EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Lillard’s career night overwhelms the Jazz

Summary: Damian Lillard scores a Blazers franchise record 59 points and torches the Jazz on the way to a 101-86 win over the Utah.

  • There was a really cool moment after the game when Damian Lillard was offered the game ball and declined, instead saying that it should go to Joe Johnson who scored his 20,000th point tonight. Really classy move from a great guy in the NBA.
  • In the Jazz’s two wins in SLC against the Blazers, Utah controlled Damian Lillard. Tonight, Lillard got going early and he was unstoppable. He had 26 points in the first quarter and then after a scoreless second quarter, he ignited again and scored 21 in the third before finishing with 59 points.
  • Lillard went 18 of 34 from the floor, 9 of 14 from 3, and 14 of 16 from the line.
  • Lillard was the only Blazer to go to the line. His missed free throws at the end of the game were the first misses against the Jazz in two games.
  • The Jazz had a good strategy against Lillard in the last matchup where they picked him up high enough that they were able to get under the pick and still stay in front of him. Tonight, they couldn’t do that.
  • Lillard had three free throws to get to 60 but made just 1 of 3.
  • The Jazz battled and got the game within four points a few times, but were never able to maintain its surge.
  • The Blazers had a brutal stretch in the second quarter where they shot 4 of 18 and the Jazz were unable to take advantage in that stretch. That was the stretch of the game where the Jazz missed the opportunity to get back in the game.
  • The game had three minutes without a field goal on both ends. Dante had back-to-back brutal turnovers and Ingles and Gobert missed shots. Exum hit a free throw to break the drought and then Hayward scored before Exum had another turnover, then Exum missed a three. Over 6:30, the Blazers scored two points and the Jazz only cut into the lead by four.
  • Portland did a nice job of cutting off the Gobert roll to the basket. The Jazz will need to be able to take advantage of this in the playoffs.
  • Raul Neto played the best point guard minutes by far, but got a severely sprained ankle. The Jazz were +14 in Neto’s 13 minutes and -29 when he was off the floor.
  • The Jazz need to be good when Gobert is off the floor and tonight, they were -12 in the 14 minutes he sat.
  • Joe Johnson went over 20,000 career points.
  • Rudy Gobert became the first Jazz player and the 12th in NBA history to have 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks in a single season.
  • CJ McCollum was 4 of 20.
  • The Blazers switched everything and Noah Vonleh ended up guarding out on the floor on the Jazz’s ball handlers. Utah didn’t take advantage of that matchup the same way they were able to in SLC.
  • This was a special night for one of the good guys in the league, but with the Clippers win tonight the Jazz are now in 5th in the West and will have to win out and bank on the Clippers losing one of their two final home games if the Jazz plan to get home court advantage.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Another marker on Hayward’s road to stardom

Summary: In a high-scoring, offensively-dominated game, the Jazz outlasted the Timberwolves behind a career-high 39 points from Gordon Hayward, 14 of which came in the 4th quarter.

  • The Utah Jazz are your Northwest Division champs for the ‘16-‘17 NBA season.
  • For seven years, Jazz fans have had a chance to watch Gordon Hayward grow from a scrawny rookie out of Butler, to a stunned kid who took a wet willy from Delonte West, into a bona fide All-Star. Along this road, there have been markers: The rookie year game in Minnesota when Sloan left Hayward in to finish the game en route to 24 points; In 2014 when he dueled with Kevin Durant on his way to 17 4th quarter points and 37 against Oklahoma City; The November battle to start the next season with Carmelo Anthony when he stood toe-to-toe and dropped 33 points; January of 2016 when he put 18 up in the 3rd quarter against Dwayne Wade and Miami. Tonight is another marker — 14 in the 4th quarter on his way to a new career high, 39 points.
  • The beauty of Hayward’s game is he never highjacks possessions from his team. Everything he does is inside the scheme and the framework of the offense. It never just becomes his show. He plays the game correctly. If his teammates are open and the right play is to make the pass, then he will make the pass. It happened tonight when he bypassed a look to get one to Joe Johnson, and started the Joe Johnson ignition in the 3rd quarter.
  • Joe Johnson was vital to this game. He hit his first eight shots. When Joe Johnson has had two days’ rest or more this season, he has been terrific. This bodes well for the playoffs. When he has two days’ rest this season, he is 77 of 145 for 53% FG and is 27 of 54 from 3 ( 50%).
  • The Timberwolves were 28 of 28 from the free throw line.
  • Joe Ingles has taken a huge amount of the ball handling duties recently. He had a career high eight assist tonight. His versatility is awesome. At one point this year, he was the defensive stopper. Then he was a power forward. Now he is basically a point guard at times. He had another solid night from 3, hitting on 2 of 3 and is now 14 of his last 23 from 3.
  • The Jazz’s offense was on fire tonight with an EFG% 69.3. This was not a fast-paced game. It was 91 possessions. The Wolves are the worst defensive team in the NBA in the last 15 games and it showed.
  • Ricky Rubio was terrific for Minnesota. If they are going to trade him to free up Kris Dunn, put me in line with my hand up. I was surprised to see him as -15.
  • Andrew Wiggins finished the night 8 of 21. His mid-range jumper off the bounce is not good.
  • Derrick Favors returned and as Quin Snyder said, the Jazz don’t win this game without Favors. He had four dunks, which is a great sign. He rolled to the basket on a great pick and roll. He is really important to the Jazz success versus the Clippers.
  • Dante had a brutal offensive stretch in the first half and came back in the second half with exceptional defense and hit two 3-point shots. This shows a level of toughness that is a good sign. He has shown consistent signs since the All-Star break.
  • Minnesota has offensive fire power. When they go 28 of 28 from the line and Rubio hits his shots they are the real deal. Plus, they have the stretch-5 that is so difficult for the Jazz to deal with. This had a bad script, and the Jazz survived it.
  • The Jazz will play the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Tribute to a resilient remarkable run by the Jazz

Summary: Down three starters, the Jazz won their seventh straight at Vivint Smart Home Arena and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 106-87, holding Damian Lillard to 5 of 20 shooting.

  • What the Jazz are doing this season is truly remarkable. The injuries this team has faced should have crippled their season. It has crippled teams year in and year out, and somehow it hasn’t crippled this team. It is incredible. The Jazz are 11-2 when they have their regular starters. If they are missing one starter, they are 21-11. If they are missing two starters, their record is 14-15 and if they are missing more than three starters — as they were tonight — they are 2-3. Digest that a little more. When they are only missing one starter, this team is 32-13. That is a 60-win team. When they are missing two starters, they are still a .500 team and a possible 8-seed team.
  • This is a tribute to the depth of the team and to the veterans who have stayed professional and contribute whenever called upon. Shelvin Mack and Jeff Withey are winning games for this team.
  • This is a tribute to the depth that Dennis Lindsey built into this roster.
  • This is a tribute to Quin Snyder and his staff for the relentless work and preparation. Their ability to use these players to their maximum potential is remarkable.
  • This is a tribute to Joe Ingles who has so far exceeded what the expectations of his game were this season. He basically played point guard tonight. He has been a defensive stopper, he has played everything from 1 to 4 and he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting.
  • This is a tribute to Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward who have been better than any of us realize. Carrying this team night in and night out is an unbearable burden and they have answered the bell virtually every night.
  • Tonight, the Jazz jumped out early and lead 9-0, not allowing a Portland FG until the 7:25 mark of the first quarter. The Jazz led by seven points at the end of the first quarter, 24-17, then by six points at the half, holding the Blazers to 41 first half points. In the third quarter, the Blazers briefly took the lead, but the Jazz got rolling and took an 11-point lead into the fourth. Joe Johnson hit four straight 3s and the Jazz stretched the lead to 20.
  • Utah hit the 3 ball in the second half. They were 3 of 8 in the first half and 10 of 15 in the second half, which was very similar to the first meeting in Utah.
  • Dante Exum played one of the best games I have seen from him. Defensively, he gave Lillard a hard time and executed the game plan terrifically. Lillard finished 5 of 20, and even when he made shots, they were contested. Exum didn’t reach and didn’t get in foul trouble. Offensively, he played off the ball for most of the night and had a nice explosiveness to the rim. He got undercut in the third quarter and left with an injured hip.
  • If I could come up with one play that exemplified Rudy, it happened tonight. Rudy blocked a Lillard drive to the basket, as only he could. Then, when the Jazz went in transition, Ingles stepped back into a wide open 3-pointer. Instead of watching from the other side, Gobert sprinted the floor and when Ingles’ shot bounced off the rim, Rudy was there and dunked it home for two. That is incredible commitment to the game and 90% of all centers in the NBA block the shot and rest waiting for the play to come back to him.
  • Hayward had 30 and dominated the game with mid-range jumpers and then got hot in the third, which spurred the Jazz to an 11-point lead.
  • Boris had a season-high eight rebounds in addition to five assists.
  • I mentioned it earlier: Jeff Withey and Shelvin Mack are winning games for the Jazz. Withey was 5 for 5 in 12 minutes and Mack had 12 points and 5 assists in 26 invaluable minutes with Hill, Neto and Exum all hurt.
  • I hope you are enjoying this run. This team is doing amazing things.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Mack is pivotal in Jazz’s win over Sacramento

SUMMARY: The Jazz take care of business against an inferior opponent, despite another set of injuries, 112-82. Shelvin Mack came off the bench and was key in the victory.

  • Sometimes, the deals not made are the most important. It was highly anticipated that the Jazz would trade Shelvin Mack at the deadline. That never happened. Tonight, the no-deal turned into a big deal for the Jazz. There is value in having someone on the bench who knows your system and knows what your coach wants. If the Jazz had traded Mack, they very well may lose this game, which seems insane to say in a 30-point blowout. But without Hill and Neto, Utah needed Mack. The Jazz were negative when Exum was on the floor until garbage time. Mack was the key to the win tonight.
  • The Jazz came out focused defensively and didn’t let the Kings get a field goal until the 7:28 mark of the first quarter.
  • The Jazz led by 20 points after the first quarter, stretched the lead to 24, but lost their focus and connection to the game, and the Kings eventually got the game back within four points. The Jazz reestablished their dominance and won, giving the kings their largest loss of the year and allowed the Kings to score their fewest points this season.
  • Gordon Hayward showed real leadership tonight. He battled through significant pain and injury to play in this game because the Jazz need it. He wasn’t great. His line — 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists — was probably better than his performance, but the message and commitment was clear for all his teammates to see.
  • Rodney Hood was 5 for 5 from 3. If his knee is really feeling better, he can bring some much needed consistency to the guard line.
  • One has to wonder if the wing rotation will be much deeper than Hayward, Hood and Ingles in the playoffs. If Hayward ups his minutes to 36 or even up to 40 and Hood can manage 32 with Ingles playing about 28, there are no more minutes.
  • Jeff Withey has been giving the Jazz a really big 14 minutes a night. He’s a total pro who wasn’t pleased with being dropped from the rotation, but did exactly what he was asked and now is in a little rhythm and playing every night. He is not a great player, but he understands the system and showed a stronger roll to the basket game tonight than we usually see from him. The Jazz were +20 when he was on the floor versus Sacramento.
  • Unfortunately, Dante Exum didn’t excel in his start at the point guard. He had been pulled from the point guard rotation because he killed possessions too often by getting caught in the air, turning the ball over or over dribbling. On one of the first possessions tonight, he drove into the lane, jumped in the air and threw the ball away. Quin pulled Dante out of the game to talk to him again about those plays. Quin reinserted Dante into the game, but he never got going. He finished 0 for 6 shooting and 0 for 5 from 3, he finished with 0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers and was +1 in a 30-point win.
  • It was really cool that Shelvin Mack was ready to go and carried the Jazz to the win. If the Jazz hold onto the four seed, it isn’t going to be by more than a game. Shelvin’s performance tonight might be the different between Game 1 in SLC or Game 1 in LA (or elsewhere).

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Shorthanded Jazz find long ball range in win over Pels

SUMMARY: The Utah Jazz regained their shooting stroke and swept the season series with the New Orleans Pelicans with a 108-100 win, despite being without Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors.

• The Jazz were desperate for a solid performance from Rodney Hood without Gordon Hayward available, and Hoodie delivered. He had seven points in the first quarter and finished with 20 in 30 minutes, nailing four 3-pointers.

• Utah’s 3-point shooting got rolling again. They hit 15 of 27 from 3, led by Joe Ingles’ perfect 5 for 5 from deep. George Hill hit 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, and Joe Johnson went 2 for 3.

• Quin Snyder went to Joe Johnson at the 4 and it changed the game; The Jazz were +26 tonight when Joe Johnson was on the floor. In the 12:58 that Boris Diaw played power forward tonight, the Jazz were -17. Quin quickly pulled the plug on Boris in both the first and the third quarters, and it changed the game.

• Raul Neto had a terrific game as the backup point guard, bringing great energy to the floor and igniting the Jazz’s effort for what seemed like every loose ball. Neto played 18 minutes and had five points, but his energy was the story.

• Dante Exum played the backup shooting guard with Alec Burks being away from the team (personal reasons). Exum’s outside shooting is not a natural fit for the shooting guard position, but it may be his lack of shooting that adds value to that position.

• The Jazz led by seven points after the first quarter and stretched the lead to 18 in the second, but the Pelicans started working their way back in the game and cut it to a five-point advantage by halftime. The Pelicans took the lead in the third quarter, then Joe Johnson came back in the game and the Jazz dominated the game for the rest of the night.

• DeMarcus Cousins didn’t play and Anthony Davis was fantastic. He had 36 points and 17 rebounds. He is an incredible talent. He plays so much better when Cousins is not on the floor.

• Joe Johnson led the Jazz with six assists and the Jazz had 27 as a team.

• Rudy Gobert continued his remarkable play with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

• This was a solid win. The Jazz need all three this week. Sacramento has won two big games on back-to-back and are playing super free.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz’s collective slump continues in LA loss

SUMMARY: With home court for the playoffs in the balance, the Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 108-95. Utah never led, other than 2-0 to start.

  • The Clippers jumped on the Jazz from the beginning and the Jazz couldn’t get the offense flowing at all early in the game. The Jazz scored just 14 points in the first quarter and didn’t hit their first 3-pointer until the 11:00 mark of the second quarter.
  • The Jazz were down as many as 16 and fought back to tie the game at 70-70. But unlike the last time the teams played, the Jazz were unable to take advantage when Chris Paul went to the bench. Last time, the Jazz were +12 with Chris Paul on the bench; On Saturday, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to take a 80-70 lead and never looked back. The Clippers were +9 with Chris Paul on the bench today.
  • Gordon Hayward collided with Austin Rivers knee-to-knee when making a cut. Gordon ran on it in the hallway, then returned to the game, but when he landed after taking a 3 (that he made), he immediately signaled to the bench that he couldn’t continue. The official word on Gordon is a left quad contusion.
  • I found three other players who had quad contusions this year: Anthony Davis didn’t miss any games, Dwight Howard missed one and Cody Zeller missed seven, played one and missed seven more. Clearly, there is no common thread.
  • Gordon was shut out in the first quarter of the game, which is Gordon’s biggest scoring quarter this season. Gordon has not shot the ball well against the Clippers this season. In three games, he is now 16 of 42. Luc Mbah a Moute is a good, physical defender. There is a list of guys that cause Gordon some trouble and they all fit the same mold: Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Andre Roberson and Luc Mbah a Moute. If we play the Clippers in the playoffs, this is something Quin is going to have to solve in order to get Gordon going.
  • The Jazz go as George Hill goes. In wins, George Hill shoots 51% and 46% from 3. In losses, he shoots 40% and 24%. He was 4 of 11 today and 1 for 3 from three — right on the numbers for a loss.
  • Rodney Hood has scored in double figures twice in eight games. Rudy Gobert has become the Jazz’s second scorer, but they need more of a threat than Rudy as a roller and Gordon on the perimeter.
  • Unfortunately, the Jazz have a litany of players that are in shooting slumps. As a team, they came in to the game as 26th in the NBA in EFG over the last five games. George Hill is now 6 of his last 27 from 3 (22%), Alec Burks is 2 for his last 13 overall and 11 of his last 39 from 3 (28%) Rodney Hood is 12 of his last 40 from the field and 3 of his last 14 from 3. Ever since guarding LeBron James for 35 minutes, Joe Ingles is three of 16 from 3. Joe Johnson hit on 3 of 7 tonight, but came in at 27% from 3 since All-Star break and 4 of his last 23 from above the break. Boris Diaw is 8 of his last 24 from the field.
  • As depressing as that last bullet point, was it is clearly collective. This leads me to believe it is a fatigue issue or something is off in the offense where the timing is astray. The good news is I assume they will all get their flow back at a similar time. All of these guys are better than those numbers — they all have been for their careers and they have been for this season. Something is off right now. Lots of this is caused by players being forced into larger roles than they are used to playing due to injuries.
  • Rudy Gobert was awesome again tonight. He had 26 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.
  • Today, the Jazz‘s defensive rating was 116. In 6 of the last 9 games, the Jazz have allowed a defensive rating over 111. The Lakers are the worst in the NBA at 111 and only Brooklyn and LA are over 109.1 for the season.
  • How has this happened? Is it as simple as Favors being hurt and losing the number one defensive combo in the NBA? Is it the offensive struggles meaning the defense gets stressed? Is the same fatigue impacting both side of the ball?
  • When we were at our best, we were the best in the NBA at transition defense and the best at defending in the half court. It was a deadly combo.
  • March was going to be brutal. We all knew it. We are feeling it right now.

Emptying the Noggin —Gobzilla takes over New York

Summary: The Jazz waited until the fourth quarter to close the door on the Knicks, but when they did Gobzilla took over New York and Utah won, 108-101.

  • Gobzilla (aka Rudy Gobert) left a path of destruction and wreaked havoc on the New York Knicks. Rudy had a career high 35 points, hitting on 13 of 14 shots. He grabbed 13 rebounds and a career high 11 offensive rebounds, adding four blocked shots. Only Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis have had stat lines similar this season. He was far and away the best player on the floor.
  • The Jazz trailed by eight points after the first quarter, four at the half and then by three heading into the final quarter. The Jazz won their 11th game when trailing going into the fourth quarter this season.
  • Gordon Hayward went the Paul George route tonight. Similar to Paul George in the Indiana game, Hayward had a miserable start, missing 10 of his 12 shots. In the fourth quarter, he went 4 for 5 and scored 13 points.
  • Raul Neto played the backup point guard tonight instead of Dante Exum. Exum didn’t play the point guard well on the road trip and had too many possessions that killed the offense. Teams are going under every pick with Dante, and even when he runs off re-picks, defenders are still going under. This is stalling the offense and leaving the ball in his hands for too long each possession.
  • Instead, Quin went to Neto and was rewarded. Neto hit a corner 3 and a top-of-the-key 3 when the Knicks went under the pick. Neto is small which hurts him on the defensive end, but he’s a better shooter and runs the team with more efficiency right now than Dante.
  • The Knicks caused the Jazz problems early with Porzingis popping out, which opened the middle for drives and gave Kristaps looks from 3. The Jazz have struggled defensively all year with the stretch-5, and the same was true early tonight when the Knicks scored 34 points in the first quarter.
  • The Jazz simply couldn’t make a shot for a long time in this game, starting 4 of 24 from 3.
  • The Knicks are 30th in the NBA in defensive rebounding, and the Jazz had 18 offensive rebounds in 46 chances; 39% is an outrageously high number.
  • Boris Diaw started at power forward instead of Joe Johnson, but was -12 in his 14 minutes.
  • Alec Burks went 0 for 4 and was somehow +15. That is the complete opposite of how Alec’s career has gone.
  • The Jazz got a much-needed win. If they win in LA Saturday, Utah has a chance for the four seed. If they lose, it will be very unlikely.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Gobzilla destroys New York

Summary: Jazz waited till the 4th quarter to close the door on the Knicks but when they did Gobzilla took over New York
• Gobzilla left a path of destruction and havoc throughout the New York Knicks. Rudy had a career high 35 points, he hit on 13 of 14 shots. He grabbed 13 rebounds and a career high 11 offensive rebounds. He added 4 block shots. Only Karl Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis have had stat lines similar this season. He was far and away the best player on the floor.

• Jazz trailed by 8 in the first, at 4 at the half and then by 3 heading into the 4th. Jazz win their 11th game when trailing going into the 4th quarter this season.

• Gordon Hayward went the Paul George route tonight. Similar to Paul George in Indiana Hayward had a miserable start to the game missing 10 of his 12 shots. But in the 4th quarter he went 4 for 5 and scored 13 points.

• Rual Neto played the back up point guard tonight instead of Dante Exum. Exum didn’t play the point guard well on the road trip. Too many possessions he just killed the offense. Teams are going under every pick with Dante and even when he runs off re-pick they are still going under. This is stalling the offense and leaving the ball in his hands for too long each possession.

• Quin went to Neto instead and was rewarded. Neto hit a corner 3 and a top of the key three when they went under the pick he nailed a three from the top. Neto is small and it hurts him on the defensive end, but is a better shooter and runs the team with more efficiency right now than Dante.

• The Knicks caused the Jazz problems early with Porzingis popping out and the middle opening up for drives as well as Porzingis from 3. The Jazz have struggled defensively all year with the stretch 5 and the same was true early tonight when the Knicks scored 34 points in the 1st quarter.

• The Jazz simply couldn’t make a shot for a long time in this game starting 4 of 24 from three.

• The Knicks are 30th in the NBA in defensive rebounding and the Jazz had 18 offensive rebounds in 46 chances. 39% is an outrageously high number.

• Boris Diaw started at power forward instead of Joe Johnson but was -12 in this 14 minutes

• Alec Burks went 0 for 4 and was somehow +15. That is the complete opposite of how Alec’s career has gone.

• Jazz got a much needed win. If they win in LA Saturday they have a chance for the 4th seed, if they don’t it will be very unlikely.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz lose 3rd straight

Summary: The Jazz closed out the four-game road trip with a loss to the Indiana Pacers to go a disappointing 1-3 on the trip. The Jazz knocked on the door numerous time, but were unable to ever gain control of the game and fell, 107-100.

  • First off, Gordon Hayward was terrific. He came out of the chute and carried the team for most of the night. He scored a career-high 38 points He had 10 in the first quarter and then had 10 straight at the end of the first half to bring the Jazz back into the game. He continued all night and finished shooting 16 of 24.
  • Rudy Gobert was also terrific. He had 16 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 8 blocks. He altered numerous shots, forced guys to change routes, and was mammoth. He sprinted the floor and made great catches.
  • Hayward will be thinking about a 3-pointer he missed to tie the game and Gobert will be thinking about going 2 for 6 from the line. This is why these guys are stars. The care factor from these two is magnificent.
  • There are two ways to look at this loss. First, it is a make or miss league. The Jazz were 6 of 26 from 3 for the night, highlighted by George Hill’s 0 for 7 and Joe Johnson’s 0 for 4. The Pacers, on the other hand, made shots. They were 10 of 20 from 3 — 50% is absurd.
  • A strange part of this game is that the Pacers allow the second-most amount of corner 3 attempts in the NBA and the Jazz only took one corner 3 the entire game. The Pacers are the fourth best team in the NBA defending the above the break 3 and the Jazz were 6 of 25 on above the break 3s.
  • The other way to look at this game is the Jazz didn’t make force plays, the 50-50 plays or the focus plays they needed to win on the road. Early in the game, the Jazz had at least four balls just knocked out of their hands. The 50-50 balls seemed to ricochet to the Pacers. Is that bad luck, were the Jazz a step slow or did the Jazz lacked gumption? Paul George dove on a ball out from under Gordon Hayward. Monta Ellis had an awesome steal. Joe Ingles doubled in the post and signaled to get someone to rotate over to cover the shooter and they never came.
  • At the end of the first half Gordon, scored on a filthy shot with 4.0 left and then no one put up resistance on Glen Robinson who banked in a 3 at the buzzer. This was super painful and the difference between being down two points with momentum rather than down five without.
  • The Jazz trailed by 10 going into the fourth quarter.
  • They kept battling and even had a shot to tie in the fourth when Hayward missed a 3 in transition at 103-100. Paul George hit two big shots for Indiana to clinch the win.
  • The Jazz got within two on numerous occasions in the third quarter and were never able to take the lead or tie the game.
  • There were five times during the game the Jazz had a chance to tie or take the lead and they failed on all five.
  • Raul Neto played the backup point guard minutes in place of Dante Exum after Dante had a really tough start to the game. Neto made great steals twice but when he got to the rim for the layup, he got one blocked and missed the other.
  • The injuries to Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood have put a minute burden on Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles that is very intense.
  • In the eight games that Rodney Hood has played since returning from injury, he is shooting 39%.
  • The offense was actually fine tonight. The defense is what didn’t get enough stops. Myles Turner is that big that can pull Rudy out on the floor and then there is no rim protection behind him.
  • Al Jefferson gave Indiana a great boost with 10 points in 11 minutes.
  • Joe Johnson is shooting below 40% and below 25% from 3 since the All-Star break. As Ron Boone pointed out on Postcast, Johnson has gone from playing 20 minutes against second-tier guys to 30 minutes versus first-tier guys.
  • Rodney Hood returned and got three fouls in the first four minutes. He bounced back to make a few shots in the second half.
  • These last two are tough losses. The March schedule is brutal and these were the two that the Jazz had to find a way to grab to give them a little leeway in the quest for the four seed in the West. It now looks like the Jazz will have to go to LA and beat the Clippers if they want. With the Thunder and Grizzlies playing so much better, Utah better get it rolling before the seventh seed comes calling.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz get MVP LeBron

Summary: The Jazz got LeBron-ed in Cleveland, again. With the game tied going into the fourth quarter, LeBron took over and scored or assisted on all but four points in the quarter to completely overwhelm the Jazz, 91-83.

• The Jazz never seemed in synch in the first half. In fact, Mike Wells said at halftime that he felt the Jazz couldn’t find a rhythm for the first 20 minutes of the game. Despite that, the Jazz were within two points at the half and were able to tie the game going into the fourth quarter.

• From a big picture standpoint, the take away tonight is against the number one offensive team in the NBA the last 20 games — and playing with Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles at the power forward — the Jazz were able to keep the Cavaliers below an offensive rating of. This is an exciting indicator for the Jazz’s ability to play small lineups moving forward.

• The Jazz’s defensive rebounding was not as good as it has been, but overall the defensive rating was great.

• The Jazz’s offense down the stretch was not great tonight, and they were very slow getting into sets.

• Rudy Gobert was terrific. I leave the arena each night believing he is a little better than was the night before. Tonight he went for 20 points, 19 rebounds, plus his ability to deter players from driving into the lane is stunning. Players just stay away from the paint when Rudy is in the game.

• The Jazz wanted to take away the 3-point looks from the Cavaliers similarly to how they played the Rockets, but the Cavaliers were able to get their usual amount of looks. However, they didn’t go down. The Cavaliers shoot 41% from 3 in wins and 35% in losses, so this game was there for the taking with the Cavs hitting on just 9 of 33 attempts for 27%.

• Gordon Hayward did not have a good night. He finished 4 for 14 and two of those were leak out dunks. He just never looked right all night. George Hill was 3 for 10 on the back end of a back-to-back. He has had a bit of a hard time on back-to-backs since the toe injury.

• LeBron James: 33 points, 10 rebounds (all defensive) and 6 assists. He hit on 13 of 20.

• Deron Williams closed the game since Kyrie Irving was out and the Cavs ran a point guard/LeBron pick-and-roll to get the Jazz to switch on LeBron, and then he just over powered whoever was guarding him.

• Without Rodney Hood and with both Gordon and George a bit off tonight, the Jazz tried to ride Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter.

• The Jazz had a bad offensive night. They played well enough defensively to win this game, but they never got rolling on offense and couldn’t knock down shots. To be in the game against as potent a team as Cleveland without your offense rolling is a good sign for Utah. It is a loss, but it does not to dissuade my belief that the Jazz are playing really well.

• There are two huge games coming up. The Clippers lost tonight, so Utah is still ahead three games in loss column on the Clippers, but both Thunder and Grizzlies got unexpected wins, making the Thunder three back in the loss column while owning the tiebreaker, and the Grizzlies are four games back of Utah, owning the tiebreaker. This means Utah is really only ahead of the Thunder by two games and three on the Grizzlies.