EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Bad matchup for the Jazz

  • Bad night for the Jazz. Bad matchup for the Jazz. Minnesota and Cleveland are similar—they are bad fast-break defensive teams who don’t defend the paint or the restricted area well. The Jazz are not capable of taking advantage of those areas, and in turn Minnesota and Cleveland suddenly look much better than they are and we look worse than we are.
  • The Jazz went 14-for-29 from deep, 11-for-25 in the paint and 3-for-26 from mid-range. This is somewhat how Cleveland defends. They are one of the worst teams in the NBA at preventing 3-point shots. So what do you do? The Jazz were getting threes and hitting them. Then they went away from it because at some point you have to get into the paint … or are you just playing into their hands? The Jazz  went 6-for-7 in the first quarter from three and then in second went 2-for-6 and in the third they were 3-for-6 again before falling to 3-for-10 in the fourth quarter. But the real issue is that the Jazz didn’t make their 2-pointers or their paint shots. In the second quarter, they went 2-for-7 in the paint (and 1-for-7 from mid-range). In the third quarter, the Jazz went 4-for-8 in the paint (and 0-for-7 from mid range). And in the fourth quarter, the Jazz went 2-for-5 in paint (and 1-for-5 from mid-range).
  • Gordon Hayward had another strong game and opened it by hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter. He added seven rebounds and seven assists to his 18 points. He also had two steals and two blocks.
  • Trey Burke’s no-free-throw streak continued. He has taken four free throws (two techs and one foul on a defensive rebound) in 488 minutes. He averaged five a game in college.
  • In the first half, the Cavs were 5-for-15 in the paint when Favors was in the game and 5-for-8 when he was on the bench, but from the opening of the third quarter on, the Jazz didn’t put up any defensive resistance.
  • Utah’s a very slow-paced team. They had some early opportunities in the first half but then slowed to a halt as the game went on—and the half court offense also left.
  • The bench unit had a very poor second quarter.
  • Kyrie Irving is really good. The Jazz dealt with him well in the first half—he was 2-for-8 and feeding others rather than getting himself going, but that all changed in the third quarter (similar to the game in Utah).
  • The Cavaliers fronted the post after the first quarter when Favors got deep position on some post-ups and the Jazz couldn’t take advantage. They tried to go high-low and they tried to swing it, but it never materialized.
  • Alec played a little at the point. Kanter and Favors played together. Corbin tried a little bit of everything and none of it worked.
  • Burks’ mid-range shooting from the left side is an issue for him.
  • Brandon Rush was disengaged in his first appearance in a few games and got pulled quickly.
  • Poor night. It doesn’t get any easier with the vaunted Indiana defense up next.
  • Hope you liked “Undercover Boss.”

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Professional performance by the Jazz

  • The Jazz blew out the short-handed Suns and moved to 18-9 when healthy. Utah played enough defense in the second, third and fourth quarters to make it tough on the Suns, and Phoenix didn’t have the firepower to fight against it.
  • Gordon Hayward finished an assist short of the triple double. The big moment to me was when Hayward missed back-to-back threes from his old sweet spot on the right side of the floor, and instead of falling out of favor with the game as he did against Minnesota, he jacked it up a notch. He went to the basket hard. He got in the open floor. He attacked the rim for some great dunks. And he finished with a huge night.  All 10 of his rebounds were on the defensive glass.
  • The Jazz have won seven of their last eight with Derrick Favors in the lineup. The schedule has given the Jazz some breaks (tonight for example) but this team—when healthy—has figured out how to play and how to win. It is an impressive step for this team. Favors covers an enormous amount of ground on the floor, but also holds court around the rim. Utah’s defense in games when Favors starts without Kanter allows 98.6 points, and tonight held the Suns to 86 points. When Favors is out, the Jazz allow 105 points.
  • Richard Jefferson got it rolling again after a brief shooting slump (33% from three is now a slump for Jefferson). He went 6-for-8 (and 2-for-3 from three) for 17 points.
  • Diante Garrett played for the Suns last year, and was let go after Summer League this year … then dropped a career-high 15 points on the Suns tonight. The best moment was when the Suns dropped off him on the right angle and he hit the three and then stared at the bench, which had been yelling at the defender to drop off.
  • Garrett hit 3 of 4 threes tonight, making him 19 of 47 (40.4%) for the season.
  • Doing what your are supposed to do in this league should not be pushed aside as doing nothing. Tonight was a nice professional win for a young team.
  • See you on the road.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Favors and Burks lead the way

  • It is so nice to have Derrick Favors on the floor. Utah moved to 17-9 when playing a full roster. The Jazz’s rim protection tonight was much better than it has been, but the great thing tonight was that Favors was an offensive force. He hit two mid-range jumpers in the third quarter, and also hit a sick baseline turnaround jumper. This shot has not been falling for Favors—he is just 29% from mid-range this season—but if he can start to knock these down he can become a legitimate offensive player as well as a great defensive player. Favors’ value is real.
  • The Jazz did a better job of getting out in the open floor and hitting with some early chances tonight.
  • Marvin Williams had awesome energy, both offensively and on defense.
  • Hayward plays well with Favors. It’s no surprise that he had 10 assists tonight.
  • Corbin changed the rotation tonight and didn’t play Brandon Rush. He also played Kanter and Favors together for short spurts on the floor.
  • Burks is playing super basketball. Tonight he defended Rondo when Burke couldn’t get any stops. Burks has always been a good defender on the ball, particularly on the point guard. He’s getting better and better at getting off picks and staying on the ball. He’s getting better at staying with it for entire possessions. These are very important steps in his development. On the offensive side, not every drive is to the basket. Instead, he is finding people on the drive before it is do-or-die time. He is playing under control in a manner that allows his teammates to know where he is going and play off of him. These are very exciting things for Alec. 20 points a game over the last six games is nice, but these other issue are going to change him from a Jerryd Bayless type who doesn’t help you win to a complete player that helps put Ws on the board.
  • Jeremy Evans had a career-high four blocks.
  • Phil Johnson said on the air tonight that Enes Kanter will become a 3-point shooter in the NBA.
  • Solid win. Phoenix is next and then the road trip.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Kanter strong, Jazz fade

  • Similar game to the other night where the Jazz pushed a superior team to its limit and then the playoff team kicked in and pulled away from the Jazz. In both of these games the Jazz played really well for an extended period of time, but in the end the playoff team made the necessary plays late in the game.
  • Enes Kanter had his seventh 20-10 game of his career and his sixth this season. He added a career-high four assists. Considering his entire rookie year he had eight assists, four in one game is great progress. Kanter did a lot of different things offensively. He is hitting the left baseline jumper at around 50% this year. He also worked to the middle of the lane for a hook. He tried to drive a few times, and most of all he used his body to get opportunities on the offensive glass. This was a very nice performance by Kanter.
  • Kanter seemed to get tired as the night went on (not surprising at 36 minutes) and Gobert didn’t give the Jazz as much as he had some of the other nights, so Kanter got asked for more tonight. Kanter is doing a better job defensively and he is trying to hold his verticality—however, he really lacks the length and athleticism to protect the rim.
  • Utah went just 8-for-22 from the field in the fourth quarter. Most of the struggles were to open the fourth, when the Blazers broke away on 16-4 run over the first 6:37 of the game. The Jazz had Garrett, Burks, Hayward, Evans and Gobert on the floor to start the quarter. Kanter and Jefferson came in at the 10:04, and Burke, Marvin and Hayward re-entered at the 6:10 mark, and none of them turned the tide.
  • Jazz got a matchup they liked in the fourth with Lillard trying to guard Hayward—and Hayward torched him. At the same time, Jefferson struggled with Matthews and when the Jazz brought Alec back to deal with Matthews, Lillard switched off of Hayward.
  • The fourth-quarter drought was connected to Alec not finding a way to score like he had in the past games. Alec was 0-for-4 with a turnover in that stretch. The Jazz were 1-for-11 with five turnovers in this stretch.
  • For a while the Jazz avoided having Trey and Gordon off the floor at the same time, but this seems to no longer be as much of a focus. The Jazz were -6 when both were on the bench tonight.
  • The Blazers allow the ball handler on the pick and roll to get good looks, and throughout the season have allowed big numbers to opposing point guards and ball-handing wings. Trey and Gordon took advantage of that tonight. Trey was 8-for-16 and went over 20 points for the first time since the game in Detroit.  Hayward had 17 on 5-for-11 shooting and only took one three tonight. The two also combined for 14 assists and 13 rebounds.
  • Hayward went to the line six times.
  • Utah’s 16 turnovers were a lot against a team that doesn’t force turnovers. Five players had at least two, led by Alec’s three.
  • Lillard was the star late. After going scoreless in the third quarter, he went for 15 in the fourth to take over the game without LaMarcus Aldridge available.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz fall short in second half vs. Nets

  • In the first half of the game the Jazz were as good as they have been when short-handed this year. They moved the ball. They got open looks. Defensively in the first quarter they were tight. At the half they led 56-48 after having played as well as they could. The Nets had to win this game, though, and that showed in the second half as they stalked the Jazz down and got the win.
  • Trey Burke had a very good first quarter. He hit a bunch of shots in the first quarter and before tonight he had been shooting 33% in first quarters. He had eight points and really played well. The concern on Burke is his utter lack of free-throw shooting.  Over the last 333 minutes he has not shot a free throw off anything other than a technical. That is a really long time. It spans over 11 games. Trey has to find a way to get to the line. He can’t be an effective NBA player without that as part of his game.
  • Alec Burks’ first quarter was as good as I have seen from him in regard to team play. He moved the ball and he moved without the ball. Burks has a gift in his ability to beat his man and to get to the basket. He makes defenses collapse—now he needs to make plays for his teammates. If he can start to penetrate and kick to his teammates for good 3-point looks after the defense collapses on his drive, he’ll become a major weapon.
  • Without Derrick Favors, Utah’s paint defense is really poor. The Jazz allowed 48 points in the paint to a team that ranks 27th in points in the paint and 30th in points in the restricted area. Enes Kanter is not going to be a rim protector, so he must learn how to move and be in position to impact the game defensively with the correct body position. Right now he is not quick enough to do that, and he is not anticipating it quickly enough. That will hopefully come with time
  • Since Jan. 1, the Jazz are 29th in the league at forcing turnovers and the Nets are No. 1. The Jazz turned it over 18 times tonight and the Nets turned it over seven (a season low). The Jazz have been good at defending the shot recently, but tonight they allowed 50% shooting and nine 3-pointers for an EFG% of 55.4%, which is high. The league average is 50%. The Nets have not been a good offensive team recently.
  • Jeremy Evans grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds in just 20 minutes.
  • The Nets started switching defensively and it took away the Jazz’s ability to hit the three. The Jazz nailed the three early, and then when the Nets started switching everything the Jazz couldn’t get the same looks—but at the same time were unable to take advantage of the switches, which were creating favorable mismatches.
  • Utah did a nice job on the glass, grabbing 33 of the 38 chances on the defensive glass.
  • Seven turnovers by Hayward and Burks feels like a lot.
  • Off to Portland to play the shorthanded Blazers. The Jazz have won just once all year when Kanter has started.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Utah’s first 3-game win streak of the season

  •  Alec Burks. Alec Burks. Alec Burks. In a strange game without a lot of rhythm, Alec Burks was terrific. He is playing with extreme confidence. He has become more aggressive. Richard Jefferson said it well earlier this year—he was east/west trying to not make mistakes and figure out how to play with the increased minutes. Now he is playing with a relentlessness that is the essence of his game. Burks has an elite skill—he can get to the rim and finish at a level few can equal, and he is now using that as the foundation for his game. Back-to-back 20 point nights for the first time in his career.
  • With two minutes left in the game, the Jazz had fallen apart and Tyrone Corbin gave the ball to Alec Burks, who scored nine straight points to clinch the victory for the Jazz.
  • Favors went down on the first play of the game and you could see how much the Jazz missed him throughout the game.
  • Brett Brown played Hack-a-Gobert and Rudy hit the first free throw and stared at Brown. Then when he hit the next one he pointed at him. It was hysterical … but then he got fouled and missed the next two. Rudy had a good game. He feels the game. He has a lot of strength work to do and that should help his ability to catch if he has a better base, but he feels the game and moves with it well.
  • Gordon Hayward had an awesome chase-down block at the end of the first half on Moultrie. It was a vintage Hayward chase-down as the buzzer sounded.
  • Michael Carter-Williams got the Pyrrhic victory. He won the battle with Trey Burke but lost the war. MCW outplayed Burke and caused him huge problems with his length.   Trey is going to be very busy in New Orleans, but he needs to get his legs back. The next 30 games are going to be important. Trey has gone 298 minutes without going to the line on anything other than two technical free throws. In this same time period he is shooting 30%. He is exhausted, but he needs to find out how to get to the line and how to be an offensive player. The Jazz are asking him to be a playmaker and run the offense like a true point, but he needs to still impact the game.
  • Marvin Williams had 14 rebounds tonight. He was vital with Favors out of the game.
  • Hayward’s shooting is still off, but he had seven rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. That is pretty awesome.
  • Have a nice All-Star break.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz blow out the Lakers

  • Road wins by 17 points don’t happen a lot in this league. The Lakers are awful and injured, and that makes them a very weak opponent. The Jazz did what they should have tonight. When the Jazz are healthy, they are not in the class with the terrible teams in the NBA. In fact, the complete opposite—when healthy, the Jazz have proven that they compete at a high level, and that is what they did tonight in blowing out the Lakers.
  • I am convinced the Lakers put this roster together to be terrible and knew it was going to happen this way. There was no reasonable person who really thought Kobe could come back at a high level and then they are a simple Pau Gasol trade away from being the worst in the West, and that is where they are.
  • Alec Burks scored 20+ points for the tenth time in his career and the ninth time this season. He was a game-changer going to the basket and making plays. Moreover, I thought he played a more complete game. He got beat on a few backdoors, but he was on the defensive game plan. He handled Marshall well and he played a very engaged game.
  • The Jazz opened on a 7-0 run and then fell apart, but answered with a dominating 36-10 run from the end of the first quarter until halftime. The run was started by Evans, Burks and Kanter.
  • Jeremy Evans was nailing the jumper tonight. He had a tough time defensively when Jordan Hill tried to overpower him, but he was great with the little hopper from 16 feet tonight—14 points on seven jumpers.
  • Enes Kanter had 11 rebounds.
  • More importantly, Kanter threw three passes tonight that I have not seen him throw very often. He threw one pass out of the middle of the lane to the corner-three shooter. He kicked out quickly from the post cross court on another pass. He must learn how to pass or he isn’t an effective offensive player.
  • Richard Jefferson had some nice leadership moments with Gordon Hayward tonight when things didn’t go G’s way.
  • Gordon looked miserable to start the game. He looked like he was unhappy on the floor. But for the second straight night he went and did the little things to get himself going. This is enormous. Tonight he drove to the rim, he posted up Blake and he got his game rolling. Against Miami he did it with offensive rebounds. This is the growth of learning how to get out of slumps we talked about earlier this year.
  • Solid win against an awful team. Hopefully I write the same thing tomorrow night.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz answer every shot from Heat

  • The Jazz beat the Heat. Huge night for the confidence of our young players. Utah has beat the Heat and the Thunder on its home floor. Home-court advantage at EnergySolutions Arena in front of the great Jazz fans is never going away.
  • Lots of enormous plays by the Jazz to win this game. Close game down the stretch against the Heat and the Jazz won. Jazz have won a remarkable amount of close games this year for a team as young as this one. Marvin hit back-to-back threes (one that was a shot-clock prayer) to maintain the Jazz’s lead with just over three minutes left. Favors nailed both free throws on a generous call with 1:57 left, Jefferson hit a jumper with 1:26 left to put the Jazz up six. Then the biggest of all: Trey Burke did it again, hitting a 19-footer with game down to  a single possession, putting the Jazz up by four.
  • The game was 77-74 with 6:25 left and the Jazz scored on seven of their next 11 possessions for 16 points. Against a world champ that is big-time play offensively.
  • In that same time period, the Heat scored on eight of 10 possession. For the Jazz to handle that onslaught and keep making plays is super impressive.
  • The Jazz played from ahead for most of the night. A 12-2 run in the first quarter them a 12-point lead after 12 minutes, and then they held to a two-point lead at the half and a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Playing from ahead is a big deal.
  • Key stretch of the game was the opening of the fourth quarter. With LeBron on the bench, the Jazz took the two-point lead up to seven (with the help of two straight buckets by Enes Kanter), and that gave them enough wiggle room to close the game.
  • Marvin Williams has been feeling it and led the way again tonight. He nailed five 3-pointers—the most in a game in his career. He had 23 points. He also guarded LeBron for a huge part of the night.
  • Gordon Hayward has been struggling but he got himself going with hustle plays tonight. He grabbed two offensive rebounds that got his game going. Gordon looked pretty fragile for a few games recently and when he missed two layups early it felt like a night where he could have gone the other way. Instead, he battled through and finished with a big-time night with nine points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. That is impressive. Not a lot of players in the league can put that type of night together. He also had three steals.
  • First time in eight games Trey Burke has shot over 40% (5-for-11). For Trey Burke to pull up for the game-clincher after shooting 25% in the last five games is either steely or insane. Whatever it is, it tells you a lot about this kid.
  • Kanter had a better night and was more aggressive going to the basket. He was really quick with one move on Anderson and had a great dunk down the lane.
  • LeBron just never engaged in the game. The Jazz deserve some credit because the they never let the Heat get on one of their vintage runs. I don’t believe the Heat had anything more than a 6-0 run at any point. Five turnovers for LeBron and only 4-for-13 shooting. You are not going to see that very often. LeBron dictates every matchup, every night—so it was a case of him being off his game more than the Jazz derailing him.
  • The bellwether for the Heat is Chris Bosh, and he was 3-for-12.
  • Big-time win for the kids. Two more before the break.