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.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – George Hill sticks it to Pacers

Summary: The Utah Jazz get a wire-to-wire over the Indiana Pacers. The game was not close and the Jazz led by 10 or more for most of the night. The final score was 109-100.

  • George Hill — playing his first game against the Indiana Pacers after being traded — had the second highest scoring output of his NBA career with 30 points. He dominated Jeff Teague, who padded his irrelevant numbers in the fourth quarter. This was Hill’s third back-to-back since coming back from the foot and concussion injuries and the first one where he looked correct. He is getting back to being the George Hill that was dominating for the Jazz.
  • The Jazz are 15-1 when Gordon Hayward and George Hill both play and the average score is 104-93. The Jazz are now 17-4 when George Hill plays. The Jazz are now tied for fourth in the Western Conference.
  • Gordon Hayward completely outplayed Paul George tonight. Hayward had 27 points on 13 shots. Thurl Bailey pointed out on the broadcast that you almost never see him take a bad shot. He plays completely in the team concept and has the team’s intentions as his top concern all night.
  • Paul George quit tonight with six minutes left. He went iso-ball on Joe Ingles and when he didn’t get a foul call, he committed an intentional foul on George Hill so he could argue his call and then got a tech. Moments later, he fouled out with 6:00 left in the game. The Pacers were -18 when Paul George was on the floor tonight. He is a great player but he wasn’t tonight and the Pacers are now 22-21.
  • Derrick Favors and Alec Burks looked better tonight than they have all year. Favors gave the Jazz an awesome first half performance. He had 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, but it was very impactful.
  • Alec Burks was really good on the offensive end tonight and gave the Jazz a huge boost. He had 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting. He grabbed four rebounds; Rebounding guards are so important.
  • The Jazz got 14 rebounds from Hill, Ingles and Burks.
  • The Jazz played a little Burks, Hayward, Ingles, Johnson with Gobert tonight. That is another new lineup.
  • The story tonight was the Jazz’s focus, attention to detail and composure against a team that didn’t have those items.
  • Rudy Gobert got 11 rebounds, his 30th straight game with 10 or more rebounds. Only five players have done this in 20 years.
  • George Hill had a fabulous night against his former team, hometown team, favorite team as a kid. He drilled the Pacers with 30 points and his team dominated.

Emptying the Noggin — The Jazz keep winning close games

Summary: The Jazz won their fifth straight game and third over Dallas this year with an overtime win in Texas. The game was a tough, closely-fought game with 10 ties in the fourth quarter.

  • Rudy Gobert finished the night with 27 points and 25 rebounds. It was the first 25/25 game for a Jazzman since Al Jefferson against Dallas, with the last one in the NBA coming from Dwight Howard last year.
  • Gobert was incredible. He was completely dominant on the offensive glass. Dallas played Dwight Powell, who is close to being a three at center, and Dirk at the five. Rudy has to abuse them and that is exactly what he did. Rudy had 10 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and the overtime period. Moreover, Rudy showed amazing ability to finish around the rim tonight and displayed some good moves to get himself opportunities. His offensive game has more to it than is being recognized.
  • The game was tied at 76, 78, 80, 81, 83, 89, 91, 93 and 98 in the fourth quarter.
  • The Jazz’s back up point guards are struggling and Quin Snyder closed the game after George Hill fouled out with Hayward, Hood, Ingles, Diaw and Gobert. I love the idea of putting my five best players on the floor and letting them figure it out. Without Hood, Hayward is initiating a large part of the offense late in games so you can play without a traditional point guard.
  • This game was foul-heavy in the fourth quarter with seemingly every possession going to the line.
  • JJ Barea was a pain in George Hill’s side. He drew foul after foul and got George into foul trouble. Barea pulled his calf muscle and was not able to return. It changed the tide of the game a bit.
  • The Jazz are winning close games. Tonight, we had 10 minutes of clutch time. Rudy’s offensive rebound was the weapon tonight. In the final five minutes of regulation, the Jazz scored on 6 of 10 possessions, two of which were offensive rebounds. In overtime, they scored on 7 of 9 possessions; Gobert’s offensive rebounding was unstoppable.
  • The Jazz did a nice job not turning the ball over against the number one team at forcing turnovers in the NBA.
  • The Jazz were even with Rudy Gobert off the floor tonight. This is huge. The Jazz are almost always positive with Rudy on the floor so if we can stay even or positive when he is off, there will be lots of wins.
  • Gordon Hayward had 26 points and some big shots late in the game. He got to the line for eight free throws, which were vital.
  • Joe Ingles is averaging nearly 13 points a game as a starter, plus he had three steals. Those are huge plays in one-possessions games.
  • Joe Johnson hit the biggest shot of the night: The Jazz were down three and Rudy Gobert was at the line. Gobert missed both free throws with 1:50 to play in overtime. The rebound came all the way out to Rudy and he passed it to Joe Johnson who quickly released a three to tie the game at 107.
  • Dallas didn’t score over the final 2:05 of overtime. The Jazz closed on an 8-0 run that started with the Joe Johnson three.
  • Dirk Nowitzki played his second back-to-back of the season. In the previous one, he played 12 minutes and was 2 for 8. Tonight, he had the worst shooting night of his NBA career, going 1 for 13. He had a good-look three to tie the game with :10.9 seconds left. I don’t care how many he had missed tonight, it felt like it would go in and it didn’t.

The Jazz have won five in a row. Three of them were clutch games (within five points with five minutes to play). These are the games the Jazz struggled with a year ago. Don’t underestimate closing with Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson.