EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Harden has a night for the ages

SUMMARY: James Harden put on a historic performance as the Rockets blew out the Jazz
• Only one player has ever scored more points on 25 shots in NBA History than what James Harden did tonight, Michael Jordan.

• Only one player has ever had 50 points, 10 assist and shot better than 75%, Wilt Chamberlin.

• Tonight’s performance has only been matched by the two greatest players to ever play the game.

• Harden had 56 points and 13 assists. 9 of his 13 assists were for three point shots. Total that together and Harden contributed directly to 91 points.

• James Harden was incredible. He scored in every manner. He started the night doing a lot of scoring in the mid range and in the paint non restricted area which is usually what you want to force him into. Then his confidence grew and he was unreal. Driving to the rim around Gobert. Making three after three, even when they were contenst.

• After the 1st quarter Harden had 22 points on 8 for 8 shooting with 4 three pointers and 2 for 2 at the line. He had 4 assists in the 1st quarter as well. All of those threes were for three point shots. He contributed 34 points in the 1st quarter alone.

• By halftime had missed a shot, two in fact. He was 10 of 12 for 30 points. He had made another three without a miss and two more free throws. Then he added 3 more assists for a total of 7.

• By the end of three quarters he had gone over 50, with 54 points. Now he had 13 assist, 9 of which were for three point shots. Not a lot of players in NBA history have notched 54 points in 3 quarters of basketball. Not to mention on 18 of 21 shots.

• He scored 50 points on 20 shots which had only been done one other time in NBA history.

• It was the best offensive player in the NBA dominating a game at the highest level. Talking to people around the Rockets who have covered him his entire run in Houston, they called tonight the best performance of his career.

• The Jazz had a few offensive stretches tonight where the ball stopped moving and they tried to play 1 on 1. This was usually caused by the switching defense of the Rockets, but this team is not filled with one on one players.

• Donovan Mitchell continues to wow people. He was very solid tonight . The three best plays he made tonight in my mind were passes. He has very good vision and as he learns how to not turn the ball over and open up his passing it will be more and more evident. We saw the Rockets double him off the pick and roll and this was the first time a team has done that. The next steps in his progress will be seeing different defensive approaches. He is close to being the first name mentioned in a scouting report.

• Derrick Favors had two three pointers, a first in his career.

• Take out his first quarters and Rodney Hood is playing really well. But he can’t get started yet. He is 4 of 19 in the first quarter and has only scored 10 points all year. The rest of the game he is 37 of 82 for a solid 45%

• Jazz played Thabo Sefolosha as the back up power forward tonight.

• Tony Bradley got his first NBA time but didn’t get his first points.

• This night is about Harden.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Gritty Jazz pull over overtime win v. Portland

SUMMARY: Grit defined the Jazz win over Portland, 112-103, as Rubio and Mitchell carried the offensive load.
• This was a great game. The Jazz seemed dead on a few occasions in the fourth quarter and relentless fought to stay in the game. This is becoming the signature of this team, the grit and resiliency to stay engaged throughout a game.

• The defense is the calling card on this team. They held one of the best offensive teams in the NBA to under a point per possession tonight. The Blazers final offensive rating was 95.4. To do that to a team as loaded as the Blazers offensively is unheard of in the NBA.

• Ricky Rubio is emerging to be a completely different player in Utah than he was in Minnesota. The question is whether this is a continuation of the second half of last season or something completely different. He has scored 20 or more in three straight games and the only other time he ever did this in his career was in March of last year. He scored 30 for the second time in his career and has only scored over 25 five times in his career. He has now scored 20 or more in 10 of his last 24 games of his career.

• And it’s not just how much he’s scoring, it’s how confidently he’s doing it. He pulled up for 3 in transition in the first half, and did the same down by six points with less than 2:00 minutes to play and nailed it. He did it one last time in overtime when the Blazers went under on the pick he stopped at the top of the key for the final dagger. He is playing unleashed.

• Donovan Mitchell is having quite the start to his NBA career. In the 8th game of his career, the Jazz ran the first three plays of overtime to him and he came through on two of the three. Mitchell shot 9 of 21 and 4 of 10 from 3 and finished with 28 points. There is still a long way to go for this kid, but the flashes he is showing are real and super exciting.

• The Jazz are tied for first in the Northwest.

• The Jazz had a chance to win in regulation but had a really bad turnover late. They had a rebound with :11 seconds left with the game tied but Ingles rushed an outlet pass to Rubio who then traveled as Lillard cut off his path. There is no need to rush in those circumstances, but this team is still new to these moments. This is how they lost the Minnesota game.

• Instead, Rudy Gobert came to the rescue. Lillard worked his way into the paint and Gobert blocked the shot to force overtime.

• Thabo Sefolosha is a remarkable player and commands the respect of his teammates. He leads the defense and guarded Lillard for the entire overtime. He was playing the power forward on offense and the point defensively. He is so long and so smart. He was ranked one of the best wing defenders in the NBA and he shows it.

• When the Jazz had Sefolosha on Lillard and Rubio on McCollum, the intensity was remarkable. They blow them off their spots and altered every angle the Blazers wanted to take. Plus, the Jazz still had Mitchell and Ingles on the floor with the most dominating defensive player in the NBA, Rudy Gobert.

• Rodney Hood went 0 for 11.

• Joe Ingles had 7 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.

• Jonas Jerebko got 20 minutes tonight in place of the injured Joe Johnson and was really good. He hit two 3s and plays with a lot of energy.

• Damian Lillard took over the fourth quarter and was impossible to guard. By the end of overtime, he looked like he was tired from all the different Jazz defenders’ harassment.

• The Jazz are 5-0 at home with wins over Denver, Oklahoma City and Portland. Those are really important.

• The Jazz have a real chance to be the number one defense in the NBA. If they are…

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz dominate 2nd half v. Mavericks

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Jazz adjust in the second half to roll over Mavericks

SUMMARY: The Jazz turned a 14-point first half deficit into a blowout win over Dallas Mavericks, 104-89.
• The Jazz defense took control of the game in the second half, holding the Mavericks to 36 second-half points and 14 of 35 shooting. More impressively, Utah limited the Mavs’ 3-point attempts to 10, only allowing them to connect on three.

• Rodney Hood followed a trend he has had all year which is a slow first quarter and a good third quarter. However, tonight he took the good third quarter to a brand new level, finishing with 20 points in the second half. His third quarter ignited the Jazz on 10-2 to start the third quarter and never cooled off.

• Rudy Gobert had his best night of his career last year against Dallas with 27 points and 25 rebounds and tonight he might have surpassed it with a 6 x 4. He finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, a career high six assists and a season high six blocks. The Mavericks regularly drove to the basket and threw it back out because of Gobert’s presence. This is a huge part of why Dallas turned the ball over 24 times.

• In pregame, Quin Snyder said that the guys had to guard their yard and not get put in the blender. This meant stopping guard penetration, because if they get into the paint and everyone has to help them, the defense looks like it is out of sorts. The Jazz were over-helping in the first half according to Coach Snyder. The Mavericks hit on 9 of 14 in the first half and in the second half, they weren’t getting the same looks.

• Ricky Rubio has scored 20 points in back-to-back games and got rolling a bit in the second half. He hit on 8 of 15 and 4 of 8 from 3 to finish the game with 20 points and six assists. Rubio’s defense was the best part of his game, and he had four steals. Before the game, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle talked about how hard it is to switch defensively on Rubio because he gets his hand on so many balls. There was a play tonight where Rubio was switched onto Dirk. Dirk got the ball in the post and Rubio reached around and got near the ball or made contact and ruined Dirk’s rhythm on the shot and he missed. It is a subtle play, but it is what makes the Jazz an elite defensive team.

• In every game this year, the Jazz have had defensive stretches where they completely shut down their opponent. They did it again tonight Dallas scored four points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. The Jazz did that again in the middle of the fourth when Dallas scored six points from the 7:40 mark to the when the white flag went up with a minute left.

• Rudy Gobert was +32; Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles were +30.

• J.J. Barea had 17 points in the first half and was giving Donovan Mitchell fits defensively. On back-to-back possessions, Mitchell strayed away (over helped) and J.J. moved just far enough away to get wide open 3s and he couldn’t miss.

• Thabo Sefolosha has a huge impact on the game defensively with his length.

• In the Jazz’s first two offensive possessions of the game, Rudy Gobert hit a 15-footer and Derrick Favors hit a corner 3. They made both but it was Dallas getting Utah to take the shots they wanted the Jazz to take. As the night went on, the Jazz dictated where they were going to get their looks offensively.

• Turnovers have been a big issue, with the Jazz turning it over on about 20% of their possessions. Tonight the Jazz only turned the ball on 13.9% of their possessions.

• This was a solid win to run away in a game when they were down and being outplayed. This home stand is all about winning the games they need to win.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Mitchell soars, Defense stifles, Jazz win

SUMMARY: Donovan Mitchell excites the crowd, defense holds down Lakers and Jazz break a two-game losing streak to win 96-81.
• The talk around the town will be Donovan Mitchell. As the second quarter was winding down, Alec Burks pulled up for 3 and missed. Out of nowhere, soaring above the defense, Mitchell rose up above all others and packed down a one-handed follow jam. The Lakers turned it over and with the crowd still roaring, Mitchell pulled for 3 and hit the bottom of the net. Vivint Arena erupted. The Donovan Mitchell experience has started.

• Quin Snyder made two really interesting moves late in the game and both of them worked out. He stayed big with Favors and Gobert against the small, fast lineup of the Lakers. Quin has been reluctant to close with both bigs but he went with it tonight and it was successful. The Jazz were able to handle the Lakers’ speed and they dominated the offensive glass in the second half of the game.

• Quin also closed the game with Donovan Mitchell rather than Rodney Hood. Mitchell came through late in the game with a big corner 3 and some great drives to the basket. Mitchell finished the 4th quarter with seven points on 3 of 6 shooting and had an assist.

• The impressive thing about Mitchell tonight was that he was really struggling coming into this game. Seeing him after the game in Phoenix, he looked really down for the first time and was befuddled by why he was having such a hard time. He was struggling early in this game to finish around the rim and then he exploded. It is a sign of his mentality. He is confident and fearless. That is what allowed him to have the game he had this evening: 22 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals on 9 of 16 shooting.

• The Jazz’s defense is really the story of the night. They held the Lakers to an offensive rating of 91 (read as 91 points per 100 possessions). The league average is 107 and the best in the NBA defensively last year was 100. The Lakers shot just 5 of 22 from 3 and hit on just 5 of 16 shots in the 4th quarter. The Lakers avoided Rudy Gobert all night. The Lakers EFG% was 41.4% — league average is 51%.

• Joe Ingles put together a very impressive line tonight with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He hit on 3 of 7 from 3 and is now an incredible 18 of 35 for the season.

• The Lakers were playing on the back end of a back-to-back and three games in four nights against the Jazz. Tonight’s game was played at a very slow pace. The unofficial pace was 90 possessions, which is 10 lower than league average and even five lower than what the Jazz average. The Lakers had been playing at a pace of 106.5 possessions.

• Quin Snyder made some subtle changes to the rotation tonight. He took Rubio out in the first quarter earlier than he has been and brought him back in the same quarter. Instead of Neto, Snyder went to Mitchell allowing Alec Burks to get some minutes. The Jazz have really struggled with first quarters and tonight they scored 31 points, The last three on a Donovan Mitchell buzzer beater.

• Ricky Rubio had 21 points, 7 in the 4th quarter. He hit 6 of 13 and 4 of 7 from 3.

• The Jazz continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. Tonight, they turned it over on 21% of their possessions. This is not sustainable. It has to be rectified as the year continues and the players get to know each other better.

• Rudy Gobert looks like he had a quiet night with 6 points and 8 rebounds. His presence rolling to the basket is what opened the Jazz up for 30 3-point shots. The Lakers were taking away the roll and the Jazz were hitting shooters on skip passes to open 3-point shooters when the Lakers took away the roll.

• Derrick Favors had a double-double. He had six all of last season. His last one was March 3rd versus Brooklyn. Favors is finishing at the rim at a very high rate that shows how healthy he is.

• It is not a coincidence that Mitchell had a strong game playing against kids his same age tonight instead of playing the grown adults he has been facing many nights in the NBA. This is still a process and he is going to have ups and downs. Tonight sure was exciting.

• This was a solid win. This season will largely be defined by the how the Jazz do against the teams they should beat.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — 24 turnovers why did they happen in Jazz loss to Phoenix

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Too many turnovers kill the offense

SUMMARY: Jazz turnovers derailed the offense and cut short their defensive effort against the Suns.
• There are lots of different things you can look at in this game, but at one point in the third quarter, the Jazz had turned the ball over on 25% of their possessions. One of out of four times down the floor, the Jazz weren’t getting a shot off. The negative effects of turnovers on an offense are often overblown. However, tonight it didn’t feel like the Jazz turnovers were on plays that would have become layups or open looks, they were miscommunications or failed pitches or stepping out of bounds. I probably need to review all of these to make sure that is true, but that is my feeling without reviewing any film.

• Why are the Jazz committing so many turnovers? This is above my pay grade, but here are a few hypotheses: The shorten training camp with a lot of new faces has led to a lack of connectivity; The lack of one-on-one players means the Jazz need to have more actions and movements and passes to be able to get open looks; The lack of spacing means that the passing lanes are narrow and therefore leading to an increase in turnovers; The accelerated pace is getting the team out of rhythm. I am really not sure on which of these is the issue. There are others as well, such as Mitchell being inexperienced and playing too fast, Neto having played very little with anyone this season because of injury after Dante’s injury, Rubio learning his teammates, etc.

• The Jazz defense continues to be remarkably good. Even tonight in the midst of lots of turnovers and misses, the Jazz were holding the Suns to under a point per possession for the entire night. The fact that the Jazz cut the Suns lead to five at one point with the offensive woes they were having is an incredible testament to the defense.

• The game paced at over 100 possessions.

• One surprising element tonight was the Suns’ ability to get on the offensive glass. The Suns got 30% of their own misses which is a high rate. The league average is about 25%.

• Alex Len played really well for the Suns — the best I have seen him play.

• Rodney Hood got back in the swing of things tonight: 22 points tonight on 16 shots attempts and seven of those shot attempts were 3s. Plus, he went to the line four times. That is close to the perfect balance and shot distribution for Rodney.

• Rudy Gobert had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks.

• The Jazz bench didn’t give its usual bounce tonight. They were 3 of 18 shooting with eight turnovers.

• Not an excuse, but the Jazz have played five games to start the year and have not been in the same city for more than a day. It isn’t brutal like some of the old four games in five nights but it hasn’t been that easy either. Coming right out of training camp, this could be a tired team. The schedule gets a bit more gentle before they head East in 10 days.

• The Jazz shot 6 of 25 from 3. This is the only area where I think they could be a bit fatigued. A bunch of guys are going to shoot better as the year goes on. Rubio is 5 of 22 on the season, Joe Johnson is 2 of 12, Donovan Mitchell is 3 of 18, Thabo Sefolosha is 3 for 12.

• This was a tough loss. The Jazz got the Suns at the wrong time coming off the coaching change and some home practices with the Jazz having travelled. However, the turnovers are a real issue that is making it hard for the offense to be good enough to support the defensive effort.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz go cold v. very good Clippers

SUMMARY: The Clippers’ 18-2 run to open the second half carried them to a runaway win over the Utah Jazz, 102-84.
• The Jazz’s defense was great for most of the night; They held the Clippers under one point per possession and had them shooting an EFG% well below the league average. The problem was the Jazz still couldn’t get ahead. The offense just couldn’t knock down shots.

• At halftime, the Jazz were down one point after an incredible defensive first half. Trying to shut down an NBA team for 48 minutes at that level is impossible. These guys are too good. When the defense digs into someone the way the Jazz did to the Clippers, you have to be able to build some wiggle room for when the Jazz’s offense goes dead. At one point, both teams’ offense was at .8 points per possession. If you are holding someone to .8 points per possession, you need to be able to take a substantial lead.

• The opening of the third quarter was a combination of the Jazz missing shots and the Clippers making shots to swing the momentum LA’s way. This was the ultimate make-or-miss league game; The Jazz got good looks to open the second half and missed them. After an Ingles turnover, Mitchell, Rubio and Ingles all had good look 3-point shots and missed. In the same stretch, the Clippers scored on a Rivers drive, Beverly buried a 3 and Jordan got a put back dunk. That’s how easy it is to go from down one to down double digits.

• The Clippers may be very good. They are deep. All of their players (other than Wesley Johnson) are above average offensive players and Gallinari, Jordan, Lou Williams and Blake Griffin are high-level efficient offensive players.

• The Clippers’ 4/5 pick and roll with Blake and Jordan is really hard to guard.

• The Jazz’s offensive actions are getting looks. The good news is we aren’t seeing possessions get bogged down and result in no looks at all. The numbers just equaled out on the Jazz tonight. Coming into the game, the Jazz were third in the league in EFG% and that was always unlikely to last.

• The Jazz were 3 of 21 from 3 at one point and finished 7 of 28.

• The Jazz got the game within seven points with 6:38 left and I wondered how the Clippers would close without Chris Paul. Well, wow, did they ever. They scored on 7 of 8 possessions, Blake hit a contested 3 and Rivers made a tough driving layup. After a Blake missed 3, Beverly hit a nifty move in the paint, Rivers hit a 3, Gallinari added a 17-footer and Beverly shot the lights out with a 3. Pretty awesome.

• Donovan Mitchell hit his first NBA 3. It took 14 tries and then he hit three in a row. Mitchell had 19 points, but 20 shots to get there seems like a lot.

• Joe Ingles was under the weather, playing just 18 minutes and Rodney Hood was out with a mild left calf strain.

• Ekpe Udoh had a positive plus-minus again: +8. In 16:43, he had 4 blocks, 2 rebounds and 3 assists.

• Thabo Seflosoha had his 16th career double-double and was one rebound off his career high with 12, 10 on the defensive end.

• Three turnovers by AB in 15 minutes is too many as is four by Ingles. The Jazz had 18 turnovers tonight and currently rank near last in the league at taking care of the ball. Mitchell had four, getting stripped twice late. Rubio had three.

• The offense struggled in the first half and then it went dry in the third. This is the concern for the Jazz this season. It feels as though they have to find the guy who has it going. In the first quarter, it was Rubio. It wasn’t clear who it was in the second and then it was no one in the third. The high turnover numbers, low free throw attempts and no offensive rebounding due to focusing on transition defense is putting a lot of burden on the shooters.

• Big picture: Jazz opened with Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and the Clippers — all teams expected to content for the playoffs — and won two of the four. The Clippers are the best of the four teams and showed that. For the Jazz to get two of these four is a great opening stretch.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz defensive buy in give them win over Thunder

SUMMARY: The Jazz’s stifling defense frustrated and derailed the Thunder offensive train on the way to a 96-87 win.
• This game was dominated by the Jazz’s defense. The Thunder went 11 minutes from midway through the 1st quarter to midway thru the 2nd quarter with only one made field goal. ONE field goal in over 11 minutes.

• The Jazz held the Thunder to .93 pts per possessions; The league average is 1.07. The worst in the league last year was 1.007 the Jazz held the Thunder to .93. That is incredible.

• In the first half, the Jazz broke up the Thunder’s actions and that forced the Thunder into more isolation basketball than they wanted to play. Early in the broadcast, the Thunder were hitting shots that the Jazz wanted them to take and they were low percentage, off-the-bounce, midrange shots. As the game went on, those same shots stopped going in.

• The Jazz’s offense is still not being very efficient, but the defense for these three games has been so great that they very well could have won all three. The offense is hitting shots at a very high rate, but they are not going to the line and they are turning the ball over at a very high rate.

• The Thunder’s offensive players never got comfortable. Anthony went into isolation mode and got rolling a bit early in the 4th quarter. However, he took 26 shots, while George took 19 and Westbrook took just 11. George has a set play where he comes off a pin down for a right wing catch-and-shoot 3. The Jazz guarded it as well as you can with his talent level. He was 3-9 from 3.

• Westbrook pulled out of fast break chances numerous times to play the facilitator. On one level, this is Westbrook trying to figure out where he fits with this team after his all-him, all-the-time season last year. On the other hand, the Jazz were getting back defensively, building a good wall and making it a forced shot if he pushed into the lane.

• Gobert makes so many guys make the extra pass and it is a turnover so often.

• Ricky Rubio plays with a passion that carries a team. He plays with an unquenchable desire to win. He makes the right play. He will shoot when he should, even if he isn’t a great shooter. Quin Snyder has given Ricky a great level of confidence in how he plays and great freedom to run the team and manage the game. Rubio played 37 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back.

• Joe Ingles led the Jazz with 19 points on 5-9 from 3 tonight; He is 12-19 for the season. He was not good last year on back-to-back games, so this is a nice step for him.

• The Nuggets’ offense last year was a 110 and they were a 100.5 versus Utah; Minnesota was a 108.1 and they were a 104.6 versus Utah; Oklahoma City was a 105 and should have gotten better and they were a 93.4. The Jazz are holding teams to an average of eight points below their usual points per 100 possession rating of a year before. Last year, the best team in the NBA was 5.5 points better than average.

• Favors has been very good and very active in the opening three games.

• Ekpe Udoh is a plus-minus machine: +11 tonight in 15:30. He is close to +50 in three games.

• The Jazz had five guys in double figures. Rubio took the most shots at 14. Seven guys took six or more shots. This is a team of pure balance.

• The Jazz only took 14 free throws and I believe five of them were technical free throws.

• The Jazz had 11 steals. Three of those came from Sefolosha who is showing he is still an elite defender.

• This was a great win tonight by the Jazz. Quin is asking these guys do something that is really hard, which is to defend and defend really hard. To get a win tonight and play these three teams as closely as they have to start the year shows the players that Quin is correct that if they defend they can win.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Old man Crawford does in the Jazz

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — 4th quarter comeback not enough against Minnesota

SUMMARY: Jamal Crawford’s 17 4th quarter points carried the Wolves to a win in aclose game win over the Jazz.
• The most important information after the game is that the Rodney Hood has a calf strain and it will be re-evaluated tomorrow. According to the Tribune, the Achilles has been ruled out as a possibility.

• The Jazz held a 1-point lead and a good chance to win the game when Rudy Gobert had a defensive rebound with :32 seconds left in the game. Gobert seemed to frantically pass the ball toward Joe Ingles, but instead the ball went out of bounds and the Wolves got another shot. On the inbound pass, Jamal Crawford hit a catch-and-shoot corner-3 over the outstretched arms of Thabo Sefolosha.

• The Jazz had five 4th quarter turnovers, which were crucial in the loss.

• Minnesota went on a 12-0 run at the end of the 3rd quarter that put them in control of the game.

• The Jazz were really impressive defensively. Minnesota — who is loaded with talent — was forced into tough look after tough look. The Jazz defense was long, getting deflections and altering the Wolves’ shots. At the same time, it was an effort for the Jazz to score. This felt like a good example of what the season will be like.

• When Minnesota got rolling, it was hard for the Jazz to come back. It is really hard to stifle a team for 48 minutes.

• The Jazz have played two bad defensive teams according to last year’s numbers and had a tough time scoring. The burden on the defense is significant.

• The Jazz showed nice fight. They trailed 90-80 with 5:33 left and were able to get back in the game and eventually took the lead.

• Derrick Favors scored eight straight points in the 4th quarter and did it with a nice combination of hitting jump shots and getting to the rim.

• All five Jazz starters scored in double figures.

• The Jazz shot the ball well; Their EFG% was well above average for most of the night. They didn’t get to the free throw line much in the first three quarters and had just six free throws in that time. That is a going to make it tough to have good offensive night.

• Joe Ingles hit 4-5 from 3.

• Rodney Hood had a sequence of three straight 3-pointers. They were all set up by great floor work from Ricky Rubio. One was a set play where it was clear Rubio knew he was going to Hood the whole time. The others were great vision and perfect passing.

• Nineteen turnovers is too many.

• Rudy Gobert had 10 points in the first half and then was scoreless in the second half. It will be interesting to see if the Wolves did anything in particular to take Gobert out of the game. Favors starting getting looks in the second half.

• Ekpe Udoh had an amazing stretch of basketball, blocking three shots in one stint. In 15 minutes, he was + 12 again. He was + 23 on the first night.

• I don’t know how long Rodney will be out and have no idea how the Jazz will replace him and Dante at the same time.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Stifling defense leads to mammoth run and opening night win

Emptying the Noggin — Defense and depth win it for the Jazz

SUMMARY: A remarkable defensive effort sparked a mammoth 3rd quarter run that ultimately led the Jazz to a 10-point win over the Denver Nuggets, 106-96.
• The question tonight was this: What happens when a great defensive team plays a great offensive team? The Denver offense — which was #1 in the NBA for the last 30 games of last season — was dictating the game for most of the night and led 70-55 in the 3rd quarter. Then, the Jazz’s defense started to take hold by forcing turnovers and flustering the Nuggets’ offense, which whittled the Denver lead down to just five points by the end of the 3rd quarter. The clamps came down full force in the 4th quarter and the Jazz flipped the game entirely.

• The Jazz trailed 70-55 and then led by 103-88 after starting the 4th quarter on a 25-5 run.

• Defense and depth were the story for the Jazz. The Jazz bench’s plus-minus numbers were incredible: Thabo Sefolosha was +25, Ekpe Udoh was +24, Donovan Mitchell was +22 and Alec Burks was +16.

• Alec Burks was terrific in the 4th quarter. He had 10 points in the 4th, hitting two major threes. On the first, the Nuggets went under a pick and Burks rose up and buried the three. He got another look in transition and buried it. Finally, he ball-faked a three on the right wing and drove down the baseline to hit a reverse flip to bring the arena to its feet and force the Nuggets into another timeout.

• The Jazz got great offensive balance tonight. Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 18 points, Burks had 16, Favors had 14, Johnson had 13, Ingles had 11, Mitchell had 10, Rubio had 9 and Sefolosha had 7 points.

• Each player had spurts in the game to keep the Jazz’s offense going. Ingles hit three 3-pointers in the first half, Favors scored eight straight points to open the 3rd quarter, Joe Johnson was the key late in the 3rd quarter and Alec Burks was a beast in the 4th quarter.

• The Jazz’s defense was incredible. They held a great offensive team to less than one point per possession, allowing just 35 points in the second half.

• The Jazz did this very differently than they did it last year. Last season, the Jazz’s defense was a shell defense that forced bad shots and ran people into Rudy Gobert. Tonight, Utah forced 21% of Denver’s possession into turnovers. Last year, the Jazz were 25th in the NBA in forcing turnovers at 11%.

• Denver is a tough match-up for the Jazz as Nikola Jokic pulls Gobert out of onto the floor and this caused the Jazz a ton of problems in the first half. Denver was knocking down shots and scoring at an alarming rate. The Jazz addressed this in the second half and shut down the Nuggets.

• Rodney Hood was announced as a starter and was then unable to play due to gastric distress which forced rookie Donovan Mitchell into the starting lineup. Hood never got going and the Jazz were a -13 when he was on the floor. Hood went 2 of 4 from the field in 27 minutes.

• The new timeout rules had a big impact on the game tonight. When the Jazz starting to blow the game open, Mike Malone called an early timeout in the 4th quarter but then was down to only two timeouts for the rest of the game. He tried to avoid calling another one as the run continued because he didn’t want to be down to one and the Jazz kept their momentum. Denver is a young team with inexperienced point guard play. The new rules could be very difficult for a team with this type of make up on the road. The veteran presence the Jazz added may turn out to be very valuable with the new timeout rules.

• What an opening night. The first 30 minutes were every fan’s worst case scenario of what the Jazz might look like and the final 18 were beyond what Jazz fans could imagine.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Mitchell was special in a close game finsih for Jazz

SUMMARY: In the final pre-season game of the season the Jazz got a close game experience for the first time and were able to pull out a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers 105-99.
• Donovan Mitchell stole the show throughout the night, but most of all in the final moments. Mitchell connected for the final 5 points of the game to put the Jazz ahead to stay. The Jazz closed the game on a 7-0 run. Mitchell hit an incredibly tough shot on a drive to the basket when he wanted to go with his right hand from 7 feet out, but the defender eliminated that option and he switched to his left hand and hit the shot. Then on the next possession, he hit a catch and shoot three to seal the game. Mitchell finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

• Jazz trailed by 6 with 5:00 minutes left. They trailed 97-95 with 3:55 left and closed on a 10-2 run. Gobert had a jam follow and then split two free throws. Mitchell followed with the next 5 points and Rubio hit two free throws. In that time the Lakers had 1 field goal.

• After the game in our post-game interview Ricky Rubio seemed very impressed by the rookie. Interestingly, he talked about how he is constantly asking questions and trying to learn.

• Rodney Hood only played 4 minutes due to a sore neck. The Jazz also were without Raul Neto (hamstring) and Dante Exum (shoulder) so it left Mitchell to play a significant role and he rose to the occasion. He was terrific throughout the game. After the game, the Lakers press room was buzzing about the play of Mitchell.

• The Jazz played a fairly normal rotation on the back end of a back to back for their final regular season game. Rudy Gobert played 33 minutes and finished with 29 points. He only had 30 or more once all of last season. The Jazz offense is predicated on the pick and roll with Gobert putting pressure on the rim. For all the talk about Hood and others using all of Hayward possessions, maybe it is going to Gobert that has the increased roll in the offense. It still will have to be predicated off getting the ball off of other people’s actions. Clearly, it is the major focus of the offense.

• Ricky Rubio took 18 shots tonight. The Jazz need Rubio to use possessions. He has never played on a team that needs him to take this large a roll in the offense. It will be interesting to see if that helps his shooting. He was 6 of 18 tonight, but he went to the line 9 times, making 8. The free throws were able to make him an efficient offensive player tonight.

• The Jazz closed the game with Rubio, Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson and Gobert. Johnson is going to be a large part of the Jazz closing offense. He is very calm. He can space the floor and needs attention if he is spotted up or if he has a mismatch he can go into the paint and get that little hood that crucified the Clippers.

• Game was played at a pace of 103 possessions which is about 10 faster than the Jazz a year ago. Pre-Season basketball is usually 4 or 5 possessions faster than a regular season game.

• The Jazz defensive rating tonight was 96.0. That will win a lot of games.

• Jazz defensive rebounding percentage was an incredible 87%. The negative of the night was the Jazz turned the ball over on 19% of his possessions.

• Solid win. Good experience playing a back to back and then having a close game down the stretch.