EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz defensive buy in give them win over Thunder

SUMMARY: The Jazz’s stifling defense frustrated and derailed the Thunder offensive train on the way to a 96-87 win.
• This game was dominated by the Jazz’s defense. The Thunder went 11 minutes from midway through the 1st quarter to midway thru the 2nd quarter with only one made field goal. ONE field goal in over 11 minutes.

• The Jazz held the Thunder to .93 pts per possessions; The league average is 1.07. The worst in the league last year was 1.007 the Jazz held the Thunder to .93. That is incredible.

• In the first half, the Jazz broke up the Thunder’s actions and that forced the Thunder into more isolation basketball than they wanted to play. Early in the broadcast, the Thunder were hitting shots that the Jazz wanted them to take and they were low percentage, off-the-bounce, midrange shots. As the game went on, those same shots stopped going in.

• The Jazz’s offense is still not being very efficient, but the defense for these three games has been so great that they very well could have won all three. The offense is hitting shots at a very high rate, but they are not going to the line and they are turning the ball over at a very high rate.

• The Thunder’s offensive players never got comfortable. Anthony went into isolation mode and got rolling a bit early in the 4th quarter. However, he took 26 shots, while George took 19 and Westbrook took just 11. George has a set play where he comes off a pin down for a right wing catch-and-shoot 3. The Jazz guarded it as well as you can with his talent level. He was 3-9 from 3.

• Westbrook pulled out of fast break chances numerous times to play the facilitator. On one level, this is Westbrook trying to figure out where he fits with this team after his all-him, all-the-time season last year. On the other hand, the Jazz were getting back defensively, building a good wall and making it a forced shot if he pushed into the lane.

• Gobert makes so many guys make the extra pass and it is a turnover so often.

• Ricky Rubio plays with a passion that carries a team. He plays with an unquenchable desire to win. He makes the right play. He will shoot when he should, even if he isn’t a great shooter. Quin Snyder has given Ricky a great level of confidence in how he plays and great freedom to run the team and manage the game. Rubio played 37 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back.

• Joe Ingles led the Jazz with 19 points on 5-9 from 3 tonight; He is 12-19 for the season. He was not good last year on back-to-back games, so this is a nice step for him.

• The Nuggets’ offense last year was a 110 and they were a 100.5 versus Utah; Minnesota was a 108.1 and they were a 104.6 versus Utah; Oklahoma City was a 105 and should have gotten better and they were a 93.4. The Jazz are holding teams to an average of eight points below their usual points per 100 possession rating of a year before. Last year, the best team in the NBA was 5.5 points better than average.

• Favors has been very good and very active in the opening three games.

• Ekpe Udoh is a plus-minus machine: +11 tonight in 15:30. He is close to +50 in three games.

• The Jazz had five guys in double figures. Rubio took the most shots at 14. Seven guys took six or more shots. This is a team of pure balance.

• The Jazz only took 14 free throws and I believe five of them were technical free throws.

• The Jazz had 11 steals. Three of those came from Sefolosha who is showing he is still an elite defender.

• This was a great win tonight by the Jazz. Quin is asking these guys do something that is really hard, which is to defend and defend really hard. To get a win tonight and play these three teams as closely as they have to start the year shows the players that Quin is correct that if they defend they can win.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Old man Crawford does in the Jazz

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — 4th quarter comeback not enough against Minnesota

SUMMARY: Jamal Crawford’s 17 4th quarter points carried the Wolves to a win in aclose game win over the Jazz.
• The most important information after the game is that the Rodney Hood has a calf strain and it will be re-evaluated tomorrow. According to the Tribune, the Achilles has been ruled out as a possibility.

• The Jazz held a 1-point lead and a good chance to win the game when Rudy Gobert had a defensive rebound with :32 seconds left in the game. Gobert seemed to frantically pass the ball toward Joe Ingles, but instead the ball went out of bounds and the Wolves got another shot. On the inbound pass, Jamal Crawford hit a catch-and-shoot corner-3 over the outstretched arms of Thabo Sefolosha.

• The Jazz had five 4th quarter turnovers, which were crucial in the loss.

• Minnesota went on a 12-0 run at the end of the 3rd quarter that put them in control of the game.

• The Jazz were really impressive defensively. Minnesota — who is loaded with talent — was forced into tough look after tough look. The Jazz defense was long, getting deflections and altering the Wolves’ shots. At the same time, it was an effort for the Jazz to score. This felt like a good example of what the season will be like.

• When Minnesota got rolling, it was hard for the Jazz to come back. It is really hard to stifle a team for 48 minutes.

• The Jazz have played two bad defensive teams according to last year’s numbers and had a tough time scoring. The burden on the defense is significant.

• The Jazz showed nice fight. They trailed 90-80 with 5:33 left and were able to get back in the game and eventually took the lead.

• Derrick Favors scored eight straight points in the 4th quarter and did it with a nice combination of hitting jump shots and getting to the rim.

• All five Jazz starters scored in double figures.

• The Jazz shot the ball well; Their EFG% was well above average for most of the night. They didn’t get to the free throw line much in the first three quarters and had just six free throws in that time. That is a going to make it tough to have good offensive night.

• Joe Ingles hit 4-5 from 3.

• Rodney Hood had a sequence of three straight 3-pointers. They were all set up by great floor work from Ricky Rubio. One was a set play where it was clear Rubio knew he was going to Hood the whole time. The others were great vision and perfect passing.

• Nineteen turnovers is too many.

• Rudy Gobert had 10 points in the first half and then was scoreless in the second half. It will be interesting to see if the Wolves did anything in particular to take Gobert out of the game. Favors starting getting looks in the second half.

• Ekpe Udoh had an amazing stretch of basketball, blocking three shots in one stint. In 15 minutes, he was + 12 again. He was + 23 on the first night.

• I don’t know how long Rodney will be out and have no idea how the Jazz will replace him and Dante at the same time.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Stifling defense leads to mammoth run and opening night win

Emptying the Noggin — Defense and depth win it for the Jazz

SUMMARY: A remarkable defensive effort sparked a mammoth 3rd quarter run that ultimately led the Jazz to a 10-point win over the Denver Nuggets, 106-96.
• The question tonight was this: What happens when a great defensive team plays a great offensive team? The Denver offense — which was #1 in the NBA for the last 30 games of last season — was dictating the game for most of the night and led 70-55 in the 3rd quarter. Then, the Jazz’s defense started to take hold by forcing turnovers and flustering the Nuggets’ offense, which whittled the Denver lead down to just five points by the end of the 3rd quarter. The clamps came down full force in the 4th quarter and the Jazz flipped the game entirely.

• The Jazz trailed 70-55 and then led by 103-88 after starting the 4th quarter on a 25-5 run.

• Defense and depth were the story for the Jazz. The Jazz bench’s plus-minus numbers were incredible: Thabo Sefolosha was +25, Ekpe Udoh was +24, Donovan Mitchell was +22 and Alec Burks was +16.

• Alec Burks was terrific in the 4th quarter. He had 10 points in the 4th, hitting two major threes. On the first, the Nuggets went under a pick and Burks rose up and buried the three. He got another look in transition and buried it. Finally, he ball-faked a three on the right wing and drove down the baseline to hit a reverse flip to bring the arena to its feet and force the Nuggets into another timeout.

• The Jazz got great offensive balance tonight. Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 18 points, Burks had 16, Favors had 14, Johnson had 13, Ingles had 11, Mitchell had 10, Rubio had 9 and Sefolosha had 7 points.

• Each player had spurts in the game to keep the Jazz’s offense going. Ingles hit three 3-pointers in the first half, Favors scored eight straight points to open the 3rd quarter, Joe Johnson was the key late in the 3rd quarter and Alec Burks was a beast in the 4th quarter.

• The Jazz’s defense was incredible. They held a great offensive team to less than one point per possession, allowing just 35 points in the second half.

• The Jazz did this very differently than they did it last year. Last season, the Jazz’s defense was a shell defense that forced bad shots and ran people into Rudy Gobert. Tonight, Utah forced 21% of Denver’s possession into turnovers. Last year, the Jazz were 25th in the NBA in forcing turnovers at 11%.

• Denver is a tough match-up for the Jazz as Nikola Jokic pulls Gobert out of onto the floor and this caused the Jazz a ton of problems in the first half. Denver was knocking down shots and scoring at an alarming rate. The Jazz addressed this in the second half and shut down the Nuggets.

• Rodney Hood was announced as a starter and was then unable to play due to gastric distress which forced rookie Donovan Mitchell into the starting lineup. Hood never got going and the Jazz were a -13 when he was on the floor. Hood went 2 of 4 from the field in 27 minutes.

• The new timeout rules had a big impact on the game tonight. When the Jazz starting to blow the game open, Mike Malone called an early timeout in the 4th quarter but then was down to only two timeouts for the rest of the game. He tried to avoid calling another one as the run continued because he didn’t want to be down to one and the Jazz kept their momentum. Denver is a young team with inexperienced point guard play. The new rules could be very difficult for a team with this type of make up on the road. The veteran presence the Jazz added may turn out to be very valuable with the new timeout rules.

• What an opening night. The first 30 minutes were every fan’s worst case scenario of what the Jazz might look like and the final 18 were beyond what Jazz fans could imagine.