EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Raptors v. Jazz

  • Two things we know for certain. The Jazz are not ready defensively for the top level offensive teams. The Raptors, the #2 offensive team in the NBA, surpassed all of the opponent highs set by the Mavericks (the #1 offensive team in the NBA). Second, Utah’s depth is not able to keep the Jazz in games. The script each night is very similar, the Jazz play fairly well early in the game and then when the substitutions start the game begins to slip away and gets away entirely in the second quarter.
  • This team needs to learn how to put its will on a game. However, that is much easier said than done. Golf seems to be the most common analogy, but it could be anything. If you have failed at something in the past and you are uncertain of yourself, it is hard to dive right in with all your gusto. Take a big fall on a ski hill and then next time you come down that same run you are tentative. Pull back-to-back drives into the trees and how are you feeling on the next tee box? That’s where the Jazz are at this point. They lack a confidence to play with the type of vigor they need to play with.
  • The Raptors are really good. They are 15-4 and the best in the East, and with the energy in Toronto that exists after last season they are going to be a tough out in playoffs. What they did tonight is what really good teams do. They were playing a team that is not as good and they came out and put the hammer down. They had not been playing defense well recently and they tightened that area up while dominating the game. Kyle Lowry was terrific.
  • I admire Coach Casey—when he finds a play that works he never leaves it.  High pick-and-roll here we go again.
  • The Jazz started fine, but the Raptors went on a 9-2 run to close the first quarter and a 19-8 run to open the second quarter. Game over. That’s the 18-point difference that ruled the night. Everything else was window dressing, as they say.
  • Realize the Jazz opened the night with a kid who has played 8 NBA games trying to guard Kyle Lowry, who’s an eight-year veteran and heading to an All-Star Game. The rest of the roster was a point guard who has played one year and 19 games, two four-year “veterans” and a guy starting for his first year.
  • Players doing things for the first time in the NBA are not usually very good at what they’re doing. If a player is inserted in the starting lineup for the first time as a regular, it takes a while. If a player is a lead dog for the first time, it takes a while. Who are the two players on the Jazz that are handling themselves well? Guys who are doing the same thing for the second straight year—Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.
  • It’s not pleasant to be down by 15 or more every night, but make sure that we are being realistic to what this team as constructed with its youth is capable of doing.
  • Lots of good things are happening. Rudy Gobert, who has played 63 games in his career, is showing signs of being a defensive force in the NBA. He still has a long way to go. Trey Burke, who has played 88 games in his NBA career, got out of a huge shooting slump for one of the first times in his life and will grow from that.  Danté Exum, who is 19 and has played 19 games, is showing all the signs of why he was drafted fifth overall, and people believe he could be terrific. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, who have played enough to know what to anticipate in this league, have been good (in fact, very good).
  • Take a second and imagine Gordon or Derrick surrounded by veteran experienced players, and they would be fabulous.
  • It’s a process. We knew it was a process. And it’s not an easy process. There is no magic pill. It doesn’t get fixed right away. There will be many more nights like this and more losing streaks, but there is a lot good going on in the midst of this.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Gobert’s defense, Jazz fight and the process

  • The signature of this Utah Jazz team is they comeback and fight. Down by 22 and being ran off the floor, the Jazz put on a furious rally before falling short by one play here or there.
  • Lots of moments to look back at and wonder about or be upset about. Trey Burke drove to the basket in a fast break in a tie game and the ball went out of bounds (originally called off the Nuggets but overturned ruled to be off the Jazz). The killer is that Burke was obviously fouled on the play when you looked at the replay but the rules don’t allow the officials to go back and call the foul—they can only look at what they are reviewing and the ball never touched a Nugget player.
  • Arron Afflalo was called for a “Flagrant 2″ foul on Alec Burks going to the basket and was ejected. During the raucous that followed, Enes Kanter came to Alec’s defense and went after Afflalo a bit. Nice to see. With the play clearly stopped but no official timeout, Jazz trainer Gary Briggs went on the floor to check on Alec Burks.  Unfortunately, the rules state that if the game has not been stopped the trainer can’t come out on the floor or it is a technical foul. No one’s fault on this but the one point the Nuggets got on that technical changed the entire complexion of the game down the stretch.
  • Ty Lawson ended up hitting the game-winner on one of the best defensive possessions of the year by the Jazz. They denied the entire play, held strong with rotations and forced the Nuggets into a shot-clock prayer. It went in. A lucky shot.
  • The problem on the night is the Jazz were trying to come back from a 22-point deficit after a disastrous stretch when the starters were on the bench. This team is built for the next generation of Jazz players to take over and become the team’s leaders. However, it leaves the Jazz with a really thin bench and that showed again tonight. The Jazz led the game 21-18 and went to the bench, and over the next 12 minutes got outscored 38-13.
  • The Jazz have to learn two things. How hard they need to play to be successful.  First, they are learning how to be aggressive. Quin is pushing them to be more and more aggressive, and I’m not sure they really understand what that is. The second thing is how to stem the tide when things are going wrong. Right now, when the game starts to get away, this team hasn’t learned how to regain control the game and stop the other team’s run.
  • Hayward had 11 points in the fourth quarter. He ‘s scoring 78% of his fourth-quarter baskets unassisted. These are big-time plays. Alec stepped up with four fourth-quarter rebounds.
  • Rudy Gobert changed the game defensively tonight. The Nuggets shot 19-for-49 (38.7%) when Rudy was on the floor and 23-for-38 (60.5%) when he was on the bench.
  • Quin had another moment. He pulled Gobert and Kanter off the floor in the third quarter and laid into them. He was furious and Gobert was fighting back a bit trying to explain himself. The Jazz were down 14 at the time and Quin put the two of them back in the game immediately afterward, and it ignited the rally. The best part was that Gobert and Kanter sat at the scorers table talking about what they need to do better.
  • Gordon Hayward has as many games of 25 or more points this year (7) as he had all of last season.
  • Lots has to come together for this team. It’s a slow process. It’ not going to suddenly click one night or one week, but tonight was a positive part of the process.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Clippers dominate the Jazz

  • Very impressive night for the Los Angeles Clippers. On the seventh game of a road trip, they came out like a ball of fire and took the game from the Utah Jazz from the very beginning. The Clippers took a 35-15 lead in the first quarter and the game was never in doubt.
  • Utah’s defensive game plan was to keep Blake Griffin on the perimeter and force him to hit the mid-range jumper. This makes great sense. Chris Paul is on fire, shooting 61% on the road trip. Blake is only a 39% jump shooter and it keeps your big men out of foul trouble. However, in reality it worked the exact opposite. Blake came out and hit four straight jump shots and the Clippers were rolling, never to be stopped.
  • Utah’s defensive rebounding to start the night was dreadful. Four of the Clippers’ first five misses were turned into offensive rebounds and scores. The Clippers only had two empty possessions in the first 10 minutes of the game.
  • Defense continues to be a real issue for the Jazz. It’s not clear what five-man group the Jazz could put on the court that could defend and score enough to stay on the floor.
  • Gordon Hayward went over 30 for the fourth time this season. He had only scored 30 four times coming into the season. His second quarter was awesome. 20 points in the second quarter to will the Jazz back into the game. He hit on 11 of his 18 shots and finished with 30 points.
  • Chris Paul was +33 tonight. In the 14 minutes he was on the bench, the Clippers were -17
  • Trevor Booker had a nice night: 15 points and 9 rebounds.
  • Rodney Hood returned to action. He really helps the pace of play. He did not make a shot in six attempts.
  • The Jazz simply couldn’t handle the Clippers defensively when Chris Paul was on the floor. He toyed with them. He worked his way back to the middle, blowing up the entire defensive scheme and negating Utah’s entire channeling system. The trick here is once Paul gets to the middle by curling back under the pick, then the strong and weak sides are hard to decipher and the defensive schemes get all messed up.
  • The Jazz have three straight at home this week and they simply need a win or two to help teaching. This is not a season that is going to be dictated by wins and losses. It is about developing and progressing, but it’s hard to do with any positive feedback.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Thunder strike down on the Jazz

  • Tough night for the Jazz. A good start for the Jazz and then the Thunder upped the ante defensively and the Jazz couldn’t figure out how to respond. Gordon Hayward said it best after the game when teams get physical they have to be giving something up, but the Jazz haven’t figured out what that is and how to take advantage of the physical play.
  • So why is that? I don’t have an answer, but here are a few ideas. My first guess is confidence. This team has not had a lot of good moments together, and so when things start to go wrong they aren’t sure how to react.
  • My next guess is time together. They don’t have the relationships on how to react as a unit on the floor. Most times are new experiences and they don’t have a track record on how to get through things.
  • Third is talent. Somethings breaking that kind of pressure is one guy making plays and busting the defense, and we don’t have that guy. Hayward tries to will the team and he is becoming better and better each time, but to survive, this group has to play together. They have to make plays together and that gets back to the first two issues.
  • The Jazz scored 25 points in the first 8:57 of the game and 50 points in the next 36  minutes. Once they lost their way, the Thunder wouldn’t relent and the Jazz couldn’t find a rhythm.
  • The hustle plays that ignited the Jazz in the game against the Bulls were not there tonight. In fact, the opposite happened. The Thunder made those plays and gained those extra possessions.
  • The defensive breakdowns were unreal. Tough offensive nights with the current inexperience are going to happen. Somehow, this team has to learn that when the offense breaks down the defensive effort has to intensify. This is the ultimate defense has to create the offense. However, when the defense breaks down and you are taking the ball out of the net, the opposing defense is set for each possession.
  • Alec Burks’ +/- stats are a little disconcerting. He was -18 tonight and the other starters were ok. Hawyard was +2, Kanter was +1, Favors was -4 and Burke was -7. The reason it is disconcerting is that in last four games Burks +/- is -22, -7,-12 and -18. So in the last 124 minutes he has been on the floor the Jazz have been outscored by 59 points and when he has been on the bench the team is +17.
  • The Jazz bench scored 3 points. That is the biggest difference between a championship/playoff caliber team and a developing roster. On developing teams, benches are built for the young prospects to play and the bench to support them. On championship/playoff teams, the bench is built to win games.
  • Here’s the major issue for the Jazz and the rotation. In the 12 minutes Gordon Hayward was on the bench, the Jazz scored 12 points. That’s 48 points for a game!!!! In the 36 minutes he was on the floor, the Jazz scored 70 points.  Still not great, but that’s an average of 23 points per a quarter.
  • The Jazz need to find another player to play with the bench players and be able to score. I can promise you Quin is working hard on different options and equations to make this work, but it’s tough. Not a lot of easy answers to this one. Does Danté come in early for Trey so Trey can play with second unit? Do Danté and Joe come in so Alec and Trey or Alec and Gordon can play with second unit? I’ve always admired how Frank Vogel was able to leave four starters on the floor for huge amount on minutes each night, but I’m not sure how you do that with this crew. Quin had four starters on the floor for 30 minutes tonight. Hard to do much more than that.
  • The Starters were on the floor together for 23 minutes, and in those 23 minutes the Jazz were outscored 48-47. The other 25 minutes were the issue. In the 30 minutes the Jazz had at least four starters on the floor, the Jazz were -2. In the other 18 minutes it was -13.
  • Gordon Hayward is having a great month of November, and in the past he has struggled early in the season and gotten better. 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals. I’m sure he’ll want to talk about the 8 turnovers and 7 missed free throws as making it a bad night, but he carried a huge burden tonight.
  • Jazz coaches talk negative plays. The Jazz allowed 21 points off turnovers and 18 second-chance points. Those accounted for 39 of the Thunder’s 97 points.
  • Bad night. It was the Thunder’s bench crew’s final chance to show their value before Russell returns, and KD is right around the corner—and they were impressive.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Three fatal turnovers negate the comeback

  • Another amazing game. What a season. We certainly have had our share of excitement.
  • Lots of great things to mention in the comeback but three turnovers are the story of the night—the first two turnovers to open the game lazy automatic passes by Alec Burks and Enes Kanter that Jimmy Butler intercepted and took the other way for dunks and Trey Burke trying a behind the back loose bounce pass to Enes Kanter’s feet with the game on the line. That’s the difference between winning and losing.   Guys were amazing. The effort was terrific, but that is the difference between winning and losing. Simple as that.
  • The opening two turnovers set the tone for the night. The Bulls were like a sharks smelling blood and the Jazz got panicky for the entire first quarter. The Jazz committed 10 turnovers allowing 18 points in the first half. They didn’t match the physical play of the Bulls. I commented on the broadcast they were starting each possession with bad field position. They started each possession so far outside the 3-point line they couldn’t get the offense started
  • The Jazz trailed 9-0 early on, 16-4 midway through the fist quarter,a dn 30-14 heading into the second quarter. They trailed by 21 at 45-24. In the third quarter they trailed 60-43 and then they battled all the way back. They took their first lead at 80-78 early in the fourth quarter. A game that had no ties and no lead changes up to that point had 5 ties and 6 lead changes when it was over.
  • Third quarters this year the Jazz have been great and they were great again tonight.  Outscoring the Bulls 36-22. Then we had an incredible fourth-quarter battle.
  • Hard to single out guys tonight, but a few guys were really good. Derrick Favors was a beast. He had a big-time move on Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah when he rolled to the basket with a gorgeous finish off a Trey Burke give. He finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, and was huge on the boards late.
  • Trey Burke started breaking the paint in the third and fourth quarters and it changed the game. His season may have changed when he got punked by Kyle Lowry in Toronto, and since then he has fought back and broken the paint and made plays.   He had great confidence in his jumper tonight. When he pulled it you could tell he felt it was going to go in.
  • Trey had another 10 assists. He’s averaging about 8 assists a game over the last 6 games. Big time playmaking.
  • Jimmy Butler took Gordon Hayward out of the game. Ron Boone said it in the opening moments of the broadcast that this was going to be  an interesting night to see how Gordon handles the physical play, and he went 2-for-11 and only had 1 assist. Chicago took him out of the game.
  • Joe Ingles has been getting more and more time and tonight he played with a little pizzazz. Earlier this year he was playing as though he wondered if he belonged and not making mistakes; tonight he let it rip a little and made a bunch of big plays. He took 9 shots and only 3 of them were 3-pointers. Ingles got going when he torched McDermott and then kept the momentum going. McDermott might be one of the worst defenders he will face all year.
  • The Bulls allow the fewest 3-point shots of any team in the NBA and the Jazz only got 9 three attempts.
  • Enes Kanter made two plays tonight the excited me about Enes. First, he rotated perfectly defensively from the weakside baseline and stymied a Bulls play. Second, he had a great screen-out of Joakim Noah late in the game. And let’s not forget Kanter’s absurd dunk late in the game.
  • Pau Gasol looked fabulous. The Lakers have to wonder why they choose Bynum and Howard over Gasol.
  • Up 1 with the ball with 27 seconds left you can’t commit a fatal turnover (above the free-throw line—they always become points).
  • The comeback was awesome. It would have been a huge win. The Jazz would have gone to 6-9 with OKC, Clippers, Toronto, Denver and Orlando coming  up. They could have gotten close to .500 and really started to believe. They might have been rushing things a bit and it showed with the mistakes made that cost the team the game.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz get run by the Warriors

  • This one was over in a hurry. A 12-0 start by the Warriors and it was done. The Warriors came in waves and the Jazz were unable to handle it. So much of what we hear about with the Warriors is the offense and the “Splash Brothers” but this is a great defensive team. They completely de-railed Utah’s offensive structure.
  • The Warriors were switching 1 thru 4 on all picks and the Jazz didn’t know how to react to this.
  • The Jazz aren’t setting as solid picks as they set earlier in the year.
  • Andrew Bogut is so good.  He might be the most under appreciated player in the NBA.  He knocked Favors completely off his game.  Bogut is such a great rim protector and the Jazz couldn’t get into the paint.  In the opening quarter the Jazz shot 3 of 8 in the restricted area.  The Jazz have been one of the best teams in the NBA at shooting in the restricted area and the Warriors are one of the best at defending the restricted area and we know which end won the battle.
  • One the interesting parts of this match-up was the Jazz take the 3rd highest percentage of smart shots (restricted and 3’s) and the Warriors force opponents to take the fewest amount of smart shots.  The Jazz opening the night with shots of 8 feet, 14 feet, 19 feet, 9 feet,  and 17.   So the Jazz opened with 5 mid range shots and 3 turnovers.  The Jazz didn’t get a shot in the restricted area until the 7:33 mark.
  • The Warriors opened the night with 5 of their first 9 possessions as fast break possessions.  They came out running and outlet passing and the Jazz looked stunned by the speed.  The road trip and the OKC game was against mostly half court teams
  • Hayward had a nice strong third quarter.   He showed some good leadership in the way he battled down 20 in the 3rd.
  • This game was not as close as the final score.
  • For most of the first half the Jazz forced just 1 turnover and committed just 2 fouls.   I am not a big believer in just looking at those numbers and making a proclamation but it seems to tell a story about the Jazz level of force.
  • Dante Exum made some super special passes tonight.  He made a bounce pass in the paint that was a back handed bounce pass to Derrick Favors in the lane.    Dante didn’t shoot well and still does not have a field goal off the bounce outside 10 feet this year.
  • The Jazz need Trey Burke to find his game.  This is not going to last.  He is much better than 32% and 27% from three but it is getting long.   13 game stretches is 16% of the season.
  • The Warriors are in a different class than the Jazz right now.   The same thing we saw with the Mavericks and the Rockets.  This is a good reminder of how long this process is going to be and it is going to take some patience.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – The night of “The Tech”

  • Quin’s technical foul will forever be the story of this night. The Jazz were lifeless, dead in the water. The Thunder had gotten physical and made the game hard on the Jazz, and they didn’t have the fight in them to bring it back. The Thunder are so undermanned that they are forced to bring games to a halt, and the Jazz got caught in the trap. Then the tech came. The Jazz were on a mini 4-0 run before the tech but the tech got the Jazz energized.
  • The Jazz closed the second quarter on an 18-3 run to get within 2 points. That sums it up. They were down 17 to the Thunder sans Durant, Westbrook and others.
  • Once the Jazz got it rolling, the Thunder didn’t have the firepower to battle back.   Once the Jazz took the lead, the night was over. The Jazz cruised to a 17-point victory—a 34-point swing.
  • Saturday morning in Toronto, Snyder called Alec Burks out in a film session to get more rebounds. He had 2,4 and 2 in the previous games. Since then, Alec grabbed 10 and 14 rebounds. This is a big-time answer from Alec and tells you a lot about who he is and how much he wants to be really, really good. This is what the Jazz brass all talked about when they signed him to the extension—they were betting on Alec’s desire to be great. He loves the gym and works to be better.
  • Burks is a very good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. Last year, he was at 41% and this year he’s above that number. Once he realizes this, he’ll be even better. I’m not sure he realizes how good a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter he is.
  • The +/- numbers tonight were the exact opposite of what they have been all season. Hayward was 0 and Favors was +1. Gobert was +23, Burks +20, Ingles +14 and Burke +11.
  • Trey Burke played a very strong game tonight. He was breaking the paint and making plays. This actually started in the third quarter in Toronto when the Raptors were isolating him defensively—he got upset and became more aggressive offensively. Tonight, he got into the lane and found people. Over the last five games Burke has 41 assists.
  • The Jazz defensively didn’t want to let Reggie Jackson or Serge Ibaka get going.  Jackson finished 4-for-13 and Ibaka was 2-for-13.
  • Enes Kanter had a strong night. He was very good yesterday in practice on the defensive end and it showed today with a 16-point, 15-rebound performance. More than that, he made a bunch of impact plays defensively.
  • The Thunder shot 35.7%—they average 42%. They went 8-for-23 from three, a little above their season average. The Jazz had a good defensive night, holding the Thunder to 81 points.
  • Exum is shooting 38% from three. Plus he had 5 assists and 0 turnovers.
  • 5-7 is a nice start to a month that never looked like it would yield 5 wins.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Buzzer beating Burke gives Jazz win in New York

  • How fun is this season?
  • A game after a meltdown down the stretch, the Jazz got better. The Jazz were down 5 and proceeded to score on 7 straight possessions. What a contrast from the night prior.
  • Trey Burke hit the game-winner and it was awesome, but the story of the night was Gordon Hayward going head-to-head with Carmelo Anthony and holding his own.   He held his own matching the game’s best scorer bucket for bucket. He didn’t back down when Melo tried to punk him. When Melo flashed an elbow, he stood up for himself. This was a huge night for Gordon. He wrote in his blog about how he doesn’t feel he can get bullied anymore. Tonight he not only didn’t get bullied, he was every bit the player Carmelo was. 33 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals is a mammoth night. Only 12 players have had that combination in one night since 2010.
  • This is what being a Jazz fan is all about right now. To have watched Gordon mature into this player has been a wonderful process. At times it was rocky. At times he seemed overwhelmed. But now that he has grown mentally and physically, now that he has learned from the past experiences, he is developing into one of the best players in the game.
  • The Jazz made the final 12 free throws they took in the fourth quarter. They hit both of 5 straight trips to the line. Favors made two big time free throws with 23 seconds left. Prior to those two, Favors was just 2-for-6 in his career in the final 24 seconds of a game.
  • Carmelo was pretty awesome on the offensive end. He scored 16 of the final 18 points for the Knicks. The Jazz made him work, but he is simply that good. I didn’t see a lot of triangle late in the game.
  • Really happy for Trey Burke. The start of the season has been hard for him shooting, but he has done a nice job of doing other things for the team and tonight he had another big passing night with 8 more assists. I think he is close to 8 assists a game for the last three games.
  • The Jazz rank 30th in the NBA in the second quarter and it came back to get them again. They were outscored 24-17. It started to happen again in the fourth quarter, but Snyder went back to the main guys in a hurry.
  • Derrick and Gordon are beginning to get more and more consistent. When they have a good night, you need Alec or Trey to join them and more often than not you will get the win. Tonight, Trey had 13 points and 8 assists.
  • Enes Kanter got pulled early in the third quarter for something. I’m not sure, but I would presume defensively. Then the Knicks slid Carmelo to the 4 and there was no longer a matchup for Enes to guard for the rest of the night.
  • The Knicks were super shorthanded and lost Shumpert to start the night, but Carmelo is big time and he keeps them in games. The Jazz had to battle every possession again, and they got a little bit better doing it tonight.
  • Wins are good, they are a lot better than losses.