EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Stifling defense leads to mammoth run and opening night win

Emptying the Noggin — Defense and depth win it for the Jazz

SUMMARY: A remarkable defensive effort sparked a mammoth 3rd quarter run that ultimately led the Jazz to a 10-point win over the Denver Nuggets, 106-96.
• The question tonight was this: What happens when a great defensive team plays a great offensive team? The Denver offense — which was #1 in the NBA for the last 30 games of last season — was dictating the game for most of the night and led 70-55 in the 3rd quarter. Then, the Jazz’s defense started to take hold by forcing turnovers and flustering the Nuggets’ offense, which whittled the Denver lead down to just five points by the end of the 3rd quarter. The clamps came down full force in the 4th quarter and the Jazz flipped the game entirely.

• The Jazz trailed 70-55 and then led by 103-88 after starting the 4th quarter on a 25-5 run.

• Defense and depth were the story for the Jazz. The Jazz bench’s plus-minus numbers were incredible: Thabo Sefolosha was +25, Ekpe Udoh was +24, Donovan Mitchell was +22 and Alec Burks was +16.

• Alec Burks was terrific in the 4th quarter. He had 10 points in the 4th, hitting two major threes. On the first, the Nuggets went under a pick and Burks rose up and buried the three. He got another look in transition and buried it. Finally, he ball-faked a three on the right wing and drove down the baseline to hit a reverse flip to bring the arena to its feet and force the Nuggets into another timeout.

• The Jazz got great offensive balance tonight. Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 18 points, Burks had 16, Favors had 14, Johnson had 13, Ingles had 11, Mitchell had 10, Rubio had 9 and Sefolosha had 7 points.

• Each player had spurts in the game to keep the Jazz’s offense going. Ingles hit three 3-pointers in the first half, Favors scored eight straight points to open the 3rd quarter, Joe Johnson was the key late in the 3rd quarter and Alec Burks was a beast in the 4th quarter.

• The Jazz’s defense was incredible. They held a great offensive team to less than one point per possession, allowing just 35 points in the second half.

• The Jazz did this very differently than they did it last year. Last season, the Jazz’s defense was a shell defense that forced bad shots and ran people into Rudy Gobert. Tonight, Utah forced 21% of Denver’s possession into turnovers. Last year, the Jazz were 25th in the NBA in forcing turnovers at 11%.

• Denver is a tough match-up for the Jazz as Nikola Jokic pulls Gobert out of onto the floor and this caused the Jazz a ton of problems in the first half. Denver was knocking down shots and scoring at an alarming rate. The Jazz addressed this in the second half and shut down the Nuggets.

• Rodney Hood was announced as a starter and was then unable to play due to gastric distress which forced rookie Donovan Mitchell into the starting lineup. Hood never got going and the Jazz were a -13 when he was on the floor. Hood went 2 of 4 from the field in 27 minutes.

• The new timeout rules had a big impact on the game tonight. When the Jazz starting to blow the game open, Mike Malone called an early timeout in the 4th quarter but then was down to only two timeouts for the rest of the game. He tried to avoid calling another one as the run continued because he didn’t want to be down to one and the Jazz kept their momentum. Denver is a young team with inexperienced point guard play. The new rules could be very difficult for a team with this type of make up on the road. The veteran presence the Jazz added may turn out to be very valuable with the new timeout rules.

• What an opening night. The first 30 minutes were every fan’s worst case scenario of what the Jazz might look like and the final 18 were beyond what Jazz fans could imagine.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Mitchell was special in a close game finsih for Jazz

SUMMARY: In the final pre-season game of the season the Jazz got a close game experience for the first time and were able to pull out a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers 105-99.
• Donovan Mitchell stole the show throughout the night, but most of all in the final moments. Mitchell connected for the final 5 points of the game to put the Jazz ahead to stay. The Jazz closed the game on a 7-0 run. Mitchell hit an incredibly tough shot on a drive to the basket when he wanted to go with his right hand from 7 feet out, but the defender eliminated that option and he switched to his left hand and hit the shot. Then on the next possession, he hit a catch and shoot three to seal the game. Mitchell finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

• Jazz trailed by 6 with 5:00 minutes left. They trailed 97-95 with 3:55 left and closed on a 10-2 run. Gobert had a jam follow and then split two free throws. Mitchell followed with the next 5 points and Rubio hit two free throws. In that time the Lakers had 1 field goal.

• After the game in our post-game interview Ricky Rubio seemed very impressed by the rookie. Interestingly, he talked about how he is constantly asking questions and trying to learn.

• Rodney Hood only played 4 minutes due to a sore neck. The Jazz also were without Raul Neto (hamstring) and Dante Exum (shoulder) so it left Mitchell to play a significant role and he rose to the occasion. He was terrific throughout the game. After the game, the Lakers press room was buzzing about the play of Mitchell.

• The Jazz played a fairly normal rotation on the back end of a back to back for their final regular season game. Rudy Gobert played 33 minutes and finished with 29 points. He only had 30 or more once all of last season. The Jazz offense is predicated on the pick and roll with Gobert putting pressure on the rim. For all the talk about Hood and others using all of Hayward possessions, maybe it is going to Gobert that has the increased roll in the offense. It still will have to be predicated off getting the ball off of other people’s actions. Clearly, it is the major focus of the offense.

• Ricky Rubio took 18 shots tonight. The Jazz need Rubio to use possessions. He has never played on a team that needs him to take this large a roll in the offense. It will be interesting to see if that helps his shooting. He was 6 of 18 tonight, but he went to the line 9 times, making 8. The free throws were able to make him an efficient offensive player tonight.

• The Jazz closed the game with Rubio, Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson and Gobert. Johnson is going to be a large part of the Jazz closing offense. He is very calm. He can space the floor and needs attention if he is spotted up or if he has a mismatch he can go into the paint and get that little hood that crucified the Clippers.

• Game was played at a pace of 103 possessions which is about 10 faster than the Jazz a year ago. Pre-Season basketball is usually 4 or 5 possessions faster than a regular season game.

• The Jazz defensive rating tonight was 96.0. That will win a lot of games.

• Jazz defensive rebounding percentage was an incredible 87%. The negative of the night was the Jazz turned the ball over on 19% of his possessions.

• Solid win. Good experience playing a back to back and then having a close game down the stretch.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN Jazz do two things they will need to do all year

SUMMARY: Jazz defense exposed all of Phoenix weaknesses in a 120-102 blowout of the Suns in pre-season game #4
• If the Jazz are going to be good this year they will need to do two things they did tonight. First, they will need to be good defensively when Rudy Gobert is off the floor. Second, they will need to take advantage of inferior teams.

• Last year, when the Jazz went to Derrick Favors and Joe Johnson as the front court the defense was a wreck. The defensive rating was 126, league average is about 106.5 and the worst in the league is 112. Overall the defense was 107.5 when Gobert was off the floor. Tonight, Derrick Favors and Epke Udoh had terrific defensive nights.

• Derrick Favors is able to play the pick and roll much more aggressively than Rudy Gobert. With Gobert’s ability to defend the rim when he is involved in a pick and roll you want him to drop back toward the basket. When Favors is involved he can step up and play even to the screen or even a step above the screen and really impact the ball handler. He did that tonight and it caused Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker a great deal of discomfort. It helps that the Suns don’t have a great roll big or great passers.

• The Jazz dominated this game with their defense, exposing the weaknesses of the Suns. The Suns are not good passers. The Jazz forced 31 turnovers. The Jazz defense was rotating very well and getting into the passing lanes as well as anticipating the next pass. At the same time, Phoenix is not a good passing team and too often start to pass with no idea where it is going.

• The Jazz are going to need to beat bad teams this year. Moreover, they are going to have to dominate them defensively. The Jazz roster is deep, but it doesn’t have anyone who can carry the load for a night while the other guys get a break. Instead, the Jazz will have to bring high level effort each night and most of all when playing inferior teams.

• Ricky Rubio stole a pass on the opening possession of the game and took it for a layup. It ignited the Jazz defense and Rubio’s offense. Rubio scored 9 straight points to open the game and 20 in the first half of 8 of 10 shooting.

• Epke Udoh is really good defensively. He had a steal out on the floor where he reached in a stole a ball from Bledsoe and he is regularly blocking shots that no one anticipates. He is not tall, but he is long and it is as though offensive player don’t expect him to get to some of the shot he is able to alter or block.

• Raul Neto played the majority of the back up point guard moments. Quin Snyder said on the pre-game show he doesn’t want to burden Mitchell with the point guard responsibilities. Donovan Mitchell joined our post game show and said playing the point changes his mentality entirely from playing the shooting guard.

• Alex Burks got the back up three minutes in the first half

• Tony Bradley has learned a nice floater around the rim. He has a very good quick release on the shot.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Exum injured, toughness and a running game

SUMMARY: In their first pre-season game against an NBA team the Jazz showed their new approach and ran away from the Phoenix Suns 112-101
• Dante Exum was injured in the opening portion of the game. He got caught in the air around the basket and went down hard on his shoulder. He banged his feet in pain and then popped up grabbing his left shoulder and ran to the locker-room. At this moment the official word is left shoulder injury. This is a serious bummer considering the work Dante put in during the off-season and his effort to break through this season. Quin Snyder said he is heading for imaging but if you saw his shoulder it didn’t look good.

• The biggest thing that jumped out to me tonight is the Jazz are tougher than they have been in the past. Ricky Rubio battles for loose balls and is always in the mix. Donovan Mitchell, Thabo Sefolosha, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and more are always scrapping. This team has a toughness to it.

• The Jazz lead 28-25 after the first quarter and then ran away with the game in the 2nd quarter. They lead by as many as 22 in the 2nd quarter 65-43.

• Phoenix was not a good transition defensive team last year and that seemed to be the case again tonight. The Jazz are really focusing on running off of the opponents misses and they were able to do that tonight

• The Jazz dominated the offensive glass. They had 19 offensive rebounds on 54 chances for 35% offensive rebounding rate. Moreover, they scored 26 2nd chance points. This might be a bit of the model on how the Jazz are able to be successful offensive team this year. They dominate the glass and then hit some threes and that makes for at least an average offense.

• I had the game at 98 possessions and the Jazz allowed 101 points so the defense was solid but not great tonight.

• Rodney Hood started slowly, but managed to fit his grove and lead the Jazz with 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting and took 4 free throws as well.

• Alec Burks continues his strong pre-season with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist. With Dante Exum out Burks may find himself with a roll in the rotation and with some serious playing time.

• Ekpe Udoh and Joel Bolomboy had really strong 4th quarters to close out the win. Earlier in the day, Udoh said he was one of the best defenders in the world and tonight he showed that to be true. His really long. His length impacted a lot of shots that I don’t think guys thought he could impact. He plays good position basketball and he plays really smart basketball.

• Joel Bolomboy continues to play well. He has shown a variety of parts to his game. He hit another three. He played off the bounce. He showed his rebounding.

• Rudy Gobert had 3 assists to lead the team.

• Donovan Mitchell was forced into playing the point guard with Exum and Neto out of the game and it impacted his shooting. He went 3 for 16 from the field. Nothing to worry about it. He was generally in control and the shots weren’t forced or selfish.

• Overall a good night. The Jazz are trying to run and they were able to do it against Phoenix. If they couldn’t run v. Phoenix then it would be a problem.

• Devin Booker really doesn’t like playing Joe Ingles.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz win over Kings in solid effort

SUMMARY: As expected the Utah Jazz were the superior team in a pre-season match-up with the Sydney Kings rolling to a harmless win.
• Huge focus by the Jazz to increase tempo after misses. The Jazz did this early in the game and ran away to a big lead. However, they were unable to sustain that for the entire night and that is what is so hard about trying to be a running team is maintaining that level of energy for the entire night.

• The coaching staff wanted to make sure the Jazz never let the Kings get comfortable. They did this perfectly in the 1st quarter and took a commanding lead. However, in the 2nd quarter the Kings got more comfortable and outscored the Jazz in the 2nd quarter. The game got down to 9 points in the 3rd quarter before the Jazz took control.

• The Jazz played vertically at the rim all night. They were playing about the box all night. Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles were feeding Rudy Gobert all night. It will be interesting to see against an NBA team with bigger guys if the Jazz are able to do the same thing.

• Dante Exum played tenacious defense in the 2nd half of the game and played with great juice.

• Alec Burks 4th quarter was super exciting. He unofficially had 5 assists in the quarter. More importantly, he played the game a step ahead. He was seeing plays as they happened or even before they happened. His weakness in the past has been and he has self-admitted this, that he didn’t know where he was going so none of his teammates knew where he was going. Tonight, it was against lesser talent, but he was really sharp and played ahead of the game.

• None of the stats are official but we had Rodney Hood for 23 points.

• Jazz played Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert to start the 1st and 3rd quarter. Otherwise, the Jazz played Joe Johnson and Jonas Jerebko as the stretch 4 for most of the night. It will be really interesting to watch how the Jazz use their bigs and how much Favors and Gobert play together. Favors was the other center when Gobert was on the bench for much of the night.

• Donovan Mitchell was quiet in the 1st half. In the 2nd half he had some really nice plays. He went on a one on one drive and right when it looked like he going to force a shot he found Epke Udoh wide open for a dunk. Then the next play he spaced perfectly and hit a catch and shoot 3.

• Ricky Rubio is such a good passer the Jazz players are getting balls in places they never imagined. Both Favors and Gobert made great passes to the corner on mid rolls. This is a must because Rubio is going to get them the ball on the roll and if the defense shifts they have to be able to adjust and make that pass to the corner.

• The Sydney Kings were great fun. Andrew Gaze, the head coach, had a wonderful attitude and fun pre-game press conference. It was interesting to hear them talk about the different ball and the impact it had on their practices. Tom Garlepp joined us for our pre-game show and was a kick as well.

• The Kings gave the Jazz exactly what the Jazz needed. The Kings put up resistance and forced the Jazz to play the game correctly. They had enough talent to push the Jazz and the Jazz got a lot of tape they can learn from in game #1.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Thanks

To Jazz Nation,

Thank you for a wonderful season. This has been a great ride, watching the years of building and work come to fruition. Watching Gordon grow from the scrawny kid from Indiana to an All-Star. To see Rudy Gobert become a bona fide threat in the NBA. Admiring Quin Snyder and his coaching staff and their incredible effort and preparation. There are so many memories.

Your passion drives me every day to give everything I have to this job. I sincerely hope you feel that from me. Thank you. It has been an honor and privilege to bring you Jazz basketball for this season. I’m excited for opening day 2017.

David

Emptying the Noggin — The Warriors’ MVPs win the game

Summary: The Warriors’ MVPs answered the bell late with an incredible performance from Kevin Durant.

  • In his postgame press conference, Quin Snyder said, “We played better than we did the first two nights and uh… uh…” He proceeded to give more of an answer but had he stopped right there, it might have summed up everything in this series. The Jazz did so much tonight and played so hard and “uh… uh…”

 

  • The game was 80-79 with 5:57 left and from that point forward, the only Warriors points were scored by Durant and Curry. They outscored the Jazz 22-12 in the final 5:57. The Jazz missed shots but the Warriors were just remarkable late in the game.

 

  • The exciting thing for Jazz fans is the foundational pieces for the Jazz — Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert — have been incredible in the playoffs. The fight these two have shown is awesome. Gordon is a different player than he was when the playoffs started. He did it again tonight. He simply carried this team when he realized others were making plays. He had 29 points and six assists. He was super aggressive against amazing defense. He hit and took tough shots. He played with a confidence and swagger that will carry him to big places next year.

 

  • Gobert is proving he is ready for the moment. He was a force again tonight. He was 7-8 from the field and had 21 points and 15 rebounds. His effort never wavers. His pursuit of excellence is tremendous. These two guys have shown they are ready for these moments and the Jazz have a bright future with these two. Now, the front office has to build a team around them and add the pieces that fit. The third piece who compliments what they do is vital.

 

  • The key stretch of the game was when Utah was down three, 82-79, and Hayward drove into the lane, three players collapsed on him and he swung to a wide open Boris Diaw who missed an 18 footer. Then Curry hit two free throws to make it a five-point game. Gobert hit two free throws to make it a three-point game again and after a stop, Hayward drove again, the defense collapsed again and he made a great pass to the corner to Joe Johnson who missed a 3, then Durant pulled from 19 to make it a five-point game. After Hayward hit three free throws to make it a two-point game, Curry hit a 3-footer. Hayward missed and Durant followed with a two and it was an eight-point game with 3:19 left. The night was over.

 

  • The Jazz shot 12 of 39 in the second half of the game.

 

  • Durant was incredible. On a night when Curry was just 6 of 20 and Thompson was 1 for 9, the Warriors now have Kevin Durant to score 38 points, grab 13 rebounds and carry them to the win.

 

  • Rodney Hood is now 36 of 100 in the playoffs and 13 of 48 from 3. Tonight, he was 1 for 8. He is now 2 for his last 22 from 3.

 

  • Shelvin Mack played 37 minutes in the place of George Hill. Mack is a battler. He has been a third-string pointer guard his entire career until he came to Utah. He has been incredible for the Jazz. He has been asked to start in the Western Conference semifinals against the greatest set of talent ever in NBA history.

 

  • Joe Johnson went 3 for 12. The speed of the Warriors and the length of Durant, Iguodala and Green make it hard to manufacture his usual looks.

 

  • The Jazz held Curry and Thompson to a combined 7 of 29 from the field.

 

  • Boris Diaw continues to be an amazing +/- player for the Jazz in playoffs. He was +3 again today for the Jazz.

 

  • Shelvin Mack was +6 in 37 minutes and in the 11 minutes he was off the bench the Jazz were -17.

 

  • This is a deflating loss because the Jazz are giving so much of themselves on the court and battling with such gusto and the Warriors continually have too much firepower. They answer each run. They make the huge shots. When one guy is off, there are plenty of others to step up. They do everything so fast and so well defensively. They are a superior team.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Draymond makes the Jazz pay

Summary: The Jazz picked their poison and the poison got them beat. The Warriors take a 2-0 series lead with a 115-104 victory over Utah Thursday night.

  • Every time Draymond Green uses a possession to take a shot, it is better than if Klay, Steph or Durant take it. Green was a 30% 3-point shooter this season. The Jazz dropped off Green to try to cut of the Warriors’ penetration and attack of the rim, and he made them pay by making 5-8 from 3. The Jazz’s strategy is the right one. If Draymond Green goes 5-8 from 3, the Warriors win. It is really that simple. Draymond Green has made these shots in the playoffs at a higher rate than in the regular season, but it all comes down to making reasonable choices to give yourself the best chance to win.
  • The Jazz got blitzed early in the game again; They were down 12-3 at the first time out. The Warriors kept putting it on Utah and led it 33-13 near the end of the first quarter. From there, the Jazz fought and showed great grit to keep battling. However, every time the Jazz huff and puff, the Warriors blew the house down. It is hard to tell if the Warriors are just so good they are toying with you or if the Jazz are really making inroads throughout the game. To me, it seems like the Jazz are making progress and staying with the Warriors, but every time it gets close, Golden State stretches their lead back out.
  • Gordon Hayward was brilliant. I thought he was as good as his 40-point game versus the Clippers in the first round. In Game 1, he played rushed — he seemed out of rhythm in the shots he was taking. He was terrific tonight. He was assertive. He played with a calmness and confidence, knowing what he was going to encounter. Along with his incredible offseason work, he made a bunch of changes to his game preparation and film work. It has paid huge dividends. His growth is remarkable. I am on top of the Gordon Hayward fan club, but I honestly never thought he would be this player.
  • The Jazz were 4-18 to start the night in the final seven seconds of the shot clock. Then, they picked up the pace and started pushing the ball up the floor. Throughout the year, the Jazz have been able to make defenses shift, create overcompensation to their actions and then take advantage. That doesn’t work against the Warriors. Instead, the Jazz got into early actions and took the first looks they could get. It worked much better.
  • The Jazz’s offensive rating (points per possession) in each of the first two games has been a notch above what the Warriors allowed for the season. Since the Jazz were ranked 12th offensively this season, that makes some sense. What the Jazz have not been able to do is get their defense to have an impact on the Warriors’ offense. They will need to do that if they are going to win a game in the series.
  • The Jazz are not getting the shooting from Hood and Ingles they got during the season. The big jump in Joe Ingles’ game this year was his ability to hit the 3 off the bounce. In the playoffs, however, he is 1-12 on 3- pointers off the bounce. He is also 4-17 if a defender is within six feet of him, according to Stats Vu. This is the playoffs. Joe doesn’t have a quick release, and teams aren’t giving him room so it is hard for him to get looks. He was 1-2 tonight. Rodney is the opposite story: He is being left open and he is not making the 3. He has made just 27% of his 3-pointers this postseason. Prior to tonight’s 0-5 performance, Rodney was 2-10 if a defender was within four feet, but was 6-19 if the defender was within four to six feet. Without George Hill, the Jazz need those shooters.
  • Dante had some solid play tonight and did some nice things. He knocked down a shot. He drove to the basket. He has to get a left hand dribble. It is really obvious how little he wants to use his left hand.
  • Kevin Durant and Steph Curry scored 48 points on 28 shots. They can’t lose if this happens. It is virtually impossible, mathematically.
  • The Jazz are battling one of the greatest teams ever compiled in NBA history. If we were playing anyone else, I would have felt as though we had turned the game in our favor at halftime and were on our way to a comeback. Against the Warriors, that thought is fleeting.
  • Saturday night will be fun. An underdog crowd is a fun crowd.

Emptying the Noggin — Warriors dominate the Jazz

Summary: The Warriors show signs of being an all-time great team with a dominating performance.

  • The contrast in speed from the Clippers to the Warriors was tremendous. It seemed to stun the Jazz in the early moments of the game, though Utah got more adept as the night went on. Early on, it led to the Jazz committing a bunch of turnovers, and those turnovers are points the other way every time.

 

  • The Warriors’ defense is incredible. They switch more than any other team in the NBA and are at a disadvantage. The Jazz were never able to penetrate the switching defense. The hope was to break the paint for the purpose of creating points for others and it happened very rarely in the first half. In the third quarter, the Jazz got a little better at breaking the paint and creating points.

 

  • For Jazz fans, it has been hard to understand why Draymond Green could win defensive player of the year over Rudy Gobert. Once you watch him in person, it becomes more evident. Rudy is equally as impactful, but, wow, is Draymond something else. He ends up on the ball all the time. I’m not sure anyone on the Jazz scored on him all night. He seemingly never guards his man and yet is always guarding someone and it is usually the man with the ball.

 

  • The Warriors weren’t out of the ordinary tonight and they were in complete control. The Jazz got them to shoot only 7 of 29 from 3, their offensive rating was their season average and their defensive rating was their season average. This is what the Warriors do every night. What happens when they are good?

 

  • Hayward and Hill had poor shooting nights, which could change the Jazz’s ability to stay in the game and control the Warriors’ ability to run.

 

  • The Warriors EFG% in transition is over 75% and they turn about 25% of all missed field goals into a fast break. If, for 1 of every 4 misses the Warriors average 1.5 pts per possession, then taking away a few misses changes the game a good deal.

 

  • Rodney Hood had a really nice stretch in the third quarter.

 

  • The Jazz want to force the Warriors to get out of their passing system and go one-on-one at times, and Utah couldn’t dictate that tonight. The Warriors assisted on 29 of their 33 two-point field goals.

 

  • The Warriors hit the Jazz with a 9-0 to open the game and the Jazz fought back to get within one point, but the Warriors closed the first on a run and then hit the Jazz with a 12-4 run to open the second quarter. After that, the Jazz only got the game under 10 points on two occasions and never for longer than a minute.

 

  • The Warriors opened the game with immense pressure on the ball, particularly on Rudy outside at 35 feet. It disrupted what the Jazz were trying to do.

 

  • The Warriors have two of the top five players in the league and four of the top 15 or 20. A team with this much talent has ever been compiled. If the 72-win Bulls lost Jordan, they were a 50-win team with Pippen. If this team loses Curry or Durant, they are still a 67-win team.

 

  • The last time the Warriors lost a game they were trying to win was March 10 versus Minnesota when Durant was hurt. Since then, they have won 20 of 21 games and the one loss was to Utah when they pulled all the starters after the third quarter.

 

  • With all of this Warriors love, most of the people I talked to who covered the Warriors thought the Jazz were really good tonight.

 

  • Game 2 on Thursday.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — This team was built for today

Summary: The Jazz win the series.

  • I don’t even know where to start. There are so many things to write about. There is the pure admiration of this group and the coaching staff and the incredible effort under adverse circumstances the entire season and series. The constant effort throughout the season has been exceptional. The team was built for today and it answered.
  • From an X&O standpoint, the Jazz played more aggressively on the pick-and-roll with the big up. It allowed a few more Jordan dunks, but it took CP3 out of his rhythm and none of the other Clippers did enough to cause the Jazz issues.
  • The Clippers only led this game at 3-2 and 5-4. The Jazz controlled most of the first quarter and the Clippers tied the game at the end of the first, but the Jazz regained control in the second when Chris Paul took his break and Utah led by seven points at the half. The Jazz only allowed the Clippers 15 points in the second quarter. The Jazz’s offense exploded in the third with a 33-point quarter and a 15-2 run. Coming into Game 7, this was a series that was within two possessions 75% of the time. Today, the Jazz were in complete control.
  • Derrick Favors was the MVP today. With Gobert completely eliminated (read however you wish) by foul trouble and only playing 13 minutes, the Jazz needed Derrick to be terrific and he was. In some ways, as Ron pointed out, Favors was the more important big in this series. He is better at playing up on the pick-and-roll and he has a better chance to hit a midrange jump shot that DeAndre will give up every possession. In the series, Favors was 1-10 from outside 10 feet but today he nailed a few midrange shots. In addition, the amount of times on the broadcast that I said “Favors cuts off the path” was enormous.
  • This is a great day for Gordon Hayward. He and Derrick have been through the entire rebuild. It was really hard at times. It was seriously unpleasant. Today, Gordon completed an unreal series where — despite all the talk of Chris Paul — an argument can be made that he was the best player in the series. Similar to Paul, the Clippers’ defense was set to take him away and they couldn’t do it. In the six games he played, he averaged 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He shot an incredible 47% FG and 46% from 3. He hit on 43-45 free throws. It is unusual that a player gets better and more efficient in the playoffs. This is where all of his offseason conditioning really may have had a positive impact. For those fans that have been with this team each step of the process, Hayward’s growth is really a remarkable story.
  • The Clippers went 6 for 25 from 3. Rivers, Redick, Pierce, Crawford and Speights were a combined 5-18. That was huge.
  • George Hill had a really good series. Today, the Jazz were +21 when he was on the floor. He shot 48% from the field and 39% from 3. He nailed some really big shots in this game when the tide felt like it might turn.
  • The Jazz made a huge run in the third and when the Clippers tried to mount their comeback, the Jazz were in the penalty and were able to quell the rally with free throws.
  • Quin Snyder used the Jazz’s depth to their advantage. They grabbed two minutes from Neto, three from Mack, three from Withey and eight really solid minutes from Dante Exum. This was huge. The Clippers were running on fumes. The effort that Paul and Jordan had to put out without Griffin was otherworldly, and the Jazz’s use of depth became a big part of this game.
  • Joe Ingles was 2-3 from 3. Rodney Hood was 4-6 and 1-3 from 3. Both hit really big shots in rallies that pushed the Jazz to a big lead.
  • Boris Diaw had the Jazz’s best plus minus of any Jazz player in the series. He did so many good things and hit his shots. He hit 56% of his shots and was 5-10 from 3. Playoff Boris.
  • The crowd at the Staples Center was a nonfactor. It never really felt like a Game 7 environment. Now, we move to the two loudest arenas in the NBA.
  • The Clippers fell behind by enough that Rivers had to go to his offense-only lineup and the Jazz kept scoring and scoring. The lineup matchups he tried to avoid with Jamal Crawford and JJ Reddick on the floor at the same time were back and the Jazz went at all of them. Joe Johnson kept going against Jamal Crawford time and time again.
  • What happens next for the Clippers is one of the biggest offseason stories. Will Carmelo join Blake, CP3 and DeAndre? Will Blake move on? Will Melo replace Blake? Will CP3 decide that after five first round losses in nine years that he has to go play for a winner and take a pay cut? What will Ballmer do and what is the Clippers’ place in the LA sports market if it loses stars?
  • Off to the Bay Area. If you are going to beat the Warriors, you have to do four things: Slow the game way down, cut off the play at the rim, get a high offensive rebounding rate and have to have multiple pick-and-roll ball handlers. The Jazz have all four. The last thing you have to have is a lot of luck. The Warriors might be the best team ever compiled in NBA history.