EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Final emptying of the year

  • I didn’t want the season to end and so we got an extra 10 minutes. Really fun final night of the season. A night that highlighted the growth of our guys and left everyone with a good feeling. Let’s just hope those 16 ping-pong balls don’t turn out to be the important ones. This is a terrific group of people—from the players to the coaches to the support staff to my co-workers in the broadcast department—and it is really nice for everyone to leave the season on a positive note.
  • This may have been Trey Burke’s best game of the season. He has improved dramatically in the final month of the season. After a month of staying away from the paint like he was allergic to it, he is now driving into the lane and making plays. The coaching staff worked really hard on getting him to create for his teammates and he started to do that more and more. As he gets stronger in the off-season and works on the types of shots he will need to take to be successful, he will improve dramatically.
  • Trey’s clutch play is incredible—he shot 51% from the field and insane 16-for-29 from three (55%, the second-best rate of anyone in the NBA) and nearly impeccable 16-for-17 from the line (the fifth-best clutch free-throw shooter in the NBA). This is what separates the kid. He has an inappropriate confidence and that is a wonderful thing. This will drive him to success in the NBA.
  • The Jazz played with great pace in the first quarter. With Alec and Jeremy in the starting lineup, the Jazz were a much faster team and got out and ran. Fast-break points only tell part of the story. When they get up the floor in a hurry and keep the pressure up, then any mismatches stay for the whole possession. The Jazz need to play with much more tempo next year. They can’t survive being this young and ranking 26th in pace of play and using the most possessions of anyone in the NBA in the final 12 seconds of the shot clock. This will  be part of Trey’s development as well.
  • Derrick Favors has been steadily building an offensive game piece-by-piece. It’s not a huge “aha” moment—it’s much more subtle. However, more and more he is comfortable in the post, he’s reading the floor correctly, and he’s working off the defender and making plays. He closed the final 20 games of the season averaging 16 points on 56% shooting. Tonight he had 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
  • What a cool way for Jeremy Evans to close the year. He has proven that is he is a viable NBA player. Not sure if he’s a full-time rotation player, but he is a solid player that can help you win games and alter pace. He was very, very good on Love tonight. He got into his body and he denied him any room, and Love didn’t want to fight through it. JE finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
  • How nice for Malcolm Thomas to have something to build from. He looked like an NBA player. He knew where he could have success and how he was going to play.  Nailed a three and showed the ability to play in the post.
  • Tip of the hat to Richard Jefferson for playing 82 games and finishing the year over 40% from three.
  • Gordon Hayward finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Kevin Martin was just 2-for-5 when Hayward switched over to him after Burks had fouled out. Tyrone Corbin’s quick substitution of Hayward in the third quarter was strange but it was fortunate because Hayward ended up logging 46 minutes.
  • Rudy Gobert put out a solid and important 14 minutes. For the first time his length impacted the game offensively as well as defensively. He grabbed three offensive rebounds for put-backs and had eight points and nine rebounds in 13 minutes. He’s a lot further along than anyone thought he would be at this point.
  • Trey Burke was +19 in a six-point win. Kevin Love was -12 in a six-point loss because he played like he had taken Benadryl.
  • Jazz shot 12-for-30 with Gobert on the floor. He’s still an impediment to good offense. He has a chance to be an elite, game-changing defender. He could be Roy Hibbert, who’s also a problem for Indiana on offense.
  • Lineup of Trey, Gordon, Richard, Malcolm Thomas and Derrick Favors was +17 in eight minutes. I knew that was the lineup we should have been using all year.
  • Have a great offseason. Thanks for reading this after every game (well, almost every game). Your passion drives me.