EMPTYING THE NOGGIN and POSTCAST – Jazz never solve Hawks defensive riddle

SUMMARY: A close game turned into a blowout quickly as the Hawks defensive scheme flustered the Jazz all evening.
• The game was 61-60 in the 3rd quarter with 3:05 left when everything fell apart. The next thing you knew the Jazz were down 26, 95-69 to the Atlanta Hawks. The run was 34 to 9 in a span of 9:47 and that was the night.

• The run started with Dennis Schroeder attacking the rim the moment Rudy Gobert left the game and then it never stopped. This has been a problem throughout the season the inability to make the plays to slow down the opponents runs. In addition, the Jazz don’t have the offensive fire power to come back from these deficits so it just compounds itself when things start to go wrong.

• The Jazz didn’t start well tonight. They didn’t make a field goal until the 6:48 mark of the 1st quarter when Joe Ingles hit a three. Ricky Rubio was 0 for 5 with a turnover in the first 7 possessions of the game.

• The Hawks did some interesting thigs defensively and it had a huge impact. When a team runs a pick and roll the defensive big has a few choices. He can trap the ball handler (blitz) he can play at screen level (up) or he can drop usually stay the level of the offensive teams big and retreating with the ball handler. The Hawks took it a step further and had their big retreat into the paint immediately. This forced the Jazz into mid range shots and kept them off the rim. This eliminated Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favor’s rim rolls. The Jazz ball handlers were unable to engage the big enough to have them release and create space for either of the bigs.

• The wild part of the night is the Hawks defense also denied the Jazz getting any three point shots. The Jazz only took 15 threes in the game. Previously, the season low was 21 and 23 after that. This is a tremendous difference.

• The Hawks trailed the ball handler off the pick and roil so they couldn’t stop for the off the bounce three point shot. Then they came off the other shooters or non shooters and clogged the lane eliminating most of the passing lanes.

• Donovan Mitchell really struggled tonight. He had 6 turnovers and 0 assists. In addition, he missed his rim finishes tonight. The sagging defense of the Hawks got him into trouble in the paint. The wing defenders of Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince were a tough athletic match for Donovan tonight. They are both long and strong.

• Atlanta does two things well offensively. They shoot the corner three the best of anyone in the NBA at 44% and they play well off turnovers. They continually got corner 3 attempts and made 9 of 14 on the night and missed their last two. The Hawks also are 23rd in offense after an opponent make, 23rd after an opponent miss but 7th off an opponent turnover. The Jazz turned it over 17 times leading to 22 points by the Hawks.

• The Jazz have struggled to be resilient inside game this year. They have trailed by 10 the 5th most of any team in the league and 4-23 in games they trail by 10 or more, only Philadelphia and the Lakers have fewer wins when trailing by 10.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Utah Jazz offense explodes and ends the Los Angeles Clippers win streak

SUMMARY: Jazz offense explodes and carries the Jazz to a strong 125-113 win ended the Los Angeles Clippers win streak.
• Jazz scored a season high points in a quarter with 39 in the 1st quarter, they scored the most points they have scored in a half with 76 points. They came close to equaling their season high against the Clippers earlier this season with 125 points.

• In many ways the Jazz defense early in the game got the offense going. The Jazz were taking Lou Williams out of the game with a double team on him every time he came off a pick. This slowed the Clippers pace of play and forced them later into the shot clock then they are usually comfortable with and it forced them into mistakes which the Jazz took advantage of and turned them into points.

• Three unsung heroes tonight. Alec Burks got playing time with Rodney Hood out of the game with a leg contusion and had a superb game. Burks had 15 points, 6 rebounds and took 8 trips to the free throw line in 18 minutes. Royce O’Neale played 12 minutes and scored 8 points on 3 for 3 shooting to go with 2 rebounds and a steal.

• It would be a stretch to say those are Rodney Hood’s minutes as many times the two were on the floor together. However, they aren’t getting minutes when Rodney is playing and they combined for 30 minutes and 27 points on 7 of 10 shooting. That is very strong work in place of Rodney.

• Raul Neto is the other unsung hero. He has been solid all season long.  The Jazz are consistently playing better when he is on the floor.  He breaks the paint with regularity and creates opportunities.  He doesn’t gamble offensively or defensively.   The Jazz are +19.4 per 48 minutes when he is on the floor.  Not sure this translates to larger minutes because he is being used carefully.  However, most of it on the defensive end where the defensive rating with Neto on the floor in 92.4 compared to 107 when he is off the floor.  Both of those seem really far out of whack.  

• Donovan Mitchell scored 23 tonight which is his 21st game of 20 or more. He is the 3rd player in the last 20 years, Tyreke Evans and Blake Griffin to accomplish this.

• Joe Ingles had 21 points tying his career high. Joe buried 5 threes on 10 attempts.

• Donovan Mitchell’s passing is great. He is days away from a 10 assist game. He had 7 for the 2nd straight night.

• Jazz got great balanced rebounding and took advantage of the Clippers lack of DeAndre Jordan to score 15 2nd chance points. Favors lead the way with 12 rebounds, 7 for Gobert, 6 for Rubio, Burks and Jerebko, 5 for Johnson and Mitchell.

• Favors had another double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

• Rudy Gobert looked good in his 2nd game back on a back end of a back to back.

• The Clippers put together a push late in the game, but Jerebko got a big 3 and Gobert blocked a Lou Williams shot and released out for a dunk.

• Lou Williams had 31 points and 10 steals, this has been done twice according to basketball reference since 1985 and if you add the 7 assists no one else has ever had this box score line.

Rudy Gobert terrific in return but Jazz can’t stop Knicks in 117-115 loss.


SUMMARY:  Jazz fell to the New York Knicks 117-115  despite a tremendous return for Rudy Gobert

Jazz had a furious rally back late in the 4th quarter and had three three point looks on one possession with :30 left to tie the game but none of them went down.  Donovan Mitchell forced a poor look three, but Rubio sprinted across the lane for the rebound and found a wide open Joe Johnson for three, he missed.  The Jazz got the rebound and kicked to an open Joe Ingles and he missed and the Jazz were done.  Two of the Jazz best three point shooters for the tie and it didn’t go down.

On the previous play with :49 left Joe Johnson got a wide open corner 3 looked and that missed as well.

The Jazz defense was not good enough tonight. The Knicks offensive rating is a 107.  Tonight it was a 114.  The Jazz defense needs to be better than average to win games and a better than average defense tonight would have had the Knicks in the 102 range.

The Jazz changed the starting lineup tonight and went with Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. The first quarter struggles didn’t end as Jazz trailed 14-9 at the first substitution. In the third quarter it worked better as the Jazz went from down 6 to up 3.

Rodney Hood scored very well in the first half of the game and finished with 18 points, but has been having a hard time with a chin calf issue, thus the tape he has been wearing on this leg and he was unable to finish the game and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. This is really too bad since he was inserted into the starting line-up tonight and it is important for he and Donovan to figure out what they can do to compliment each other’s games.

Rudy Gobert returned tonight was terrific. He had a huge impact on the game both offensively and defensively.   The Knicks grabbed Rudy and didn’t want to let Rudy dunk.  Jeff Hornacek has always talked about not allowing dunks when on the road and that seemed to be the strategy tonight to not allow Rudy to get follow dunks.  He went to the line time and time again.  His defensive presence was obvious as for the first time in weeks players drove to the basket and then couldn’t get a shooting window so they forced in traffic passes.

The Knicks run a left side dribble handoff where Courtney Lee came from the corner for the handoff and curled tight into the lane time and time again in the third quarter. It allowed Courtney Lee to end up with 13 points in the 3rd

The end of the 3rd quarter was the game changer as the Jazz went from up to down 7 as we headed into the 4th

Donovan Mitchell had a tough night. He couldn’t find the room to have the impact he has had in some of the past games and his off the dribble three is not a very high percentage shot right now.   The Knicks even went under on a few high pick and rolls and dared him to shot.  He missed.

These three home losses to the Knicks, Pacers and Pelicans are going to make a playoff push hard to come by for the Jazz. They are 5 wins behind the Clippers for 8th and 5 wins ahead of the Kings for last in the West.

Donovan Mitchell joins elite company as Jazz blow out Kings

Summary: Jazz get back on winning track against young and inferior Sacramento Kings

• Donovan Mitchell wowed another crowd tonight. In the first half he had 11 points some of which made the crowd go ohhh then the third quarter came and he completely took over the game. He added another 11 in the third quarter and then 12 in the 4th quarter for a 34 point outburst.

• He did it without the three point shot. Mitchell hit just one three all night, a banker. He scored only 7 of his 34 points outside of the paint.

• This was Mitchell’s 5th 30 point game of the season. In the last 30 years the only players who have 5 30 point games in their teams first 44 games during their rookie season were David Robinson, Shaq O’Neal, Blake Griffin, LeBron James and Allen Iverson. All of these guys were #1 picks. All of them are going to the Hall of Fame. This is incredible company.

• Donovan continues to improve in areas where he has struggled. He struggled early in the season finishing at the rim. Since then he has mastered that to a rate of 66% around the rim. Now he has added a paint non restricted area shot as teams have cut him off from the rim. These are tough looks, the lowest percentage in the NBA. However after shooting poorly on those he has now added a floater and is scoring at a high rate on those shots.

• Donovan shot 13 of 15 on 2 point shots

• Sacramento is not a good team and Garrett Temple didn’t play who is their best on ball defender so Donovan was feasting on a rather porous defense.

• The Jazz hit the three point shot again tonight. Prior to tonight over the last 13 games the Jazz were hitting just 30% of their three point shots, last in the NBA. Tonight the Jazz were 12 of 29 from three for 41%.

• Rodney Hood had a nice offensive night with 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting and hit on 4 of 9 from three. Rodney also had 8 rebounds.

• Joe Ingles found his stroke going 4 of 7 from three after struggling to start the night.

• The Jazz three point defense continues to struggle as the Kings hit on 13 of 21 from three and Bogdan Bogdanovic was the main culprit going 6 for 6 from three. Bogdanovic had 25 while Willie Cauley Stein had 26.

• Royce O’Neale was +13 for another great +/- night

• Jazz took a 23-21 lead at the end of the 1st quarter when Rodney Hood hit a buzzer beater. Then they stretched the lead with 29-21 second quarter and eventually got the lead to 20 points in the third quarter before cruising to the win.

• Jazz were the superior team tonight and took care of a win they had to get against a Kings team that will make a strong push for worst record in the NBA.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Tough night back at home for the Jazz


Summary: The Indiana Pacers took control of the game early and as long as Victor Oladipo was on the floor were in complete control on their way to a 109-94 win.

• The Indiana Pacers might be really good. They are now 24-20 but when Victor Oladipo plays they are 24-15. Tonight they were the superior team.

• The Jazz made two runs in the game and both times were when Victor Oladipo was off the floor. The Pacers have been considerably better all season when he is on the floor, but tonight it was ridiculous as the Pacers were +27 when Oladipo was on the floor and -12 the 13 minutes he was on the bench.

• The Jazz offense is really struggling. They came in 30th over the last 15 games and were missing wide open looks for much of the night. It feels a bit collective right now. They are getting looks. Donovan Mitchell in particular is getting enough attention to get guys open looks, but they are not going down.

• Jazz were down 20 going to the 4th quarter 85-65. Neither side of the ball was strong. Ricky Rubio was 1 for 7. Rodney Hood was 3 for 10, Royce O’Neale was 2 for 6, Jonas Jerebko was 2 for 6, The Jazz collectively were 5 of 24 from three.

• Thank goodness for Donovan Mitchell. He had another superb night. He had 23 points on 8 of 16 shooting. He continues to find a way to score in an efficient manner.

• Derrick Favors was a beast around the rim tonight, going 8 of 12 from the field. The defense was not good when he was on the floor tonight as the Jazz were outscored by 30 points when he was on the floor.

• Joe Ingles has been awesome all year extending himself to 30 plus minutes a night and giving the Jazz everything he has. However, he seems to be on empty. He didn’t score in 20 minutes or get a rebound. Ingles is not always a big scorer but he is a crocked box score guy with lots of diversity to his game and right now that is not with him.

• The Jazz looked worn out. No other way to say it. It was a tough night for the Jazz.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Complete Effort comes up short in the end

Summary: The Jazz put out a complete effort but are unable to close it out against the Miami Heat.
• The Jazz played really well tonight, but the Miami Heat made all the have-to-make-to-win plays late in the game.

• The final plays of the game will get most of the talk, but two plays that could have avoided those moments even being relevant were a Joe Ingles 3 and a Derrick Favors miss. The Heat were trying to keep the ball out of Donovan Mitchell’s hands in the back court. Mitchell was able to get it and he pushed it ahead to Joe Ingles who the Heat had forgotten to guard while being so consumed with Donovan. One of the best three point shooters wide open on the left side from three. This is a shot Joe makes more than 50% of the time. He missed. Jazz would have been up 7 with 2:30 left. It swirled deep in the cup and came out.

• Another late moment play was Mitchell driving to the basket, the defense collapsed on him and he was able to get the ball to Favors. It wasn’t a clean catch, but with his amazing hands Favors was able to control it and went up the shot. He missed. Derrick is shooting a career high 74% in the restricted area. This one didn’t go. It would have put the Jazz up 7 with 1:28 left

• Those misses left it as a possession by possession game late and the Heat made those plays as well.

• With 1:08 left and the Jazz up 3, Josh Richardson, who is a very good defender was switched onto Donovan. Dragic went to Ingles and Tyler Johnson to Hood. Richardson knocked the ball away from Mitchell and as they dove after it, it went off Mitchell for a turnover.

• The Jazz still lead by 1 with :37.7 left. The Heat committed to not let Donovan get the ball after he had scored and made the pass to Favors on the two previous possessions. This probably the largest statement of who Donovan has become that I have seen all season long. The Heat simply weren’t going to allow Donovan beat them.

• The ball was inbound to Rodney. He struggled to get his dribble down at first but then got across the half line and waved off his teammates and doesn’t use the Ingles pick. Then he worked one on one on Tyler Johnson into a contested three point shot that barely nicked iron.

• The Heat called timeout 7.8 seconds and ran a nice play where Donovan Mitchell badly lost contact with Josh Richardson and then got buried on a pick. Richardson caught the inbound came off an Kelly Olynyk pick used a great hesitation move and beat Derrick Favors for a layup.

• Then on the final play the Heat did an amazing job of not switching any of the Jazz action and staying completed connected with all the options forcing a pass into the back court where Donovan Mitchell got the pass and crossed mid court with 3 seconds and took an off balance shot that had little chance to win the game. Rodney Hood had run by on a peel route and while Donovan said afterwards he should have passed I am not sure with the 1.7 seconds left that he really had enough time to do that.

• Donovan needs to do a better job here to give Derrick Favors a chance to get a pick on his man. I have watched the play a bunch of time and can’t figure out how Favors could have picked off Richardson. Donovan had to force Richardson into Favors by changing the angle in some fashion. Then the ball doesn’t have to go as far into the back court.

• Quin Snyder likes the idea of the ball handler coming downhill into that play. If the play has another .5 seconds the pass to Rodney is a lot more feasible.

• The difference in these two plays is the ability of Miami to stay connected and not switch or lose their man. The Jazz didn’t force Miami off them and on the other end Miami got free and the Jazz lost connection.

• Jazz did a ton of things really well in this game. They stayed engaged for 48 full minutes and were really solid. The Heat run a quick early offense to Wayne Ellington that has been destroying people and the Jazz completely eliminated the early action. Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood and Donovan Mitchell all played really good trail defense on Ellington to negate his impact. The defense on Goran Dragic for the first half was great. The Jazz battled back from deficits to take control of the game. Donovan went off in the third quarter to surge the Jazz into the lead. Ekpe Udoh made a huge play to keep the Jazz in control putting the ball on the floor going to the basket and scoring,

• Thabo Sefolosha showed great leadership tonight. He was regularly bringing the team together and helping them thru the night. He was a visible leader on the floor. The jazz huddled and communicated more tonight than I have seen in a while.

• Without Rudy Gobert the Jazz margin for error is slim. The obvious plays late will be the items that are talked about, but Josh Richardson out running the Jazz in transition, a close to the right corner on James Johnson with hand down instead of up are equaling important and the plays that are easier to control

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – It is comes undone in the 3rd quarter in loss to Nuggets

SUMMARY: Another almost performance for the Jazz leads to another defeat on the road. This time 99-91 to the Denver Nuggets
• In the Coaches Show when I asked Quin Snyder about the defensive struggles on the road he talked about how the team has played portions of games, 2 quarters v. Golden State, 3 quarters v. the Rockets and that they needed to find a way to play the complete game. He added that when adversity hit they had to keep it from avalanching on them. Unfortunately, tonight fits into this same category.

• The difference tonight was that the offense torpedoed the defense. The turnovers in the third quarter led to the Nuggets jumping out on the break and getting easy opportunities offensively and busting the game open.

• The Jazz lead by 3 at halftime and by the time the third quarter was over they had trailed by as much as 22.

• The Wheels completely fell off in the third quarter. It is hard to understand how it is happening. The offense got stagnant, but then the defense breaks down in monumental fashions and it is on the same plays that were guarded so well earlier in the game.

• The first half of the game was really encouraging. The offense had a little rhythm early, as Ricky Rubio hit shots. The defense was forcing the Nuggets players out of their comfort zone and Nikola Jokic was not having his usual impact.

• Jamal Murray was keeping the Nuggets in the game and he eventually was the one who helped blow it open along with Trey Lyles. Murray had 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting.

• Trey Lyles got revenge on the Jazz. He got open time and time again on the pick and pop to the top of the three point circle. He finished with a career high 26 points on 9 of 17 shooting.

• Rodney Hood had some really encouraging moments when he drove the basket and made 3 of 4 shots with 5 feet of the basket. Rodney had moved some of this rim 2s into long 2s and tonight he did the opposite. This would be a huge deal if he could make this a regular occurrence.

• Plus, minus numbers were all over the place tonight.

• Donovan Mitchell took 3 shots late but for most of the night took just 10 shots and was quiet in the 2nd half. What is interesting is Denver held him to 10 shot attempts in the last match-up as well. Donovan is trying to be a good teammate and not be classified as a pig. He threw some amazing passes tonight and was a great team player. The Nuggets do something that limits his shot attempts. He finished with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

• Donovan threw two of the most incredible passes. One he drove to the basket and with his right hand on the right side of his back he hooked the pass backwards to Joe Johnson for an open 3 and on the other he was driving and wrapped the pass over his head to the far side corner for a 3 look.

• Joe Johnson 2 of 9, Alec Burks 3 of 10. Jazz didn’t get much off the bench.

• Jazz are 4-21 when they trail at any point by 10. This is not a come from behind team.

• One blip that the Jazz couldn’t control is the story of the night. When things started to go wrong they got out of control and the Jazz never recovered.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Pelicans hit the long ball, Jazz don’t

SUMMARY: Pelicans equal the season series with the Jazz with a 10 point win in Utah behind their star bigs Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
• There a lot of things that can be looked at tonight, but the essence of this game is the Pelicans made their three point shots and the Jazz didn’t. The Pelicans were 14 of 30 from three while the Jazz finished just 7 of 32 from three.

• The Jazz are not defending the three point shot well. This has some variance and luck to it. However, the Jazz came into the game ranked 24th in the league defending the three and they are really struggling defending the above the break three. This was an issue again tonight.

• Some of it however is luck. Rajon Rondo goes 2 for 5, Darius Miller 3 for 5, Dante Cunningham 1 for 2. E’Twaun Moore 2 for 3 and DeMarcus Cousins 2 for 4. All of those are above their season averages.

• The Jazz got a strong offensive performance from Joe Johnson. Johnson hit his first 6 shots of the night and finished with a 9 of 12 shooting night and had 20 points. This was his season high.

• The game swung to the Pelicans at the end of the third quarter when they went on a 11-1 run to close the quarter and take a nine point lead going into the 4th quarter.

• The Pelicans took a higher level of focus on Donovan Mitchell than they did the December 1st meeting. Mitchell couldn’t get to the rim and his outside shot was not falling. He only made 6 of 17 from the field. On the other hand, his aggressiveness allowed him to get to the line 10 times, making 9. He still finished with 24 points on 17 shot attempts which is fabulous.

• Rodney Hood is the Jazz second scorer and tonight he didn’t have it. He was 1 for 10 for 2 points in 33 minutes. Not sure the Jazz can win a game when they get 2 points in 33 minutes from Hood. The defense has a high level of focus on Mitchell right now and Hood needs to find a way to take advantage of that freedom,

• Rodney Hood entered the game shooing 37% at home this season.

• When Rodney Hood shoots below 33% the Jazz are 2-8 on the season. The bigger issue is this has happened 10 times in 29 games.

• Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are unbelievably gifted. The skill set they have with their size are once in a lifetime or once every few generations level of talent.

• These guys are so good that the Pelicans are winning the games they should and they are now 10-4 in games against sub .500 teams. That is going to get them in the playoffs.

• The Jazz offense was the issue tonight with an offensive rating of 100. The defense was average, but I am not sure without Rudy Gobert the Jazz defense is much more than average.

• Donovan Mitchell played 38 minutes tonight, Derrick Favors played 35 minutes.

• The Pelicans were +10 when Anthony Davis was the only big on the floor. They were +6 when both Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were on the floor and they were -6 when Cousins was on the floor.

• This is a tough loss for the Jazz in the playoff picture.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Third quarter barrage burys Jazz confidence

SUMMARY: The Warriors followed a familiar script to dispose of the Jazz with a 3rd quarter barrage that felt unfair.
• For the fifth time this season the Warriors outscored a team by 20 points or more in the 3rd quarter. That is incredible.

• The Warriors hit the Jazz with a 10-2 run to start, but the Jazz showed more resolve than they did in Denver and battled back to take the lead after 1 quarter. The Jazz lead for most of the 2nd quarter until Draymond Green hit a three as the half closed. The Warriors lead by one going to the break.

• The Jazz have not won a game they trailed at the half on the road all season

• The Warriors came into third quarter with the #1 third quarter offense and the #1 third quarter defense and the Jazz came in ranked #30 in defense in the third quarters. The Warriors hit and they hit with an urgency and a fire that was devastating. The Jazz went from in the game to out of it in a blink of the eye.

• Thompson hit a three, then Durant followed with a three, then it was Thompson. 9 points in 3 possessions. Again the Jazz re-grouped and battled. They got the game down to 1 point again with 7:25 left in the 3rd. It was the exact same thing the Jazz did in the 1st quarter, they got hit with an initial run and then they answered and stayed in the game.

• This time however, the Warriors hit again. Thompson with a three, Durant with a three and they started running. The Warriors got out in transition and just ran by the Jazz. It was a 21 point game by the end of the 3rd quarter.

• Thru 3 quarters Donovan Mitchell was 2 for 10 and Rodney Hood was 4 for 13. The Warriors defense didn’t give the Jazz primary scored much room. The Jazz were 4 of 17 from three thru three quarters.

• When the schedule came out we all looked at this stretch and knew what was coming. I said the whole time if the Jazz could find a way to go 5-10 in December they would be ahead of the game. They are 4-10.

• However, I don’t think anyone realized what the impact of playing this many teams that are superior to you in consecutive games would do to the moral and the mentality of the group. The group looks like they have lost their collective basketball soul. They fought really well tonight for portions and they battled to stay engaged with the Warriors which was much better than in Denver. When it got stretched out a bit then you could see the impact of the past games. The impact of the lost confidence. We knew these were likely to be losses, but you forget that elite competitors are impacted by losing.

• Couple the Rudy Gobert injury into this and the Jazz aren’t sure who they are right now. They are 30th in defense over the last 10 games. They have played well at times and even pulled off two surprising wins. Yet, the losing has made you feel as though they don’t look right. The blowouts are because of the past games and the lack of collective confidence or knowledge of who they are as a team. When things start to spiral they spiral quickly, because there is nothing in the reservoir of memory right now that they can grab onto to that let’s them get settled. It isn’t clear what their identity is because of the injuries and the losing they aren’t sure where to grab the confidence. A win over Cleveland could change it all very quickly.

• The question to me is not what has happened, that is pretty clear. The question is can they find an identity and a confidence in enough time to be ready for the easing of the schedule

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Thunder contol game start to finish to win season series

Summary: The Oklahoma City Thunder were better than the Utah Jazz, start to finish, and won the season series over the Jazz with a 103-89 win.
• The Thunder’s defense makes it very difficult for the Jazz to run their offense in the manner they want. The Jazz run the third most amount of handoffs in the NBA and are the 7th best offensive team in the NBA on those handoffs. The Thunder are so physical defensively with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George and Jerami Grant. They made it very difficult for the Jazz to get in rhythm.

• The Thunder are the number one team in the NBA guarding the above the break 3-point shot, holding opponents to 33%. The Jazz are sixth best at 37%. Tonight, the Thunder got the better of that battle as the Jazz were 3 of 16 on above the break 3-point shots.

• The Thunder’s offense has been improving and over the last three games, they have had their second, third and sixth best offensive games.

• Westbrook is a 36% midrange shooter. For the past four games, however, he was shooting an incredible 66% on midrange shots and hit 7 of his first 10 tonight. He finished 7 of 14 in the midrange.

• Donovan Mitchell was the highlight for the Jazz: 29 points on an amazing 12 of 16 shooting against Roberson and George much of the night. These are the best wing defenders in the NBA.

• Mitchell — who had been struggling in the midrange — went 3 for 3. You don’t want him taking midrange shots, but if he can make the few he attempts, it will open up drives to the basket at a whole new level. I believe he was 6 of 8 in the restricted area tonight. He is now an incomprehensible 28 of his last 34 in the restricted area.

• Making 28 of 34 shots in the restricted area doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen for rookies. It doesn’t happen if you aren’t dunking. It doesn’t happen if you are a guard. It just doesn’t happen.

• There was an interesting moment after the game when Russell Westbrook stopped Donovan Mitchell and had some words of encouragement for him. I don’t see Westbrook after most games, but he doesn’t strike me as the player who does this very often with opponents.

• Westbrook’s energy tonight was awesome, as always. He came out of the chute playing a full speed on a back to back and carried his team’s energy the rest of the night.

• The Thunder struggle badly when Roberson and Westbrook are off the floor and are great when they are on. Tonight they were +12 with Westbrook and +11 with Roberson. From a Jazz standpoint, what that really means is they were +3 in Westbrook’s 10 minutes on the bench and the Jazz have to outscore the Thunder in those minutes and they were +4 when Roberson was on the bench.

• Joe Ingles has played a ton of minutes and has been under the weather. He might be a bit worn out as he has hit on just 4 of his last 17 from 3 and is a better shooter than that. Joe always has a complete game and had 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

• The Jazz as a team were just 6 of 26 from 3. The Jazz took 36% of their shots as 3-pointers; It might be nice to see that number increase a little bit as long as the team is going to play small.

• The Thunder had 15 offensive rebounds tonight. They are the number two offensive rebounding team in the league and that is a weapon for them. They ended up taking 16 more shots than the Jazz because of offensive rebounding and had just eight turnovers compared to the Jazz’s 14.

• Ricky Rubio took 6 of the Jazz’s first 8 shots. He played just 22 minutes tonight.

• Rodney Hood failed to score in double figures for the first time since November 1.

• The Thunder won the season series with the Jazz 3 games to 1 and have won 10 of their last 13. They may be finding themselves. I don’t believe they are ever going to be a very good offensive team, but they are so good defensively they are going to win a lot of games.