EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Lots of positives in Utah’s loss to the Spurs

  •  The Spurs are fabulous. This is a Spurs team hitting on all cylinders. They torched the Jazz, but it was still a night with a lot of positives.
  • This was without question the best offensive night of Derrick Favors’ career. He is beginning to get an array of moves and, moreover, is going somewhere with the ball and he is going where he wants to go. He hit a tough fadeaway on the baseline. He rolled to the middle on Duncan and scored a drew a foul. He retreated out of the post to set himself up for another play. This was a big night for Derrick. It’s going to be interesting to see how he plays tomorrow as he has not been able to link these games in the past.
  • Kanter and Favors got time together again tonight. They were -5 in their opening six minutes and all of San Antonio’s points were in the paint. In the third quarter they were +2 before Favors got his fourth foul.
  • Gordon Hayward had a very nice first half. His game earlier this year against the Spurs was one of the primary things that derailed him. The Spurs gave him the mid-range shot and he couldn’t make them. It sent him into a tailspin. Tonight he came with a plan and a held with the approach for all of the first half. He finished with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists. The six turnovers are too much. They are painful turnovers as well.
  • Alec is a bonafide scorer. Think DeMar DeRozan in Toronto. He didn’t get to the line tonight, but the Spurs don’t foul.
  • Trey is getting better every night. He has made huge strides. He got into the paint to make a play. He is finding some spots to make plays. He is shooting better. Lots of positives on Trey’s end.
  • This is why this night excited me. The Jazz have shown in the last three games that they have a lot of talent. Gordon is going to get better when he plays with better players and has to carry the team less often. Favors is coming around as an offensive player. Alec is a bonafide scorer. Trey is looking more and more like an NBA point guard. This is taking shape nicely. This is a big final 15-game stretch for them all to continue to grow and improve. The pieces are in place. They compliment each other for the most part. There are a lot of pieces here to play with for the coaches and management.
  • The Jazz made huge strides defensively, and that has completely fallen off. Coming into the game, teams are shooting 50% this month and 42% from 3-point range. Tonight the Spurs shot 63% and went 10-for-16 from 3-point range. That is incredible.
  • Three nights down on “March’s Murderers’ Row.” Tonight will be interesting because it is a back-to-back and I hope these guys fight. Hard to get hammered each night.  These are superior teams and the jazz have showed a lot of fight and played with them in a lot of phases of the game.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Night two of ‘March’s Murderers’ Row’

  • Night two of “March’s Murderers’ Row” and the Jazz fall to the Clippers. Great teams are not losing this game at this time of the year. Last time, the Jazz got “Dirked” and this time they got “Pauled”—or it is “Chrised“?
  • This was a terrific game. You want entertainment? This had some of the best entertainment of the season. The highlights were out of this world. Evans knocked an over-the-top pass to Jordan on a fast break—he skied up to tip it off the glass, and it lead to a Jazz fast break where the Jazz turned it over and the Clippers came back the other way for what looked like a Collison layup until chase-down-block man Gordon Hayward BLOCKED IT. He didn’t just block it, he sent it to into the second row over the Clippers’ bench.
  • Another one later in the night—Blake Griffin had a vintage Blake Quake follow dunk.  Then Favors answered it on the other side with a vicious right hand jam. Love the answer from Favors. That is a super big deal that he fired back at attacked the basket unintimidated after Griffin’s dunk.
  • The Jazz played a good game tonight. Defensively, they held the Clippers (the No. 2 offensive team in the NBA, and the No. 1 team over the last 10 games—a team that has been scoring 115 points per game) to 96 points. The Clippers got it going in the third quarter, hitting 14 of 18 shots.
  • The Jazz led it 70-60 with 3:30 left in the third, and the thought went through my mind that maybe the Jazz could pull this off. It must have crossed Chris Paul’s mind also, because he took over and the Clippers promptly went on a 17-2 run. L.A.’s defense also amped it up late.
  • The Jazz don’t have a go-to player who can take over a possession and make a play, and that showed in the fourth quarter when the Clippers got into the Jazz and held them to 15 points. Utah was slowed down by the full-court pressure Darren Collison put on Trey.  It slowed down Utah’s offense and allowed the Cippers to switch on defenders. The Jazz couldn’t beat the mismatches.
  • Kanter and Favors started very well together. Favors got saddled with foul trouble. In the first quarter, the Jazz led it 22-15 when Favors went out, so they were +7.  In the third quarter, they were -2 before Evans came in for Kanter.  In the fourth quarter, the Jazz were even with the two on the floor. For the night, the Jazz were +5 with Kanter and Favors on the floor together.
  • Getting beat tonight is not something to be upset with. For most of the night the effort was terrific. A few plays will stick in your craw, however. A huge Willie Green transition three happened in the third quarter because a player jogged back instead of making the effort to get all the way back, and then he was a step late to get to Green. A soft inbound pass that gets intercepted, turnovers above the free-throw line that lead to points—all of those things are a bummer.
  • Utah had 20 turnovers that led to 31 points.
  • Kanter had a great game on the boards with 15—the second highest of his career—but was only 5-for-17 shooting. Gordon Hayward had a great game passing with 10 assists—his sixth time with 10+ assists this year—but was only 2-for-8 shooting. Alec Burks had 10 points, but more turnovers (five) than field goals (four).  My point is that all of our guys played well in different aspects, but also got exposed in other areas against the hottest team in the league.
  • Interesting to watch the Clippers just faceguard Gordon Hayward with Willie Green in the fourth quarter. They decided they would not let him get the ball and make plays.  Doc Rivers’ fourth-quarter goal was to take Gordon out of the game, and he did it.
  • Fun night at the arena.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Lots of really good performances and an awesome legend

  •  First of five games against Western Conference playoff teams who can not afford a loss to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz did very well tonight. They battled all the way until two minutes were left. The game had 18 lead changes, 17 ties and for only one possession did a team lead by more than two possessions.
  • The best part of the night was the Jazz taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Mavericks. There are two levels of NBA success. First, you have to be good enough to take advantage of the other teams weaknesses, either scheme or personnel. Second is you become good enough to dictate the matchup yourself. We’re not at the second one yet. The Jazz doing the first was a good sign. The Mavericks are 29th in the league in restricted area FG% defense and 28th in FG% defense in the paint. Tonight the Jazz had an awesome night in the paint, scoring 56 points. In addition, the Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the NBA at defending the ball handler on the pick and roll. Trey took advantage with 20 points and six assists. This is a really big deal. If you can’t take advantage of weaknesses, it is an issue.
  • Kanter was solid off the bench tonight—18 points and 11 rebounds for the night. He is not holding his defensive verticality, though he thinks he is. He is getting better defensively, though the numbers are still startling when he plays lots of minutes—whether this team wins or not. This is simply a sign that he still has a lot of development ahead of him, but his offensive skill is becoming clear.
  • The Jazz played a lot of the fourth quarter with Burke, Burks, Jefferson, Kanter and Favors. Gordon Hayward stayed on the bench. I have not talked to Coach Corbin, but my thought is that without Marvin on the floor the Jazz needed a shooter on the floor. With Kanter and Favors in the post and Trey and Alec at the guards, those are four non-shooters. Jefferson is a 42% 3-point shooter. Plus, Jeffferson’s ability to be in the corner for a three spreads the floor. Jefferson is one of the top five corner-three shooters in the NBA, and Hayward is one of the bottom five corner-three shooters, so when it was decided that Burks was going to stay on the floor to create, it may have meant that Hayward’s lack of shooting prevented Corbin from putting him back on the floor. I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems like a reasonable explanation. You are welcome to disagree with it, but it was not without some logic—and moreover some reasonable logic.
  • Alec Burks had a career-high eight assists.
  • Sometimes games are really basic: make shots. When the Mavericks led 95-93 with 3:51 left, Alec Burks got a wide-open three and missed, and then Ellis (who is a lower percentage 3-point shooter than Burks) buried his and the Mavericks led it by five. Switch it around and the Jazz are up by one with the ball and 3:20 left. Crazy how sometimes it is so simple.
  • Hayward played 35 minutes and played well. He missed two good-look threes in the fourth quarter. One would have put the Jazz up by six and the other would have tied the game. Gordon is 11-for-47 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter this year.
  • Dirk is fabulous. It is really an honor to watch him play, call games he plays and he a part of the NBA that includes Dirk. He went 11-for-13 for 31 points … are you kidding me?!  He’s the 12th all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA. He’s 35 years old and I can’t see him slowing down anytime soon. His work ethic is in the class of Karl Malone. His dedication to his craft is equaled only be the greats of the game. It is a pleasure to watch.
  • See you Friday for the Clippers.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz see old friends and fall to them as new foes

  • Fun night at EnergySolutions Arena to start off a great week of NBA basketball.  Millsap, Korver and Carroll all coming back to play in Salt Lake. The crowd loved seeing them and we got a close, exciting game in the end.
  • The Jazz played dead early (which is very common after a long road trip) and then fired out of the third quarter and went on a 28-16 run to get back in the game. They had the lead heading into the fourth quarter. Utah’s third-quarter run was initiated by a good defensive effort that allowed them to get out into the open floor and make a bunch of plays in the fast break. In the half court they ran it through Enes Kanter, and he was very good. He made a few nice plays in the post, and then when they started to double he passed out nicely and created opportunities for his teammates with his post presence.
  • Huge sequence of the game: it was tied at 96-96 and then Favors had an awesome block of Teague but the ball squirted out to Antic, who kicked to DeMarre Carroll for a 3-pointer to take a three-point lead. On the next possession, the Jazz executed well and Marvin got a straight-down-the-barrel, wide-open look from three and he front-rimmed it. The Jazz got another stop and then Marvin had another good-look three and it rimmed out as well. Korver followed with a jumper on a tough look in front of the Jazz bench and the Jazz were down by five points without much time to come back.
  • Marvin is shooting only 25% from 3-point range over the last seven games.
  • Gordon Hayward had a slow start and turned it into a strong game with 13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He also had five turnovers.
  • The Jazz had a miserable time guarding Kyle Korver to start the game. He had Richard trailing him, while Burks went under … and nothing was working. Korver was lighting the Jazz up.
  • Burke had 21 in the second half after a two-point first half. He went to the rim more and attacked a few times in the open court.
  • Utah got the fast break going in the third quarter but in the fourth quarter became a half court slow-down team. Utah’s pace of play for the season is 27th and has been slower in the recent stretch.
  • Four assists for Alec Burks, who is playing with a nice rhythm and is not forcing the game. He has made enormous strides.
  • Marvin and Richard got their game back tonight. Marvin had 18 points and six rebounds, and Richard had 15 points and had some nice open-floor plays.
  • Remember how awesome it was to have Kyle Korver closing out games on the line?
  • DeMarre Carroll was 3-for-5 from behind the arc. He has made 75 this year. He made 20 last year, seven the year before that, and zero the two years prior to that.
  • Millsap has attempted 159 3-pointers this season. He went 2-for-4 tonight.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Had to get it

  •  Had to get this one, and they did.
  • It got interesting tied at 91 with a little under three minutes to play, but the Jazz were able to close it out with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors on the floor. Simultaneously, Ty was not losing this game and Gordon never checked out in the second half. Ty wanted to continue the development, so despite going against what were probably his best basketball instincts, he closed the game with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors. They held on.
  • Gordon Hayward had a terrific trip. He is just playing basketball. Earlier this year he forced things—he played with an obligation and a burden. Recently, he has just played. He has let the game come to him and made the plays he needed to make.   Tonight he had 22 points, three rebounds and eight assists. He went 7-for-15 shooting for his sixth straight game of 40%+ and at least double figures, the longest stretch of his career. He also had three steals.
  • Hayward had 12 points in the fourth quarter.
  • Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors had been silent for most of this trip, but both of them had much better games tonight. Marvin got over the 20-minute mark (the Jazz are 21-20 when he plays 20 minutes and 1-24 when he doesn’t). Favors had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
  • Lineup data: The Garrett, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter lineup played 12 minutes and was outscored 25-23 and shot just 8-for-24 from the field and had an EFG% of just 38%. The four youngsters played four minutes together down the stretch and outscored the Sixers 13-5, going 4-for-5 shooting with one 3-pointer as well. Derrick and Enes played 16 minutes together, and the Jazz shot 12-for-29 with two threes.
  • Anything typed in this section has to be put in context that the team they were playing has two impact NBA players on it. Hollis Thompson, who started for them, didn’t start in the D-League the entire time he was in the D-League.
  • The matchup of the rookie point guards summed up how they have been playing recently. Burke shot 2-for-9 and Michael Carter-Williams was 2-for-13. The two combined to go 0-for-7 from three. Trey front-rimmed everything. He looked like he had no legs tonight. Foul trouble limited his minutes, but I’m not sure he had more than 23 minutes in his body tonight. He is going to have to learn how to keep himself ready and prepare his body.
  • Kanter took 14 shots and had 13 points. He has to find a way to get to the line. The shot total is a little misleading because some are tip-ins (he had six offensive rebounds). But he needs to get to the line.
  • The Jazz were awesome on the offensive glass. They grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and had 13 team rebounds—many that had to be on the offensive end of the floor. They were crashing hard. Alec was a part of it, and Enes and Derrick were killing the Sixers.
  • Alec had two fatal turnovers tonight—turnovers that happen above the free-throw line. These are really costly. They become an automatic two points every time.
  • Some good moves by Ty tonight on the guarding of Michael Carter-Williams. He got Trey off him as much as possible. He played Garrett and Trey together, and he had Burks or Hayward guard him. Nice matchup work. Interesting late that we had Trey on Wroten and the Sixers didn’t go to Wroten.
  • If the Jazz didn’t win tonight it would have been close to catastrophic. It probably shouldn’t have been as much of a battle as it was, but you’ve got to take it and run.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—New York, New York

  • Discouraging performance tonight on what is becoming a tough a road trip. The Jazz fell behind immediately. Down 18-9 and then by 17 at the end of the first quarter. It never got inside single digits again.
  • The Knicks had won three of their last 16 games. They had just ended a seven-game losing streak. This is a game with two teams that are fragile, and the start was going to dictate the game. Neither the Knicks nor the Jazz are capable of bouncing back if things don’t start well, and we got on the wrong side of that from the beginning.
  • That is a big issue this trip: if the game doesn’t start well we don’t seem to be able to make the plays to get a run started. The Jazz have been without runs this entire trip. I don’t know if it is a lack of firepower offensively, the inability to link defensive stops or a lack of confidence, but it is clear that if the Jazz are playing from behind, it is a tough battle to keep it close right now.
  • The Jazz are now 1-22 when Marvin Williams doesn’t play 20 minutes. The problem is, Marvin doesn’t seem right and I’m not sure how Tyrone can get him 20-plus minutes right now.
  • Gordon Hayward continues to play very well on this trip. He is not a vocal leader, but he might be making a statement of leadership with his consistent play right now. He is staying engaged in the game. He is battling through every possession. His defense was terrific on Carmelo for the brief time he was guarding him. He was very aggressive going to the basket. He hit his shots (both twos and threes) and he finished at the rim. Solid effort—18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
  • It seems that Gordon has stopped trying to be the #1 option—he’s eliminating the burden of being the go-to guy and is just playing. He looks more comfortable, his shot selection is better, and he is playing much better.
  • Through three quarters, the Jazz were 3-for-20 from 3-point range. Trey was 1-for-10  (and 0-for-8 from deep) and Marvin was 1-for 7 (and 0-for-5 from deep) at that point of the game.
  • One play summed up the game … The Jazz went to Favors on the left block being guarded by Chandler. For some reason that I don’t know, the Knicks decided to double Favors. Favors made the easy pass out to Burke, who was wide open because his man went to double, and the Knicks didn’t rotate at all. It was a terrible defensive play. Just terrible. But Trey came up short on the three and it lead to a easy bucket on the other side. When the other team is awful, you have to take advantage.
  • The Knicks were last in the league in points in the paint; last in the league in fast-break points; and last in the league in free throws. They got 42 points in the paint, 21 fast-break points and shot 18 free throws.
  • Over the last 15 games, the 76ers have had the worst run of any team in NBA history. The Jazz have to show up and play an inferior opponent tomorrow.

Emptying the Noggin—Jazz fall in D.C.

  • This doesn’t feel like the same team we were seeing earlier this year. When this team has been healthy they have battled through the game and taken some of the best teams in the league to the wire. Tonight they never got going.
  • Favors went out of the game with 9:06 left in the first quarter with two fouls and maybe that was the night. We know this team has not won this year without Derrick, and that is as close to playing without him as it gets.
  • It doesn’t feel like this team is playing very well from behind. Once they fall behind, it doesn’t feel like they know how to grind all the way back into the game. They were on the verge tonight, getting the game down to six, but then Alec got beat backdoor. Gordon then committed a turnover and Favors had a poor closeout and boom—it was back to 10. You just can’t blink when you are playing from behind.
  • Felt like tonight there were more mental mistakes defensively than we’ve seen in a while. Could be a fatigue level, could be playing on the road, could be numerous things.
  • It was 6-5 when Favors went out, and in the next five minutes the Wizards outscored the Jazz 16-8 and it was a nine-point game. Once Favors and Marvin got back on the floor together, the Jazz played even with the Wizards for the second quarter. The Jazz were even with Marvin and Derrick for the first 7:30 of the third quarter.
  • The Wizards have been awful this year with Wall on the bench, but the Jazz weren’t able to take advantage of it tonight. The Wizards veteran team of Miller, Harrington and Gooden were able to be successful against the Jazz.
  • Kanter has gotten his offensive glass prowess back.
  • The home/road free-throw differential of Alec Burks is strange. Not sure I have ever heard of that before, and it seems like a statistical abnormality that will rectify itself.  Burks took 3 of his 11 shots from three while shooting 10 free throws. That is getting closer to the ratio he needs to find.
  • Washington does not get to the rim. They are one of the lowest teams at FGA in the paint and they took 40 tonight and scored 56 points in the paint. Utah’s defense has slipped the last few nights. They had been the seventh-best EFG% defense over last 20 games, but the last two nights that has not been the case. The Wizards shot 54% and hit six threes.
  • New York is next.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Season of discovery

  • When the schedule came out for the season, I thought this trip would be a great litmus test for this team. Nothing is new anymore. No more excuses about first time this and first time that. The end of season is in sight. Rest is not an issue. They haven’t played a ton of games in a short period of time like the trips to open the year. So here it was a test. A non-sexy team on the back end of a back-to-back after a tough, physical game against the team with the best record in the NBA. Have you learned how to prepare? Have you learned how to fight through the mental fatigue? Have you found a way to get your mind and body connection going on a “boring” night? To these questions, Hayward and Kanter could say “yes” tonight. The rest of the team can’t.
  • In the first half I thought the night was fine. The team didn’t come out with a lot of juice, but they stayed in the game. The Bucks were making some shots they don’t usually make and the Jazz kept it close going into halftime. Then the Jazz came out terribly to open the third quarter. The Bucks opened on a 6-0 run. Corbin called an early timeout … to no avail. The run continued to 18-6, and the Jazz were suddenly down 23 and the night was over. Awful stretch.
  • The Bucks had only led by 10 points or more for 4% of their minutes this season.   They had only led by 15 points or more for 49 minutes the entire season. They led by 20 or more tonight for the final 18 minutes of the game.
  • Enes Kanter is showing great signs of growth. His passing is remarkable considering where it was. Kick-out passes to the right guy on a double team from the post. That never happened before. He is recognizing defenders and defenses. He is learning when to make the hand-off and when not to. At times this season, Enes would throw 11 passes in a night and none of them would travel farther than a body length. It would kill the offense. The opposite is now happening. This is where time on the floor is really helpful.
  • Enes is getting better defensively as well. Tonight was a dumpster fire defensively so it’s hard to give credit to anyone, but it felt as though Kanter had another night of improvement defensively.
  • Milwaukee came in 29th in FG% and shot 57% tonight.
  • Strange thing is that Utah’s defense had been so much better recently. Over the last 20 games, Utah’s EFG% against was 7th in the NBA. Tonight they allowed an EFG% of over 60%. That is insanely bad.
  • This road trip for Derrick Favors has been non-impactful in Cleveland and awesome in Indiana.  He was dominant in Indiana. He killed Hibbert and had 11 points, seven rebounds and one block in the first quarter on Sunday. And then tonight he was non-impactful again. Interesting to see what he does the rest of the trip. The Jazz really need Favors to play and impact games every night for him to assume the roll he is slotted for in this franchise.
  • Interesting to see what happens next. The season of discovery continues, and the next three games might teach us as much as any others.