Emptying the Noggin — The Jazz’s offense is just good enough to win

Summary:  The Jazz, led by all-star Gordon Hayward, beat the Lakers 96-88 in a non-descript game. I am so happy for Gordon. He committed himself to accomplishing this goal in the offseason and with tireless work, he has taken his game to a new level and has become an All Star. It is really a testament to commitment and work.

  • This one is not very complicated. The Jazz are a superior team to the Lakers, and while they didn’t play very well, they played well enough to never be threatened by the Lakers.
  • The Jazz are not making shots and the offense is not very smooth right now. They hit on just 6 of 26 from three and hit on only 41% of their shots.
  • Alec Burks and Joe Ingles were terrific off the bench. The team plays so well when Ingles is on the floor. Alec Burks played the fourth guard spot tonight (Hill, Hood, Ingles) and is bringing an offensive aspect to the team that the Jazz have not had this year.
  • Burks had 11 points in 13 minutes on 5 of 9 shooting.
  • Teams generally only play four guards and if Ingles and Burks are both going to play, then the Jazz are going to have to play a portion of the game without a true point guard. Thursday, the Jazz were +10 when they played without a true point guard so it was successful.
  • Hayward had 24 points and shot 9 of 10 on his free throws.
  • Rudy Gobert had a season-high six blocks and a new 10+ rebound streak has started.
  • This game really didn’t have much to it. The Jazz led by seven points at the end of one quarter. The lead was four points at the half, 10 at the end of the third, and they won by eight. The game was never truly in doubt.
  • Jazz closed with Hill, Ingles, Hayward, Diaw and Gobert. It is going to be different each night depending on match-ups.
  • Quin Snyder said after the game he doesn’t think the team is playing very well. He is accurate. They did play well enough to win tonight however.

Emptying the Noggin – Fatigued Jazz Lose 2nd in a Row

Summary: The Jazz — playing four games in five nights — looked like a tired bunch for most of the night and fell to the Denver Nuggets, 103-93, splitting the season series at two games apiece.

  • The Jazz weren’t very good tonight. They weren’t sharp. They didn’t throw themselves into the game. They didn’t have a lot of bounce. They didn’t make shots. It was a group that lacked a lot of juice.
  • In all likelihood, this will be the final time in franchise history that the Jazz play four games in five nights. The league is starting the season two weeks earlier in order to eliminate this situation. The league has already done a lot to get rid of these games as teams aren’t very good when they play four games in five nights. The Nuggets weren’t a particularly fresh team, having played six games in nine nights, and this was really ugly basketball for much of the game.
  • When the Jazz led it midway through the second quarter, you could feel that they didn’t have it. I said on the air that the Jazz were on the verge of being down 10 by halftime if something didn’t change and sure enough, that is what happened.
  • The Jazz sent the Nuggets to the line time and time again in the second quarter. Playing defense with your hands and not your feet is the quickest way to commit fouls, and the surest sign that you are tired.
  • Rudy Gobert’s rebound streak came to an end after being extended on a review of Monday’s game film.
  • Nikola Jokic was terrific: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. He is incredibly skilled offensively.
  • The Jazz made a run in the fourth, and if one of two shots had fallen, maybe the night would have ended differently. George Hill had a wide open three on a Denver breakdown with 3:16 left and the Jazz down by six points. He missed it. Then, Hill had a wide open three from the right corner with the Jazz down four points with 2:23 left and it didn’t go. Hill has been so good, but tonight the shot didn’t fall. He went 6 of 18 and 1 for 6 from three.
  • Hayward had a poor night: 2 for 10 and nine points. The Jazz aren’t going to win a lot when Hill and Hayward shoot 8 of 28 from the field. It’s rather remarkable that with that shooting night, I can find two shots that might have changed the night.
  • Derrick Favors had an awesome third quarter tonight with 16 points on 7 of 7 shooting and took Jovic to school. Favors was great in the paint and his mid-range jumper looked excellent. Jokic is still a very poor defensive player and Favors was able to take advantage.
  • This was the second straight solid night for Alec Burks. He is bringing an element the Jazz haven’t had off the bench and is really scoring. He uses a lot of possessions in a short period of time and those possessions have been being used fairly well, so he needs to stay efficient.
  • The Jazz have lost two games in a row. I wouldn’t worry too much about this. The Jazz have three more games during this stretch where they were favored for 11 straight (turned out they weren’t favored tonight) and if they can go 9-2 in that stretch, it is a really good run.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Jazz execute plan but Westbrook too good

Summary: Russell Westbrook willed the Thunder to a 97-95 win over the Utah Jazz with a 38 point, 10 rebound, 10 assist performance and the game winning shot with 1.7 seconds left.

  • Russell Westbrook was incredible. The Jazz’s defensive plan was good: They wanted to keep him out of the paint. As a result, he only had five shots in the paint and only made one of them. The Jazz made him make tough looks that he doesn’t make at a high percentage.
  • Westbrook is much less good as the shot clock goes on and the Jazz were able to get him to take 14 of his 29 shots in the final seven seconds of the shot clock. He made just five of those 14 attempts. These are the shots you want to make him take.
  • In a one-possession, one-play game, shooting 5 of 21 from three is a big deal. If the Jazz make 7 of 21 — which would still be below their average — they win the game.
  • Hayward hit a three to tie the game on a gorgeous play, and then Westbrook came down of a super high pick and roll and got free to his right to pull up for the game winner. Ron Boone thought it was a moving pick on Steven Adams. I’m not sure George needs to go under that pick and get caught by Adams. It is a hard call that far away from the basket as the pick was set near the logo.
  • Alec Burks missed a good look corner three on the final play.
  • The Jazz entered the game with the best win-loss record in games decided by five points and the second best record in games within three points with five minutes to play.
  • The Jazz were down one point with :20 seconds left when Westbrook missed a jump shot, but Adams got the rebound and the Jazz had to foul Westbrook.
  • Westbrook missed 13 shots in a row at one point in the game.
  • Dante Exum got the run at backup point guard and played with a lot of aggressiveness on offense. He was completely overmatched trying to guard Westbrook, but who isn’t. He is not hitting the three and tonight he was 1 for 4. However, he had great assertiveness on offense.
  • Hill and Hayward didn’t have good shooting nights. Hill was 2 for 10 and 0 for 4 from three and Hayward was 6 of 17 from the field and 2 for 6 from three.
  • The Thunder ran the ball at the Jazz and had 20 fast break points in the first half. They finished with 25, which is a season high for all Jazz opponents.
  • The Thunder were only -2 when Westbrook was on the bench. A key section of the game was when Payne hit a three and Oladipo hit a pull up jumper right before Westbrook re-entered.
  • The Jazz led by seven points with 6:20 left and it felt like the Jazz were in control.
  • Alec Burks played a large roll tonight. He closed the game for the first time all season and had 13 points, two rebounds and two assists. He has had a nice flow to his game the last two games. He played 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Favors had a double-double, but Rudy’s rebound streak came to an end.
  • Westbrook was too good. The Jazz had a plan and they executed the plan, forcing him into shots they wanted him to take. The Jazz’s defense had a decent rating for the night. Offensively, the Jazz didn’t make enough shots and never had a great offensive rhythm.