EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Bryce Cotton on the hammer dunk

• A fun way to the end the season at EnergySolutions Arena. Great energy all night. Lots of highlights. The Jazz play hard every night with this crew.

• Really cool night for Bryce Cotton. He plays super fast and with great tempo. He’s a good shooter. He’s troublesome due to his speed. He works hard and is trying to overcome his lack of size. He said it well after the game: “I’m just a kid trying to prove himself time and time again.”

• With everyone sitting out, Rudy Gobert was the best player on the floor and he looked like it. 20 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocked shots.

• Cotton finished with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, and he added 2 rebounds and 4 assists.

• Cotton had the dunk of the season—an alley-oop from Rodney Hood which he caught high above the rim with his left hand and hammered home. It was a play they used to run for Cotton in Austin.

• Utah’s defense clamped down in the third quarter, and that ended the game.

• After shooting 3-for-15 from three in the first half, the Jazz hit all six in the third quarter.

• Danté Exum and Rudy Gobert have played 81 games this year.

• Chris Johnson looks like he’s going to try to make a living out of making corner threes, and that’s a smart way to make it in the NBA.

• Why the Mavericks played “Hack-a-Cooley” on a night when they didn’t bring their primary players is way beyond me.

• Jazz controlled the turnovers a little better tonight with just 15.

• Great to be with the home crowd again tonight. Thanks for all the great energy at the arena. Nothing beats a home game.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – This season …

• This season. What an incredible year filled with different stories and remarkable performances. Tonight the Jazz had a line-up of Bryce Cotton, Elijah Millsap, Chris Johnson, Jack Cooley and Jeremy Evans that spurred on the 4th quarter run that won the game. Incredible. This is a culture win. The foundation has been built for a program that has an expectation of how you are going to play, what style you are going to play and the type of effort that is expected from the team.

• None of this happens unless Trevor Booker has an out of body experience. Boy did he ever. 19 points in the first quarter was the 3rd most by any player in the 1st quarter all year. Booker had only scored more than 19 points in a game 7 times before tonight and he dropped 19 in the 1st.

• Trevor Booker joined the Jazz with 1 career three pointer. He has hit 28 this year. Consider this for a moment. In his first year from 10+ feet Booker shot 15% since then from 16+ has been nearly 40%. The work he has put in to improve his shooting has been incredible. Kevin McHale said it very well this year you either improve or you are out of the league. Booker has found what he has to do to be successful in this league and has improved in those areas.

• This was a cool night. The Jazz jumped the Blazers early when the Blazers thought they could walk through this game because the Jazz were without Hayward and Favors. The Jazz had a 10 point lead at halftime. The Blazers came to get this game in the 2nd half. They didn’t have LaMarcus but they went after this one. They took the lead and the Jazz answered and took control of the game. Amazing to re-gain this game after the Blazers took control.

• In the 4th the jazz played with great tempo and scored 34 in the 4th. Bryce Cotton brings a fast tempo to this team.

• The Jazz lived on the Bryce Cotton/ Jack Cooley pick and roll for a good deal of the 4th quarter.

• One of the reasons the Jazz rested Hayward and Favors was to give other guys opportunities and the main one is Rodney Hood. Hood has played over 30 minutes in 4 straight games. He has had the ball in his hand at the end of games. He has had to control the game as a first year player and he has answered the bell. What this last month will do for his development is terrific. Tonight he had 21 points (averaging 20 for 5 games) and hit on 7 of 13 shots with only 1 three point shot. Instead tonight he answered a question I asked earlier of whether he could start going to the foul line more. 8 free throw attempts.

• Hood also had a career high 8 assists. 8 assist and 1 turnover. He hit Booker a ton early.

• Jeremy Evans 15 minutes, 12 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. He has played very well recently when he has been given stretches. He is never going to gain weight and at times it is an issue but he is able to make an impact every time he is on the floor.

• Portland forces opponents the take the most mid-range shots in the NBA – the Jazz tonight took 31 of their 79 shots in paint non restricted or mid range. This is just 39% of their shots. The Jazz took 61% of their shots in the “smart” areas tonight (restricted and three’s) the Blazers usually only allow 52%. That is good work.

• The Blazers only allow 31% of their opponents shots in restricted area and the Jazz got 39% of their shots in restricted. Plus the Jazz shot 42 free throws.

• This season …….

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Great test as Grizz were in a must win

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN
• If it is a foul at the 8:14 mark of the 1st quarter it is a foul at the :01 second mark of the 4th quarter. That is what the league is trying to establish. It will be interesting to see what the league report says but I think it will say that Gasol fouled Hayward. This is a huge step in the right direction for the league. There has been a long belief that the league has a different set of rules in the final minutes. You hear broadcasters all the time say “You don’t call that foul at this point of the game.” The league is trying to eliminate that idea. That is what the 2 minute report is for every close game. Make the officials call the game correctly or be publically scolded. It is working. The no call on Rodney Hood by JT Orr and the call tonight are related. Evidentally, their was a similar play in the Spurs/Rockets game. Will be interesting to see how the league comes out on these? I didn’t understand why the league did these reports when it first started but I understand now and it is a wonderful step.

• This was a terrific game. If Memphis won they held #2 by themselves, if they lost they would have fallen all the way to 6th. Marc Gasol said after the game these are all playoff games for them with this much seeding on the line. The Jazz played with the Grizzlies for huge portions of the game.

• The game had 14 lead changes and 9 ties and neither team ever had a double digit lead.

• Quin Snyder said after the game it was about the last 5 minutes. With 5:30 left the game was 82 all. The Grizzlies shot 3 for 11 in the final 5:30 of the game with 1 turnover. That is big time defense from the Jazz. Back to back plays the Grizzlies went to Randolph isolated on Favors. The Jazz brought no help and Favors made the defensive plays.

• The Jazz offense in the final 5:30 was 2 for 9 with 3 turnovers and only baskets came on fast break baskets at the 5:15 mark and the 4:43 mark. At the 4:43 mark Gobert scored on an alley-opp and the next Jazz points came when Hayward hit the first two free throws.

• This is going to be the yin and the yang of the Jazz future. They are elite defensively but they struggle to score. As they try to add scoring will they be able to maintain the defensive prowess. Will the players simply mature enough to become better down the stretch? Will they get to know each other better and be able to make the correct reads? These are at the crux of the decisions that confront the front office in the off-season.

• After a big first half Rodney Hood went 2 for 8 in the 2nd half and 0 for 3 in the 4th quarter when the Memphis defense zeroed in. Hood is playing great and showing all sorts of NBA skills but it is still a process and a rookie is going to struggle in “playoff” type moments.

• Marc Gasol was the best player on the floor. He is 1st team all-nba. He did what an all NBA player should do in this circumstance. He lifted his team and carried them in a must win situation. His 2nd half was 9-5-3. All of those 9 points came in the 4th quarter.

• Joe Ingles is still on fire.

• Tough night for Trevor Booker – 0 for 4 in 15 minutes and 4 fouls. He is so great with his energy and his effort and his toughness but he lacks a little still to be able to impact the likes of Randolph and Gasol.

• Nice 15 minutes from Bryce Cotton. 11 points and dang is he quick.

• Solid performance against the #2 team in the West that had to win. Hayward was great by the way. The last free throw is easy to talk about but when you are doing that make sure you mention the 27 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists against the #4 defense in the NBA

I forgot — the play by Rudy Gobert to close the first half is one of the most athletic incredible plays I have seen in the NBA. He set the pick for Hayward on the a three on the angle left and then he rim dove and got the offensive rebound. Missed the follow dunk recovered and jammed. Insane. He set the pick outside the three point line.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz win a game they should

• Really a dud of a game. Sacramento without Rudy Gay or DeMarcus Cousins lacks the skill of an NBA team. The Jazz have reduced the minutes of their main guys. The Jazz locked down for five minutes and won the game. That is what it takes when you are the superior team.

• Sacramento has been killed by shooting guards all year and Rodney Hood got them for the second straight game.

• George Karl wanted this game to get to the fourth quarter, but the fourth quarter was completely controlled by the Jazz.

• The Jazz played a lot of different combinations on the floor that they don’t usually use, and it showed as they had a ton of turnovers and didn’t play offensively with a lot of force. This is largely because they don’t know each other that well.

• Gordon Hayward played just 20 minutes, but Quin Snyder is not planning on shutting him down. It’s clear, though, that they are reducing his load.

• Rodney Hood had another 20-point night. He also had a career-high 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He hit 3 of 7 from three. He had been struggling from three so it’s good to see him hit a few.

• Favors was the best player on the floor and in his 22 minutes he was totally dominant.

• Joe Ingles is playing really playing well in the second half of the season. He’s hitting his three well over 40% and he does a ton of other items as well.

• Andre Miller is still terrific to watch.

• Not a lot to this game. Jazz win.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Hood is Good

• Bryce Cotton, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Jeremy Evans and Trevor Booker—why of course. That’s the five-man lineup that carried the Jazz through the key run of the game and to a win. Danté Exum, Rudy Gobert and Elijah Millsap took part in the fun as well. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors did not.

• Favors checked out 5:16 into the third quarter and Hayward checkout 6:10 into the third quarter and neither returned to the game. Both of these guys have been carrying this team and Quin has asked so much out of them in practice and shootarounds all season. They are on empty and Quin recognized it. Great call by the coach at this point of the season to realize what you have and what you don’t and let it ride. Not worth winning the game with those pieces overly worn out and instead he let the other guys get amazing experience.

• I’m going to be Debbie Downer for a quick second. The group the Jazz played in the fourth quarter for Sacramento was not good. Without going player by player, none of them other than Cousins is an NBA starter and Cousins is a miracle.

• With that said, Rodney Hood was terrific. I wrote about this in the last EMPTYING THE NOGGIN. He plays an NBA game. He’s in control. He said after the game that he has worked with Quin a tremendous amount and Quin has really talked to him about how to play in and around the paint. Quin is big about playing with balance (which is strength) and skill (handle and vision) in and around the paint as the ball handler. It allows them to react to different defenses and make plays. Hood and Hayward have the strength to do it. At times, Gordon lacks the handle. Rodney is not having that issue.

• Interesting how much Rodney mentioned Gordon’s role in his development in our postgame interview, with Gordon pushing him to be more aggressive.

• Aggressive he was with a career-high 25 points and 13 in the fourth quarter, including nine straight after the game got to 83-82 with 6:11 left. Hood then hit the technical free throw and followed with three and then a 14-foot pull-up jumper, then a nine-foot runner and the Jazz were up 92-84 with 4:24 left. It was big time.

• Another 2-for-4 3-point shooting night for Joe Ingles. If he can play 15 to 18 minutes a night, he might have a nice roll as the fourth wing to Hayward, Hood and Burks.

• Jazz were never able to strangle the Kings defensively like they have other teams since the All-Star break. Utah’s defense tonight was forcing turnovers, which is different than what they usually do. They forced 20 turnovers.

• A rough estimate had the game at nearly 100 possessions, so the Jazz allowing 95 pts still keeps the defensive rating at near 95.0, which is amazing. When you force 20% of the opponent’s possessions into turnovers and only allow five 3-pointers, allowing 48% shooting is not as bad as it looks.

• The Jazz fouled like crazy tonight. Against a good team, they would have cost themselves the game with four silly fouls in the second quarter that put them in the penalty at the 8:00 mark. The Kings didn’t take advantage as much as they should have.

• Bryce Cotton played a nice game tonight. He is crazy fast. He played with pace. Aaron Brooks is the model for Cotton, but Brooks is a bit stronger and Brooks is super tough. Don’t know if Cotton can match him on those two accounts. He played a nice game. Four rebounds in 12:30 shows some toughness.

• Jeremy Evans with a productive eight minutes: 10 points, two rebounds.

• I don’t know how George Karl deals with this. I tell you what, if I was a two-time cancer survivor and had the resume George has, I wouldn’t bother dealing with DeMarcus. I wouldn’t lose one minute of sleep over his antics or let him have a negative impact on my life. Not sure how he does that, but I hope he’s able to because DeMarcus is a sad story. God gave him a gift and he is truly miserable with the gift he was given. It’s really too bad, but he’s going to torpedo the Kings franchise.

• Fun night. The big boys got to sit and watch and three rookies, a seldom-used player, a bunch of guys from the D-League and a big monster named Rudy carried the Jazz to a win. No. 35—10 more than a year ago.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Lots of things more important than missed call

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN
• The last non-call was terrible. That is a foul. JT Orr pointed at his foot to say Hood kicked out. Hood only kicked out because PJ Tucker nailed the right side of his body and that moved his left foot forward. It was a brutal mistake and I am certain the league will announce it tomorrow.

• A bunch of things more important than the final play happened tonight. Most importantly, Gordon Hayward took over the game late and brought the Jazz back. Hayward went 4 of 5 in the final part of the 4th quarter and had 12 4th quarter points. The Jazz are going to have to find a go to guy who can score late in games and it has to be someone with the ball in their hands. It is too hard in the NBA to get the ball into the post and it is too easy for the team to force the ball out of the post. If the Jazz are going to beat really good teams someone is going to have to step up and make those plays and tonight Gordon showed huge progress in that area

• Dante Exum was more aggressive again tonight in a tough match-up against a bulldog defender in Eric Bledsoe. He went to the basket early. He hit a pull up jumper from 9 feet out that was sweet. Another time he fooled me with a little flip shot in the lane that I thought was going to be a pass to Gobert.

• Rodney Hood again showed an NBA game. There is a huge difference between NBA skill and a NBA game. One of the signs that a player belongs is when he plays a controlled game. At times it looks slow to Rodney. Even better is when you as the ball handler can dictate the speed of the game. Hood seems to have everyone around him off balance and therefore he is controlling the speed of the play. This is big. He has already figured out how he is going to score in this league. He has the three point game. He has an in between game and he has the hercky jerky in the lane game. He is not going to the line at all. So the next step is figuring how to draw contact and get free throw attempts. He also needs to foul less and more intelligently.

• Joe Ingles is on fire from 3. 2 for 3 tonight He is 8 of his last 12 from 3.

• The real lesson on tonight is how much more the Jazz need to improve to be really good. Little plays that cost you close games were all over the place. Exum not controlling a rebound. Pick through the 18 turnovers, Rudy and Derrick with 9 of them. Not very good execution on the final play. Numerous other possessions that could have swung the game the other way. Those are the plays that will change the franchise in the next few years.

• Jazz bench tonight was Trevor Booker, Joe Ingles, a 27 year old rookie who had been released by numerous camps prior to coming to the Jazz, and 3 D-League players.

• PJ Tucker is tough. Favors was posting him a lot on the night and couldn’t take advantage of him. Favors finished 4 of 15 from the field.

• Each half mirrored each other. Jazz went on runs in the 1st and 3rd and completely shut down the Suns offense. Then in the 2nd and the 4th the Jazz had a hard time getting stops and fell behind.

• Trey Burke was missed tonight

• Little victories tonight are more important than the blown call and the mysterious late game replays. That is still what this season is about and there were lots of good things tonight.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz dominant over Nuggets

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN

  •  Jazz got revenge on the Nuggets with a blow out win at Energy Solutions Arena.  The story was defense again.  The Jazz allowed 29 points in the first quarter and then allowed 30 points in the next 30 minutes.   That is incredible.   For 60%+ of the game the Jazz allowed 1 point per minute.  Are you kidding me?

 

  • Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors have eliminated the rim from opponents.  In the first three quarters the Nuggets were 11 of 33 in the paint.  33% in the paint.   This is absurd.

 

  • Then when the Jazz know they have these two monsters in the paint they are able to get out and close on the three point shooters.  The Nuggets were bombing.  They ended up taking 33 three’s and only made 7.

 

  • Rudy Gobert had a nice offensive night.  This has been the big deal to me all year.  This league is underestimating the value of the dunkers.  Rudy was more than a dunker tonight but to score 20 points on 7 shots is an incredible value.   Rudy used 12 scoring opportunities to score his 20 points.   The league average is 12.84.  To be 7.2 points above average on 12 scoring opportunities makes it incredibly difficult for the other team to catch up.

 

  • Dante Exum was driving and dishing tonight.  He had a career high 12 assists.  If Exum can begin to make some shots and show some touch around the rim more and more of these passes are going to open up.  Tonight he showed a willingness to make mistakes and that opened the door to make some of these plays.  I believe Dante is very self aware and that much of his lack of aggression has been an understanding of what he can and can’t do.  He is not a good finisher, he is not a good mid range shooter and therefore he has not wanted to hurt the team and try those plays when it is not going to be a good end result.  He needs some more selfishness and when he adds that it will add more options to be unselfish.

 

  • Before the game Quin Snyder was on the floor with Dante Exum working on some of the moves and plays that were coming it in the game.   Seemed to work.

 

  • Derrick Favors is a force download.  He was in foul trouble all night but he played angry and he is beginning to display a lot of different offensive moves.  The games Favors had to play without Hayward forced him to be more assertive offensively and he has grown because of those.  He averaged 18 points in March a career high for a month and added 19 tonight.

 

  • Kenneth Faried attacked Rudy Gobert as well as any big I have seen all year.  Faried has great energy and does good stuff in the paint but has Enes Kanter passing tendencies.

 

  • Trey Burke was solid again tonight. He hit some really important shots when the Jazz were down early.

 

  • Jazz trailed this game 29-22 after 1 and then blitzed the Nuggets 59 to 30 over the next two quarters

 

  • Jazz go to 19-19 at home

 

  • Another amazing defensive night for this team.  They have a collective energy right now that is really special.