EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Was this Utah’s “Phoenix” night?

  • Wow. What a night. This could be a big one. Jeff Hornacek was asked when the Suns turned the corner last year and he talked about the team playing head-to-head with the Spurs on the fifth game of the year and even though they lost they learned they could play with the best. This was the fifth game of the yearDid the Jazz just learn they could play with the best?
  • For Hayward, it’s huge. He has been brilliant. Quin Snyder said before the game that Gordon has been playing with “fire.” That shot changes him. He was great. He had 21 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. He’s putting mammoth games linked one after another.
  • So many plays tonight that were the key to the game—Burks hits four free throws late in the game, Booker hits the three off an inbound with 1.9 seconds left on the shot clock. Burks makes a hockey assist to Booker, who finds Favors on a paint-to-paint pass on a mid-roll.
  • The Jazz controlled this game most of the way and were better than Cleveland most of the night. The Cavs took their first lead in the fourth quarter. Impressively, after giving up the lead, the Jazz battled back to regain control. For the first three quarters, the Jazz moved the ball, they got great looks, they simply outplayed Cleveland.
  • Joe Ingles throws the inbound for the game-winner. That’s the level of detail that Quin Snyder deals with. Who’s my best passer? Plus Ingles pump-fakes the pass to the baseline to move the defense to open the passing lane to Gordon.
  • Danté Exum had to play a lot of key moments tonight because Trey got into foul trouble. He played 25 minutes. He’s making improvements. His defensive length is a problem for other teams. He’s penetrating the paint more and getting out of the paint without making mistakes. He had zero turnovers tonight.
  • Utah’s ball movement was great. The Jazz are playing like a team. Thet had 26 assists tonight. The offense came in ranked fourth in the NBA and they hit 51% of their shots, added seven 3-pointers and hit on 17 foul shots. They had a good offensive night.
  • Cleveland has major issues. I’m not convinced they are going to figure it out, and I’m not convinced that LeBron is right. Mentally, he is way out of his game, but physically he is not doing what he used to be capable of doing. He is lacking lift.
  • With that said, LeBron had 31 points. But his night was strange.
  • Favors is really figuring out how to play in the spacing of Quin’s system. He almost never has to play forcing the ball into the post. He’s catching on the block lower with a quicker move, and when he plays up top he has room. Also, he’s coming off the baseline to get the ball and do damage.
  • Do you like Trevor Booker yet?
  • Rodney Hood in as a defensive replacement late to get Trey off the floor with five fouls and not as much length. I love these type of moves.
  • Rudy Gobert was really good tonight as well. Three blocks in 12 minutes.
  • If the Jazz get good bench minutes, this team will be much better than people anticipated.
  • Jazz go to 2-1 at home, and each team has been on the back end of a back-to-back. So will Dallas on Friday.
  • Great crowd tonight. My head still hurts. Standing most of the fourth quarter. Jazz Nation, you are awesome.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Strong night in L.A. for Jazz in loss

  • Strong night for the Jazz. The Clippers hadn’t clicked in yet, and after playing three lackluster games you knew they would be sharp tonight. Lots of things went wrong tonight, and the Jazz fought through them and improved throughout the game. By the end, they were battling the Clippers to the horn.
  • Derrick Favors was limited by foul trouble, and for the Jazz to have a partial performance from their big man and stay in the game is impressive. Favors finished with just six points and three rebounds in 26 minutes. Derrick played nine minutes of the first quarter and had four points and two rebounds. He looked like he was on his way to another substantial night but he played just seven seconds of the second quarter and never found his rhythm.
  • The Clippers hard hedged on the pick-and-roll, which means the big comes out and traps the point guard. This caused a lot of problems for the Jazz early in the game as they committed six turnovers and scored just 20 points in the first quarter. However, the Jazz improved as the night went on, making more and more plays out of the trap and getting more and more open looks. This is a difficult one for the Jazz because they do not play the hard hedge, so they very rarely play against it in practice. Neither Houston nor Dallas play it either.
  • Through four games, Gordon Hayward is averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. He’s shooting 48% from the field, has hit on 37% of his threes and has been perfect from the free-throw line. Tonight, he carried the team when Favors was out. When everyone is asking for leadership, this is a good example of leadership. Tonight, he had 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He did commit two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
  • The Jazz went on a 13-0 run in the third quarter to come all the way back from a 15-point deficit in the second quarter to tie the game at 62. The group on the floor was Burke, Burks, Hawyard, Booker and Favors, and when Favors picked up his third foul he was replaced by Kanter. And Hood came in for Burks in the midst of the run. It’s a good sign when a run continues even in the midst of substitutions.
  • The game was tied at 62, 70 and 75. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin came back in the game with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter with the Clippers up 85-82. They promptly stretched the lead to seven at 91-84 with 6:19 left and to nine with 2:52 left.
  • Utah’s bench had a nice night for a road game. Booker was strong again with 12 points, five rebounds and two 3-pointers. Rodney Hood hit two threes and had six points. Danté Exum wowed the crowd with a quick left-hand drive on the left angle with an incredible burst of speed for a layup. Exum finished with seven points, two assists and an awesome blocked shot. Rudy had another solid 15 minutes. He ended up on a Jordan poster, but you have to love that he tries to make those plays.
  • Consider that Exum had eight turnovers the first time he played the Clippers in preseason and tonight he was fine and really was more than fine. That’s remarkable. He has incredible ability to take instruction and integrate it into his game. He made three or four plays with his length. All signs with Danté are pointing upward—it’s just going to take some time. The goal this year is to build the foundation for him to build off in the future. This is as much off the floor as on the floor. There will be times when he is overwhelmed and times when he finds a rhythm. We’ll all want it accelerated, but it is a process and it will be slow.
  • Enes Kanter had a nice offensive night with with 17 points and nine rebounds.
  • Trey is shooting 33% with just two 3-pointers. He’ll get it going. He was trying very hard tonight to make plays.
  • Solid night tonight. Looking forward to the next two at home.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Favors, Hayward deliver Quin his first win

  • Congratulations to Quin Snyder on his first NBA win.
  • Derrick Favors was masterful tonight. The team did a lot of things well, but it was all propelled by the play of Derrick Favors. Derrick played in a way he has never played before in his life. He had continued effort on numerous plays. When he got denied, he took it as an affront and took it right back at the Suns the next play. Maybe most impressive was his postgame interview when he said that he saw his team come out sluggish and he had to pick them up and lead the way. He saw them begin to feel bad about themselves and he needed to take control. Did he ever. He was a beast and the Suns don’t have the big men to answer this type of performance.
  • Derrick rang the 30-point bell for the first time in his career. The question now is did he just find out something about himself? The last time Derrick had a game like this was his high school championship game when he had 38 points and 21 rebounds. Did he just realize what he is capable of accomplishing in the NBA? Derrick is in a really good place. I have thought Derrick would be the player who takes the biggest jump under Quin. Next stop is Blake and DeAndre in L.A. How does Derrick attack them? That’s what this whole season is going to be about. Derrick never scored 30 points in college, and he only scored more than 20 twice.
  • Derrick also had nine rebounds, an assist, two steals and two blocked shots.
  • The Jazz allowed 19 fast-break points in the first half and only two in the second half. The Suns played last night v. San Antonio and got a great win. They were ripe for the picking, but you have to get them. The first half proved the Suns would get out if you allowed them to, and the Jazz cut that off in the second half.
  • Five different guys had at least three assists. That’s what this team is going to be about.
  • The team scored in the second quarter when the bench came on and didn’t have the offensive stall when Rudy was on the floor. I’ve said numerous times that I don’t see where it is reality to Rudy, so I think it will be solved.
  • Gordon Hayward did so many things well tonight. His rebounding, nine defensive, was great. The outlet passes he throws off the rebounds is changing the way the other guys are approaching it. Quin wants a rebound and an outlet. Not a rebound and a dribble. He wants a pass up the wing and then another ahead pass where the attack at the 45 takes place. Too often, guys are getting the first outlet and then never making the ahead pass and never attacking at the 45. Gordon is changing that by doing it right. His open-court play was terrific. He’s really good in the open floor. His confidence in attacking the basket is at an all-time high.
  • The Jazz still only shot 7-for-26 from three. Some guys are not stroking it right now—Rodney Hood is 1-for-10; Trey Burke is 2-for-15.
  • Rodney Hood is a really nice player. He’s going to be a good NBA player. Lots of people have wondered how he dropped in the draft. One play told that story tonight: He drove the right baseline and had a chance to go up and pack it, but he isn’t that type of athlete. Instead, he jump stopped in the lane and the defender jumped on his back and he got fouled. A top-15 pick (maybe top-10) rises up and flushes.
  • Quin wants the wings and guards to flatten the defense with an initial probe at the 45. Too often, our guards are willing to just stop outside the arc and get into the flow without trying to probe the 45.
  • Quin went to Trevor Booker just a few seconds into the third quarter, and he played very well with the other four starters. It changed the course of the game. Enes is not playing as well as he has at other points—he’s just 10-for-25 shooting. The Jazz need Enes to play well and find a way to be productive.
  • Great win. The ball movement was excellent. The intensity was terrific. They never let the Suns get going in the game. Great to have something positive to build on. Now time for another road game against a playoff team. This opening month is brutal, so every win should be cherished.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – 1,000+ words on the Mavericks’ awesome performance v. the Jazz

  • Ouch.  Jazz ran into a buzz saw.  Home opener.  Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea return.  Chandler Parson debuts and the Mavericks were rested and ready to roll. Roll did they ever.  The Mavericks hit their first 8 shots.  They had 4 layups and 5 dunks in the first quarter and before the quarter was done the game was over.   36-20 at the end of 1 and the Mavericks were on their way.  The Mavericks might be really really good.  They hit every play in the first quarter.
  • The Jazz open the season playing the 4th best offense from last season (Houston), the 3rd best (Dallas), 7th best (Phoenix), 1st (Clippers), Cleveland (Miami was 2nd) and Dallas (7th).  How about we evaluate the defense starting sometime in late November or December.  This is a brutal stretch.
  • Derrick Favors has played two very good basketball games.  If this is an indicator of what is coming Derrick is about to have a mammoth season.  The first two games have been against two of the best centers in the Western Conference, Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard.
  • Favors is shooting 64% in 2 games.  The Jazz are playing him from the top rather than from the block and he is so much more effective.  The best way I can put it he is a mini Amare not a mini Malone.
  • The Jazz offense struggled the minute Rudy Gobert got on the floor again.  I tried to watch it the best I could when I was calling the game and it was hard to see anything that was causing it but sure enough they went 5 minutes without scoring from the moment he checked in and scored 2 poi nts in 6 mintues.  This is a big issue because Rudy can be a big time force in this league if the Jazz can figure out how to play offense with him on the floor.  This takes time.
  • I could see what the Jazz like in Joe Ingles.
  • Alec Burks used 12 possessions tonight.  He shot 5 three pointers.  That is 41% of his possessions.   It might be a little high but I love the direction that is going.  He needs to be able to shoot the long ball as a shooting guard in the NBA and then his drive game will become even better.
  • Hayward 16 pts, 4 rebs and 6 assists.  Few players fill the box score like he does.  He is still the focus of the defenses.  He is not getting any air space.  I would like to believe he will shot a higher percentage then he did a year ago, but I don’t see why the defense on him is going to change any.  The system is different but he hasn’t gotten a lot of different looks yet.
  • Teams are trapping Trey Burke aggressively.
  • Dirk is terrific.  I love watching him play.  What a treat and a pleasure to watch him play.  He is really special.  The Mavericks are in town a week from Friday and I would strongly suggest coming to see Dirk if you have never seen his game before.
  • Re-watching the first quarter.  Here are the alley ops and layups …

1) Alec jumps out to high anticipating Ellis going off a pick and trying to fight over and Ellis is given a straight line to the basket he never went to the pick.

2) Burke over plays jumping to high up on the pick and Nelson never takes the pick.  Favors was attached to Dirk and Nelson had an unencumbered line to the basket.  Kanter came over to help and Nelson lobbed to his man Chandler.  Alec is the next line of defense and doesn’t get into the legs of Chandler.

3) Nowitzki sets a pin down for Parsons on the left corner.  Parsons has a step on Hayward and turns to the corner into the lane.   Kanter has  to stay attached to Dirk so Favors has to rotate into the lane to cut off Parson and again Alec is next in line of defense and has to get into the legs of Chandler but he is worried about corner 3 so Chandler dunks.

4) In early offense, Chandler feigns a pick on the left side on the left shoulder of Trey Burke. Nelson has the ball. Favors takes a step left to be ready for the channel of the ball to the left but Chandler going full speed slips the pick and Favors can’t get back and  Rodney Hood didn’t run deep enough into the lane staying attached to Parsons so Chandler had a free run down the lane for an alley oop dunk.  This was an incredible pass and dunk

5) Jazz got mismatched all over the floor and then got unattached trying to help mismatches Booker was left running out to Parsons who ball faked and went in for a dunk.

6) Jazz defend this well.  Ellis probes deep and Hood is unable to recover back.  Ellis gets deep enough to scoop a pass to Wright.  Trey Burke is next man over and he steps out of way from Wright.   Key was Ellis ability to keep pushing the play into the lane.

7) Similar to the other, ball handler know what Jazz will do defensively and fakes toward the pick so the Jazz jump to channel the ball handler to the wing but the handler knows this and starts a straight line at the big that has sagged into the lane to stopped the penetration and help.   Ballhandler has such a head of steam that guard defender never gets back and ball handler engages the big who catches and lays it up.  Weakside help from Hayward is late.

8) Jazz defend this play terrifically.  6 passes later and numerous good rotations there is 6 on the shot clock and Devin Harris has it on right wing.  Hayward channels him to the wing.   Gobert steps out but way too far allowing Brandan Wright to slip.  Mavericks are perfectly spaced.  Jefferson is in the right corner with Hood on him.  Booker is watching Dirk who is on the top and Exum is on JJ Barea in the left corner.  Wright is rolling right down the middle for a layup

9)      Trevor  Booker lost contact of his man.

Overall, the Mavericks are really good.  They understood how the Jazz were defending and how to exploit it.  They taxed the Jazz defense to the fourth and fifth line of defense and the Jazz eventually broke down.   Even when Jazz defended wel l  they stayed with the play long enough that they got created a mistake eventually and were spaced correctly so they could exploit each mistake.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz lose the opener

  • Sometimes the other guys are really good. The Jazz built a game plan to slow down Harden and keep Harden off the line. That worked pretty well. Harden went 6-for-18 from the field and hit just 1 of 5 from three, and he only had six free-throw attempts after taking 16 the night before. Harden has made more free throws than all but two players have taken over the last two years. However, Harden is one of the top three or so offensive players in the NBA and it showed. He dished out 10 assists and created for his teammates.
  • Great note from Andy Larsen at Salt City Hoops—all 10 of Harden’s assists were for 3-pointers.
  • The Rockets were 7-for-8 on corner threes—the Jazz last year were the worst team in the NBA defending the corner three.
  • You could see the offensive movement and the ability to get good looks. The Jazz shot 60% in the first half.
  • The 3-point shooting edge was considerable. The Rockets hit 14 of 27 from three and the Jazz were just 3-for-18. Last year, the Jazz missed a ton of uncontested jumpers. It will be interesting to see those numbers tonight. Felt like the Jazz got some looks but couldn’t knock them down.
  • The Jazz are very balanced offensively. Trey Burke took 16 shots. Kanter took 12.  Hawyard and Burks took 11 each, and Favors and Booker had 10. At some point, the Jazz may have to prioritize these possessions.
  • Trey Burke led the Jazz on a nice 10-0 run at the end of the third quarter. This cut the game down to three at the end of quarter, but the Rockets burst out to open the fourth quarter to take control of the game.
  • The game opened as a post battle. Howard scored 10 of the first 12 points of the game for the Rockets, and Favors had 8 of the first 10 for the Jazz. The Jazz were single-teaming Howard, but Favors picked up a foul early so the Jazz used Kanter more on Howard, and Howard had his way.
  • The Rockets’ Kostas Papanikolaou is nice player. He shots the heck out of the ball and he has a little dribble game.
  • Cool story that Danté Exum and his childhood favorite player Joe Ingles make their NBA debut on the same team on the same night.
  • Utah’s starting lineup was really good on offense. They hit 10 of 16 and scored 26 points in 11 minutes.
  • Can the Jazz play offense when Rudy Gobert is on the floor? Tonight the Jazz were  12-for-36 shooting with Gobert on the floor. The rest of the game the Jazz were 26-for-45. It’s not all Rudy, but the different between 33% and 58% is considerable and worth keeping an eye on. Rudy is an amazing force defensively, but the Jazz have to figure out how to score with him in the game.
  • I believe Dwight Howard only had two of his 22 points when being guarded by Rudy.
  • The Jazz went small with Hayward at the four, and in those three minutes the Jazz were -7.
  • Utah’s pace of play was 91 possessions—that is not quick.
  • Talk to you from Dallas.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz end preseason with a loss to Phoenix

  • That’s enough—let’s do the real stuff starting Wednesday and see how much of this is real.
  • Playing without Derrick Favors, who had a sore left knee, the Jazz played the Phoenix Suns to the wire before the triple-guard lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe and Thomas was too much for the Jazz. The Suns closed on a 19-11 run to win it.
  • For the first time in the preseason, Utah’s transition defense broke down. The Jazz allowed 20 fast-break points, double their previous preseason high.
  • It feels like Gordon Hayward is a different player. He went to the rim hard for another vicious jam and then a few possessions later went right back to the rim again. He’s faster, stronger and more powerful in the air then he has ever been. It will be exciting to watch him play with this new-found strength throughout the season. He did have two disappointing turnovers late in the game, though.
  • The Jazz didn’t execute the offense great tonight. When they are getting heavy pressure, they aren’t sure on all the options and all the release valves yet. We’ve known all year that there will be some tough offensive games, and that clearly will happen.
  • The Jazz defended the 3-point line great tonight as the Suns hit just 7 of 28.
  • The game had 70 free throws.
  • Jazz had just 14 assists. Rudy Gobert led the team with three assists.
  • Gobert was not spectacular, and that is what I loved about his game. He was just solid. Being solid is really important. Being consistent is probably more important than being spectacular. He hit 6-for-8 from the line and finished the preseason going 21-for-31 from the line (68%). That’s terrific. Rudy is going to be an important part of the rotation this year—he has a really bright future and a super high ceiling.
  • Ian Clark got minutes tonight at the backup point guard when Danté Exum had a hard time with the physicality of the Suns guards.
  • This has been a great preseason. The Jazz have made huge progress and are heading in an exciting direction. The real thing starts next week.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz blow out the Thunder

  • Another solid preseason outing for the Utah Jazz. The Thunder are without Durant and three other rotation players, but the Jazz were still terrific. Again, the story of the night was Utah’s transition defense. The Thunder got six fast-break points. Two of those came in the final minute and the other two baskets came in the first quarter when the Jazz committed two fatal turnovers (turnovers committed above the free-throw line) that led to easy layups. The Thunder didn’t get a single fast-break point off a Jazz miss the entire game. This is an incredible change by the Jazz. They have not allowed more than 10 fast-break points in any game this preseason. Last year they were the fourth-worst transition defense in the NBA, allowing 16 points per game. They started training camp with transition defense drills for an hour. The first thing they do in every practice is transition defense. If this holds in the regular season, they have a chance to make huge strides defensively. The Bobcats went  from 30th defensively to fifth last year largely by becoming the top transition defense in the NBA.
  • Enes Kanter was strong tonight. He had a wide array of moves. He hit two threes. He drove to the basket. He was creative around the rim and hit some mid-range shots. He finished with 27 points.
  • Trey Burke had another strong game. The knowledge of what to expect in an NBA season is showing. He made moves around the rim. He has added some shots from five feet out and he finished a few times at the basket. More importantly, tonight was one of the best defensive games I’ve seen him play.
  • Giants win 7-1. World Series wins are really great.
  • The outlet passes from Derrick Favors were offensive game-changers tonight. He’s throwing passes that get all the way out to half court and it allows the Jazz to start the offense really early. He had 15 rebounds.
  • It was clear before the game that Scott Brooks the Thunder coach had not watched the Jazz film at all. Teams don’t prepare for preseason games the same way they do for regular season games, and the Jazz are taking advantage of that. The Jazz, on the other hand, are treating each of these games like a regular season game, with detailed shootarounds in order to install the culture Quin Snyder wants before games. Can’t give a ton of details, but it’s an impressive level of detail.
  • Not sure what the Thunder are going to be like without Durant. He just pulls so much of the defense to him and opens up so much for his teammates with his presence, even when he doesn’t have the ball. There’s a chance the Thunder could be mediocre without KD.
  • Utah’s bench was 4-for-24 shooting tonight. The rookies combined to go 0-for-11.   This is going to be a real issue in the regular season. Coach Snyder is going to have to find a way to work the rotation to complement these players without bringing the whole level of play down.
  • Gordon Hayward had another four steals tonight. He has 20 steals in the preseason.
  • Trey Burke has gone 16-for-30 from three in the preseason.
  • Rudy Gobert is 15-for-23 from the free-throw line for 65%. That is enough. He looks comfortable on the floor and has a huge impact on the game.
  • We saw what felt like a regular season rotation. The first sub at 5:44 was Hood for Burks, and then Burks came back for Hayward at the end of the quarter. The first big was Booker for Kanter at 5:25, and then Gobert came in for Favors at 2:24. Exum replaced Trey, and then when Danté struggled, Clark came in as the next point guard and played with Trey some in the second quarter. Hayward returned for Burks, and finally, Burks took Clark out near the end of the quarter. Favors and Gobert played together for about two minutes in the second quarter and the Jazz were +5. The third quarter was the same concept as the first, but Ian Clark came in instead of Burks.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – 29 turnovers allow a Lakers comeback win

  • The Jazz led this game by 22 points late in the second quarter and ended up losing it to the Lakers. The Jazz rested Trey Burke; Trevor Booker was out with an ankle injury; and Gordon Hayward or Derrick Favors didn’t play after the first quarter. The Jazz did play their primary bench players much of the second half, and they were overwhelmed without being on the floor with the primary guys. The jazz committed 19 turnovers in the second half.
  • Until the plethora of turnovers, Utah’s transition defense was terrific again. They didn’t allow a fast-break point in the first half of the game. This is the single biggest change Quin Snyder has made to this team. They get back defensively and they build a wall that is preventing teams from getting the fast-break points the Jazz allowed last season. The Lakers still only had 10 fast-break points for the entire game. Last year the Jazz allowed an average of 15.5.
  • Gordon Hayward had another strong effort. His first quarter was eight points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals while holding Kobe to 2 -for-7 shooting with three turnovers. Hayward did have four turnovers in the first quarter.
  • Rudy Gobert was brilliant in the second quarter. He blocked three shots in a four-play sequence, including a block of Kobe’s fadeaway. The Lakers shot 6-for-26 in the second quarter, and Rudy played 9:40 of that quarter. He had four blocks. Most importantly, Rudy went 4-for-6 from the line and is now 14-for-21 (66.6%) from the free-throw line in the preseason for. Hitting his free throws is a must if he is going to stay on the floor.
  • Alec Burks was 6-for-8 in the first half with 12 points and four rebounds. He was one of the only regulars on the floor in the second half and tried to carry the load, going only 1-for-6 in the second half.
  • Ian Clark was the backup point guard tonight with Trey Burke out for the night. He made some nice runners in the lane. Ian does a nice job turning the corner off the pick-and-roll. He also had some moments where he didn’t look comfortable at the 1.
  • Lakers picked it up in the second half and Exum had four turnovers in the second half. Exum had some nice moments. He exploded to the rim and got blasted by Randle. His shot didn’t fall tonight. He is now 7-for-17 from three and 41% overall.
  • Utah’s performance without Trey was a reminder of what the Lakers are going through without Jeremy Lin and Steve Nash; what Portland was like without Damian Lillard earlier in preseason; and what the Jazz were like last year without Trey.
  • Not a great night for Jeremy Evans or Carrick Felix. It’s hard to be able to performa at their highest level with the limited time they have, but both had some tough moments. Evans got a bad matchup and was overpowered, and Felix looks to be rushing.
  •  With three games in four nights, the Jazz are probably getting a bit worn out.
  • Jack Cooley, Brock Motum and Toure’ Murry didn’t play.