EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Rockets leave no doubt

SUMMARY: The red hot Houston Rockets showed every bit of why they have won 8 in a row and dismantled the Jazz in the 2nd half on their waty to 112-101 win that wasn’t that close.
• The Jazz started the night terribly with Rudy Gobert mishandling three straight possessions that lead to the Rockets taking a 6-0 lead and a timeout from Quin Snyder. From that point on the Jazz played the Rockets even and trailed by 5 at the half.

• The third quarter the Jazz got blitzed. Ryan Anderson couldn’t miss from three. James Harden who had scored the last 8 points in the 1st half kept rolling in the 2nd half and before the half had even got going the game was gone. The Rockets are now 16-1 when they lead at the half.

• The Rockets started the night with Trevor Ariza on Donovan Mitchell. It is clear that the best defender is going to guard Donovan every night. The lack of Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson is obvious when Mitchell is off the floor or they opponent digs into Mitchell.

• Rudy Gobert has not been able to impact games at his highest level since returning from the injury.

• The Jazz are starting Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert because they both deserve to start, but not for the well being of the offense or right now team success. Tonight when they were on the floor together the Jazz got outscored 27-10. This is a really tough situation for the Jazz and Quin Snyder. They are trying to sneak through the opening moments of the game and then get to the most effective lineups this year and it is not working the last three games.

• Donovan Mitchell started slowly, but by the end of the night had 26 points on 9 of 19 shooting and 2 of 6 from three. He is averaging 26 points a game the last 5 games. There are a lot of garbage time points in this total with the game a blowout so quickly into the 2nd half, but give Donovan credit for continuing to compete.

• Joe Ingles had a great start to the game. He was straight ballin

• Derrick Favors finished with 28 minutes and 2 of 4 shooting with 5 points and 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steak and 2 blocks . Rudy Gobert played 28 minutes as well and had 6 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks and 5 turnovers. Jazz need better production out of these two players. Both are much better than this level of production.

• Thabo Sefolosha was a plus 12 tonight and had 14 points and 5 rebounds.

• The Rockets followed the script they have been playing with all season. They won their 8 straight and their 14 of 15. They have won the 8 straight by an average of about 20 points and the 14 of 15 by an average of about 17 points. They have lead by 10 or more for 38% of their minutes played coming into the game tonight. They never lead by 10 in the first half tonight but did for almost the entire 2nd half. They have lead by 10 or more in over 50% of their 2nd half minutes and by 20 or more in 25% of those minutes.

• The Rockets are great. They are going to make a real run at the #1 seed and the Warriors should be worried.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Perfect Basketball

SUMMARY: The Jazz continued their brilliant play, winning their sixth game in a row in the third largest win in franchise history, 116-69.
• This is truly remarkable and honestly, it is beyond me what is happening. Twelve games into the season, the Jazz simply couldn’t score. We wondered if this team might finish the season 30th in the league offensively. After the loss to Brooklyn, the Jazz were 6-10 and the question was how many pieces could the Jazz move before the trade deadline, and whether or not it was worth tanking. Since then, the Jazz have won five games (in a span of eight) by 19 or more points. The offense is ranked in the top two in the NBA and the Jazz have the fifth best point differential in the NBA for the season. I don’t really understand what is happening. I am not sure any one of us are sure either, but we do know it is a great deal of fun to watch.

• The first quarter felt like the best basketball the Jazz have played all year (at least until the second quarter). The Jazz won the first quarter 29-15. They moved the ball and they got open look after open look. They got high percentage shots and forced the Wizards into mid-range jumpers.

• In the second quarter, the onslaught continued. The Jazz defense was even better and within 5 minutes, a 14-point lead jumped to 26 and within 6 was at 31. The Jazz led this game 52-21. That is unheard of.

• This was the second worst lost in Wizards history and the Jazz’s third largest win.

• The Jazz’s offense was clicking. They got into the front court quickly and then started putting the Wizards in the blender. “The blender” is when the Jazz are able to break the paint with the drive, kick the ball out, drive again and kick again. At this point, the defense is in a scramble. The other night on the plane, Quin Snyder jokingly said that wasn’t a blender, we had them in the Vitamix. Tonight, they had the Vitamix on high.

• Every Jazz player had a field goal and an assist by halftime.

• My halftime question for Igor Kokoskov was what is it like to watch your team play perfect basketball. He didn’t disagree. That is the best way I can sum up the Jazz’s performance.

• The game never went inside 30 points in the second half.

• Rudy Gobert returned and looked fine. At times, he was a bit off balance. There was a play where you would have thought he would have dunked, but fatigue may have been an issue. He blocked two shots of Gortat’s early and eliminated Washington’s interest in going to the basket.

• Three minutes into the first and third quarters, Quin Snyder subbed out Derrick Favors and brought in Jonas Jerebko, so the Jazz played only six minutes the entire night with Favors and Gobert on the floor together. The score was 7-7 in those six minutes.

• Favors circled back and played with Jerebko at the 6-minute mark. Favors was +25 in the 18 minutes he played the center and Gobert was +18 in the 15 minutes he played center with someone other than Favors playing power forward.

• The Jazz shot 34 of 75 shots as 3-point shots (45% of all shots) and made an incredible 47%. The Jazz’s shooting is through the roof. They entered the game at 39% for the season and as the third best 3-point shooting team in the NBA.

• Alec Burks led all scorers with 27 points, making it was the first time in his career that he scored 24 or more in three straight games. This is a new Alec Burks playing the game in a different manner than we have seen before.

• The Jazz held the Wizards to 28.8% shooting which is the seventh lowest by a Jazz opponent in franchise history.

• Dan Clayton pointed out the Jazz didn’t need to score for the final 18 minutes of the game and they still would have won.

• Ekpe Udoh was out of the rotation.

• Raul Neto was back and superb.

• Joe Ingles is 31 of his last 56 from 3. That is simply stupid.

• I don’t know who this team is right now. The metrics are beginning to make you believe this team might have something, but they also said this team was on the verge of being one of the six worst teams in the league not too long ago. The Jazz may not be favored in more than one game until after Christmas. This stretch will let us know.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Alec Burks play represents the Jazz developmental program

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Utah’s offensive prowess continues in blowout win over injured Clippers

SUMMARY: The Jazz’s offensive explosion continued as they turn a close fourth quarter game into a blowout 126-107 win over the Clippers.
• The story of the night was Alec Burks. Alec finished with 28 points (a season high), 7 rebounds (a season high), 5 assists (a season high), 3 steals (a season high), and 1 blocked shot.

• Alec has been working really hard to change his game and he saw the result of all that hard work tonight. The East coast road trip was a disaster for Alec, but he continued to work. His assistant coach Jeff Watkinson has been working with Alec to get wider in his stance. When you think of Alec, you think of that tall, rhythm, bouncy dribble. That left him with poor balance and the inability to stop on drives. Playing with a wider stance and shorter, choppy steps gives him the ability to stop in the lane before he is in trouble, keep him on his feet, pick his spots so he can attack, pull up or pass.

• He threw a pass tonight on a play in the paint that I had never seen from him. He was in the paint and stayed on the ground. Because he was on balance and playing slower, he was able to rip a pass to Ingles in the corner for a 3. In the past, this play was Alec driving to the basket recklessly, and if he made the pass he threw a wraparound from the baseline.

• He played under control the entire night. He made floaters in the lane. He curled out on a 1-on-2. He had DeAndre Jordan on a switch and he lifted into a 3-pointer instead.

• Talking to Alec today at shootaround, he said he is just trying to play slow. He had to change because his former game wasn’t working. When I asked him how hard that is, he said it is really hard because everything he did before was about explosion, which he’s trying to learn to play without. The irony is by taking away away and slowing down, he will give himself an opportunity to use those explosive qualities again.

• The Jazz are doing so many things with their coaching staff. I talk about preparation so much in regard to in-game adjustments, but each player has an assistant coach assigned to them for floor work. That same coach will do film work with the player. They do this every day.

• Add to that the advances the Jazz are making with their medical staff and the Jazz have the complete package for player development. Each player is doing table massage work before every practice and every game to activate their muscles. The same professional is working with them each day so that trainer knows that body and what is needed. Each player has a specific strength plan that is built for them, largely based on what their body needs and what is discovered in those table sessions.

• That’s a pretty good recipe for player development: High level work on the player to prepare them to be ready on the floor then individual coaching attention dedicated to specific aspects of the player’s game. Couple that with a head coach that gives players every chance to have success and the Jazz have the premier player development program in the NBA.

• The offense continues to be remarkable. Over the past 10 games, the Jazz have been taking 38% of their shots as 3-pointers. Tonight they took 34 of 85 shots as 3s (exactly 40%) and they hit an incredible 16 of 34.

• The Jazz had 38 assists; The last time they did that was 2010. Every Jazz starter had at least three assists and five players had five or more.

• It was a 1-point game with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter and the Jazz went on a 21-4 run to blow out the Clippers. That run stretched out to 50-19 to end the game.

• The Jazz didn’t play a lot of defense (or couldn’t get stops) until late in the third quarter. The Clippers shot 66% in the second quarter.

• This was statistically the best offensive game of the year for the Jazz.

• Derrick Favors was terrific again. He had 7 offensive rebounds and was a beast.

• The Jazz being 6-4 in 10 games without Rudy Gobert is surprising. The level of offensive play has been completely stunning.