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.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz blow out the Lakers

  • Ron Boone said it best after the game. It’s hard to be sure how much of this is real, but I’m certain it’s a lot better than losing these games.
  • The offense was strong again tonight. The ball movement was a constant. The Jazz scored 30 or more in each of the final three quarters. There was a sequence in the second quarter where the Jazz looked as sharp as you could imagine. They got into a flow and started making reads and getting good looks. The Lakers were not interested in defending.
  • The Lakers are awful. I’m not sure how much Jeremy Lin, Nick Young, Robert Sacre, Jordan Clarkson and Steve Nash are going to be able to help that crew, but if they don’t help it’s going to be a long, tough season. The last two games, the Lakers are 0-for-8 from 3-point range. They have taken 168 shots—for an average team, 41 of those would have been 3-point attempts … and the Lakers have only taken eight threes. Their offense is archaic.
  • Derrick Favors had another terrific game. He’s really good playing in space, and this system is going to be his next step. He may never be a great shooter, but his athleticism on the pick-and-roll is going to be a force.
  • Danté Exum bounced back very well tonight. We learn a little about Danté every day, and today we learned a lot of good things. After being humbled by Chris Paul, he came out with a strut and confidence. When Ronnie Price got up on him on the first possession, he dealt with it and was prepared for it. He was being forced to use his left hand and he answered it. He is so quick that if you overplay him too much he’s gone. As he gets stronger and more experience, there is no way people are going to be able to overplay him because he’ll complete plays in the paint—he’s so quick if he beats you, he’s in the paint. Danté had 13 points and six assists (and zero turnovers) in 19 minutes.
  • Rodney Hood played a very solid game and got to go up against his childhood hero Kobe Bryant. He’s shooting it really well and put a few 1-on-1 moves on the floor that were solid. His release point is so high that he’ll be able to get his shot off.
  • Carrick Felix made his first appearance but it looked as though he was out of rhythm. Toure’ Murry got some time and grabbed a rebound or two and had an assist but nothing remarkable.
  • Both Brock Motum and Jack Cooley got sometime tonight against the Lakers’ third unit and held their own.
  • The best play of the night was a Rudy Gobert pass from top of the key to a back-cutting Gordon Hayward from the right wing to the basket. A gorgeous dime for Rudy.
  • Rudy Gobert played 11 minutes and had a stat line of nine points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal. He and Exum are developing a really good relationship on the floor.
  • Trevor Booker showed an array of offensive moves.
  • Solid win against an awful team. Things keep moving in the correct direction.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – 20 rebounds and more highlights

  •  The effort to play the way Quin Snyder wants continues at a very high level.
  • Every practice the Jazz start with transition defense, and tonight they allowed only seven fast-break points to the Clippers. The Clippers want to get out and run. The first night they allowed 10, the next night they allowed eight, and tonight it was seven.
  • The ball movement from the Jazz was terrific. They had 30 assists on 41 field goals and six players had three or more—including both Favors and Kanter with three each.
  • Kanter and Favors both made terrific passes during the game.
  • Rudy Gobert grabbed 20 rebounds. I don’t care if it’s preseason or what, 20 rebounds is an absurd number. He only played 21:54 minutes. Everyone wants to talk wingspan, but it’s his 9-foot-7 standing reach that’s the game-changer. He’s above everyone on the rebounds, and as he gets stronger and holds ground it’s only going to get better. Scouting reports will negate this a bit, but he isn’t shrinking anytime soon.
  • Trey Burke and Derrick Favors continue to have very strong preseasons.
  • No one is going to talk about Gordon Hayward tonight, but he had 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal in 26 minutes. So if he played his usual 35 minutes, he suddenly has 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
  • Utah’s EFG% was 59.3%.
  • Trevor Booker hit two 3-pointers—he was only 1 for 10 in his career from behind the arc entering the game.
  • Danté Exum did what people didn’t think he could do tonight and knocked down shots. However, his handle is loose and Chris Paul, who has led the NBA in steals six times in his career, smelled blood in the water and once the word was out everyone was after Danté. He over-dribbles and gets himself into trouble. It makes sense at every level he has ever played because he has been able to do it, but now he can’t. It’s all part of the process.
  • Both Rodney Hood and Exum had a tough time on the defensive end. J.J. Redick ran Hood all over the floor and back.
  • The third quarter was a little bit of a reality check. The Clippers fired out and scored 35 points and won the quarter by 10. They got into the Jazz and forced seven turnovers. Doc Rivers was clearly upset with the first-half effort and didn’t let the guys take the whole night off. The good news is the Jazz still shot 50% in the quarter and hit four threes. That is really good that the offense still got looks against the tightened defense.
  • Ian Clark has played well.
  • Blake Griffin is my favorite to win the MVP and the Clippers are my favorite to win the Western Conference.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz win in Portland

  • Jazz go to 2-0 in the preseason. Either Coach Snyder wanted to make sure his guys got a chance to practice late-game situations or he thinks it’s very important for this group to learn how to win because he played the starting five down the stretch and put big minutes on some of the guys. It worked out well and they gained huge experience late in yesterday’s game.
  • Coach Snyder ran two plays out of timeouts that worked terrifically. He ran a double handoff between Hayward and Trey that got Trey an open three and the clutchest of the clutch did it again and nailed it.
  • Then he ran an iso for Favors at the free-throw line out of a timeout. Favors catches at the free-throw line and everything is open with the spacing and he went 1-on-1 at the defender drew the foul and scored. This is a play they have practiced in camp and I wasn’t sure about Favors as a 1-on-1 player from the free-throw line, but he made a great move and the play was a dandy.=
  • Snyder also had some great late-game substitutions. As Alec Burks was at the line, Rudy Gobert checked in and was on the line when Alec missed the free throw and kept the ball alive on the miss. It bounced to Alec, who picked it up and scored a huge bucket to put the Jazz up by three points.
  • Then Quin played Trevor Booker on the defensive end instead of Rudy so they could switch more effectively on the pick-and-roll. It worked, and Booker ended up guarding CJ McCollum and denying his 3-pointer.
  • Gordon Hayward had a crazy dunk in the second quarter. His first half was terrific. It was as well as I have seen him play other than the OKC game last year.
  • Trey Burke is just stupid late in games. He was incredibly clutch last year and was at it again tonight.
  • All the guys look better.
  • The Jazz didn’t allow a transition point in the first half and didn’t allow any until midway through the third quarter. For the night they only allowed eight after allowing 10 in the first game. If the Jazz can become a good defensive team in transition, that is the first step into becoming a good overall defensive team.
  • Quin played the nine-man rotation he’ll likely play for most of the season (just replace Dahantay Jones with Rodney Hood). Steve Novak got some spot minutes, but the nine other guys will likely be the rotation.
  • Lots of good passes and good stretches tonight.
  • Interesting that in the first quarter, Coach Snyder checked Enes Kanter out of the game and then after talking to him checked him right back in.
  • Down two with :30 left, Quin went for a 3-pointer. Interesting. Wonder if there is math on this or it was just preseason.
  • “Obvious Unselfish” play of the game—End of the third quarter, Trey Burke running up the floor with seconds left bypasses a 14-footer with two seconds left and instead passes to Danté Exum for a dunk at the buzzer.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Final emptying of the year

  • I didn’t want the season to end and so we got an extra 10 minutes. Really fun final night of the season. A night that highlighted the growth of our guys and left everyone with a good feeling. Let’s just hope those 16 ping-pong balls don’t turn out to be the important ones. This is a terrific group of people—from the players to the coaches to the support staff to my co-workers in the broadcast department—and it is really nice for everyone to leave the season on a positive note.
  • This may have been Trey Burke’s best game of the season. He has improved dramatically in the final month of the season. After a month of staying away from the paint like he was allergic to it, he is now driving into the lane and making plays. The coaching staff worked really hard on getting him to create for his teammates and he started to do that more and more. As he gets stronger in the off-season and works on the types of shots he will need to take to be successful, he will improve dramatically.
  • Trey’s clutch play is incredible—he shot 51% from the field and insane 16-for-29 from three (55%, the second-best rate of anyone in the NBA) and nearly impeccable 16-for-17 from the line (the fifth-best clutch free-throw shooter in the NBA). This is what separates the kid. He has an inappropriate confidence and that is a wonderful thing. This will drive him to success in the NBA.
  • The Jazz played with great pace in the first quarter. With Alec and Jeremy in the starting lineup, the Jazz were a much faster team and got out and ran. Fast-break points only tell part of the story. When they get up the floor in a hurry and keep the pressure up, then any mismatches stay for the whole possession. The Jazz need to play with much more tempo next year. They can’t survive being this young and ranking 26th in pace of play and using the most possessions of anyone in the NBA in the final 12 seconds of the shot clock. This will  be part of Trey’s development as well.
  • Derrick Favors has been steadily building an offensive game piece-by-piece. It’s not a huge “aha” moment—it’s much more subtle. However, more and more he is comfortable in the post, he’s reading the floor correctly, and he’s working off the defender and making plays. He closed the final 20 games of the season averaging 16 points on 56% shooting. Tonight he had 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
  • What a cool way for Jeremy Evans to close the year. He has proven that is he is a viable NBA player. Not sure if he’s a full-time rotation player, but he is a solid player that can help you win games and alter pace. He was very, very good on Love tonight. He got into his body and he denied him any room, and Love didn’t want to fight through it. JE finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
  • How nice for Malcolm Thomas to have something to build from. He looked like an NBA player. He knew where he could have success and how he was going to play.  Nailed a three and showed the ability to play in the post.
  • Tip of the hat to Richard Jefferson for playing 82 games and finishing the year over 40% from three.
  • Gordon Hayward finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Kevin Martin was just 2-for-5 when Hayward switched over to him after Burks had fouled out. Tyrone Corbin’s quick substitution of Hayward in the third quarter was strange but it was fortunate because Hayward ended up logging 46 minutes.
  • Rudy Gobert put out a solid and important 14 minutes. For the first time his length impacted the game offensively as well as defensively. He grabbed three offensive rebounds for put-backs and had eight points and nine rebounds in 13 minutes. He’s a lot further along than anyone thought he would be at this point.
  • Trey Burke was +19 in a six-point win. Kevin Love was -12 in a six-point loss because he played like he had taken Benadryl.
  • Jazz shot 12-for-30 with Gobert on the floor. He’s still an impediment to good offense. He has a chance to be an elite, game-changing defender. He could be Roy Hibbert, who’s also a problem for Indiana on offense.
  • Lineup of Trey, Gordon, Richard, Malcolm Thomas and Derrick Favors was +17 in eight minutes. I knew that was the lineup we should have been using all year.
  • Have a great offseason. Thanks for reading this after every game (well, almost every game). Your passion drives me.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—5 youngs start and get 17 minutes together

  • We finally got to see the five youngs starting together and playing together. It lasted a grand total of 3:36 before Favors committed his second foul and had to go out of the game.
  • They ended up playing 17 minutes in the game. They were outscored 37-36. They scored at a rate of 113 points per 100 possessions but allowed at a rate of 112 per 100 possessions. The offensive rebounding rate was 44%, which is consistent with the level of rebounding they have had as a five-man group all season. However, that is not sustainable. The Jazz only allowed the Blazers to shot 10-for-25 when this lineup was on the floor, but they fouled way too much and allowed the Blazers to go 15-for-18 from the line.
  • The lineup played with pace and had an energy level we haven’t seen a lot of recently. As the game went on some of the guys seemed to wear down. Mental mistakes allowed Wesley Matthews to get a bunch of good looks late in the second quarter and the Jazz lost attention to detail defensively on Lillard late as well. I will have to review some of these plays, but it seemed Alec Burks didn’t have a very good defensive night playing a career-high 42 minutes.
  • Kanter was a force in the first half and the first quarter. He tied his career high for assists in a game. He’s doing a lot of damage on the offensive glass and rebounding with authority. He’s playing with a confidence that he belongs in the game.
  • Kanter went 2-for-7 on shots outside of restricted area, and Favors went 1-for-7 on shots outside restricted area.
  • Utah’s bench was really weak tonight. Gobert played 10 minutes and the Jazz were -12 in those minutes. He played well, but the Jazz couldn’t score when he was on the floor.  The Jazz shot 5-for-14 when Gobert was on the floor.
  • Diante Garrett’s shot has left him.
  • The Jazz were much better on uncontested shots, hitting 19-of-41. Kanter was just 2-for-10 on contested shots.
  • It felt like Gobert had an impact defensively. The Blazers shot 9-for-20 when he was on the floor.
  • Utah’s bench numbers were ugly—Jefferson was -17,  Garrett -15, Gobert -12, Evans -7.
  • Felt like Gordon was very quiet and sat on the bench for a strangely long time in the second quarter. By the end of the night,though, he had 14 points, five rebounds and six assists on 4-for-9 shooting. This is Gordon not forcing the game and only getting nine shots. This is the player he is naturally.
  • It was nice to see the five youngs on the floor together. It would be nice if there was a larger sample size to see all of them play together. However, let’s not confuse this with whether or not they have had a chance to develop. Development does not have to be with the five of them on the floor. The five youngs have played five of the six most amount of minutes this season. Favors probably learns more and has more success with Marvin on the floor. Richard’s ability to spread the floor very well may help Trey. Alec being on the second unit as the primary scoring punch is better for his development and learning than playing with the starters off the ball. So, it’s nice to see and it will make the final games more interesting, but the five youngs playing together and their development are not intertwined.