EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—”Splash Kicking”

  • Steph Curry is really special. He got rolling and it was awesome. We let him get really comfortable, and when he gets comfortable it’s hard to stop him. On the first two possessions we went under on the pick and roll—and that makes sense if the big hedges hard, but there weren’t hard hedges so someone did something wrong.  No way the game plan was to go under and recover. Curry is such a great shooter.
  • The first two plays of the game were side pick-and-rolls with the weak side overloaded with three players. The ball-handler came to the middle of the floor and the roll man was the only one left on that side of the floor, and he got a wide-open dunk or layup. Once on each side of the floor.
  • The TV crew had the best headline—rather than “Splash Brothers” this was a “Splash Kicking.”
  • In the opening eight or nine possessions, the Jazz seemingly had a breakdown in some place on every possession. Wonder if having just a morning meeting instead of a shootaround made it so this team wasn’t able to translate what adjustments they needed to make.  Seems that games without the shootaround have featured worse defensive execution. No facts on that—just what I perceive.
  • Curry and Thompson were just terrific. Curry had awesome gravity tonight (meaning he pulled guys to him, which created openings everywhere else).
  • Trey Burke had a career-high 15 assists.
  • Warriors make the ball-handler shoot, and you saw early that Burke, Hayward and Burks got all the action.
  • Alec Burks is going to the rim at an awesome rate.
  • Draymond Green is not Carmelo Anthony.
  • Jimmer Fredette was drafted in front of Klay Thompson.
  • When Rudy Gobert sprinted the floor in the fourth quarter, it was evident.  A player sprinting the floor should not stand out.
  • Warriors EFG% was 67%.
  • Marvin is just not the player he was before March 1.
  • Five more to go.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz beat the Pelicans

  • Seriously undermanned Pelicans team and the Jazz got the win. I thought it was going to get interesting as the game got close late (coupled with Utah’s recent inability to close out game) and this one was close. However, the Jazz were able to pull away and win it over the Pelicans.
  • Anthony Davis didn’t play in the third quarter and the Jazz took advantage, scoring 30 points in the quarter and dominating the game in the paint. Favors had 14 points in the third quarter. Tyrone Corbin decided to separate Kanter and Favors again, and it seemed to open the floor for Favors tonight.
  •  I know we are all interested in seeing Kanter and Favors together, but it is possible that those minutes are hurting Favors. This year with Marvin on the floor, Favors has an EFT% of 53%, but with Kanter on and Marvin off he shoots 45.6%. The floor has spacing and the ball moves better, and Derrick doesn’t have to be the passer.
  • The Pelicans were doubling the post not because they were scared of Kanter and Favors’ scoring, but because they knew they couldn’t handle the ball as well.   Favors and Kanter had a combined seven turnovers and two assists at halftime.
  • Late in the game Corbin went away from Kanter and Favors together again. The lack of ball movement and floor spacing makes it hard for guys to score. This has been a bit better as of late when both are on the floor—since Jan. 1 Favors has an EFG% of 51%, Kanter 47.7%, Hayward 47% and Burke 45%. The league average is 50%, so this is not very good.
  • Alec was terrific at attacking the basket and getting to the line tonight. He nailed a few outside jumpers, and he got to the line 13 times. He understood the lack of rim protection without Anthony Davis on the floor. My favorite play was a really nice pick-and-roll with Favors where he dropped the ball over the top of the defense to where Favors would have been rolling. Favors was grabbed and fouled, but it was nice anticipation.
  • Hayward followed his trend of the last month. Fewer shots, usually early, and a solid all-around game. Tonight he went to the line 13 times, making it 54 in the last five games. He finished with 21 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals tonight.
  • Ian Clark got 13 minutes tonight and Jeremy Evans got 16 as Tyrone made a conscience effort to get them time.
  • Richard Jefferson and Gordon Hayward did a nice job on Tyreke Evans, who had seven turnovers. The last time we played, he had a career-high 15 assists.
  • The Jazz are off to Oakland.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz end March, Marvin starts for Enes

  • The Jazz played with lots of energy, and played really well for most of the first half. It was sparked by two things: Marvin Williams’ energy and defense on Carmelo, and Utah’s ability to run and get in the open floor for opportunities.
  • One of the underrated aspects of Alec Burks’ game is that he helps the Jazz play with a tremendous amount of pace. It’s not just leading the break himself—he throws some great transition passes that give the Jazz easy opportunities. Utah’s half court offense is not good enough to stay in the half court. They need pace, and when they play with pace everyone is more effective.
  • The Jazz had 11 fast-break points in the first half and only two in the second half. Utah shot 13-for-38 (34%) in the first half on non-fast-break possessions and 13-for-40 (33%) in the second half. Neither of those are good enough to survive. This team has to find a way to play with pace next year. Possessions that last until late in the shot clock work for grinding teams like Memphis or Chicago, or for teams with Carmelo, Durant, LeBron or CP3 (though most of those teams play fast). We don’t fit either of those models. I’m really not sure why. I see Coach Corbin telling the guys to run, but at the same time I know he is fearful of the team getting reckless. I see Burke wanting to run, but I also see him curl out of numerous opportunities. I’m not sure why.
  • Gordon Hayward continues to get to the line—he shot eight free throws tonight.
  • Marvin gave everything he had tonight, and it was impressive. Carmelo is that good (34 points). Usually, if you keep him under four assists then the Knicks lose, but tonight he only had three.
  • This was the first win on the road all year for the Knicks when they trailed at the half.
  • Jazz are 30th in the NBA in defense in the second half of games, and they allowed 31 points in the third quarter but only 13 in the fourth. That said, the teams combined for only 27 total points in the fourth quarter.
  • Marvin started for Enes Kanter. It was fun because it separated the fans that are foolish and just want to complain and those that have a clue about basketball. When Amar’e was no longer starting, the Knicks moved Carmelo to the 4 with Shumpert to the 2. The Jazz would have had Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter guarding Carmelo Anthony. And people still complained. I love this. In fact, it might be my favorite part of the night. I know I don’t humor fools well, but this is really extreme foolishness. I haven’t decided if I just keep the name of everyone who complained about this—if I block them so they never infest my life again or if I forgive them, because why really should they know better? We live in world where you must stick to your agenda and talking points regardless of their legitimacy or accuracy, so why not in sports? OK, I’m done. I just thought I would make it worth for any of you that are still reading this after a two-win month. Thanks for being a Jazz fan

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Over early

  • 9-0 by the first timeout and the game was over shortly after that. This was a non-contest in OKC today. Credit the Thunder: rather than approaching the game with a “Hey, these guys aren’t very good, let’s see if we can sneak by” attitude, they came out with “Hey, we are a ton better than these guys—let’s bury them and end it early” approach. That’s impressive and the sign of a mature team ready for a championship run.
  • Durant is so terrific. He glides effortlessly through the game and is in complete control at all times.
  • Utah’s first two shots of the game were missed layups—Hayward and Burke missed at the rim. Then Burke missed a three, Favors turned it over and Hayward missed a 20-footer and boom, its 6-0. Kanter missed a 17-footer and Favors got the rebound and Kanter missed a 20-footer and it’s 9-0. The problem isn’t that they settled for jumpers—it’s that they didn’t make them.
  • Enes Kanter is 14-for-44 (32%) from outside of 15 feet over the last 20 games. Over the last 10 games he’s just 5-for-23 (22%). This correlates to his increased time on the floor and the larger burden he is carrying.
  • March has been a disaster defensively for this team. The numbers are glaring:  51% shooting overall, 45% from 3-point range and giving up 105 points per game. The Jazz have allowed 114 points per 100 possessions defensively, up from 106 in February. The interesting thing is that they started forcing turnovers again just as their defense collapsed. The defense ranked 29th in March, the FG% defense was 29th and the 3-point% defense was 30th.
  • The reason for the defensive collapse isn’t clear. Is it an increase in Kanter and Favors playing together? Is it guys being asked to do more than they have ever done before and just being worn out? Is it the veterans being asked to do too much and they were the anchor and they are out of gas? Is it playing against better teams that are not taking nights off anymore? Is it systematic? Is it a rookie point guard? Is it the losing? It’s probably all of these things coupled into a complete ball of developmental year wax, and this is how it turns out.
  • I really don’t know how to value our offensive numbers today. The game was never close and every NBA team comes close to scoring 90 points and grabbing 45 rebounds over the course of 48 minutes. It just happens. So how much of Kanter’s 18 points and 12 rebounds, or Favors 8 points and 13 rebounds, or Jefferson’s 17 points are just because somebody has to score and rebound? I really don’t know how to value those numbers.
  • Hayward has played hard all through March and has had good performances to show for it. Today his shot looked way off and he adjusted to dish out six second-quarter assists. He finished the game with nine assists.
  • Knicks tomorrow. Losing is hard on people.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—1 a.m. edition

  • Heck of a game tonight at EnergySolutions Arena. Jazz led from 3:00 in the 1st quarter until 3:00 left in the fourth quarter, but in the end the Grizzlies were able to shut down the Jazz and close the game on a 14-3 run to win it.
  • Lots of really good performances tonight by the Jazz. Trey Burke’s first quarter was great. The Grizzlies decided they would not allow Gordon Hayward to be a playmaker—they dropped players into the paint in non-traditional ways to prevent Gordon from making plays, and Trey picked up the slack with 10 assists.
  • The Jazz played through all of the possessions tonight. They maintained strong effort and had a ton of plays go their way that in other games they would have let slip away.
  • Trey was aggressive, got into the lane and made plays for his teammates. He also took advantage of the Memphis defense, which is not great at guarding the ball handler on the pick and roll, and hit some shots.
  • Enes Kanter played as good a first half as I have seen from him in a long time. He rebounded with the beasts of the Grizzlies inside, and he rotated correctly on defense. The only problem is that his jump shot is way off and he has lost confidence taking it. This was a good game for Enes. He equalled his season high in minutes played. However, even on night where it felt like he played well, he was -12. His +/- this year is terrible compared to how the team plays when he’s off the floor. When Kanter and Marvin were together, the Jazz couldn’t defend at all.
  • Kanter played 39 minutes tonight. Jazz are 3-24 when he plays 30 minutes this year and 7-36 when he plays more than 25. It doesn’t feel fair to put this on Kanter, but he is still learning the game every night. He is not instinctual in how he plays and it is not natural for him.
  • The Jazz only played seven players in the first half.
  • Favors was very strong tonight: 22 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He really bothered Zach Randolph down low and forced Randolph to the outside, where he hit two big shots.
  • Gasol and Randolph had seven assists, and Kanter and Favors had two. This is a big issue for Kanter and Favors, and one of them is going to have to learn how to pass. Kanter is beginning to see where to throw passes, but you can’t work the offense through him. And Favors is an OK passer, but again is not able to facilitate the offense.
  • I really want to re-watch the final five minutes to see what happened to us offensively. However, I can ‘t access anything right now. The Jazz led it 84-77 with 4:22 left. Kanter missed a 21-footer which is not a good shot with nine seconds on the shot clock; Burke missed a layup with seven on the shot clock; Marvin missed a 23-footer with the shot clock expiring, and suddenly the Jazz were behind. Favors committed a turnover trying to sneak a pass to Kanter in the lane, and then the Jazz were down three with 1:23 left. Burke misses the best look of the bunch—a free-throw line pull-up J, and the Jazz were down by five with :59 left. The game was pretty much over at that point.
  • A strong performance by the Jazz tonight, but when the chips were down Memphis is an experienced team that knows how to win. The Jazz were unable to get the stops they got earlier in the game and make the shots they hit earlier to stay in the game.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Uncontested shots again

  • If Richard Jefferson had hit any of the three open 3-pointers he missed to open the game, would the energy and the night have been different?  You never know, but I doubt it.
  • The Jazz got outworked tonight.
  • The Jazz defense has been on a steady decline for the month of March and this was the nadir.  The Pistons came in 27th offensively over the last 10 games, they were 27th in FG%, they had been shooting 31% from the three point line and tonight they shot 55%, 53% from three scored 114 points.   Crazy
  • Jazz were +1 with Kanter and Favors on the floor together tonight in 19 minutes and -21 the rest of the game. The Jazz shot 15-for-34 (and 5-for-15 from 3-point range) with Kanter and Favors on the floor tonight.
  • We talked all night on the broadcast about how bad the Pistons are with both bigs on the floor and how good they are with one of the two on the floor. Tonight this proved true as well. In the 17 minutes Drummond and Monroe were together, the Pistons were -5. In the other 31 minutes they were +25.
  • The Jazz had no fast-break points until the 4:20 mark of the third quarter.
  • Gordon Hayward was the bright spot with 32 points and six assists tonight.
  • The Jazz were 13-for-44 (29.5%) on uncontested shots tonight. The Pistons were 22-for-42 (52.3%) on uncontested looks. That is a minimum of 18 points in a 20-point game.
  • Marvin can’t make a three right now. Everything is front rim. He was 1-for-5 and is now 9 for his last 45 from deep.
  • Favors reverted back to being inconsistent. Thurl Bailey said on our broadcast that we have seen how much the Jazz miss Favors when he doesn’t play, and tonight should count as one of those nights.
  • No bench spark without Alec Burks.
  • See you Wednesday night.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Trey for Trey

  • This was an ugly game. If you could envision a game between one team on a six-game losing streak versus another team with a seven-game losing streak with both teams missing important pieces, then you have this one. Neither team scored for the final 3:58 of the third quarter. The Jazz went on a 5-0 run that lasted over six minutes of basketball. Both teams spent most of the night shooting under 40%. That’s all you need to know about everything but the final plays of the game.
  • Trey Burke hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left from the right corner. Gordon Hayward drove the floor and brought the defense to him and bounced it to the wing, where Burke had slid down to make himself available before burying the shot. The underanalyzed part of this play is that Trey went to the right spot and made himself available for the shot and then he was ready to shoot.  Oladipo came flying at him and Burke still was able to make the shot.
  • Trey was 2-for-12 going into the final five minutes of the game and he went 3-for-3 in the final five minutes of the game. The kid is crazy clutch. In the final five minutes of games this season he has been unreal. He has hit 30-for-57 from the field and 15-for-26 from 3-pointe range, plus 100% from the free-throw line. The most amazing part of this to me is that he does this in games where he’s not playing well—and he still makes the shots.
  • Tyrone Corbin managed the final portion of the game perfectly. Corbin and Hayward talked as Arron Afflalo was at the line and got what they wanted—and then when the referees stopped the game for a moment, Corbin brought the team together for a quick explanation of what they wanted and they got it done. Also, the Jazz played for two when they should and lengthened the game eventually got the missed free throw by Afflalo.
  • Richard Jefferson was awesome in the first quarter with 17 points. Must have been fun for him to go back in time.
  • Let’s pretend we never saw the first 45 or so minutes of the game.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—What did we learn?

  •  The five-game “Murderers’ Row” stretch is over. No surprise that the Jazz lost all five. Really no surprise that one of them along the way was a do (vs. Houston) and impressive how they matched up in the other four.
  • Lots of weaknesses were exposed when playing the best of the West, and at the same time lots of really good things showed up over the past week from this young team.
  • Maybe the biggest thing we learned is how much better this team is if it can play with some pace. It has to defend and get stops and force turnovers to get that pace, but when these guys are able to get in the open floor, the best of their talents show up. Trey Burke showed a flash of speed I didn’t know he had.
  • Trey had a really nice five-game stretch. He has made terrific strides from his struggles of two months ago. He has changed his game. He is going to the basket more. He is more aggressive making plays. He is having an impact, and if he can get out a bit in the open floor that would be an added bonus.
  • The fight to get back in this game, which is was spurred by the increased tempo, was great to see and was a nice contrast to the Houston game.
  • Defensively, the Jazz did a lot of things they wanted to tonight and executed the shootaround game plan well. The Grizzlies were impressive—every time they needed a basket they got down low to Zach in a hurry and got a good look right at the rim.  This team has gone to two Western Conference Finals, they have won five playoff series, they know what to do when they have to get a bucket, and they have a great feel for when possessions are important. They showed that late in the game.
  • The Jazz did a great job early in the year winning close games. Tonight they didn’t deal with the final five minutes well on the offensive end. Hayward broke off a play hoping to get a jumper and turned it over. Burks tried to go one-on-one and turned it over.
  • The five youngs came on the floor with 4:00 left and down by six points—Kanter got a dunk, then a Burke turnover, Hayward miss, Hayward turnover, shot clock violation (on the Burks play) and Hayward missed 3-pointer.
  • Trey Burke’s first quarter was terrific. He scored 13 points and went to the rim on two or three plays. He was aggressive. More importantly, the defensive effort from Trey is improving tremendously.
  • Alec is tough when he is making his shots. If he improves his shot a little bit more and gets the ball with a bit more space on the floor, he is going to be totally filthy offensively. He had six rebounds and four assists.
  • One thing I really like is the rebounding potential of Burks and Hayward together.  Two things in this league are never talked about enough—wing rebounding and big man passing. These two could be very good wing rebounders—They combined for 11 boards tonight.
  • Gasol and Randolph combined for six assists—Kanter and Favors had two, both by Favors.
  • The losses are tough to handle. These guys are all competitors, but these were as close to unwinnable games as you can have. Playoff teams don’t lose these types of games at this point in the season. The Jazz battled and made significant progress against some high-level teams over this stretch.