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.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz show major growth in Indiana

  • This was as good a game as I can recall this year. It was carried by our five youngsters for most of the night. All of them showed what they are capable of doing in this league, and all of them made significant errors against a great team—and when you do that you pay for it. That is why I loved this game. The kids showed what they can do, and at the same time their weaknesses got exposed. Milwaukee can’t do that. Boston can’t do that. Only great teams can do that, and that is how they will learn.
  • Utah’s defense continues to make major strides. The Jazz came in the game 7th in the NBA in EFG% defense over the last 20 games and held the Pacers to 41.5% shooting (and 5-for-15 from 3-point range. This is a big development with this team.
  • The Pacers could have been a real problem for the Jazz and they battled through it.   We’ve had a bunch of guys who have been struggling, and this could have been a night that derailed them. Instead, they all ended with solid offensive nights.
  • Derrick Favors’ first quarter was awesome: 11 points, 6 rebounds and one assist, and he dominated Hibbert. He got Hibbert out of the game with foul trouble and was the best big on the floor.
  • Favors and Kanter had a very exciting two-play sequence. On one end, Kanter hit Favors on a paint-to-paint pass and Favors was fouled, and then Favors hit Kanter on a paint-to-paint pass for a  Kanter dunk. These are huge developments for both of these guys. They have to be able to pass if they are going to be able to play together. Favors’ passing is so much better this season. He is really become an ok passer. Kanter has a long way to go, but he is getting better all the time.
  • Both Hayward and Burks continued their upward trend. Gordon finished with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, and Trey hit 5-for-9 shots plus he drew a foul and finished with 16 points.
  • 18 turnovers was too many and guys got loose with the ball at times. Very poor outlet passes, not secure with the handle, bad passes above the free-throw line, moving picks, etc. Can’t do these things against great teams. They cost you points, and the Jazz allowed 24 points off of turnovers.
  • Utah had a good offensive game plan. The understood how Indiana’s defense was going to rotate and what Indiana was taking away and where to get some good looks.
  • Alec Burks went 5-for-16. This is a bad matchup for him. This is the best rim-protecting team in the NBA. But this is where he has to become a better mid-range shooter. His 32.9% is the fifth-worst mid-range percentage in NBA among players who have taken at least 125 attempts. Only Rubio, Prince, Millsap and Jeff Green are worse. However, he did a ton of other things tonight. He made some great passes and finished with seven assists and grabbed nine rebounds. He played a very strong complete game.
  • Enes had his best two-play post sequence of the season. He drop-stepped to the baseline and came up the reverse side, and then on the next play hit a rolling hook across the middle. He has been working hard with Alex Jensen on his post moves to make them quicker and less “Al Jefferson lite”—and it is working and it shows.   Couple that with his jumper, and you have a makings of an offensive player. The only concern is he has stopped getting fouled. Zero free throws in 13 shot attempts.
  • It felt as though Kanter played some of the best defense I’ve seen from him this season on the pick and roll. He made mistakes and got split on occasion, but overall you can see his understanding of the concepts and major growth from even the beginning of the month.
  • The Jazz played a good portion of the game with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors. They played nine minutes together and the Jazz were outscored in those 9 minutes 26-14. The Pacers shot 9-for-14 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range while hitting 6 of 7 from the line. In those nine minutes, Utah’s offensive rating was 88 and the defensive rating was 152. For the game, Utah’s defensive rating was 104.
  • The Jazz were down by four with 13 seconds left and ended up taking a 2-pointer. I thought the first look was for a three and it wasn’t there. However, it is not obvious when you look at the numbers if you should shoot a three or a two. If you walk the numbers down, it is really close over two possessions what the right call is. You need the opponent to miss one free throw, which if they are an 80% free-throw shooting team should happen 60% of the time. Even if it is only one possession, an 80% free-throw shooter makes both 64% of the time and misses one 32% of the time or both 4% of the time. When you shoot the two you are banking on that 36% chance coming up, and that might be a better chance than a forced 3-pointer. If you are down five you MUST shoot the three or you are banking on the 4%.
  • A ton to talk about in this game. I hope I hit it all. Lots of really good signs and lots of room for improvement. Also, how cool would have that been if Hawyard’s shot had gone in?

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.