EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz go cold v. very good Clippers

SUMMARY: The Clippers’ 18-2 run to open the second half carried them to a runaway win over the Utah Jazz, 102-84.
• The Jazz’s defense was great for most of the night; They held the Clippers under one point per possession and had them shooting an EFG% well below the league average. The problem was the Jazz still couldn’t get ahead. The offense just couldn’t knock down shots.

• At halftime, the Jazz were down one point after an incredible defensive first half. Trying to shut down an NBA team for 48 minutes at that level is impossible. These guys are too good. When the defense digs into someone the way the Jazz did to the Clippers, you have to be able to build some wiggle room for when the Jazz’s offense goes dead. At one point, both teams’ offense was at .8 points per possession. If you are holding someone to .8 points per possession, you need to be able to take a substantial lead.

• The opening of the third quarter was a combination of the Jazz missing shots and the Clippers making shots to swing the momentum LA’s way. This was the ultimate make-or-miss league game; The Jazz got good looks to open the second half and missed them. After an Ingles turnover, Mitchell, Rubio and Ingles all had good look 3-point shots and missed. In the same stretch, the Clippers scored on a Rivers drive, Beverly buried a 3 and Jordan got a put back dunk. That’s how easy it is to go from down one to down double digits.

• The Clippers may be very good. They are deep. All of their players (other than Wesley Johnson) are above average offensive players and Gallinari, Jordan, Lou Williams and Blake Griffin are high-level efficient offensive players.

• The Clippers’ 4/5 pick and roll with Blake and Jordan is really hard to guard.

• The Jazz’s offensive actions are getting looks. The good news is we aren’t seeing possessions get bogged down and result in no looks at all. The numbers just equaled out on the Jazz tonight. Coming into the game, the Jazz were third in the league in EFG% and that was always unlikely to last.

• The Jazz were 3 of 21 from 3 at one point and finished 7 of 28.

• The Jazz got the game within seven points with 6:38 left and I wondered how the Clippers would close without Chris Paul. Well, wow, did they ever. They scored on 7 of 8 possessions, Blake hit a contested 3 and Rivers made a tough driving layup. After a Blake missed 3, Beverly hit a nifty move in the paint, Rivers hit a 3, Gallinari added a 17-footer and Beverly shot the lights out with a 3. Pretty awesome.

• Donovan Mitchell hit his first NBA 3. It took 14 tries and then he hit three in a row. Mitchell had 19 points, but 20 shots to get there seems like a lot.

• Joe Ingles was under the weather, playing just 18 minutes and Rodney Hood was out with a mild left calf strain.

• Ekpe Udoh had a positive plus-minus again: +8. In 16:43, he had 4 blocks, 2 rebounds and 3 assists.

• Thabo Seflosoha had his 16th career double-double and was one rebound off his career high with 12, 10 on the defensive end.

• Three turnovers by AB in 15 minutes is too many as is four by Ingles. The Jazz had 18 turnovers tonight and currently rank near last in the league at taking care of the ball. Mitchell had four, getting stripped twice late. Rubio had three.

• The offense struggled in the first half and then it went dry in the third. This is the concern for the Jazz this season. It feels as though they have to find the guy who has it going. In the first quarter, it was Rubio. It wasn’t clear who it was in the second and then it was no one in the third. The high turnover numbers, low free throw attempts and no offensive rebounding due to focusing on transition defense is putting a lot of burden on the shooters.

• Big picture: Jazz opened with Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and the Clippers — all teams expected to content for the playoffs — and won two of the four. The Clippers are the best of the four teams and showed that. For the Jazz to get two of these four is a great opening stretch.