Emptying the Noggin — Jazz’s collective slump continues in LA loss

SUMMARY: With home court for the playoffs in the balance, the Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 108-95. Utah never led, other than 2-0 to start.

  • The Clippers jumped on the Jazz from the beginning and the Jazz couldn’t get the offense flowing at all early in the game. The Jazz scored just 14 points in the first quarter and didn’t hit their first 3-pointer until the 11:00 mark of the second quarter.
  • The Jazz were down as many as 16 and fought back to tie the game at 70-70. But unlike the last time the teams played, the Jazz were unable to take advantage when Chris Paul went to the bench. Last time, the Jazz were +12 with Chris Paul on the bench; On Saturday, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to take a 80-70 lead and never looked back. The Clippers were +9 with Chris Paul on the bench today.
  • Gordon Hayward collided with Austin Rivers knee-to-knee when making a cut. Gordon ran on it in the hallway, then returned to the game, but when he landed after taking a 3 (that he made), he immediately signaled to the bench that he couldn’t continue. The official word on Gordon is a left quad contusion.
  • I found three other players who had quad contusions this year: Anthony Davis didn’t miss any games, Dwight Howard missed one and Cody Zeller missed seven, played one and missed seven more. Clearly, there is no common thread.
  • Gordon was shut out in the first quarter of the game, which is Gordon’s biggest scoring quarter this season. Gordon has not shot the ball well against the Clippers this season. In three games, he is now 16 of 42. Luc Mbah a Moute is a good, physical defender. There is a list of guys that cause Gordon some trouble and they all fit the same mold: Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Andre Roberson and Luc Mbah a Moute. If we play the Clippers in the playoffs, this is something Quin is going to have to solve in order to get Gordon going.
  • The Jazz go as George Hill goes. In wins, George Hill shoots 51% and 46% from 3. In losses, he shoots 40% and 24%. He was 4 of 11 today and 1 for 3 from three — right on the numbers for a loss.
  • Rodney Hood has scored in double figures twice in eight games. Rudy Gobert has become the Jazz’s second scorer, but they need more of a threat than Rudy as a roller and Gordon on the perimeter.
  • Unfortunately, the Jazz have a litany of players that are in shooting slumps. As a team, they came in to the game as 26th in the NBA in EFG over the last five games. George Hill is now 6 of his last 27 from 3 (22%), Alec Burks is 2 for his last 13 overall and 11 of his last 39 from 3 (28%) Rodney Hood is 12 of his last 40 from the field and 3 of his last 14 from 3. Ever since guarding LeBron James for 35 minutes, Joe Ingles is three of 16 from 3. Joe Johnson hit on 3 of 7 tonight, but came in at 27% from 3 since All-Star break and 4 of his last 23 from above the break. Boris Diaw is 8 of his last 24 from the field.
  • As depressing as that last bullet point, was it is clearly collective. This leads me to believe it is a fatigue issue or something is off in the offense where the timing is astray. The good news is I assume they will all get their flow back at a similar time. All of these guys are better than those numbers — they all have been for their careers and they have been for this season. Something is off right now. Lots of this is caused by players being forced into larger roles than they are used to playing due to injuries.
  • Rudy Gobert was awesome again tonight. He had 26 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.
  • Today, the Jazz‘s defensive rating was 116. In 6 of the last 9 games, the Jazz have allowed a defensive rating over 111. The Lakers are the worst in the NBA at 111 and only Brooklyn and LA are over 109.1 for the season.
  • How has this happened? Is it as simple as Favors being hurt and losing the number one defensive combo in the NBA? Is it the offensive struggles meaning the defense gets stressed? Is the same fatigue impacting both side of the ball?
  • When we were at our best, we were the best in the NBA at transition defense and the best at defending in the half court. It was a deadly combo.
  • March was going to be brutal. We all knew it. We are feeling it right now.

Emptying the Noggin —Gobzilla takes over New York

Summary: The Jazz waited until the fourth quarter to close the door on the Knicks, but when they did Gobzilla took over New York and Utah won, 108-101.

  • Gobzilla (aka Rudy Gobert) left a path of destruction and wreaked havoc on the New York Knicks. Rudy had a career high 35 points, hitting on 13 of 14 shots. He grabbed 13 rebounds and a career high 11 offensive rebounds, adding four blocked shots. Only Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis have had stat lines similar this season. He was far and away the best player on the floor.
  • The Jazz trailed by eight points after the first quarter, four at the half and then by three heading into the final quarter. The Jazz won their 11th game when trailing going into the fourth quarter this season.
  • Gordon Hayward went the Paul George route tonight. Similar to Paul George in the Indiana game, Hayward had a miserable start, missing 10 of his 12 shots. In the fourth quarter, he went 4 for 5 and scored 13 points.
  • Raul Neto played the backup point guard tonight instead of Dante Exum. Exum didn’t play the point guard well on the road trip and had too many possessions that killed the offense. Teams are going under every pick with Dante, and even when he runs off re-picks, defenders are still going under. This is stalling the offense and leaving the ball in his hands for too long each possession.
  • Instead, Quin went to Neto and was rewarded. Neto hit a corner 3 and a top-of-the-key 3 when the Knicks went under the pick. Neto is small which hurts him on the defensive end, but he’s a better shooter and runs the team with more efficiency right now than Dante.
  • The Knicks caused the Jazz problems early with Porzingis popping out, which opened the middle for drives and gave Kristaps looks from 3. The Jazz have struggled defensively all year with the stretch-5, and the same was true early tonight when the Knicks scored 34 points in the first quarter.
  • The Jazz simply couldn’t make a shot for a long time in this game, starting 4 of 24 from 3.
  • The Knicks are 30th in the NBA in defensive rebounding, and the Jazz had 18 offensive rebounds in 46 chances; 39% is an outrageously high number.
  • Boris Diaw started at power forward instead of Joe Johnson, but was -12 in his 14 minutes.
  • Alec Burks went 0 for 4 and was somehow +15. That is the complete opposite of how Alec’s career has gone.
  • The Jazz got a much-needed win. If they win in LA Saturday, Utah has a chance for the four seed. If they lose, it will be very unlikely.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Gobzilla destroys New York

EMPTYNG THE NOGGIN
Summary: Jazz waited till the 4th quarter to close the door on the Knicks but when they did Gobzilla took over New York
• Gobzilla left a path of destruction and havoc throughout the New York Knicks. Rudy had a career high 35 points, he hit on 13 of 14 shots. He grabbed 13 rebounds and a career high 11 offensive rebounds. He added 4 block shots. Only Karl Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis have had stat lines similar this season. He was far and away the best player on the floor.

• Jazz trailed by 8 in the first, at 4 at the half and then by 3 heading into the 4th. Jazz win their 11th game when trailing going into the 4th quarter this season.

• Gordon Hayward went the Paul George route tonight. Similar to Paul George in Indiana Hayward had a miserable start to the game missing 10 of his 12 shots. But in the 4th quarter he went 4 for 5 and scored 13 points.

• Rual Neto played the back up point guard tonight instead of Dante Exum. Exum didn’t play the point guard well on the road trip. Too many possessions he just killed the offense. Teams are going under every pick with Dante and even when he runs off re-pick they are still going under. This is stalling the offense and leaving the ball in his hands for too long each possession.

• Quin went to Neto instead and was rewarded. Neto hit a corner 3 and a top of the key three when they went under the pick he nailed a three from the top. Neto is small and it hurts him on the defensive end, but is a better shooter and runs the team with more efficiency right now than Dante.

• The Knicks caused the Jazz problems early with Porzingis popping out and the middle opening up for drives as well as Porzingis from 3. The Jazz have struggled defensively all year with the stretch 5 and the same was true early tonight when the Knicks scored 34 points in the 1st quarter.

• The Jazz simply couldn’t make a shot for a long time in this game starting 4 of 24 from three.

• The Knicks are 30th in the NBA in defensive rebounding and the Jazz had 18 offensive rebounds in 46 chances. 39% is an outrageously high number.

• Boris Diaw started at power forward instead of Joe Johnson but was -12 in this 14 minutes

• Alec Burks went 0 for 4 and was somehow +15. That is the complete opposite of how Alec’s career has gone.

• Jazz got a much needed win. If they win in LA Saturday they have a chance for the 4th seed, if they don’t it will be very unlikely.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz lose 3rd straight

Summary: The Jazz closed out the four-game road trip with a loss to the Indiana Pacers to go a disappointing 1-3 on the trip. The Jazz knocked on the door numerous time, but were unable to ever gain control of the game and fell, 107-100.

  • First off, Gordon Hayward was terrific. He came out of the chute and carried the team for most of the night. He scored a career-high 38 points He had 10 in the first quarter and then had 10 straight at the end of the first half to bring the Jazz back into the game. He continued all night and finished shooting 16 of 24.
  • Rudy Gobert was also terrific. He had 16 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 8 blocks. He altered numerous shots, forced guys to change routes, and was mammoth. He sprinted the floor and made great catches.
  • Hayward will be thinking about a 3-pointer he missed to tie the game and Gobert will be thinking about going 2 for 6 from the line. This is why these guys are stars. The care factor from these two is magnificent.
  • There are two ways to look at this loss. First, it is a make or miss league. The Jazz were 6 of 26 from 3 for the night, highlighted by George Hill’s 0 for 7 and Joe Johnson’s 0 for 4. The Pacers, on the other hand, made shots. They were 10 of 20 from 3 — 50% is absurd.
  • A strange part of this game is that the Pacers allow the second-most amount of corner 3 attempts in the NBA and the Jazz only took one corner 3 the entire game. The Pacers are the fourth best team in the NBA defending the above the break 3 and the Jazz were 6 of 25 on above the break 3s.
  • The other way to look at this game is the Jazz didn’t make force plays, the 50-50 plays or the focus plays they needed to win on the road. Early in the game, the Jazz had at least four balls just knocked out of their hands. The 50-50 balls seemed to ricochet to the Pacers. Is that bad luck, were the Jazz a step slow or did the Jazz lacked gumption? Paul George dove on a ball out from under Gordon Hayward. Monta Ellis had an awesome steal. Joe Ingles doubled in the post and signaled to get someone to rotate over to cover the shooter and they never came.
  • At the end of the first half Gordon, scored on a filthy shot with 4.0 left and then no one put up resistance on Glen Robinson who banked in a 3 at the buzzer. This was super painful and the difference between being down two points with momentum rather than down five without.
  • The Jazz trailed by 10 going into the fourth quarter.
  • They kept battling and even had a shot to tie in the fourth when Hayward missed a 3 in transition at 103-100. Paul George hit two big shots for Indiana to clinch the win.
  • The Jazz got within two on numerous occasions in the third quarter and were never able to take the lead or tie the game.
  • There were five times during the game the Jazz had a chance to tie or take the lead and they failed on all five.
  • Raul Neto played the backup point guard minutes in place of Dante Exum after Dante had a really tough start to the game. Neto made great steals twice but when he got to the rim for the layup, he got one blocked and missed the other.
  • The injuries to Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood have put a minute burden on Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles that is very intense.
  • In the eight games that Rodney Hood has played since returning from injury, he is shooting 39%.
  • The offense was actually fine tonight. The defense is what didn’t get enough stops. Myles Turner is that big that can pull Rudy out on the floor and then there is no rim protection behind him.
  • Al Jefferson gave Indiana a great boost with 10 points in 11 minutes.
  • Joe Johnson is shooting below 40% and below 25% from 3 since the All-Star break. As Ron Boone pointed out on Postcast, Johnson has gone from playing 20 minutes against second-tier guys to 30 minutes versus first-tier guys.
  • Rodney Hood returned and got three fouls in the first four minutes. He bounced back to make a few shots in the second half.
  • These last two are tough losses. The March schedule is brutal and these were the two that the Jazz had to find a way to grab to give them a little leeway in the quest for the four seed in the West. It now looks like the Jazz will have to go to LA and beat the Clippers if they want. With the Thunder and Grizzlies playing so much better, Utah better get it rolling before the seventh seed comes calling.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz get MVP LeBron

Summary: The Jazz got LeBron-ed in Cleveland, again. With the game tied going into the fourth quarter, LeBron took over and scored or assisted on all but four points in the quarter to completely overwhelm the Jazz, 91-83.

• The Jazz never seemed in synch in the first half. In fact, Mike Wells said at halftime that he felt the Jazz couldn’t find a rhythm for the first 20 minutes of the game. Despite that, the Jazz were within two points at the half and were able to tie the game going into the fourth quarter.

• From a big picture standpoint, the take away tonight is against the number one offensive team in the NBA the last 20 games — and playing with Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles at the power forward — the Jazz were able to keep the Cavaliers below an offensive rating of. This is an exciting indicator for the Jazz’s ability to play small lineups moving forward.

• The Jazz’s defensive rebounding was not as good as it has been, but overall the defensive rating was great.

• The Jazz’s offense down the stretch was not great tonight, and they were very slow getting into sets.

• Rudy Gobert was terrific. I leave the arena each night believing he is a little better than was the night before. Tonight he went for 20 points, 19 rebounds, plus his ability to deter players from driving into the lane is stunning. Players just stay away from the paint when Rudy is in the game.

• The Jazz wanted to take away the 3-point looks from the Cavaliers similarly to how they played the Rockets, but the Cavaliers were able to get their usual amount of looks. However, they didn’t go down. The Cavaliers shoot 41% from 3 in wins and 35% in losses, so this game was there for the taking with the Cavs hitting on just 9 of 33 attempts for 27%.

• Gordon Hayward did not have a good night. He finished 4 for 14 and two of those were leak out dunks. He just never looked right all night. George Hill was 3 for 10 on the back end of a back-to-back. He has had a bit of a hard time on back-to-backs since the toe injury.

• LeBron James: 33 points, 10 rebounds (all defensive) and 6 assists. He hit on 13 of 20.

• Deron Williams closed the game since Kyrie Irving was out and the Cavs ran a point guard/LeBron pick-and-roll to get the Jazz to switch on LeBron, and then he just over powered whoever was guarding him.

• Without Rodney Hood and with both Gordon and George a bit off tonight, the Jazz tried to ride Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter.

• The Jazz had a bad offensive night. They played well enough defensively to win this game, but they never got rolling on offense and couldn’t knock down shots. To be in the game against as potent a team as Cleveland without your offense rolling is a good sign for Utah. It is a loss, but it does not to dissuade my belief that the Jazz are playing really well.

• There are two huge games coming up. The Clippers lost tonight, so Utah is still ahead three games in loss column on the Clippers, but both Thunder and Grizzlies got unexpected wins, making the Thunder three back in the loss column while owning the tiebreaker, and the Grizzlies are four games back of Utah, owning the tiebreaker. This means Utah is really only ahead of the Thunder by two games and three on the Grizzlies.

Emptying the Noggin —  Jazz control the whole game at the Palace

Summary: The Jazz jumped on the Pistons early and controlled the entire game. Utah won for the ninth time in 11 games at the Palace at Auburn Hills.

  • The Jazz’s game plans are so good every night. Moreover, they are executing the game plans every night. Today, they wanted to do two things: The Pistons are more of a dribble hand-off team than a pick-and-roll team. The Jazz’s goal was to disrupt the timing and the spot on the floor where those handoffs took place, and then to force Detroit into the mid-range to take shots. This is exactly what Utah was able to do. It forced the Pistons into a one-on-one game and they became more and more selfish as the game went on. The Pistons were 1-15 in the mid-range.
  • Offensively, what we are seeing from the Jazz is what Quin Snyder has been trying to get from his guys all season. His entire system is that “When someone does X, then you do Y.” When the Clippers top block the wing cutters, the Jazz reacted perfectly. When the Pistons reacted to Rudy’s roll to the basket at a very high level, Utah made the correct reads. I said today on Locked on Jazz that the Pistons bring three guys to the pick-and-roll in a way few teams do and the Jazz exploited that perfectly. The third guy took away the Rudy roll. If two guys are on the ball and you’re able to move it, the opponent scrambles.
  • The Jazz took a double digit lead at the six-minute mark of the second quarter; The game was inside 10 points for only one possession the rest of the way. The minute it got within 10 points, the Jazz brought back Hayward, Hill and Gobert and the night was over.
  • Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond got benched midway through the third quarter and never returned.
  • Ho Hum. Gordon Hayward: 25 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. He is shooting 42% from 3 since December 1. He hit of 4 of 7 tonight, including a dagger to end the game.
  • Joe Ingles started the second half when Rodney Hood could not continue with right knee soreness. Joe is also on fire from 3 and is now 19 of his last 35 from three. He’s such a weapon for the Jazz and is big for floor spacing.
  • The Jazz started Joe Johnson at power forward tonight and that lineup gave the jazz a nine-point lead in the first seven minutes of the game, and the Jazz cruised from there.
  • Rudy Gobert’s impact on the game is incredible. Tobias Harris had no inkling to drive at any point all game except the minute that Gobert checked out of the game. Once Jeff Withey was in at center, Harris drove to the basket for a dunk and a layup. When Rudy returned, Harris lost interest again.
  • The Jazz had 28 assists – seven players had at least two.
  • Rudy Gobert went 5-hole backwards to a back cutting Gordon Hayward for a layup tonight.
  • Hayward was +30, Gobert +25 and Hill +22.
  • Dante had a solid game with a few more moments that show he is improving his understanding of the game, the system and the speed. He waited on a fast break for Gobert that led to a layup in the lane and Exum initiated the early action for the key Hayward 3 where Dante engaged the defender and then left the ball for Gordon to hit the 3.
  • This was a solid win to start the road trip. It’s not easy to control an entire game like that. The Jazz have won 5 of 6 and 9 of 12.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz win a mammoth game over the Clippers

Summary: The Jazz win a mammoth game over the Clippers with a furious comeback in the second half and electrifying 3-point shooting on the way to a 114-108 win.

  • The Jazz swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the second half when they hit nine straight 3-point shots, going from down seven points at the half to up by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter. It was a balanced barrage Hayward, Ingles, Johnson, Exum and Hill had two makes from downtown. Diaw added one in the second half as the Jazz hit on 11 of 13 three point attempts in the last 24 minutes.
  • The most impressive part of this game was how many runs the Jazz made at the Clippers, who had controlled the entire first half. It was especially impressive considering how many times the Clippers answered those runs until the Jazz finally broke through.
  • The game changed when Chris Paul checked out in the third quarter and the Jazz were able to outscore the Clips +12 when CP3 was on the bench. By the time he checked back in, the lead was too much and the Jazz had the momentum.
  • There was a great play in the fourth quarter where Rudy Gobert set an early screen to clear Hayward who buried a quick three from straight away. Another solid, All-Star night from Gordon with 27 points, three rebounds, four assists, shooting 9 of 18 from the field.
  • This game had a ton of grabbing and flailing and elbowing and gripping and… this is going to be quite a playoff series.
  • Blake Griffin finished with just eight points in 36 minutes. The Jazz guarded him with Diaw and Joe Johnson for most of the night, but the presence of Rudy Gobert was always lurking.
  • George Hill was quiet in the first half, shooting 2 of 8 but he caught fire in the second and particularly in the third quarter. He had 12 points in the third to ignite the Jazz’s big run.
  • When Chris Paul checked out, Dante Exum came in so Quin Snyder could match the minutes of Chris Paul with George Hill. Dante kept the momentum rolling with an aggressive drive, two 3-pointers and some solid defense. Quin even kept Dante in the game for a few possessions when Chris Paul first checked back in the game.
  • Gordon Hayward may have had the best defensive possession I have ever seen. Blake Griffin tried to bump, back and bully him into the paint and he couldn’t move Hayward at all. Blake was simply stymied. He threw it back out to CP3 and set a pick to free CP3 for the three and Hayward flew out and altered the CP3 shot into a miss.
  • Alec Burks’ rebounding is an incredible asset to this team.
  • Rudy Gobert’s line was not as gaudy as a lot of other nights, but his effort and commitment to winning was obvious the entire game. Jordan leads the NBA in rebounding and he finished with seven rebounds on the night.
  • The Jazz were just 4 of 16 in the mid-range and paint non-restricted area in the first half. Those became 3s that went down during the second half.
  • This was an offensive game. The Jazz’s offensive rating was 129 and the Clippers’ was 122.
  • The Jazz’s 40-point third quarter was the most points in a quarter by the Jazz all season and they had an EFG% of 96%.
  • Chris Paul was brilliant with 33 points. He was incredible and scored a season high.
  • If the Jazz are going to the four-seed and secure home court advantage, they had to win tonight. It is going to be a hard road, but they’re now up two games on the Clippers. Utah will probably need to get the other one in Los Angeles to hold onto fourth seed, but this one they had to have for playoff seeding — a major belief and a momentum boost.

Emptying the Noggin — Despite a nice rally, Jazz’s game against the Thunder was never close

Summary: This game ended before it started when the Jazz announced they would be without Gobert and Favors facing the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Jazz would never be in the game and ultimately lose it, 104-112.

  • The Jazz are the number one team in the NBA defending the paint, allowing their opponents to shoot just 49%. Through three quarters, the Thunder were 26 of 39 for 67%. Favors and Gobert not playing decided the game.
  • Andre Roberson does as good a job defensively on Gordon Hayward as anyone in the NBA.
  • Without Gobert, there was no rim-roll pressure on the rim, so when the Jazz’s ball handlers came off the pick-and-roll, the Thunder kept two defenders on them and there was no room for any drives or action to create mismatches.
  • The Jazz now are 1-3 versus the Thunder and have lost the tiebreaker. The Thunder are four games back of Utah, but it is really three; All the Thunder have to do is tie to get superior seeding. If the Jazz can finish 9-8 (playing nine games versus teams .500 or better the rest of the way) the Thunder would need to go 13-4 to catch the Jazz. That is a tough task for both sides. The Jazz are going to have to play very well and be healthy to win nine of their final 17 games.
  • Dante Exum had a career high in points with 22, going to the line nine times. He had only gone to the line 32 times in his entire rookie season. He is showing a terrific burst to the basket and is beginning to learn how to use his length to get above the defense and finish. He is still very young, but as his body matures and gets stronger he will be able to make a lot of plays going to the rim if can maintain this quickness.
  • The Jazz’s fourth quarter was played by Neto, Exum, Burks, Lyles and Bolomboy.
  • Trey Lyles — —who was 1 for his last 22 — was able to get 26 minutes of action and make 4 of 10 and 2 of 5 from three.
  • Alec Burks scored 20 points for the first time since his major injury in December of 2015. The last time he scored 20 was also in Oklahoma City.
  • Joel Bolomboy played 14 minutes. He had 8 points and 2 rebounds.
  • Westbrook now has the second most triple doubles in a single season with 32. He had 33 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists.
  • The Thunder led by as many as 23 points. The Jazz’s rally was nice and it was great to see Lyles get some confidence, Burks get some run and Dante to have the best offensive game of his career, but this one was never close.
  • The Jazz have a really hard schedule, the hardest remaining set of games in the league. It is going to be really hard to hold onto the fifth spot, not to mention trying to be a four seed.

Emptying the Noggin — The Jazz never blinked

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.