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.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz win to go 15-15 in last 30 games

  • This was a win against an undermanned team and it took 12 minutes of good basketball in the third quarter to run away from the Kings. Nothing overly impressive, just a win. (Other than every win this season is impressive.)
  • The Jazz are 15-15 over their last 30 games. This is not something I thought this team would accomplish this season. It is an impressive accomplishment to all involved. The players have played hard all year and never felt sorry for themselves for being undermanned. The coaches have never let them play the game in any fashion other than the correct way. These are important things to the culture of this franchise. It is a developmental year and we are seeing all the development plus the ability to win games. The Jazz are 13-8 when playing with their regular starting lineup.
  • Without Cousins and with Landry really limited, the Jazz dominated the inside game. Favors, Marvin and Jeremy all had double-doubles, and Kanter dominated the second quarter with another strong outing.
  • Favors dropped 17-12 with nothing alarmingly spectacular. He is averaging 14 and 10 in the month of January. That is a considerable jump for Favors from last season. I can’t imagine that anyone could have asked much more than this from him this season.
  • The Jazz ran the right-side pick and roll with Hayward and Favors incessantly and ripped the Kings apart. The Jazz got three big 3-pointers on three straight possessions. They found Favors rolling to the basket, and Hayward made a few plays. This busted the game open and changed the night. This is an impressive go-to play, and the floor spacing with Marvin and Richard, along with Trey, is very good. Plus, the secondary run on the play is often a pick and roll with Burke on the weakside, which usually yields something as well.
  • With 3:39 left in the game, Corbin brought Gobert in the and Mike Malone played Hack-a-Gobert. The Jazz led by 14. Gobert went 1-for-4 from the line then Corbin took him out, so Malone went to Hack-an-Evans. Evans went 3-for-6 from the line,  so the Jazz got only four points in five possessions. It worked. The game was now down to seven. Hack-a strategy can’t be used in the final two minutes. The game got down to five with 31 seconds left, but the Jazz had the ball.
  • Ironically, the Kings shot 2-pointers when they needed to shot 3-pointers on the offensive end.
  • Tryone Corbin didn’t sub anyone out other than Gobert in the final stretch. While it was nerve-racking, this type of faith in his players is probably why these guys play hard for him every night. Corbin never shows his players up or humiliates them, and he gets the reward with their loyalty to him in effort.
  • Friday night is Jerry Sloan Night, so be sure to come out to ESA.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Burks and Kanter lead the Jazz

  • Tonight might be the perfect recap to the season thus far. Falling behind, bouncing back, team and individuals bouncing back, and Trey Burke hitting a cold-blooded shot late to win it.
  • The Jazz were getting blown out coming off back-to-back bad performances against Minnesota and then they fought back into the game and won a close one.
  • Utah didn’t close the final minute well, but this was a 92-90 game with 3:00 left—the Wizards had the ball and the Jazz (playing Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter) found a way to win the game. This young team has been amazing at winning close games.
  • The Jazz are 12-8 with this starting five.
  • This was a mammoth night for Enes Kanter, who had two really poor games against Minnesota and has been a momentum player for much of his career. For him to turn it around with this strong of an offensive night is a great sign for his development.   He went 11-for-13 from the field and had a huge assist to Favors late in the game. Plus he hit a big jumper from the free-throw line, plus he had a nifty up-and-under move on Gortat and drew a foul to go to the line, where he made both. The area where he still needs to improve is that he is no longer a good rebounder. He had only four defensive rebounds in 30 minutes on the floor.
  • Alec Burks’ play in the third quarter was some of the best I have seen out of him. He played well without the ball and was in the right spots. With the ball, he was in control—he was calm. He made the right play time after time and had terrific hustle plays that altered the game. Burks got at least three 50-50 balls that were key for the Jazz to win this game.
  • This was one of the most interesting lineup nights of the season. The Wizards starting five has been great this year—second best in the NBA out of lineups that have played 200+ minutes. Tonight they were outscored by two in the 17 minutes they were on the floor.
  • The Jazz played Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter more tonight than any night all year. They played 13 minutes and were outscored by nine (35-26). The group failed defensively, and lots of that was late in the final minutes of the game.  The Wizards went 14-for-26 from the field (and 4-for-7 from three) when those five were on the floor.
  • Kanter and Favors played 17 minutes together and were -6.
  • Trey Burke hit another mammoth late-game shot. He is unreal late in games.
  • Both Richard and Marvin have slowed down a lot, and their time on the floor is shrinking. They both played only 17 minutes tonight.
  • Favors quickly went to work and nabbed another double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
  • Diante Garrett played the back-up point guard against the length of Wall and Temple and played well tonight.
  • This night was highlighted by the growth of Kanter and Burks. Both were the best player on the floor for periods of the game.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Matchup or effort?

  •  These last two nights have been very uncharacteristic. It looked as though the Jazz seriously lacked energy and effort. However, that is not the Utah Jazz this season, so when it happens against the same team in back-to-back games I have to wonder if it is the matchup and what looks like a lack of effort is actually being completely outmatched.
  • The Jazz were without Derrick Favors, so Enes Kanter got the start and had a really tough night. He looked disengaged at times during the game. He was overwhelmed by Pekovic, who causes lots of people problems. Kanter got in foul trouble in the first quarter and then had little to no positive impact on the game. The concern is that Kanter had been playing so well prior to the last two games vs. Minnesota. He has been a momentum player his entire career and hopefully this doesn’t derail the success he was having.
  • Back-to-back tough nights for Trey Burke. Maybe the worst back-to-back nights of his career.
  • Hayward returned and built off his three previous stellar games. Prior to the injury, Hayward had gone for 20 or more in three straight and he did it again tonight.  Moreover, he didn’t look like he was forcing the game. He played inside the game and played with his teammates. He took the opportunities that were available and he made the most of them. He also added 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
  • I like it so much more when a shot happens because all the intentions of passing and finding a teammate were exhausted rather than the player who only passes after all of his shooing options were negated.
  • I wish there was a way to count how many points an individual player gave up. I think tonight would have been really embarrassing for some players. It would alter behavior if the box score every night had how many points your man gave up as well.
  • Rudy Gobert got some run tonight. His length was a factor and his offensive game is limited to dunks. The coaches may need to find a way to get him in the rotation for the second half of the season, though it’s going to cost us games. He needs to learn, but his overall impact right now goes both ways.
  • Very bloody night.
  • Kevin Love’s outlet passes are awesome. However, basic fundamentals need to be executed on how you get back in transition defense. His outlet passes are still really awesome.
  • Lots of practice time. Improvement is still very needed.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Not much to empty

  • Noggin on empty. What can be said?
  • Historically bad night for the Jazz, and that is collective effort.
  • I really like Derrick Favors’ approach on the offensive end. He is making his moves with an intention. He has a plan and he is reacting correctly to what the defense is doing.
  • Two nights in a row Alec Burks has had to leave the game due to foul trouble. Kevin Martin is tough, but that should not have happened on Caldwell-Pope. Next step in development.
  • Not really surprising that Burke was off tonight. Rubio’s length gave him issues.
  • Not sure what sequence defined the night—Burke double dribbling (uncalled) to Favors, who rim checks on the dunk, gets it back and misses the next dunk … or Jeremy Evans missing three tip-ins from one foot in a span of four seconds.
  • The ball didn’t move.
  • You could say this is bringing togetherness of a unit to a new level. They all had their worst game of the year together. Not sure that is fair for Favors, but he would be the only one I would take out of the group.
  • When Burks got two fouls and Hayward was out and the Jazz had to go to Garrett with Clark/Lucas and Rush and Evans and Kanter/Favors, it was too much.
  • See the Wolves on Tuesday.