Part of the 82 games marathon is a coach managing and massaging a roster to keep his players engaged while simultaneously arriving at his best options for the stretch run. Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has done that all season with his front court and one month before the playoffs he has three distinct big man combinations that are working marvelously.
When healthy the Jazz start the Wasatch Front, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. In a league going skilled and spaced this is an old school traditional big man line-up. However, they are dominant defensively. Favors and Gobert are the #1 defensive 2 man line-up in the NBA.
After the all-star break Quin Snyder moved Joe Johnson to the 4 as his exclusive position. A move Snyder has been waiting to make all season, but with the injuries to Burks and Hood coupled with the need to play Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw was unavailable until now.
When Joe Johnson has been coupled with Rudy Gobert it has been the Jazz version of the Warriors death lineup. They are not only unguardable, but they are having great success defensively.
The one problem for the Jazz has been that when Derrick Favors has been at the 5 with Joe Johnson at the 4 the defense has been terrible. This is a bit surprising, but with Favors battling injuries he has not been able to do peak Derrick Favors defensive things this season. If Favors gets healthier it is possible this lineup could be good defensively switching all picks. However, for the time being it is not and Coach Snyder must find another option. He may have done that with veteran play making big Boris Diaw. Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antonio called Diaw unquestionably the smartest player he has ever coached. Diaw isn’t making shots, he isn’t flying over people but he does make the team better when he is on the floor.
If you eliminate lineups when Joe Johnson was at the three with Diaw and Favors together the Jazz have another productive big man combination. The Jazz played 120 minutes with Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and Derrick Favors together and it didn’t work at all. The offensive rating was just below league average and the defense was very poor. The overall performance was being outscored by 5 points per 100 possesions.
If you eliminate Joe Johnson from the equation, the Boris Diaw and Derrick Favors combination has been very good.
Finally, Quin has the French Connection at his disposal. The trust and togetherness of Diaw and Gobert together has been obvious all season
Through numerous combinations, endless injuries and some trial and error Coach Snyder heads into the final month of the season with four big man combinations that are all over +8 per 100 possessions. It is an exciting propostion heading into the key late season games and the playoffs
Summary: A tremendous win for the Jazz over the third place Houston Rockets. Utah controlled the game the entire night and held strong down the stretch.
- The Jazz led the majority of the way — and most of the night — by three or more possessions. The Jazz’s offense dominated the game through Houston’s numerous attempts to adapt their defense. The Jazz scored at will all night with great ball movement, super team work, sharp focus and astute basketball.
- The Rockets opened the night by doubling the ball on all the pick and rolls and the Jazz moved the ball to the open man to find Rudy at the rim. Then, the Rockets went to a switching defense and the Jazz torched that approach. To open the second half, the Rockets brought a third guy to the pick and roll to eliminate Rudy’s roll while having two guys on the ball, and the Jazz passed out of this to get more and more open looks.
- Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward are both playing at such a high level that it allows everyone else to function with ease. Hayward is making big shots. Gobert is a beast defensively, but his teammates are trusting him on the roll to the basket and he is making good plays. This makes the Jazz’s offense remarkably good.
- Gobert is also getting at least one mammoth put back a night.
- The Jazz were very clear with their defensive plan. They were not going to let the Rockets gets open threes off the action of James Harden. It was the first night all year James Harden didn’t have at least seven assists in a game. The Jazz played the pick and roll with two players. The guard would trail Harden over the pick and force Harden inside the 3-point line. Then, Gobert would cover ground and try to stay with Capela. The defensive numbers weren’t great because the Rockets are that good offensively, but it took the Rockets’ biggest weapon — the 3-point shot — out of the game.
- The Jazz only allowed two transition points in the second half. The Rockets need transition to get the looks they want.
- This defensive system works because of Rudy. I am not sure any other team in the NBA can play this way as well as the Jazz do.
- The Rockets got most of their 3-point looks in transition and/or early in the shot clock.
- James Harden went 0 for 8 from three.
- With Hayward on the bench and Hill out for the game, Rodney Hood took over the offense and was terrific during a period in the fourth quarter. His ability to get a shot off is really special. He nailed those mid-range shots and kept the Jazz in control.
- The most impressive part of this performance was the level of focus for the entire night. The Jazz never blinked. Utah took an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter and led by six or more for the entire second quarter. The Rockets got it down to three in the third and then the Jazz stretched it back out and led by six or more points for all but one possession of the third. The same thing happened in the fourth quarter: The Rockets trimmed the lead down to four points and then the Jazz took it back to 10.
- Down the stretch, the Jazz’s offense was clutch. The Rockets had the game within four points with 2:56 left and Gobert made two free throws. Harden got it back to four again on the next possession and then Joe Johnson hit a huge 3-pointer.
- The Jazz were without George Hill, Shelvin Mack and Derrick Favors. Dante Exum and Raul Neto played a combined 30 minutes, meaning the Jazz went 18 minutes without a traditional point guard. Credit Neto for a very important 21 minutes.
- By playing no point guard, James Harden had to guard someone. When Dante was on the floor, he just camped out on Dante and didn’t use any energy on defense. When it was Hayward, Ingles and Burks, he had to play defense
- Boris Diaw and Joe Ingles play the game right. Diaw was +9 in 14 minutes and Ingles was +12 in 27 minutes.
- Hayward: 23/7/4; Gobert: 23/10; Hood: 19/6/3; Johnson 16/2/2. Solid work across the board. AB was strong off the bench as well with 10 points in 15 minutes.
- This was a great win for the Jazz tonight and the Clippers lost in Minnesota. The Jazz move within three games of the Rockets and now own the tiebreaker between them.
Summary: Remarkable defensive performance by the Jazz and Rudy Gobert leads the Jazz to a wire-to-wire win over the Pelicans, 88-83.
• The Jazz were playing without George Hill, Joe Johnson and had Rodney Hood on a minutes restriction. They opened the game with a 29-14 first quarter and led for the rest of the way.
• The story of the night was the Jazz’s consistent effort on the defensive end. The Pelicans are 29th in the league offensively since the All Star break and the Jazz shut them down. For the first three quarters of the night, the Pelicans were shooting 18 of 64 from the field.
• Favors guarded Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert had DeMarcus Cousins. Other than a brief period where Davis impacted the game for three minutes, neither was a factor on the outcome.
• Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles both hit mammoth three-point shots in the 4th quarter to seal the win.
• Hayward finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.
• Ingles finished with 12 points on 6 shots, 4 of 5 from three, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
• Dante Exum did well in his start tonight and Raul Neto had a solid 14 minutes off the bench. They combined to shoot 4 of 14, and the Jazz did play 8 minutes of the game without a point guard.
• Alec Burks’ seven defensive rebounds from the guard position was a season high.
• The Pelicans shot 13 of 42 with both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on the floor.
• The Pelicans want to play a 3-on-3 or 2-on-2 game and the Jazz did a great job defensively of making it 3-on-5 or 2-on-5 with their help defense and weakside shifts.
• DeMarcus Cousins’ attitude to the game is offensive to watch.
• This was a solid third win in a row for the Jazz against a below .500 team, marking their 30th win of the year against below .500 teams.
Summary: The Jazz win an improbable game in overtime behind incredible plays by Rudy Gobert. The Jazz truly sneak out of Sacramento with a win, 110-109.
- The Jazz play 12 of their final 18 games against playoff teams, playing 7 of their next 9 on the road. They simply had to win tonight and it never felt like they were going to until the review at the buzzer overturned the call on the floor and gave the Jazz the win on a Rudy Gobert tip-in.
- The Jazz trailed by 6 points after the first quarter, by 14 at the half and by 12 going into the fourth quarter. They trailed by 7 points with 2:04 left, by 6 with 1:18 left by 4 with :37 left and didn’t have the ball; The win probability for the Kings at that point was 98%.
- How did it happen? Hayward hit a three with 13.9 left after the Jazz got a steal on the previous possession. Gobert set an amazing pick to free Gordon for the 3-pointer. Cauley-Stein split the free throws and the Jazz were down 2 points with :10 left. Hayward came off a Gobert pick and they brought two Kings to him and Gobert took two giant steps to the basket from 16 feet out and laid it up and in with 3.6 seconds left to tie. The Jazz got a chance to win when the Kings turned over the inbound and ran an amazing play but George Hill missed the floater at the buzzer.
- Two minutes into the overtime, the Jazz took their first lead in 46 minutes of basketball but they quickly were on the wrong side again. They were down 4 points with 1:22 left when Joe Ingles hit a three at 1:07 left to bring the Jazz within one point. Cauley-Stein missed both free throws and Hill hit a runner to put the Jazz up by one. The Jazz got a stop and with :17 left Hill was fouled with a chance to give the Jazz a 3-point lead. He missed both free throws and the Kings didn’t call timeout and pushed the ball up the floor where Willie Cauley-Stein tried to dunk on Gobert but was fouled. He hit both free throws this time and the Jazz were down one point with 8.9 seconds left. Hill drove against Cauley-Stein but came up short and Rudy Gobert tipped in the game winner as time expired.
- The officials called it interference and had to go to the review and then overturned the call.
- Rudy was unreal. He made these huge plays late. He had 16 points, 24 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.
- Rodney Hood also had a big time night. He got rolling in the early part of the fourth quarter to bring the Jazz back. He had 28 points on 10 of 17 shooting and 4 of 8 from three. Before he got ignited, the offense was not rolling and he got the Jazz going.
- The is necessary and dramatic but the Jazz didn’t play well. The defense was very poor most of the night before holding the Kings to 16 fourth quarter points. The guard penetration and the breakdowns were all over the place.
- The offense didn’t have its usual flow. There was a lot of ball stopping. It happened more tonight with George Hill than I have seen before and I don’t know if it is something the Kings were doing. This team is very dependent on George. He was just 4 of 14 tonight. He did have 8 assists but it didn’t seem right.
- Alec Burks played 15 minutes tonight was -9. This is happening a bit too often. The Jazz are struggling both offensively and defensively when he is on the floor. Some of this is when he plays with Dante. Going into the night, the Jazz were -13.6 per 100 possessions when both of them are on the floor together. The offense is those circumstance is a 96.8 per 100 possessions (would be 30th in NBA by a large margin). The Jazz are +2.2 when Alec is on the floor and Dante is off.
- No Joe Johnson tonight, so Boris Diaw played some power forward and then Ingles/Hayward closed the game as the 3/4 combo.
- Gordon Hayward doesn’t seem as aggressive right now. I could be making something up in my head, but he didn’t seem quite right. On the other hand, he had 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, finishing with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists so what the #$*& am I asking from him?
- Sacramento had great balance and played really hard. They didn’t complain about calls every second and they had a zest to how they played.
- When the Jazz hold a playoff position by one game, remember this one.