EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Quin Snyder is showing his brilliance

SUMMARY: After a back-and-forth second quarter, the Jazz exploded and never looked back en route to a 106-77 routing of the Denver Nuggets.
• The Jazz trailed by one point at the half and outscored the Nuggets 58 to 28 in the second. It was stunning. Frankly, it was stunning from both the Jazz and the Nuggets.

• The Jazz continued the exceptional ball movement that started in Orlando and has led to high level 3-point shooting. Over the last eight games, Utah had taken 38% of their shots as 3-point shots and made 40%. Tonight, they took 32 of 87 shots as 3-point shots (37%) and hit on 14 of those for 44%.

• Derrick Favors was great. He is annihilating big centers with less movement. Jokic is not good laterally and Favors made him look super slow all night. This is the same thing he did to Vucevic in Orlando, Mozgov versus Brooklyn, Henson versus Milwaukee and Lopez versus Chicago. Derrick has been a beast. He was great on the roll tonight. He had a big job on the defensive glass. He is finishing at the rim back at the 70+% rate he did before last year’s injuries.

• Remember two years ago, there were days when we wondered if Derrick was the best player on the team? He is playing at that level right now on both the offensive and defensive end.

• The offense has been much of the focus since Rudy’s injury and how the Jazz have performed with a stretched floor. Tonight, they were just as good defensively as they were offensively.

• Part of me is wondering if this is the stretch where we are seeing the pure brilliance of Quin Snyder. Maybe we saw it last year when with all those injuries and gimpy George Hill, Quin found a way to get that team to over 50 wins. This stretch feels really masterful. His offensive schemes are finally playing with a stretched floor. He had it a little with Joe Johnson last year in the second half of the season as a stretch 4 and the Jazz were unguardable at times. They are again. Coming into the game tonight, the Jazz were the third best offensive team in the NBA over the past eight games. The offensive rating was 118 tonight and will likely go up. Quin has always wanted to play with a stretch floor, but the roster he has forced him to play with two big and adapt. When Favors was out last year we saw this offense. In the first round of the playoff the Jazz were unguardable and now again for a 9 game stretch with a group would never be classified as a offensive group they are unguardable. Quin Snyder is ahead of the game and we are seeing what he is capable of building.

• The Jazz are doing things offensively that no one else in the league is doing and Quin is pushing teams’ defensive principles into areas of confusion, allowing the Jazz to take advantage of that to get amazing looks.

• In six of the last nine games, the Jazz have had 14 3-point makes or more.

• In seven of the last nine games, the Jazz’s offensive rating has been above 110. Only the Warriors averaged more than 100 for the season.

• Over the last nine games, the Jazz are shooting above 50% on corner-3s.

• Tonight, they did it without Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson and Dante Exum.

• Joe Ingles’ passing was incredible. He used ball fakes like a magician to open up opportunities.

• Ricky Rubio took 10 shots and has not taken more than 10 shots in eight games.

• Jonas Jerebko and Thabo Sefolosha have been a forceful power forward combination. They played 40 minutes, shot 7 of 15 (Jonas was 6 of 10) were 3 of 7 from 3 (Jonas had all 3), had 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals (both Thabo) and scored 17 points. This night it was Jerebko that did most of the damage on the corner 3s but on other nights, it has been Thabo.

• Royce O’Neale got a ton of time with Rodney Hood out and hit three 3-pointers, including two corner 3s and had a career high 11 points.

• The Nuggets’ offense is handoff-based and the Jazz blew it up. The Jazz’s offensive is a pick-and-roll advantage-based offense and they scorched the Nuggets.

• This was a stunning performance by the Utah Jazz. To blow out the Nuggets by 30 while being shorthanded is unheard of. Being 5-4 without Rudy is unthinkable. Having the best offense in the NBA over a nine game stretch with this set of players makes you believe Quin Snyder is a mastermind.

• The Jazz have discovered something. How all the puzzle pieces fit for the rest of the season and with everyone healthy is unclear.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Perfect Game plan and ball movement lead to blow of Bucks

SUMMARY: The Utah Jazz used electric ball movement and a brilliant game plan to exploit the Milwaukee Bucks in a 121-108 win.

• The Jazz set a franchise record 18 3-point makes and had brilliant ball movement all night. The Bucks are the most aggressive defense in the NBA; They double the ball off every pick and they over-shift to the strong side more than any team in the NBA. The Jazz were perfectly prepared for the Bucks’ defense and moved the ball all night, finishing with 31 assists. They ball faked, threw skip passes and toyed with the Bucks’ defense as though they were on strings on most of all their made shots.

• The Jazz got 10 corner-3 shots tonight and made seven of them. That is a huge amount. It is not the 20 they got last year against the Bucks, but it was still a lot. The Bucks have altered their defense to try to take away the corner-3 since they got so exploited last year.

• The Jazz have now beaten the Milwaukee Bucks in 16 straight games in Salt Lake City. It is the third longest streak by any home team in NBA history. The last time the Bucks won in Salt Lake was 2001

• The Jazz took 40% of their shots from 3. To do this without a bona fide one-on-one breakdown player is a tribute to the offense, the ball movement, the teamwork and the system.

• The Jazz came into the game number one in the league in setting picks and number one in passes made, which showed tonight as they abused the Bucks more and more on every pass and every pick.

• It didn’t feel like Giannis Antetokounmpo had a great night and he finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. That is a tribute to what an incredible player he is. He seemed unstoppable at times. It just felt normal.

• The Jazz only had 10 turnovers tonight despite all the passing. The Bucks are third in the NBA at forcing turnovers.

• Joe Ingles had a regular season career high with 9 assists tonight. He is also 21 of his last 31 from 3. That is absurd.

• Rodney Hood took over the game for a period and ended up with 21 points for his 12th straight game in double figures, which I believe is the longest streak of his career with double figures. He is a much better offensive player right now. He is above average in efficiency for the first time in his career and he is doing it with an increased usage rate.

• Donovan Mitchell has spurts where he just jumps off the floor. Whenever I watch a college game (rarely to be honest), my rule is an NBA player has to jump off the floor. A good example is when I was watching Stanley Johnson and this kid from UCLA kept jumping off the screen. It was Norman Powell. Donovan is doing this in NBA games. He is doing this against the best players in the world. To jump off the floor as an elite player in your first 20 games as a rookie is rarified air.

• The Jazz’s December schedule is brutal and Utah could play well and still lose almost of all of their games. At the same time, the Western Conference is not what we anticipated, and if the Jazz can stay above water it may turn out to be a nine-team race for eight spots.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz feast before Thanksgiving

SUMMARY: The Utah Jazz blow out an inferior Chicago Bulls team and have a group feast, 110-80.
• Quin Snyder once talked about his team as a group who goes to Thanksgiving dinner and shares the meal, passes the yams, the stuffing and the turkey, passing it to all of the other people at the table. Some teams let one player eat everything they want and then they pass it and the next person takes everything they want. Tonight, the Jazz emulated exactly what Quin Snyder wanted from his team at Thanksgiving.

• The first quarter was close as both teams shot relatively well, and the Jazz led 25-24. Utah took a 9-point lead at the half, going on a 15-6 run from 5:22 to 1:02 (remember this). In the third quarter, the Jazz went on a 24-9 run from 9:55 to 3:15 and blew the game out.

• Timeouts had an impact tonight. The new rules mean that the first two timeouts are the two mandatory timeouts, no matter who takes them. In the second quarter, the second timeout got taken around the 7:20 mark and the same thing happened in the third quarter. This meant that there was extended basketball at altitude, and in both cases, the Jazz ran away from the Bulls. The only way to stop the clock is a team timeout and they are just a minute. It has been noticeable in the early portion of the season that these are not enough to stop a run. I think this is something Quin could consider using to the Jazz’s advantage. We are a deep team and are used to altitude.

• Derrick Favors was the best player on the floor tonight. He was totally dominating. He was able to get inside and to the rim. He had a gorgeous floater. He was able to move inside and around Robin Lopez. Derrick has consistently been dominant against tall centers who aren’t as mobile as he is. He finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds and was a +27.

• The Jazz moved the ball and got a bunch of good 3-point looks and it resulted in a night of 14 3-point shots on 35 attempts. That is 40% of the Jazz’s shots. This is heading in the correct direction from a shots composition standpoint. Since Gobert has been out, the Jazz have been taking 38% of their shots as 3-point shots. After tonight, they would rank second or third in percentage of FGA that are 3-point attempts. This is a great tribute to the offensive system Quin is running and how he is finding ways for guys to get good looks.

• Over this same stretch, the Jazz have hit 40% of their 3-point shots. This is worth watching. They may have figured out something offensively with the spread floor and a roster of average to above to average 3-point shooters.

• Ricky Rubio took 10 shots tonight. This is more in the realm of where he can be successful.

• I love that Rodney Hood is able to get nine 3-point shots off. If he can add a few more free throw attempts to those nine attempts from 3, he will be become an efficient, bona fide offensive force.

• Jonas Jerebko is playing really well for the Jazz. He had 10 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes. He is near 50% for the season from the 3-point range.

• Donovan Mitchell went 1 for 10 and looked exhausted. He has never been through a stretch like this in his career. Lauri Markkanen looked the exact same way and was 1 for 9. Both of them are terrific players, but the schedule in the NBA is so brutal there is no way for a rookie to be able to prepare and be ready for it.

• Mitchell did a nice job of doing other things when he realized he wasn’t making shots.

• If you watched “On the Floor” — the Facebook Live show that airs on the Utah Jazz Facebook page an hour before the game — you saw Donovan learning a new way to finish at the rim. Remarkably, he was able to implement it in one night, though he was not able to finish with it yet. He is a little too strong with the attempt.

• This was a solid win against an inferior opponent. The Jazz did what they needed to. The next two home games (along with some good rest) are really important. As Quin Snyder said, they may only be favored once in all of December.