EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Joe Johnson save again

Summary:  After a disheartening injury to Rudy Gobert on the first play of the game, the Jazz showed remarkable heart and resiliency capping it off with Joe Johnson game winner to take Game 1 of the first round playoff series with the Clippers.

  • Let’s start at the end. Chris Paul tied the game with 13 seconds left. The Jazz inbounded to Joe Johnson and he calmly went to the front court. In the back court, Gordon came toward him for the ball and Joe kept the possession. He has played 101 playoff games coming in, he had seven game winners in the last 10 years and he had played in seven different Game 7s. He was okay with the moment. Then, he came to the left side of the floor where he interchanged with Joe Ingles, forcing the switch from Blake Griffin defending to Jamal Crawford. The Jazz had been forcing Jamal Crawford to play defense all night. Joe Johnson worked Crawford into the paint and finished it with the game winner.
  • This is so good on so many levels. First, Quin Snyder didn’t call a timeout. He communicated to his players throughout the year how he wants them to play, what the goals are and why and how they should deal with things. The Jazz wanted the ball in either Joe Johnson or Gordon Hayward’s hands and they wanted to make Jamal Crawford switch onto the ball and play defense. Joe Ingles executed by bringing himself to the ball and forcing the Clippers into a switch.
  • Today at shootaround, the Jazz literally ran a play where Quin said, “Here is what we are going to do if we have no timeouts and they just went to the free throw line.” It wasn’t the same play they ran here, but it exemplifies the level of detail Quin goes to and the players knew what they wanted and how to react.
  • The story of the night was the Jazz’s fight after the first play of the game when Rudy Gobert went down with what has been diagnosed as a hyperextension and a bone bruise on his knee. It was enough to make you puke. How could this be happening to our team? The season is over without ever getting a chance to find out if the Jazz are any good. Is the thought every Jazz fan had when Gobert was crawling on the ground, unable to get to his feet.
  • Instead, the Jazz played inspired basketball. The bench was as engaged as I have seen it all year. Quite honestly, our bench has not been that happy-go-lucky group getting all fired up about the team most of this year. Tonight, they were up on every play. Let me clarify that in most arenas, I am not looking at the bench the way I was tonight, but I think this is a fair observation.
  • Joe Johnson was magnificent all game. He battled Blake Griffin, made Blake Griffin defend running around picks and did a good enough job defensively to allow the help defense come to Blake. Blake dominated the first half with 22 points. In the second half, the Jazz’s double teams had a big impact.
  • The Jazz were terrifically prepared before the game and adjusted in the game even better. Blake Griffin was getting early possessions in transition and on rim runs. In the second half, the Jazz took that away and double-teamed him in the post, ruining his rhythm.
  • Gordon Hayward is going to have a hard time in this series. Luc Mbah a Moute is a force defensively and Gordon is not able to shake him. The Jazz did a better job getting Gordon looks in the second half. He also had 10 rebounds.
  • Ron Boone mentioned on the broadcast that with Rudy Gobert out, the Jazz were going to have to make up for his rebounds and Hayward got 10. The Jazz were not crushed on the glass without Rudy.
  • I’m so happy for Derrick Favors. He has been the forgotten man for this season, and tonight he kept the Jazz in the game and made numerous big plays.
  • Jamal Crawford and Mo Speights went a combined 6 of 17. It is really hard for the Clippers to win if they are getting nothing out of these two. Crawford has been a poor shooter in the playoffs for four straight years.
  • This loss would bother me if I am the Clippers, not just because it was without Rudy Gobert, but because everything the Clippers did in the regular season to cause the Jazz problems, the Clippers did again and they lost. The Jazz only took 19 3-pointers, which is a season low in addition to only shooting 19 free throws. Plus, Hayward didn’t get rolling. This is the script the Clippers should use to win games. The only other way to look at it is the Jazz still can’t get these things done against the Clippers, and the Jazz are unlikely to win series taking 19 3-point shots.
  • The Jazz maintained a slow pace of 92.5 possessions.
  • The Jazz’s defense held the Clippers to 102.8 pts per 100 possessions. For all the talk of the Jazz not being able to score on the Clippers, the Clippers haven’t done much against the Jazz this season.
  • JJ Redick was a non-factor. Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood did a great job on him. Ingles literally stripped two defenders from the ball tonight.
  • The Clippers got a good night from CP3, Blake and DeAndre. No Austin Rivers hurts them.
  • I find the Clippers to be the most fascinating team in the playoffs. Can they get over their past bad experiences? Do they want to play together anymore? Is this the end of the road and do they care? What causes the old issues to fester again? Well, things just got more interesting.
  • This is only the eight time this year Favors has played 30 minutes.
  • Gobert went out, Favors got two fouls and Jeff Withey got two fouls in the first quarter before Boris Diaw was asked to play center. The Jazz linked four minutes together with Diaw at center and they stayed even. This was huge.
  • The game stayed within six points until Jazz took an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, and that was the only time all night the game was outside of two possessions.
  • Joe Ingles set the tone all night.
  • Chris Paul is awesome. The Jazz have a very specific plan on how to play him and he was able to avoid it most of the night, even with best of efforts from the Jazz defenders.
  • Gordon Hayward played 40 minutes and I thought he looked gassed late in the game. He couldn’t get his shoulders square on his shot like he usually does.
  • The playoff experience of Hill, Johnson and Diaw was huge.
  • This was a win that is somewhat representative of the entire season. One more injury punch in the gut and yet the team comes together to put out a remarkable effort with great coaching leading the way.

Emptying the Noggin — See you in the playoffs

Summary: This was a solid win for the Utah Jazz to close the season with 51 wins, eight straight at home and back-to-back wins against the Warriors and the Spurs.

  • The Jazz played a full rotation of players tonight and the lineups Quin Snyder used are really exciting for the playoffs. The Jazz started with Hill, Ingles, Hayward, Diaw and Gobert. Boris has been really good the last few games and makes all the correct plays. It will be interesting to see if the Jazz continue to use him as a starter in the playoffs.
  • From there, the Jazz were able to put out some great combinations. They played Mack, Hood, Hayward, Johnson and Gobert midway through the first quarter. Then Hill, Ingles, Hood, Johnson and Favors closed the first.
  • The second quarter has been the offensive problem all season, with the Jazz ranked 29th in the NBA in offense during the frame, but tonight the Jazz opened the quarter with Hill, Ingles, Hood, Johnson and Favors. Diaw came back to play a few more minutes with Favors. Later in the second, it allowed the Jazz to get in Hill, Hood, Hayward, Johnson and Gobert. That lineup has been awesome for the Jazz this season. It has played limited minutes (62) but when it has been on the floor, they have outscored opponents 148-114.
  • The Jazz closed the half with Favors and Gobert together. The options are endless.
  • Favors is the key to all of this and he looked terrific tonight. His bounce is going to be big in the playoffs.
  • Rodney Hood was aggressive taking 13 shots in 23 minutes.
  • This was a really well-played game. Both of these teams are great defensively and it was taking high level offensive execution for each of the offenses to score. There were lots of plays where the defense was great but guys made really tough shots.
  • The Jazz did a nice job keeping the Spurs from getting 3-point attempts. They took just 21 tonight making only eight.
  • Joe Ingles finished the year shooting 44% from 3.
  • The Jazz get 51 wins and eight straight at home. Vivint Smart Home was loud tonight and it is going to be great in the playoffs.
  • George Hill played another solid 21 minutes.
  • See you in the playoffs.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz win 50th with veteran leadership

Summary: The Jazz win their 50th game of the regular season with a surprising 105-99 victory over the Warriors, despite playing without Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors.

  • The first quarter of basketball was high scoring and exciting. That gave way to a more Jazz-paced game and with both teams’ best players on the bench for the closing quarter (other than Rudy), the Jazz were able to outlast the Warriors.
  • Through three quarters, the Jazz and Warriors were tied. Curry had played 30 minutes and Durant had 28. To this point, both teams had played most of their available guys. The Warriors were resting Klay Thompson and the Jazz were without three primary players, yet the Jazz impressively had played to a draw through three quarters. The Warriors had made surges and the Jazz had found a way to answer back and stay in the game.
  • George Hill returned to the lineup and looked fresh. He had nice bounce in his jumper and hit on 7 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3 for 20 points in 19 minutes.
  • Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson showed how important they are going to be for this team in the playoffs. Diaw was terrific tonight. He just made the right play all the time, not just the obvious things: The defensive slides, the ball movement, the correct spacing. It felt as though he played a very smart game tonight. Joe Johnson was the offensive go-to guy late in the game. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter on 5 of 7 shooting. He has been great in the clutch all season.
  • The Warriors played Durant four minutes of the fourth and didn’t play Curry and Green at all in the final quarter.
  • Rudy Gobert had another fabulous game and has become an elite offensive player. He is averaging over 15 points a game, he is shooting over 70% and he is a significant enough force that teams are having to game plan for his offensive prowess around the rim. The uneducated comment is that all he does is dunk. If teams could get a dunk on every possession, no one would shoot a 3. They would take a shot at the rim every possession. Gobert is able to get you those possessions throughout the game. Monday, he was 7 of 12 for 17 points — 12 shots and 17 points.
  • The Warriors’ off-ball action is awesome. They move and cut and never stop. They run these little ring-around-the-rosy pick actions where the player just runs a circle around the pick until they are free. They are nearly impossible to guard. It takes complete focus and the minute you blink, they will take advantage.
  • Joel Bolomboy got 15 minutes of run tonight and was really solid.
  • Dante had a bad shooting night: 1 for 7 from 3 and 7 of 15 from the field. The Warriors’ defensive scheme was giving Exum and Mack shots all night. Mack took the most shots with 15 and Exum with 14. They combined to hit back-to-back 3s in the key stretch of the game that pushed the Jazz to a lead they would never relinquish. The two of them were a combined 2 of 12 from 3.
  • 50 wins makes the Jazz the 5th team in NBA history to go from 20s to 30s to 40s to 50 wins in a four-season stretch.
  • Steve Kerr had very nice comments about Quin Snyder before the game: “They’ve done an amazing job with all the injuries. I’ve known Quin for a long time and it doesn’t surprise me. He’s rock solid. He’s a really good coach. Watching them on tape they are innovative, they play together and they defend. They are just a smart, tough basketball team. Quin deserves a lot of credit for that and he’ll probably get some votes for Coach of the Year, which he deserves. I’m really happy for him and happy for their franchise. They have done a really good job over the last few years in terms of rebuilding and putting together a good roster and good coaching staff. I guess not surprising given the success that the franchise has had over the long haul.”

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Lillard’s career night overwhelms the Jazz

Summary: Damian Lillard scores a Blazers franchise record 59 points and torches the Jazz on the way to a 101-86 win over the Utah.

  • There was a really cool moment after the game when Damian Lillard was offered the game ball and declined, instead saying that it should go to Joe Johnson who scored his 20,000th point tonight. Really classy move from a great guy in the NBA.
  • In the Jazz’s two wins in SLC against the Blazers, Utah controlled Damian Lillard. Tonight, Lillard got going early and he was unstoppable. He had 26 points in the first quarter and then after a scoreless second quarter, he ignited again and scored 21 in the third before finishing with 59 points.
  • Lillard went 18 of 34 from the floor, 9 of 14 from 3, and 14 of 16 from the line.
  • Lillard was the only Blazer to go to the line. His missed free throws at the end of the game were the first misses against the Jazz in two games.
  • The Jazz had a good strategy against Lillard in the last matchup where they picked him up high enough that they were able to get under the pick and still stay in front of him. Tonight, they couldn’t do that.
  • Lillard had three free throws to get to 60 but made just 1 of 3.
  • The Jazz battled and got the game within four points a few times, but were never able to maintain its surge.
  • The Blazers had a brutal stretch in the second quarter where they shot 4 of 18 and the Jazz were unable to take advantage in that stretch. That was the stretch of the game where the Jazz missed the opportunity to get back in the game.
  • The game had three minutes without a field goal on both ends. Dante had back-to-back brutal turnovers and Ingles and Gobert missed shots. Exum hit a free throw to break the drought and then Hayward scored before Exum had another turnover, then Exum missed a three. Over 6:30, the Blazers scored two points and the Jazz only cut into the lead by four.
  • Portland did a nice job of cutting off the Gobert roll to the basket. The Jazz will need to be able to take advantage of this in the playoffs.
  • Raul Neto played the best point guard minutes by far, but got a severely sprained ankle. The Jazz were +14 in Neto’s 13 minutes and -29 when he was off the floor.
  • The Jazz need to be good when Gobert is off the floor and tonight, they were -12 in the 14 minutes he sat.
  • Joe Johnson went over 20,000 career points.
  • Rudy Gobert became the first Jazz player and the 12th in NBA history to have 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks in a single season.
  • CJ McCollum was 4 of 20.
  • The Blazers switched everything and Noah Vonleh ended up guarding out on the floor on the Jazz’s ball handlers. Utah didn’t take advantage of that matchup the same way they were able to in SLC.
  • This was a special night for one of the good guys in the league, but with the Clippers win tonight the Jazz are now in 5th in the West and will have to win out and bank on the Clippers losing one of their two final home games if the Jazz plan to get home court advantage.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Another marker on Hayward’s road to stardom

Summary: In a high-scoring, offensively-dominated game, the Jazz outlasted the Timberwolves behind a career-high 39 points from Gordon Hayward, 14 of which came in the 4th quarter.

  • The Utah Jazz are your Northwest Division champs for the ‘16-‘17 NBA season.
  • For seven years, Jazz fans have had a chance to watch Gordon Hayward grow from a scrawny rookie out of Butler, to a stunned kid who took a wet willy from Delonte West, into a bona fide All-Star. Along this road, there have been markers: The rookie year game in Minnesota when Sloan left Hayward in to finish the game en route to 24 points; In 2014 when he dueled with Kevin Durant on his way to 17 4th quarter points and 37 against Oklahoma City; The November battle to start the next season with Carmelo Anthony when he stood toe-to-toe and dropped 33 points; January of 2016 when he put 18 up in the 3rd quarter against Dwayne Wade and Miami. Tonight is another marker — 14 in the 4th quarter on his way to a new career high, 39 points.
  • The beauty of Hayward’s game is he never highjacks possessions from his team. Everything he does is inside the scheme and the framework of the offense. It never just becomes his show. He plays the game correctly. If his teammates are open and the right play is to make the pass, then he will make the pass. It happened tonight when he bypassed a look to get one to Joe Johnson, and started the Joe Johnson ignition in the 3rd quarter.
  • Joe Johnson was vital to this game. He hit his first eight shots. When Joe Johnson has had two days’ rest or more this season, he has been terrific. This bodes well for the playoffs. When he has two days’ rest this season, he is 77 of 145 for 53% FG and is 27 of 54 from 3 ( 50%).
  • The Timberwolves were 28 of 28 from the free throw line.
  • Joe Ingles has taken a huge amount of the ball handling duties recently. He had a career high eight assist tonight. His versatility is awesome. At one point this year, he was the defensive stopper. Then he was a power forward. Now he is basically a point guard at times. He had another solid night from 3, hitting on 2 of 3 and is now 14 of his last 23 from 3.
  • The Jazz’s offense was on fire tonight with an EFG% 69.3. This was not a fast-paced game. It was 91 possessions. The Wolves are the worst defensive team in the NBA in the last 15 games and it showed.
  • Ricky Rubio was terrific for Minnesota. If they are going to trade him to free up Kris Dunn, put me in line with my hand up. I was surprised to see him as -15.
  • Andrew Wiggins finished the night 8 of 21. His mid-range jumper off the bounce is not good.
  • Derrick Favors returned and as Quin Snyder said, the Jazz don’t win this game without Favors. He had four dunks, which is a great sign. He rolled to the basket on a great pick and roll. He is really important to the Jazz success versus the Clippers.
  • Dante had a brutal offensive stretch in the first half and came back in the second half with exceptional defense and hit two 3-point shots. This shows a level of toughness that is a good sign. He has shown consistent signs since the All-Star break.
  • Minnesota has offensive fire power. When they go 28 of 28 from the line and Rubio hits his shots they are the real deal. Plus, they have the stretch-5 that is so difficult for the Jazz to deal with. This had a bad script, and the Jazz survived it.
  • The Jazz will play the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Tribute to a resilient remarkable run by the Jazz

Summary: Down three starters, the Jazz won their seventh straight at Vivint Smart Home Arena and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 106-87, holding Damian Lillard to 5 of 20 shooting.

  • What the Jazz are doing this season is truly remarkable. The injuries this team has faced should have crippled their season. It has crippled teams year in and year out, and somehow it hasn’t crippled this team. It is incredible. The Jazz are 11-2 when they have their regular starters. If they are missing one starter, they are 21-11. If they are missing two starters, their record is 14-15 and if they are missing more than three starters — as they were tonight — they are 2-3. Digest that a little more. When they are only missing one starter, this team is 32-13. That is a 60-win team. When they are missing two starters, they are still a .500 team and a possible 8-seed team.
  • This is a tribute to the depth of the team and to the veterans who have stayed professional and contribute whenever called upon. Shelvin Mack and Jeff Withey are winning games for this team.
  • This is a tribute to the depth that Dennis Lindsey built into this roster.
  • This is a tribute to Quin Snyder and his staff for the relentless work and preparation. Their ability to use these players to their maximum potential is remarkable.
  • This is a tribute to Joe Ingles who has so far exceeded what the expectations of his game were this season. He basically played point guard tonight. He has been a defensive stopper, he has played everything from 1 to 4 and he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting.
  • This is a tribute to Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward who have been better than any of us realize. Carrying this team night in and night out is an unbearable burden and they have answered the bell virtually every night.
  • Tonight, the Jazz jumped out early and lead 9-0, not allowing a Portland FG until the 7:25 mark of the first quarter. The Jazz led by seven points at the end of the first quarter, 24-17, then by six points at the half, holding the Blazers to 41 first half points. In the third quarter, the Blazers briefly took the lead, but the Jazz got rolling and took an 11-point lead into the fourth. Joe Johnson hit four straight 3s and the Jazz stretched the lead to 20.
  • Utah hit the 3 ball in the second half. They were 3 of 8 in the first half and 10 of 15 in the second half, which was very similar to the first meeting in Utah.
  • Dante Exum played one of the best games I have seen from him. Defensively, he gave Lillard a hard time and executed the game plan terrifically. Lillard finished 5 of 20, and even when he made shots, they were contested. Exum didn’t reach and didn’t get in foul trouble. Offensively, he played off the ball for most of the night and had a nice explosiveness to the rim. He got undercut in the third quarter and left with an injured hip.
  • If I could come up with one play that exemplified Rudy, it happened tonight. Rudy blocked a Lillard drive to the basket, as only he could. Then, when the Jazz went in transition, Ingles stepped back into a wide open 3-pointer. Instead of watching from the other side, Gobert sprinted the floor and when Ingles’ shot bounced off the rim, Rudy was there and dunked it home for two. That is incredible commitment to the game and 90% of all centers in the NBA block the shot and rest waiting for the play to come back to him.
  • Hayward had 30 and dominated the game with mid-range jumpers and then got hot in the third, which spurred the Jazz to an 11-point lead.
  • Boris had a season-high eight rebounds in addition to five assists.
  • I mentioned it earlier: Jeff Withey and Shelvin Mack are winning games for the Jazz. Withey was 5 for 5 in 12 minutes and Mack had 12 points and 5 assists in 26 invaluable minutes with Hill, Neto and Exum all hurt.
  • I hope you are enjoying this run. This team is doing amazing things.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Mack is pivotal in Jazz’s win over Sacramento

SUMMARY: The Jazz take care of business against an inferior opponent, despite another set of injuries, 112-82. Shelvin Mack came off the bench and was key in the victory.

  • Sometimes, the deals not made are the most important. It was highly anticipated that the Jazz would trade Shelvin Mack at the deadline. That never happened. Tonight, the no-deal turned into a big deal for the Jazz. There is value in having someone on the bench who knows your system and knows what your coach wants. If the Jazz had traded Mack, they very well may lose this game, which seems insane to say in a 30-point blowout. But without Hill and Neto, Utah needed Mack. The Jazz were negative when Exum was on the floor until garbage time. Mack was the key to the win tonight.
  • The Jazz came out focused defensively and didn’t let the Kings get a field goal until the 7:28 mark of the first quarter.
  • The Jazz led by 20 points after the first quarter, stretched the lead to 24, but lost their focus and connection to the game, and the Kings eventually got the game back within four points. The Jazz reestablished their dominance and won, giving the kings their largest loss of the year and allowed the Kings to score their fewest points this season.
  • Gordon Hayward showed real leadership tonight. He battled through significant pain and injury to play in this game because the Jazz need it. He wasn’t great. His line — 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists — was probably better than his performance, but the message and commitment was clear for all his teammates to see.
  • Rodney Hood was 5 for 5 from 3. If his knee is really feeling better, he can bring some much needed consistency to the guard line.
  • One has to wonder if the wing rotation will be much deeper than Hayward, Hood and Ingles in the playoffs. If Hayward ups his minutes to 36 or even up to 40 and Hood can manage 32 with Ingles playing about 28, there are no more minutes.
  • Jeff Withey has been giving the Jazz a really big 14 minutes a night. He’s a total pro who wasn’t pleased with being dropped from the rotation, but did exactly what he was asked and now is in a little rhythm and playing every night. He is not a great player, but he understands the system and showed a stronger roll to the basket game tonight than we usually see from him. The Jazz were +20 when he was on the floor versus Sacramento.
  • Unfortunately, Dante Exum didn’t excel in his start at the point guard. He had been pulled from the point guard rotation because he killed possessions too often by getting caught in the air, turning the ball over or over dribbling. On one of the first possessions tonight, he drove into the lane, jumped in the air and threw the ball away. Quin pulled Dante out of the game to talk to him again about those plays. Quin reinserted Dante into the game, but he never got going. He finished 0 for 6 shooting and 0 for 5 from 3, he finished with 0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers and was +1 in a 30-point win.
  • It was really cool that Shelvin Mack was ready to go and carried the Jazz to the win. If the Jazz hold onto the four seed, it isn’t going to be by more than a game. Shelvin’s performance tonight might be the different between Game 1 in SLC or Game 1 in LA (or elsewhere).

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Shorthanded Jazz find long ball range in win over Pels

SUMMARY: The Utah Jazz regained their shooting stroke and swept the season series with the New Orleans Pelicans with a 108-100 win, despite being without Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors.

• The Jazz were desperate for a solid performance from Rodney Hood without Gordon Hayward available, and Hoodie delivered. He had seven points in the first quarter and finished with 20 in 30 minutes, nailing four 3-pointers.

• Utah’s 3-point shooting got rolling again. They hit 15 of 27 from 3, led by Joe Ingles’ perfect 5 for 5 from deep. George Hill hit 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, and Joe Johnson went 2 for 3.

• Quin Snyder went to Joe Johnson at the 4 and it changed the game; The Jazz were +26 tonight when Joe Johnson was on the floor. In the 12:58 that Boris Diaw played power forward tonight, the Jazz were -17. Quin quickly pulled the plug on Boris in both the first and the third quarters, and it changed the game.

• Raul Neto had a terrific game as the backup point guard, bringing great energy to the floor and igniting the Jazz’s effort for what seemed like every loose ball. Neto played 18 minutes and had five points, but his energy was the story.

• Dante Exum played the backup shooting guard with Alec Burks being away from the team (personal reasons). Exum’s outside shooting is not a natural fit for the shooting guard position, but it may be his lack of shooting that adds value to that position.

• The Jazz led by seven points after the first quarter and stretched the lead to 18 in the second, but the Pelicans started working their way back in the game and cut it to a five-point advantage by halftime. The Pelicans took the lead in the third quarter, then Joe Johnson came back in the game and the Jazz dominated the game for the rest of the night.

• DeMarcus Cousins didn’t play and Anthony Davis was fantastic. He had 36 points and 17 rebounds. He is an incredible talent. He plays so much better when Cousins is not on the floor.

• Joe Johnson led the Jazz with six assists and the Jazz had 27 as a team.

• Rudy Gobert continued his remarkable play with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

• This was a solid win. The Jazz need all three this week. Sacramento has won two big games on back-to-back and are playing super free.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz’s collective slump continues in LA loss

SUMMARY: With home court for the playoffs in the balance, the Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 108-95. Utah never led, other than 2-0 to start.

  • The Clippers jumped on the Jazz from the beginning and the Jazz couldn’t get the offense flowing at all early in the game. The Jazz scored just 14 points in the first quarter and didn’t hit their first 3-pointer until the 11:00 mark of the second quarter.
  • The Jazz were down as many as 16 and fought back to tie the game at 70-70. But unlike the last time the teams played, the Jazz were unable to take advantage when Chris Paul went to the bench. Last time, the Jazz were +12 with Chris Paul on the bench; On Saturday, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to take a 80-70 lead and never looked back. The Clippers were +9 with Chris Paul on the bench today.
  • Gordon Hayward collided with Austin Rivers knee-to-knee when making a cut. Gordon ran on it in the hallway, then returned to the game, but when he landed after taking a 3 (that he made), he immediately signaled to the bench that he couldn’t continue. The official word on Gordon is a left quad contusion.
  • I found three other players who had quad contusions this year: Anthony Davis didn’t miss any games, Dwight Howard missed one and Cody Zeller missed seven, played one and missed seven more. Clearly, there is no common thread.
  • Gordon was shut out in the first quarter of the game, which is Gordon’s biggest scoring quarter this season. Gordon has not shot the ball well against the Clippers this season. In three games, he is now 16 of 42. Luc Mbah a Moute is a good, physical defender. There is a list of guys that cause Gordon some trouble and they all fit the same mold: Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Andre Roberson and Luc Mbah a Moute. If we play the Clippers in the playoffs, this is something Quin is going to have to solve in order to get Gordon going.
  • The Jazz go as George Hill goes. In wins, George Hill shoots 51% and 46% from 3. In losses, he shoots 40% and 24%. He was 4 of 11 today and 1 for 3 from three — right on the numbers for a loss.
  • Rodney Hood has scored in double figures twice in eight games. Rudy Gobert has become the Jazz’s second scorer, but they need more of a threat than Rudy as a roller and Gordon on the perimeter.
  • Unfortunately, the Jazz have a litany of players that are in shooting slumps. As a team, they came in to the game as 26th in the NBA in EFG over the last five games. George Hill is now 6 of his last 27 from 3 (22%), Alec Burks is 2 for his last 13 overall and 11 of his last 39 from 3 (28%) Rodney Hood is 12 of his last 40 from the field and 3 of his last 14 from 3. Ever since guarding LeBron James for 35 minutes, Joe Ingles is three of 16 from 3. Joe Johnson hit on 3 of 7 tonight, but came in at 27% from 3 since All-Star break and 4 of his last 23 from above the break. Boris Diaw is 8 of his last 24 from the field.
  • As depressing as that last bullet point, was it is clearly collective. This leads me to believe it is a fatigue issue or something is off in the offense where the timing is astray. The good news is I assume they will all get their flow back at a similar time. All of these guys are better than those numbers — they all have been for their careers and they have been for this season. Something is off right now. Lots of this is caused by players being forced into larger roles than they are used to playing due to injuries.
  • Rudy Gobert was awesome again tonight. He had 26 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.
  • Today, the Jazz‘s defensive rating was 116. In 6 of the last 9 games, the Jazz have allowed a defensive rating over 111. The Lakers are the worst in the NBA at 111 and only Brooklyn and LA are over 109.1 for the season.
  • How has this happened? Is it as simple as Favors being hurt and losing the number one defensive combo in the NBA? Is it the offensive struggles meaning the defense gets stressed? Is the same fatigue impacting both side of the ball?
  • When we were at our best, we were the best in the NBA at transition defense and the best at defending in the half court. It was a deadly combo.
  • March was going to be brutal. We all knew it. We are feeling it right now.

Emptying the Noggin —Gobzilla takes over New York

Summary: The Jazz waited until the fourth quarter to close the door on the Knicks, but when they did Gobzilla took over New York and Utah won, 108-101.

  • Gobzilla (aka Rudy Gobert) left a path of destruction and wreaked havoc on the New York Knicks. Rudy had a career high 35 points, hitting on 13 of 14 shots. He grabbed 13 rebounds and a career high 11 offensive rebounds, adding four blocked shots. Only Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis have had stat lines similar this season. He was far and away the best player on the floor.
  • The Jazz trailed by eight points after the first quarter, four at the half and then by three heading into the final quarter. The Jazz won their 11th game when trailing going into the fourth quarter this season.
  • Gordon Hayward went the Paul George route tonight. Similar to Paul George in the Indiana game, Hayward had a miserable start, missing 10 of his 12 shots. In the fourth quarter, he went 4 for 5 and scored 13 points.
  • Raul Neto played the backup point guard tonight instead of Dante Exum. Exum didn’t play the point guard well on the road trip and had too many possessions that killed the offense. Teams are going under every pick with Dante, and even when he runs off re-picks, defenders are still going under. This is stalling the offense and leaving the ball in his hands for too long each possession.
  • Instead, Quin went to Neto and was rewarded. Neto hit a corner 3 and a top-of-the-key 3 when the Knicks went under the pick. Neto is small which hurts him on the defensive end, but he’s a better shooter and runs the team with more efficiency right now than Dante.
  • The Knicks caused the Jazz problems early with Porzingis popping out, which opened the middle for drives and gave Kristaps looks from 3. The Jazz have struggled defensively all year with the stretch-5, and the same was true early tonight when the Knicks scored 34 points in the first quarter.
  • The Jazz simply couldn’t make a shot for a long time in this game, starting 4 of 24 from 3.
  • The Knicks are 30th in the NBA in defensive rebounding, and the Jazz had 18 offensive rebounds in 46 chances; 39% is an outrageously high number.
  • Boris Diaw started at power forward instead of Joe Johnson, but was -12 in his 14 minutes.
  • Alec Burks went 0 for 4 and was somehow +15. That is the complete opposite of how Alec’s career has gone.
  • The Jazz got a much-needed win. If they win in LA Saturday, Utah has a chance for the four seed. If they lose, it will be very unlikely.