EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — The Clippers control Game 6

Summary:  The Clippers controlled Game 6 for the entire second half and forced a Game 7 with a 98-93 win over the Jazz.

  • The Jazz made a flurry late but this game wasn’t really that close until then. The Clippers led by three or more possessions for most of the second half in a slow-paced game. The Clippers — playing with their lives on the line — played inspired basketball and the Jazz have some very serious questions they need to answer.
  • The Jazz’s number one weapon in the first part of the series was the lineup with Joe Johnson at the power forward. This lineup was negated in Game 5 with an offensive rating of just 93.5 and in Game 6, the Jazz were -18 with that lineup on the floor.
  • In the regular season, the Clippers only allowed Rodney Hood to get four catch-and-shoot shots in 30 attempts, but in the playoffs, they have allowed him to have at least 25 in six games. This either is because the Jazz are doing something dramatically different or because the Clippers have decided they are okay letting Rodney Hood shoot. Moreover, Rodney has not made a shot in the midrange all series, so when the Clippers run him off the line it hasn’t been productive.
  • The Jazz have yet to come up with an answer to the Chris Paul pick-and-roll game and the reason is because he is the best point guard in the game since John Stockton or Magic Johnson. There may not be an answer for this. The Jazz have put a huge focus on cutting the head off the snake but the snake is awesome and it is not easy to do. Chris Paul scored 29 points and had 8 assists tonight.
  • In a playoff series when things happen more than once, you have to begin to assume there is a reason. Joe Ingles has not scored it either of the last two games and is now shooting 32% in the series and below 30% from 3. The Clippers may have figured out how to take Ingles out of the offense. The other angle is that how Joe Ingles looks reminds me a bit of how he looked in the games after guarding LeBron James for 36 minutes in Cleveland. Guarding Chris Paul and JJ Redick is a big ask and his offense has been impacted. Quin Snyder pointed out earlier that JJ Redick’s defense is the amount he makes you work on offense.
  • The Clippers are allowing Rudy Gobert to catch the ball at 15 feet and forcing him to make plays from that spot at 15 feet. This is new for Rudy.
  • Every series is about matchups and how teams can create answers to cover the weaknesses as the series continues. The Jazz don’t have an answer for the Clippers and the Clippers may have found an answer for the Jazz.
  • The key stretch of the game was in the first quarter when the Jazz were playing really well. The Clippers took Chris Paul out of the game and they were +6 when Chris Paul was on the bench. They let CP3 rest for a long time and it showed in the end when he was still able to contribute.
  • The Jazz made a furious rally late. The Clippers led by 14 with 4:00 left and just about blew that when Chris Paul threw away back-to-back passes and Hayward hit a big 3. The Jazz had a shot when Joe Johnson missed a 3 over DeAndre Jordan that would have tied the game. It looked good but Joe Johnson proved to be human tonight.
  • The Jazz’s offensive rating in this game was 104. Here is what the series looks like for the Jazz offense:

Game 1: 105 offensive rating

Game 2: 102 offensive rating

Game 3: 121 offensive rating

Game 4: 119 offensive rating

Game 5: 105 offensive rating

Game 6: 104 offensive rating

  • Austin Rivers return has had a big impact on the series. Rivers is guarding Hayward and doing an okay job which is allowing Mbah a Moute to guard Joe Johnson. Maybe more importantly, by starting, Rivers took some of the ball handling duties from CP3 and relieved the pressure on him.
  • Hayward had 31 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists on 9 of 20 shooting.
  • George Hill was +7 in a 5-point loss and had 22 points in the game.
  • The Clippers got great supporting players performances: Rivers, 13 pts; Mbah a Moute, 13 points; Crawford, 12 points and Speights, 9 points. The Jazz didn’t get the same production from their role players, which is surprising because you usually get these at home. Ingles was scoreless, Johnson had 9 points, Hood had just 4 points, and Favors had 2.
  • The Clippers have done this before and it looked like it.
  • Game 7s are awesome. Let’s hope it is one to remember.

Emptying the Noggin — The Jazz had every answer

Summary: The Jazz withstood the Clippers’ furry and numerous adjustments to hold onto a vital Game 5 win in gutty fashion.

  • What an incredible win. Ron Boone said it best right after the game: This team showed fight tonight. The Clippers came after the Jazz tonight and the Jazz were the better team with every answer.


  • The key stretch of the game was when the Jazz took an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Clippers rallied on a 11-0 run, got five free throws from Redick before Chris Paul hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game with 7:43 to play. The Jazz came out of the timeout with a Hayward 17-footer and then Hood hit a 3, followed by a Hayward 3 while getting back-to-back stops to take the lead back to eight points. The Clippers never got the ball with a chance to tie after that.


  • The two biggest plays of the game were when the Jazz were up by two points with 3:04 left and George Hill missed a 3. Gordon Hayward flew in and tapped the rebound out to Joe Johnson, who put the Jazz back up by five points with a 3. A three-point game, George Hill and Hayward went to the ground to get an offensive rebound got tangled up with Chris Paul and drew the foul on Paul. Hayward then hit two free throws to put the lead back to five points. Both of these were relentless hustle plays.


  • Joe Johnson did it again. With :36 left in the game, the Jazz were up by two points with the ball and the Clippers were guaranteed another possession. Joe Johnson took it to the middle of the lane and faded back from 13 feet and hit the shot to put the Jazz up by five with :19 seconds left.


  • Hayward was terrific again. He had 11 points in the first quarter and finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.


  • This was a defensive game. The last two games were all offense, tonight was defense. Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan had a huge impact on the game and the ability of either team to get where they want to go on the floor.


  • The Jazz only allowed three offensive rebounds tonight in 39 chances and only four second-chance points.


  • The Clippers made a ton of adjustments: They trapped the Jazz on pick and rolls, they doubled Joe Johnson and they played with really small lineups. The Jazz had answers to each of these. The double teams and traps gave the Jazz some issues early, and then they settled down. The Jazz got a ton of 3-point attempts off the Clippers actions and took 36 3-pointers over the course of the game. They got a ton of open looks that they will take in any game, but only made 13. Those same looks are going down at home.


  • The Clippers started Mo Speights in the first half and then tried Paul Pierce in the second half. Boris Diaw actually went at Pierce on a few possessions.


  • Austin Rivers returned and helped the Clippers’ lineups defensively. They are able to have good defensive crews on the floor which they couldn’t do before Rivers returned.


  • Rudy Gobert had five steals.


  • Quin Snyder’s use of personnel, plays out of timeouts and game planning cannot be underestimated in this series. Quin is putting out lineups that are giving the Jazz a slight edge throughout the game, getting matchups that he wants and are advantageous to the Jazz.


  • The Jazz were +7 when Chris Paul was on the bench for the 10 minutes he sat tonight; The Jazz were +14 in the eight minutes DeAndre Jordan sat.


  • The fourth was an offensive quarter; The Jazz went 9 of 19 with five 3-pointers while hitting 9 of 10 from the line (super clutch from George Hill and Gordon Hayward) and the Clippers went 9 of 15 with four 3-pointers while hitting on 12 of 15 free throws.


  • The Jazz went dry early and missed eight straight shots to close the first quarter, or they would have been in control earlier.


  • The Jazz took control in the second, stretched it in the third and then after the Clippers’ flurry, controlled the fourth.


  • Game 6 is going to be really interesting. I don’t know what the next move from the Clippers is going to be. It feels like they tried a lot of things tonight and I am not sure they made any progress in dealing with Hayward or Johnson, and if the Jazz knock down some of the open looks they got when they’re at home, it could get very exciting.


  • Winning Game 5 was a must and the Jazz got it done.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — An incredible win, an incredible series

Summary: Down by seven with 7:37 left and trailing the series two games to one, Joe Johnson checked in the game and the series changed possibly forever. The Jazz win it, 105-98, and tie the series at two games apiece.

  • This is incredible. INCREDIBLE. INSANE. REMARKABLE. MIND-BLOWING. This team… How do they do it? Joe Ingles said it after the game, they have no choice, but at some point you would think they would blink. You would think they would say, okay you gave us that 800th punch to the gut and it was more than we can handle. They are unbreakable. Rudy Gobert goes down 11 seconds into the series and they win Game 1. Chris Paul rips their heart out at the end of Game 3 and then Gordon Hayward is struck by food poisoning and somehow this team manages to find a win.
  • This series has had more turns that a ride at Magic Mountain. All of a sudden, despite playing two of the next three on the road in LA, there is a possibility this series is pointing in the favor of the Jazz. For the first three games of the series, when the Jazz were without Rudy Gobert, the Clippers were the better team. With the Jazz getting Gobert healthy and the Clippers without Griffin, there is a legitimate chance the Jazz are the better team.
  • The Jazz trailed 87-80. The Clippers were having their way. Chris Paul was on the verge of a triple-double. Jamal Crawford was having his night. The Jazz couldn’t get stops and losing tonight felt like the end. Then came Joe Johnson. Joe hit an 8-foot floater, followed it with a 3, another floater then a tough turnaround jumper and the Jazz had tied the game at 87-87. He wasn’t done. He hit another paint floater to make it 11 straight points. Ingles followed with a 3 on a Joe Johnson pass and the Jazz were up two points. Joe kept dishing with a pass to Hood for a 3 and the Jazz were up by 5 with 2:13.
  • There was a cool moment after the game when Joe Ingles circled back to find Derrick Favors who had a tough Game 3, but has given this team everything he has had the last four games and tonight was incredible. Favors had 17 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes. Favors was active and terrific. Doc Rivers singled Derrick Favors out for his huge game.
  • Rudy Gobert returned and played 24 minutes. His impact was obvious he had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
  • The Jazz have figured out how to score in this series. The Jazz couldn’t score in the regular season or much of Game 1 in this series, so that’s big. Now, on back to back nights, they had an offensive rating near 120.
  • Joe Johnson: 28 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. This is a really special player. He had 12 of 17 shooting. Joe Johnson is 22 of 29 in the paint this series.
  • Gordon Hayward had food poisoning and played just nine minutes. He left the bench with about five minutes left in the first half and at halftime, Quin Snyder said Gordon was throwing up.
  • Joe Ingles had a career-high 11 assists. He did a wonderful job running the high pick and roll.
  • Chris Paul is remarkable. He was so dominant at the end of Game 3. Moreover, in that game he saved the game on two different occasions when the Jazz had all the momentum. He did the same thing tonight on two different occasions when the Jazz had the momentum and the crowd was going bananas. He feels the game better than anyone I have seen in the NBA. He is incredible. Maybe he didn’t have a sixth save in him tonight.
  • The Clippers offense died in the fourth quarter. They did a nice job of getting the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands.
  • The Jazz made some really cool adjustments to stop the roll of DeAndre Jordan tonight. It will be interesting to see if they can hold for the next three games of the series.
  • Rivers went small with Luc Mbah a Moute at the four to cover Joe Johnson and played Paul, Crawfod and JJ Redick with DeAndre Jordan. The Jazz are short on wings without Hayward and Burks. The Clippers really miss Austin Rivers when they go to these lineups. He would change who they are. The Jazz were able to counter this lineup.
  • Rodney Hood was having a brutal night and then he nailed enormous shots. He doesn’t have big game experience and it seemed like the environment might be getting to him. Instead — and in a manner that represents the team not having another choice ­­— Quin didn’t have another choice, and Rodney had to keep going so he had no choice, and he made two enormous plays.
  • Dante Exum played and hit an incredible 3 that in a game that was big.
  • Mo Speights missed a 3 that would have given the Clippers a 10-point lead. It was the only possession all night where either team could have taken a double-digit lead.
  • This was an incredible win in what is an incredible series in what has been a season without reason.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – So much right until it wasn’t

Summary: This was a crushing loss for the Jazz on a night where almost everything went well until things came undone during a 15-0 run by the Clippers in the fourth quarter. The Jazz lost Game 3, 111-106.

  • The team that wins Game 3 wins the series 74% of the time, so there is no doubt how much this one hurts.
  • The Jazz did so many things well tonight. They got off to a great start, led by Hayward’s incredible first quarter. They got a superstar game they needed from Gordon Hayward and played with better spacing, take 34 3-point shots. Dang it. They did so many things well tonight and then the drought happened.
  • The Jazz went cold at the 7:50 mark of the fourth quarter. They got stuck in isolation basketball and the Jazz are not a good isolation team (27th in the NBA this season). They went over five minutes without a field goal and Chris Paul took over the game in that stretch. The Clippers went on a 15-0 run and that won the game for the Clippers.
  • Chris Paul finished with 34 points. His understanding of time and score is remarkable. In the first half with the game seemingly slipping away, he willed the Clippers back into the game on two occasions. With Blake Griffin out, Paul took 15 shots in the second half. He is the best in the NBA at what he does and it showed tonight.
  • Gordon Hayward had a remarkable night. He set a Jazz playoff record with 21 points in a quarter to open the game. He finished with 40 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He scored 40 points on 21 shots. He went to the line 11 times. He was outstanding. The Jazz ran a ton of actions and got him on back doors, got him freed off Favors picks and found ways to get him space. Hayward picked up his second foul early in the quarter and Quin Snyder decided to roll with him and he made that move look remarkable.
  • Derrick Favors played a season high 38 minutes against DeAndre Jordan. Derrick has never wanted to be a center. He has always said he is not a center. This series, he is matching up against the biggest center in the NBA and the wear and tear is evident.
  • Blake Griffin went out of the game late in the second quarter. The problem with this is it means the Clippers’ offense becomes almost exclusively pick and roll with Chris Paul, and the Jazz are not defending that action very well. They tried a little bit of everything tonight and I don’t think they found an answer. Favors is not capable of playing a drop big and defend the rim from DeAndre Jordan. The hedging or playing the pick roll square have not been a great answer.
  • Raul Neto played the back-up point guard minutes in the second half and made two huge shots (for 5 points) in three minutes.
  • The Jazz put a lot of focus on floor spacing and getting open catch-and-shoot looks over the last few days and they got 34 3-point attempts tonight. Many of them were catch-and-shoot. There were great adjustments to how the Jazz were running some actions.
  • This was a purely offensive game. Both teams had offensive ratings over 120. The Jazz figured out how to score on the Clippers tonight, something that has been an issue through the year. The adjustments made by Quin Snyder were terrific.
  • George Hill got his offense going tonight hitting on 9 of 15 and 4 of 6 from 3 for 26 points.
  • The Jazz switched defensive assignments with Joe ingles guarding Chris Paul and George Hill guarding JJ Redick. Redick stayed quiet again tonight going just 2 for 5.
  • Jamal Crawford got rolling for a stint in the third quarter and it gave the Clippers a bounce they haven’t been getting. He hit three straight shots.
  • The Jazz led the game by 13 at the end of the first quarter, by nine at the half, by two points heading to the fourth and lost by give. The Clippers swung the game 18 points in the final 36 minutes but almost all of it was in the 15-0 run in the fourth quarter.
  • Chris Paul had 10 points and 0 assists in the fourth quarter
  • The crowd was amazing. The building had an energy 45 minutes before tipoff and it never stopped. Five years of waiting for this night and the fan base showed its best performance.
  • This one stings. To win the series, the Jazz have to win another one back in LA now. The Jazz got an all-time performance from Gordon Hayward, they found a way to score on the Clippers and Chris Paul was still too good to be denied.
  • See you Sunday.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Jazz fall in Game 2 to Clippers

Summary: The Clippers hit the Jazz with a hammer early and the Jazz never could break through and put pressure on and LA, falling in Game 2 — 99-91.

  • The Jazz showed a lot of the same fight and resiliency that won them Game 1, but they weren’t able to make enough plays to gain control of the game. They cut the game to six points on six different occasions in the fourth quarter, but were never able to make the Clippers feel the heat. It would have been really interesting to see if the Clippers would have gotten tight.
  • The Jazz had three shots that felt like they would have changed the game that were all great looks and they didn’t go. George Hill had a half wide open transition 3 at the end of the first that would have cut it to four points. At 8:44 in the fourth quarter, Joe Johnson got a great look that would have cut it to four points but missed, and with 5:51 left Hayward had a great look off of an Ingles steal that would have cut it to three points.
  • The Clippers played with great force early in the game. They came out a ball of fire, ran the floor and played with great tempo. This subsided as the game went on, but it will be interesting to see if they can maintain it at altitude. They came out like a team playing to survive.
  • Chris Paul is the best player in this series, Blake Griffin might be the second best and that is going to be a really tough issue for the Jazz throughout the series. Paul is particularly tough. He has seen everything that a team can throw at him. He is able to get where he wants to go on the floor despite the Jazz trying to work him into his weaknesses.
  • DeAndre Jordan was a beast tonight. He was able to get behind the defense and play above the rim. He had seven dunks. This is certainly a case of not having Rudy Gobert. Derrick Favors does a ton of things well, but he is not great at protecting the rim in the drop pick-and-roll coverage. I am not sure how the Jazz solve this issue the rest of the series without Rudy.
  • One other area of concern is the Jazz only got three offensive rebounds in the game tonight. It is really hard for the Jazz to have a good offensive night without some action on the offensive glass. The offensive rating tonight was a 103. It probably needs to be over 108 to win games in this series, maybe 100 without Rudy. If the Jazz could get one more offensive rebound a quarter and convert three of them, they hit that number. With Rudy, the offensive rebounding is a large part of the Jazz’s offense. Without it, the Jazz move from an average offense to a below average offensive team. The catch is the Jazz are really trying to get back defensively.
  • I loved that the Jazz got a bunch of 3-point looks tonight. This has been a real problem for the Jazz in their five games versus the Clippers. If the Jazz can start to get those shots off, then their margin for having a good night is greater. The Jazz took 25 of 70 shots (36%) from behind the arc. This is a big development for the rest of the series.
  • The Clippers defended Joe Johnson a bit differently, digging more and not letting him have as much space.
  • The Clippers are really missing Austin Rivers. If he returns, it is a big advantage for the Clippers.
  • Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick went 5 of 19 from the field. These guys have really been struggling in the last 11 playoff games for the Clippers. It’s a bad script for LA.
  • The Clippers’ starting lineup is the second best five-man lineup in the NBA and they were +12 tonight with the starters on the floor and -4 when they were off.
  • A huge stretch of the game was closing the first half when Chris Paul got his third foul and in the final 3:33 with Paul on the bench the Clippers stretched the lead by one rather than the Jazz making inroads to make the game close.
  • The Clippers had 60 points in paint after having 40 in Game 1.
  • This is going to be really tough without Gobert. It takes away a lot of the Jazz’s offense with the rim-rolls and the offensive rebounding, not to mention his impact on defense. I haven’t looked at the numbers, but the Jazz have not shown they can defend when Withey is at center in this series.
  • If the Jazz continue to play that hard and with that focus, they have a chance in this series. This was a good performance with a lot of positives.
  • Be loud Friday.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Joe Johnson save again

Summary:  After a disheartening injury to Rudy Gobert on the first play of the game, the Jazz showed remarkable heart and resiliency capping it off with Joe Johnson game winner to take Game 1 of the first round playoff series with the Clippers.

  • Let’s start at the end. Chris Paul tied the game with 13 seconds left. The Jazz inbounded to Joe Johnson and he calmly went to the front court. In the back court, Gordon came toward him for the ball and Joe kept the possession. He has played 101 playoff games coming in, he had seven game winners in the last 10 years and he had played in seven different Game 7s. He was okay with the moment. Then, he came to the left side of the floor where he interchanged with Joe Ingles, forcing the switch from Blake Griffin defending to Jamal Crawford. The Jazz had been forcing Jamal Crawford to play defense all night. Joe Johnson worked Crawford into the paint and finished it with the game winner.
  • This is so good on so many levels. First, Quin Snyder didn’t call a timeout. He communicated to his players throughout the year how he wants them to play, what the goals are and why and how they should deal with things. The Jazz wanted the ball in either Joe Johnson or Gordon Hayward’s hands and they wanted to make Jamal Crawford switch onto the ball and play defense. Joe Ingles executed by bringing himself to the ball and forcing the Clippers into a switch.
  • Today at shootaround, the Jazz literally ran a play where Quin said, “Here is what we are going to do if we have no timeouts and they just went to the free throw line.” It wasn’t the same play they ran here, but it exemplifies the level of detail Quin goes to and the players knew what they wanted and how to react.
  • The story of the night was the Jazz’s fight after the first play of the game when Rudy Gobert went down with what has been diagnosed as a hyperextension and a bone bruise on his knee. It was enough to make you puke. How could this be happening to our team? The season is over without ever getting a chance to find out if the Jazz are any good. Is the thought every Jazz fan had when Gobert was crawling on the ground, unable to get to his feet.
  • Instead, the Jazz played inspired basketball. The bench was as engaged as I have seen it all year. Quite honestly, our bench has not been that happy-go-lucky group getting all fired up about the team most of this year. Tonight, they were up on every play. Let me clarify that in most arenas, I am not looking at the bench the way I was tonight, but I think this is a fair observation.
  • Joe Johnson was magnificent all game. He battled Blake Griffin, made Blake Griffin defend running around picks and did a good enough job defensively to allow the help defense come to Blake. Blake dominated the first half with 22 points. In the second half, the Jazz’s double teams had a big impact.
  • The Jazz were terrifically prepared before the game and adjusted in the game even better. Blake Griffin was getting early possessions in transition and on rim runs. In the second half, the Jazz took that away and double-teamed him in the post, ruining his rhythm.
  • Gordon Hayward is going to have a hard time in this series. Luc Mbah a Moute is a force defensively and Gordon is not able to shake him. The Jazz did a better job getting Gordon looks in the second half. He also had 10 rebounds.
  • Ron Boone mentioned on the broadcast that with Rudy Gobert out, the Jazz were going to have to make up for his rebounds and Hayward got 10. The Jazz were not crushed on the glass without Rudy.
  • I’m so happy for Derrick Favors. He has been the forgotten man for this season, and tonight he kept the Jazz in the game and made numerous big plays.
  • Jamal Crawford and Mo Speights went a combined 6 of 17. It is really hard for the Clippers to win if they are getting nothing out of these two. Crawford has been a poor shooter in the playoffs for four straight years.
  • This loss would bother me if I am the Clippers, not just because it was without Rudy Gobert, but because everything the Clippers did in the regular season to cause the Jazz problems, the Clippers did again and they lost. The Jazz only took 19 3-pointers, which is a season low in addition to only shooting 19 free throws. Plus, Hayward didn’t get rolling. This is the script the Clippers should use to win games. The only other way to look at it is the Jazz still can’t get these things done against the Clippers, and the Jazz are unlikely to win series taking 19 3-point shots.
  • The Jazz maintained a slow pace of 92.5 possessions.
  • The Jazz’s defense held the Clippers to 102.8 pts per 100 possessions. For all the talk of the Jazz not being able to score on the Clippers, the Clippers haven’t done much against the Jazz this season.
  • JJ Redick was a non-factor. Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood did a great job on him. Ingles literally stripped two defenders from the ball tonight.
  • The Clippers got a good night from CP3, Blake and DeAndre. No Austin Rivers hurts them.
  • I find the Clippers to be the most fascinating team in the playoffs. Can they get over their past bad experiences? Do they want to play together anymore? Is this the end of the road and do they care? What causes the old issues to fester again? Well, things just got more interesting.
  • This is only the eight time this year Favors has played 30 minutes.
  • Gobert went out, Favors got two fouls and Jeff Withey got two fouls in the first quarter before Boris Diaw was asked to play center. The Jazz linked four minutes together with Diaw at center and they stayed even. This was huge.
  • The game stayed within six points until Jazz took an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, and that was the only time all night the game was outside of two possessions.
  • Joe Ingles set the tone all night.
  • Chris Paul is awesome. The Jazz have a very specific plan on how to play him and he was able to avoid it most of the night, even with best of efforts from the Jazz defenders.
  • Gordon Hayward played 40 minutes and I thought he looked gassed late in the game. He couldn’t get his shoulders square on his shot like he usually does.
  • The playoff experience of Hill, Johnson and Diaw was huge.
  • This was a win that is somewhat representative of the entire season. One more injury punch in the gut and yet the team comes together to put out a remarkable effort with great coaching leading the way.

Emptying the Noggin — See you in the playoffs

Summary: This was a solid win for the Utah Jazz to close the season with 51 wins, eight straight at home and back-to-back wins against the Warriors and the Spurs.

  • The Jazz played a full rotation of players tonight and the lineups Quin Snyder used are really exciting for the playoffs. The Jazz started with Hill, Ingles, Hayward, Diaw and Gobert. Boris has been really good the last few games and makes all the correct plays. It will be interesting to see if the Jazz continue to use him as a starter in the playoffs.
  • From there, the Jazz were able to put out some great combinations. They played Mack, Hood, Hayward, Johnson and Gobert midway through the first quarter. Then Hill, Ingles, Hood, Johnson and Favors closed the first.
  • The second quarter has been the offensive problem all season, with the Jazz ranked 29th in the NBA in offense during the frame, but tonight the Jazz opened the quarter with Hill, Ingles, Hood, Johnson and Favors. Diaw came back to play a few more minutes with Favors. Later in the second, it allowed the Jazz to get in Hill, Hood, Hayward, Johnson and Gobert. That lineup has been awesome for the Jazz this season. It has played limited minutes (62) but when it has been on the floor, they have outscored opponents 148-114.
  • The Jazz closed the half with Favors and Gobert together. The options are endless.
  • Favors is the key to all of this and he looked terrific tonight. His bounce is going to be big in the playoffs.
  • Rodney Hood was aggressive taking 13 shots in 23 minutes.
  • This was a really well-played game. Both of these teams are great defensively and it was taking high level offensive execution for each of the offenses to score. There were lots of plays where the defense was great but guys made really tough shots.
  • The Jazz did a nice job keeping the Spurs from getting 3-point attempts. They took just 21 tonight making only eight.
  • Joe Ingles finished the year shooting 44% from 3.
  • The Jazz get 51 wins and eight straight at home. Vivint Smart Home was loud tonight and it is going to be great in the playoffs.
  • George Hill played another solid 21 minutes.
  • See you in the playoffs.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz win 50th with veteran leadership

Summary: The Jazz win their 50th game of the regular season with a surprising 105-99 victory over the Warriors, despite playing without Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors.

  • The first quarter of basketball was high scoring and exciting. That gave way to a more Jazz-paced game and with both teams’ best players on the bench for the closing quarter (other than Rudy), the Jazz were able to outlast the Warriors.
  • Through three quarters, the Jazz and Warriors were tied. Curry had played 30 minutes and Durant had 28. To this point, both teams had played most of their available guys. The Warriors were resting Klay Thompson and the Jazz were without three primary players, yet the Jazz impressively had played to a draw through three quarters. The Warriors had made surges and the Jazz had found a way to answer back and stay in the game.
  • George Hill returned to the lineup and looked fresh. He had nice bounce in his jumper and hit on 7 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3 for 20 points in 19 minutes.
  • Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson showed how important they are going to be for this team in the playoffs. Diaw was terrific tonight. He just made the right play all the time, not just the obvious things: The defensive slides, the ball movement, the correct spacing. It felt as though he played a very smart game tonight. Joe Johnson was the offensive go-to guy late in the game. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter on 5 of 7 shooting. He has been great in the clutch all season.
  • The Warriors played Durant four minutes of the fourth and didn’t play Curry and Green at all in the final quarter.
  • Rudy Gobert had another fabulous game and has become an elite offensive player. He is averaging over 15 points a game, he is shooting over 70% and he is a significant enough force that teams are having to game plan for his offensive prowess around the rim. The uneducated comment is that all he does is dunk. If teams could get a dunk on every possession, no one would shoot a 3. They would take a shot at the rim every possession. Gobert is able to get you those possessions throughout the game. Monday, he was 7 of 12 for 17 points — 12 shots and 17 points.
  • The Warriors’ off-ball action is awesome. They move and cut and never stop. They run these little ring-around-the-rosy pick actions where the player just runs a circle around the pick until they are free. They are nearly impossible to guard. It takes complete focus and the minute you blink, they will take advantage.
  • Joel Bolomboy got 15 minutes of run tonight and was really solid.
  • Dante had a bad shooting night: 1 for 7 from 3 and 7 of 15 from the field. The Warriors’ defensive scheme was giving Exum and Mack shots all night. Mack took the most shots with 15 and Exum with 14. They combined to hit back-to-back 3s in the key stretch of the game that pushed the Jazz to a lead they would never relinquish. The two of them were a combined 2 of 12 from 3.
  • 50 wins makes the Jazz the 5th team in NBA history to go from 20s to 30s to 40s to 50 wins in a four-season stretch.
  • Steve Kerr had very nice comments about Quin Snyder before the game: “They’ve done an amazing job with all the injuries. I’ve known Quin for a long time and it doesn’t surprise me. He’s rock solid. He’s a really good coach. Watching them on tape they are innovative, they play together and they defend. They are just a smart, tough basketball team. Quin deserves a lot of credit for that and he’ll probably get some votes for Coach of the Year, which he deserves. I’m really happy for him and happy for their franchise. They have done a really good job over the last few years in terms of rebuilding and putting together a good roster and good coaching staff. I guess not surprising given the success that the franchise has had over the long haul.”

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.