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.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz struggle in Dallas

  • Something has felt off all week with this team. Not sure if it is playing better teams.  Maybe it’s waiting to get to the break. Maybe it’s a worn-out team from the increased individual roles. Not sure what it is, but this team is a little off and with the thin margin of error they have when they are a little off, it is evident.
  • There are not a lot of wins left on the schedule, but you would hope the Jazz are able to contest games better than they did tonight.
  • Dallas was the No. 1 offensive team in the NBA over the last 20 games and they looked like it again tonight. They play very well together. Ellis plays in the open court and Dirk plays in the half court and Marion is as good a mover without the ball as the game has.
  • At shootaround today, the Jazz showed the team a video of where they could get their shots, and they showed that Marvin would get the angle left three. Marvin was ready and on fire in the first half. He scored 21 points, the highest in one half in his career. After the game, Dirk was asked what the Mavericks did to slow down Marvin and he said: “they switched me off of him and that was a good move.”
  • We have become very three-centric. In fact, 25 of the first 50 shots the Jazz took were 3-pointers. They were hitting at 40% at that point so it is hard to argue, but the Jazz have got to find a way to still attack the rim and play in the restricted area. The Jazz had just 18 points in the paint (on 9-for-22 shooting). This is the paint, not the restricted area, but 22 shots in the paint and 35 shots from three (for the game) seems a little out of whack.
  • The thing about the 3-pointers is that I’m not sure what other shots we have as options. Burke is not getting to the rim. Alec is the one player who goes to the rim (and Derrick off the pick and roll). However, posting up Enes and Derrick is not a fruitful offense. The Jazz have moved away from the flex offense in order to avoid the mid-range jumper, but getting the restricted-area shots is not in the DNA of most of our players. So when you eliminate the mid-range shot and can’t get to the rim, then this team is going to be 3-pointer dependent.
  • Gordon Hayward was not engaged in the game tonight. Not sure what is going on.
  • Trey Burke finished 5-for-15, which matches the 33% shooting over the last 10 games. He took nine threes and did not take a free throw. Every shot but one he took tonight was outside 17 feet. It has been quite a while since he has finished in the restricted area.
  • Not many good things to talk about other than Marvin’s first half.
  • Favors had a defensive impact.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—One play summarized too much of the night

  • The Raptors are a good team (19-10 since trading Rudy Gay). They have been the fourth best defensive team since the trade. They looked every bit that good against the Jazz.
  • One play tonight was really disturbing and frustrating, and it sealed the game. The Jazz were on a run, down by five and playing with energy and momentum. The Jazz forced a loose ball, Hayward seemed to have possession and then got it ripped away by the Raptors. From where I stood, which is not that close, it looked like a ball that Hayward should have been able to hold on to. Then the Raptors took a three and missed, but Amir Johnson just moved Enes Kanter out of the way for a follow dunk. This was unquestionably about effort, desire and focus. Kanter shouldn’t be moved out the way by Johnson. To the Raptors credit, those are winning plays.   Those are the 50/50 balls that change the game. The killer is that those were really 80/20 balls and the 20 got them.
  • The Raptors’ defense is really good. The Jazz couldn’t combat it at all. They hedge hard or trap on the pick and roll, and the Burke couldn’t turn the corner or get the pass out. The details on these plays were poor. Guards were going too quickly before picks were set; picks weren’t set very well; and some of the spacing to be available for passes was not as good as it should have been.
  • Alec Burks has an elite skill. He is a driver and a scorer. You can build an entire game around that elite skill. It will take time and focus, but it is the cornerstone building block for a nice career. His ability at the rim and his ability to beat his man on the dribble are elite. There are many steps still left, but the basis for a game is there.
  • Gobert played a season high 30 minutes. He is an impact defensively and a zero offensively right now. This is more than the Jazz expected when the year started.  Everything Gobert gives this team right now is a huge positive. Gobert is learning and is a huge rim protector. He has played this game for a while and always intended to be in the NBA. He understands the game—he just needs to learn how to play with this level of competition.
  • Kanter had a poor night. Jonas Valancciunas dominated him. He needs to have more good nights when playing against front-line talent.
  • Burke and Hayward are mired in slumps. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to break out. Hayward has experienced this and should be able to go back to that experience to get out of it, but Burke hasn’t and may just be fatigued.
  • MARVIN WAS MARVELOUS. What a night for Marvin Williams. He gave this team everything he had and everything they needed tonight. He battled at the highest level. He is a pro and it is terrific to watch him every night.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Clippers in the league’s elite

  • The Clippers are a far better team, and it is obvious they are a title contender. We are not at that point. I thought the Jazz battled hard and tried to endure the battle against a team with a ridiculous amount of experience and talent. We have a lot of these nights on the schedule the rest of the way, and it will be good to remind ourselves of the talent discrepancy and experience discrepancy on these nights.
  • During the first half the Jazz mucked the game up and got into a halfcourt game without transition and were able to keep it tied at 42 going into halftime. It  is impressive to me this year that the Jazz have been able to dictate portions of the game at times against elite-level teams.
  • Kanter put together an impressive game: 23 points (10-for-19 shooting) and 14 rebounds (eight offensive).
  • The Clippers are 20-3 at home (and have won seven straight). The Jazz are now 3-22 when they don’t have their complete starting lineup.
  • Los Angeles did some interesting things tonight defensively. First, it was clear they had a plan for Alec Burks, and this felt like the first time I had seen a team so clearly plan for him. They clogged the lane on his drives. Perimeter players were leaving guys to help in the lane and take away Burks’ ability to get momentum to the rim.  Alec is a drive first and try-to-score guy. He passes when all other options are exhausted. The way to combat this is to drive with the intention of bringing defenders to him and then pass. Alec has an elite-level skill that is forcing teams to alter their defense. That is a really big deal. Now his next step to becoming a bonafide weapon is learning how to take advantage of that.
  • Trey is shooing below 25% over the last six games and has not finished in the restricted area. He is 0-for-10 in the restricted area over the last six games.
  • The Clippers also went back to doubling Gordon off all pick and rolls. Teams went away from this when Burke got rolling. However, with Trey struggling they went back to it. Burke will get a chance to make plays again.
  • The Clippers focused on Burke, Burks and Hayward, and you could tell as the threesome went 6-for-34 for the game.
  • You don’t want a rookie who goes on the floor and has no impact, and we certainly don’t have to worry about that with Rudy Gobert—five points, four rebounds and six fouls in 19 minutes.
  • I keep waiting for Brandon Rush to find his groove and I keep thinking it is close … and then it just doesn’t click. I’m sure it will soon, because he is too good of a player to be unimpactful (that is not a word but I like it).
  • Really impressed by the effort of Marvin Williams tonight. He battled Blake Griffin in a matchup where he was a bit overwhelmed, and he finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
  • The remaining schedule doesn’t have a lot of nights where the Jazz will be favored. The process is going to be interesting to follow. How does Trey deal with these struggles? Will other teams guard Alec the same? And how do teams deal with Gordon?

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—A day for the ages

  • An incredible day—from the luncheon to the press conference to the marvelous ceremony at halftime. A day to never forget in Jazz history.
  • The Luncheon was highlighted by a hysterical talk from Jerry’s childhood friend David Lee, then the Mailman, John Stockton, Frank Layden and Phil Johnson all brought down the house telling stories and thanking Jerry. Finally, Gail Miller talked on behalf of the Miller Family and Larry. She wrapped it up with a hand-written letter from the President of the United States of America.
  • Phil Johnson may have had the best line—telling Jerry this was better than a funeral because he got to hear everyone say nice things about him but he figured Jerry would rather be dead than sit through the accolades.
  • Karl Malone told the story of taking his daughter to practice and her coming back with the new word “Puck,” which she had heard throughout practice from Jerry Sloan.
  • Malone had another story about Sloan standing at mid-court during a practice and telling Malone: “I’ll fight you.”
  • In the middle of Stockton’s talk he had to pause to put on his reading glasses, and from the crowd Malone yelled, “Don’t worry Stock, I got mine here too.”
  • Stockton told a story about Jerry telling him he needed to take a larger role and have more leadership, so in the next game John called a timeout thinking he was doing the right thing and in the huddle Jerry glaring at him saying: “I will be the only one who calls a timeout on this team.” And then continued to glare at Stock, which Stockton said was the same as “I’ll fight you.”
  • Frank Layden said Jerry had success because he treated all the players the same—he treated them all like dogs.
  • Sloan said he was the luckiest guy in basketball with what he was given with these players and what he was given by this organization.
  • Neat story was told about the team running “suicides” or “ladders.” John Stockton only lost once in 19 years—on a day when he sick and got beat by Calbert Cheaney. Talking to Stockton later in the day, he was quick to point out that the next day he went right next to Calbert and said “Let’s go,” and he never lost again.
  • For a kid who grew up a Jazz fan, to be in that room with all the Jazz greats and take in these stories was truly a wonderful experience—although a bit surreal. The press conference was more of the same. On a personal note, I had a lengthy conversation with John Stockton, probably the longest I have ever had. I tried to push him to see what he was going to do with his competitive juices. He said he is busy and that life after basketball has been very enjoyable.
  • The halftime ceremony was terrifically well done. I thought Jerry was going to lose it, but he held it together. Could you imagine if he had broken?
  • Jazz did a nice job defensively against the Warriors most of the night, but Steph Curry was more than they could handle. It was a game without power forwards, which was strange. Without David Lee, Derrick  Favors, Marvin Williams or Jeremy Evans (second half), both teams were playing small forwards at at the 4.
  • Rudy Gobert got time when Kanter was poor to open the night. Gobert had some nice plays. He is still really far away, but the progress he is making is noticeable. Going 5-for-5 from the line was terrific.
  • Alec Burks continues to make progress. He is driving aggressively. He did some decent things defensively, but also had some breakdowns in transition defense.
  • Hayward’s eight turnovers were very poor.
  • Trey Burke has slowed down. He has not had an impactful game in a while. Warriors closed on a 24-12 run after Burke checked back into the game.
  • Super night for Diante Garrett, who had a career-high 13 points.
  • Enes needs to rebound better.
  • See you in L.A.