented Corbin from putting him back on the floor. I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems like a reasonable explanation. You are welcome to disagree with it, but it was not without some logic—and moreover some reasonable logic.
  • Alec Burks had a career-high eight assists.
  • Sometimes games are really basic: make shots. When the Mavericks led 95-93 with 3:51 left, Alec Burks got a wide-open three and missed, and then Ellis (who is a lower percentage 3-point shooter than Burks) buried his and the Mavericks led it by five. Switch it around and the Jazz are up by one with the ball and 3:20 left. Crazy how sometimes it is so simple.
  • Hayward played 35 minutes and played well. He missed two good-look threes in the fourth quarter. One would have put the Jazz up by six and the other would have tied the game. Gordon is 11-for-47 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter this year.
  • Dirk is fabulous. It is really an honor to watch him play, call games he plays and he a part of the NBA that includes Dirk. He went 11-for-13 for 31 points … are you kidding me?!  He’s the 12th all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA. He’s 35 years old and I can’t see him slowing down anytime soon. His work ethic is in the class of Karl Malone. His dedication to his craft is equaled only be the greats of the game. It is a pleasure to watch.
  • See you Friday for the Clippers.