EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Final emptying of the year

  • I didn’t want the season to end and so we got an extra 10 minutes. Really fun final night of the season. A night that highlighted the growth of our guys and left everyone with a good feeling. Let’s just hope those 16 ping-pong balls don’t turn out to be the important ones. This is a terrific group of people—from the players to the coaches to the support staff to my co-workers in the broadcast department—and it is really nice for everyone to leave the season on a positive note.
  • This may have been Trey Burke’s best game of the season. He has improved dramatically in the final month of the season. After a month of staying away from the paint like he was allergic to it, he is now driving into the lane and making plays. The coaching staff worked really hard on getting him to create for his teammates and he started to do that more and more. As he gets stronger in the off-season and works on the types of shots he will need to take to be successful, he will improve dramatically.
  • Trey’s clutch play is incredible—he shot 51% from the field and insane 16-for-29 from three (55%, the second-best rate of anyone in the NBA) and nearly impeccable 16-for-17 from the line (the fifth-best clutch free-throw shooter in the NBA). This is what separates the kid. He has an inappropriate confidence and that is a wonderful thing. This will drive him to success in the NBA.
  • The Jazz played with great pace in the first quarter. With Alec and Jeremy in the starting lineup, the Jazz were a much faster team and got out and ran. Fast-break points only tell part of the story. When they get up the floor in a hurry and keep the pressure up, then any mismatches stay for the whole possession. The Jazz need to play with much more tempo next year. They can’t survive being this young and ranking 26th in pace of play and using the most possessions of anyone in the NBA in the final 12 seconds of the shot clock. This will  be part of Trey’s development as well.
  • Derrick Favors has been steadily building an offensive game piece-by-piece. It’s not a huge “aha” moment—it’s much more subtle. However, more and more he is comfortable in the post, he’s reading the floor correctly, and he’s working off the defender and making plays. He closed the final 20 games of the season averaging 16 points on 56% shooting. Tonight he had 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
  • What a cool way for Jeremy Evans to close the year. He has proven that is he is a viable NBA player. Not sure if he’s a full-time rotation player, but he is a solid player that can help you win games and alter pace. He was very, very good on Love tonight. He got into his body and he denied him any room, and Love didn’t want to fight through it. JE finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
  • How nice for Malcolm Thomas to have something to build from. He looked like an NBA player. He knew where he could have success and how he was going to play.  Nailed a three and showed the ability to play in the post.
  • Tip of the hat to Richard Jefferson for playing 82 games and finishing the year over 40% from three.
  • Gordon Hayward finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Kevin Martin was just 2-for-5 when Hayward switched over to him after Burks had fouled out. Tyrone Corbin’s quick substitution of Hayward in the third quarter was strange but it was fortunate because Hayward ended up logging 46 minutes.
  • Rudy Gobert put out a solid and important 14 minutes. For the first time his length impacted the game offensively as well as defensively. He grabbed three offensive rebounds for put-backs and had eight points and nine rebounds in 13 minutes. He’s a lot further along than anyone thought he would be at this point.
  • Trey Burke was +19 in a six-point win. Kevin Love was -12 in a six-point loss because he played like he had taken Benadryl.
  • Jazz shot 12-for-30 with Gobert on the floor. He’s still an impediment to good offense. He has a chance to be an elite, game-changing defender. He could be Roy Hibbert, who’s also a problem for Indiana on offense.
  • Lineup of Trey, Gordon, Richard, Malcolm Thomas and Derrick Favors was +17 in eight minutes. I knew that was the lineup we should have been using all year.
  • Have a great offseason. Thanks for reading this after every game (well, almost every game). Your passion drives me.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—5 youngs start and get 17 minutes together

  • We finally got to see the five youngs starting together and playing together. It lasted a grand total of 3:36 before Favors committed his second foul and had to go out of the game.
  • They ended up playing 17 minutes in the game. They were outscored 37-36. They scored at a rate of 113 points per 100 possessions but allowed at a rate of 112 per 100 possessions. The offensive rebounding rate was 44%, which is consistent with the level of rebounding they have had as a five-man group all season. However, that is not sustainable. The Jazz only allowed the Blazers to shot 10-for-25 when this lineup was on the floor, but they fouled way too much and allowed the Blazers to go 15-for-18 from the line.
  • The lineup played with pace and had an energy level we haven’t seen a lot of recently. As the game went on some of the guys seemed to wear down. Mental mistakes allowed Wesley Matthews to get a bunch of good looks late in the second quarter and the Jazz lost attention to detail defensively on Lillard late as well. I will have to review some of these plays, but it seemed Alec Burks didn’t have a very good defensive night playing a career-high 42 minutes.
  • Kanter was a force in the first half and the first quarter. He tied his career high for assists in a game. He’s doing a lot of damage on the offensive glass and rebounding with authority. He’s playing with a confidence that he belongs in the game.
  • Kanter went 2-for-7 on shots outside of restricted area, and Favors went 1-for-7 on shots outside restricted area.
  • Utah’s bench was really weak tonight. Gobert played 10 minutes and the Jazz were -12 in those minutes. He played well, but the Jazz couldn’t score when he was on the floor.  The Jazz shot 5-for-14 when Gobert was on the floor.
  • Diante Garrett’s shot has left him.
  • The Jazz were much better on uncontested shots, hitting 19-of-41. Kanter was just 2-for-10 on contested shots.
  • It felt like Gobert had an impact defensively. The Blazers shot 9-for-20 when he was on the floor.
  • Utah’s bench numbers were ugly—Jefferson was -17,  Garrett -15, Gobert -12, Evans -7.
  • Felt like Gordon was very quiet and sat on the bench for a strangely long time in the second quarter. By the end of the night,though, he had 14 points, five rebounds and six assists on 4-for-9 shooting. This is Gordon not forcing the game and only getting nine shots. This is the player he is naturally.
  • It was nice to see the five youngs on the floor together. It would be nice if there was a larger sample size to see all of them play together. However, let’s not confuse this with whether or not they have had a chance to develop. Development does not have to be with the five of them on the floor. The five youngs have played five of the six most amount of minutes this season. Favors probably learns more and has more success with Marvin on the floor. Richard’s ability to spread the floor very well may help Trey. Alec being on the second unit as the primary scoring punch is better for his development and learning than playing with the starters off the ball. So, it’s nice to see and it will make the final games more interesting, but the five youngs playing together and their development are not intertwined.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Dirk and more

  • It was an honor to watch Dirk Nowitzki become the 10th all-time leading scorer in NBA history. He is so dedicated to his craft. He plays every night, and he has become one of the most unguardable players in NBA history. His work ethic and dedication are carrying the torch of Karl Malone into the next generation of NBA players.
  • The Mavericks’ first quarter was out of this world. They shot 16-for-17 in the first quarter and hit four 3-pointers for an effective field goal percentage of 106%. In other words, if the Jazz gave them 17 uncontested layups it they would have scored fewer points.
  • Often, the Jazz are playing defense to execute the plan, but they do it without any intent to stop or without any vigor. They are so set on making sure they are in the right spots that they don’t impact the play. The defense of this team since March 1 has been dreadful.
  • With that said, the Jazz put together one of their best halves of defense in the second half. They started playing harder and getting into the Mavericks. They held the Mavericks to a season-low 34 points in the second half. This after allowing a Dallas season-high 39 points in the first quarter.
  • Enes Kanter played the best game I’ve seen out of him this season. He was a beast on the boards and made numerous plays. His energy level was fabulous. This is the strength of his game, and Enes was playing at his best. He has a long way to go to be a winning basketball player, but the first thing for him is to have impact on games in the areas where he can be terrific—and that is what he did tonight.
  • Richard Jefferson wasn’t bashful tonight.
  • Tyrone Corbin has talked a lot about lineup changes and playing the five young guys together as a starting lineup. It has never happened, but tonight in the second half he started Alec Burks in place of Richard Jefferson and Jeremy Evans in place of an injured Marvin Williams to guard Dirk.
  • Jazz hit just 4-for-24 from three. Trey was 0-for-5 and is 4 for his last 29.
  • Trey  Burke has to figure out how to play defense in the NBA. The Mavericks bread and butter is the Monta/Dirk pick-and-roll, and they moved away from it and went to a Calderon/Dirk pick-and-pop game simply to isolate Trey, and then when Devin Harris came in the game they let Devin go 1-on-1 at Trey. Rick Carlisle knows what he is doing. This was not by accident. He went right at Trey defensively and exploited it. Rick is not the first to do this.
  • The Mavericks are better offensively and defensively when Monta Ellis is on the bench.
  • Have to wonder if we see Marvin again this season.
  • See you Friday.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—”Splash Kicking”

  • Steph Curry is really special. He got rolling and it was awesome. We let him get really comfortable, and when he gets comfortable it’s hard to stop him. On the first two possessions we went under on the pick and roll—and that makes sense if the big hedges hard, but there weren’t hard hedges so someone did something wrong.  No way the game plan was to go under and recover. Curry is such a great shooter.
  • The first two plays of the game were side pick-and-rolls with the weak side overloaded with three players. The ball-handler came to the middle of the floor and the roll man was the only one left on that side of the floor, and he got a wide-open dunk or layup. Once on each side of the floor.
  • The TV crew had the best headline—rather than “Splash Brothers” this was a “Splash Kicking.”
  • In the opening eight or nine possessions, the Jazz seemingly had a breakdown in some place on every possession. Wonder if having just a morning meeting instead of a shootaround made it so this team wasn’t able to translate what adjustments they needed to make.  Seems that games without the shootaround have featured worse defensive execution. No facts on that—just what I perceive.
  • Curry and Thompson were just terrific. Curry had awesome gravity tonight (meaning he pulled guys to him, which created openings everywhere else).
  • Trey Burke had a career-high 15 assists.
  • Warriors make the ball-handler shoot, and you saw early that Burke, Hayward and Burks got all the action.
  • Alec Burks is going to the rim at an awesome rate.
  • Draymond Green is not Carmelo Anthony.
  • Jimmer Fredette was drafted in front of Klay Thompson.
  • When Rudy Gobert sprinted the floor in the fourth quarter, it was evident.  A player sprinting the floor should not stand out.
  • Warriors EFG% was 67%.
  • Marvin is just not the player he was before March 1.
  • Five more to go.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz beat the Pelicans

  • Seriously undermanned Pelicans team and the Jazz got the win. I thought it was going to get interesting as the game got close late (coupled with Utah’s recent inability to close out game) and this one was close. However, the Jazz were able to pull away and win it over the Pelicans.
  • Anthony Davis didn’t play in the third quarter and the Jazz took advantage, scoring 30 points in the quarter and dominating the game in the paint. Favors had 14 points in the third quarter. Tyrone Corbin decided to separate Kanter and Favors again, and it seemed to open the floor for Favors tonight.
  •  I know we are all interested in seeing Kanter and Favors together, but it is possible that those minutes are hurting Favors. This year with Marvin on the floor, Favors has an EFT% of 53%, but with Kanter on and Marvin off he shoots 45.6%. The floor has spacing and the ball moves better, and Derrick doesn’t have to be the passer.
  • The Pelicans were doubling the post not because they were scared of Kanter and Favors’ scoring, but because they knew they couldn’t handle the ball as well.   Favors and Kanter had a combined seven turnovers and two assists at halftime.
  • Late in the game Corbin went away from Kanter and Favors together again. The lack of ball movement and floor spacing makes it hard for guys to score. This has been a bit better as of late when both are on the floor—since Jan. 1 Favors has an EFG% of 51%, Kanter 47.7%, Hayward 47% and Burke 45%. The league average is 50%, so this is not very good.
  • Alec was terrific at attacking the basket and getting to the line tonight. He nailed a few outside jumpers, and he got to the line 13 times. He understood the lack of rim protection without Anthony Davis on the floor. My favorite play was a really nice pick-and-roll with Favors where he dropped the ball over the top of the defense to where Favors would have been rolling. Favors was grabbed and fouled, but it was nice anticipation.
  • Hayward followed his trend of the last month. Fewer shots, usually early, and a solid all-around game. Tonight he went to the line 13 times, making it 54 in the last five games. He finished with 21 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals tonight.
  • Ian Clark got 13 minutes tonight and Jeremy Evans got 16 as Tyrone made a conscience effort to get them time.
  • Richard Jefferson and Gordon Hayward did a nice job on Tyreke Evans, who had seven turnovers. The last time we played, he had a career-high 15 assists.
  • The Jazz are off to Oakland.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz end March, Marvin starts for Enes

  • The Jazz played with lots of energy, and played really well for most of the first half. It was sparked by two things: Marvin Williams’ energy and defense on Carmelo, and Utah’s ability to run and get in the open floor for opportunities.
  • One of the underrated aspects of Alec Burks’ game is that he helps the Jazz play with a tremendous amount of pace. It’s not just leading the break himself—he throws some great transition passes that give the Jazz easy opportunities. Utah’s half court offense is not good enough to stay in the half court. They need pace, and when they play with pace everyone is more effective.
  • The Jazz had 11 fast-break points in the first half and only two in the second half. Utah shot 13-for-38 (34%) in the first half on non-fast-break possessions and 13-for-40 (33%) in the second half. Neither of those are good enough to survive. This team has to find a way to play with pace next year. Possessions that last until late in the shot clock work for grinding teams like Memphis or Chicago, or for teams with Carmelo, Durant, LeBron or CP3 (though most of those teams play fast). We don’t fit either of those models. I’m really not sure why. I see Coach Corbin telling the guys to run, but at the same time I know he is fearful of the team getting reckless. I see Burke wanting to run, but I also see him curl out of numerous opportunities. I’m not sure why.
  • Gordon Hayward continues to get to the line—he shot eight free throws tonight.
  • Marvin gave everything he had tonight, and it was impressive. Carmelo is that good (34 points). Usually, if you keep him under four assists then the Knicks lose, but tonight he only had three.
  • This was the first win on the road all year for the Knicks when they trailed at the half.
  • Jazz are 30th in the NBA in defense in the second half of games, and they allowed 31 points in the third quarter but only 13 in the fourth. That said, the teams combined for only 27 total points in the fourth quarter.
  • Marvin started for Enes Kanter. It was fun because it separated the fans that are foolish and just want to complain and those that have a clue about basketball. When Amar’e was no longer starting, the Knicks moved Carmelo to the 4 with Shumpert to the 2. The Jazz would have had Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter guarding Carmelo Anthony. And people still complained. I love this. In fact, it might be my favorite part of the night. I know I don’t humor fools well, but this is really extreme foolishness. I haven’t decided if I just keep the name of everyone who complained about this—if I block them so they never infest my life again or if I forgive them, because why really should they know better? We live in world where you must stick to your agenda and talking points regardless of their legitimacy or accuracy, so why not in sports? OK, I’m done. I just thought I would make it worth for any of you that are still reading this after a two-win month. Thanks for being a Jazz fan

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Over early

  • 9-0 by the first timeout and the game was over shortly after that. This was a non-contest in OKC today. Credit the Thunder: rather than approaching the game with a “Hey, these guys aren’t very good, let’s see if we can sneak by” attitude, they came out with “Hey, we are a ton better than these guys—let’s bury them and end it early” approach. That’s impressive and the sign of a mature team ready for a championship run.
  • Durant is so terrific. He glides effortlessly through the game and is in complete control at all times.
  • Utah’s first two shots of the game were missed layups—Hayward and Burke missed at the rim. Then Burke missed a three, Favors turned it over and Hayward missed a 20-footer and boom, its 6-0. Kanter missed a 17-footer and Favors got the rebound and Kanter missed a 20-footer and it’s 9-0. The problem isn’t that they settled for jumpers—it’s that they didn’t make them.
  • Enes Kanter is 14-for-44 (32%) from outside of 15 feet over the last 20 games. Over the last 10 games he’s just 5-for-23 (22%). This correlates to his increased time on the floor and the larger burden he is carrying.
  • March has been a disaster defensively for this team. The numbers are glaring:  51% shooting overall, 45% from 3-point range and giving up 105 points per game. The Jazz have allowed 114 points per 100 possessions defensively, up from 106 in February. The interesting thing is that they started forcing turnovers again just as their defense collapsed. The defense ranked 29th in March, the FG% defense was 29th and the 3-point% defense was 30th.
  • The reason for the defensive collapse isn’t clear. Is it an increase in Kanter and Favors playing together? Is it guys being asked to do more than they have ever done before and just being worn out? Is it the veterans being asked to do too much and they were the anchor and they are out of gas? Is it playing against better teams that are not taking nights off anymore? Is it systematic? Is it a rookie point guard? Is it the losing? It’s probably all of these things coupled into a complete ball of developmental year wax, and this is how it turns out.
  • I really don’t know how to value our offensive numbers today. The game was never close and every NBA team comes close to scoring 90 points and grabbing 45 rebounds over the course of 48 minutes. It just happens. So how much of Kanter’s 18 points and 12 rebounds, or Favors 8 points and 13 rebounds, or Jefferson’s 17 points are just because somebody has to score and rebound? I really don’t know how to value those numbers.
  • Hayward has played hard all through March and has had good performances to show for it. Today his shot looked way off and he adjusted to dish out six second-quarter assists. He finished the game with nine assists.
  • Knicks tomorrow. Losing is hard on people.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—1 a.m. edition

  • Heck of a game tonight at EnergySolutions Arena. Jazz led from 3:00 in the 1st quarter until 3:00 left in the fourth quarter, but in the end the Grizzlies were able to shut down the Jazz and close the game on a 14-3 run to win it.
  • Lots of really good performances tonight by the Jazz. Trey Burke’s first quarter was great. The Grizzlies decided they would not allow Gordon Hayward to be a playmaker—they dropped players into the paint in non-traditional ways to prevent Gordon from making plays, and Trey picked up the slack with 10 assists.
  • The Jazz played through all of the possessions tonight. They maintained strong effort and had a ton of plays go their way that in other games they would have let slip away.
  • Trey was aggressive, got into the lane and made plays for his teammates. He also took advantage of the Memphis defense, which is not great at guarding the ball handler on the pick and roll, and hit some shots.
  • Enes Kanter played as good a first half as I have seen from him in a long time. He rebounded with the beasts of the Grizzlies inside, and he rotated correctly on defense. The only problem is that his jump shot is way off and he has lost confidence taking it. This was a good game for Enes. He equalled his season high in minutes played. However, even on night where it felt like he played well, he was -12. His +/- this year is terrible compared to how the team plays when he’s off the floor. When Kanter and Marvin were together, the Jazz couldn’t defend at all.
  • Kanter played 39 minutes tonight. Jazz are 3-24 when he plays 30 minutes this year and 7-36 when he plays more than 25. It doesn’t feel fair to put this on Kanter, but he is still learning the game every night. He is not instinctual in how he plays and it is not natural for him.
  • The Jazz only played seven players in the first half.
  • Favors was very strong tonight: 22 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He really bothered Zach Randolph down low and forced Randolph to the outside, where he hit two big shots.
  • Gasol and Randolph had seven assists, and Kanter and Favors had two. This is a big issue for Kanter and Favors, and one of them is going to have to learn how to pass. Kanter is beginning to see where to throw passes, but you can’t work the offense through him. And Favors is an OK passer, but again is not able to facilitate the offense.
  • I really want to re-watch the final five minutes to see what happened to us offensively. However, I can ‘t access anything right now. The Jazz led it 84-77 with 4:22 left. Kanter missed a 21-footer which is not a good shot with nine seconds on the shot clock; Burke missed a layup with seven on the shot clock; Marvin missed a 23-footer with the shot clock expiring, and suddenly the Jazz were behind. Favors committed a turnover trying to sneak a pass to Kanter in the lane, and then the Jazz were down three with 1:23 left. Burke misses the best look of the bunch—a free-throw line pull-up J, and the Jazz were down by five with :59 left. The game was pretty much over at that point.
  • A strong performance by the Jazz tonight, but when the chips were down Memphis is an experienced team that knows how to win. The Jazz were unable to get the stops they got earlier in the game and make the shots they hit earlier to stay in the game.