Emptying the Noggin —  George Hill matters

Summary: George Hill returns to the line-up and the Jazz blow out the Nuggets, 108-83.  The Jazz started on a 12-0 run and led by 17 in the first half before Denver tied it in the second. The Jazz stretched the lead back out to 23 before starting the fourth and won going away. Hill had 22-5-3 in his return, Hayward had 22-5-7 while Gobert had 19-13.

·        Starting point guards really matter in the NBA — ask New Orleans. Everything was different the minute George Hill got back on the floor. The looks were more open, the pace was accelerated and the control of the game was terrific.

·       The Jazz want to run an early drag screen as part of the offense. It has been non-existent since George Hill was out, and tonight it returned. The Jazz in the past games were all sitting still when the offense started, and tonight it was the opposite; They hit with an advantage early and then had the defense on a scramble for the whole possession. The minute Dante checked in, it went away.

·       Rudy Gobert was dynamite tonight. He had 19 points and 13 rebounds. This is a hard night against the big body of Jusuf Nurkic. Rudy was much more of a force at the rim than he has been in the past evenings. Was it George Hill? The Jazz got low screens and it led to Rudy Gobert slam dunks. Gobert had a huge impact on the game. Nurkic went 1 for 8 shooting.

·       The Nuggets are number one in the league at getting shots in the restricted area, and tonight it was completely shut down.

·       Nuggets shot 4 of 19 in the fourth quarter and three of the shots were threes.

·       Boris Diaw looked good tonight. He has really been struggling, and tonight he had a nice impact on the game. He was able to back in for some looks on the post. He had three assists with some great passes and set up a bunch of other plays.

·       The Jazz bench struggled again in the second quarter, as they allowed the Nuggets to tie the game after the Jazz had led by 17.

·       Trey Lyles had four fouls in the first half.

·       Denver was the tired team on the road on the back end of a back-to-back tonight with a key injury, as Gallo was out compared to the Jazz being on the end of a back-to-back with injuries Sunday night in Denver.

·       The  Jazz won the third quarter 31-14 to end this game.

·       Ho hum night for Gordon as he had 22 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists.

·       The other aspect of Hill was Mudiay was completely out of sorts, going 1 for 8 with one assist. He caused big problems for the Jazz the other night. Quin Snyder has talked a lot about wanting Dante’s defense to return to the level of his rookie year and tonight, having Hill on Mudiay was very different than what we saw in Denver.

·       This was a strong win to break a four-game losing streak.

·       Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Emptying the Noggin — Jazz aren’t sharp in Denver

Summary: The schedule-weary Jazz played an uncharacteristic game, weren’t sharp in any category and found themselves down early and never made a serious run to change the tide, losing to the Nuggets: 105-91.

·       There was a lot about this game that didn’t seem to be the Utah Jazz we know. They had very little energy early in the game. They missed a ton of looks they usually make. They lacked a level of intensity and juice they usually have.

·       So, why would this be? It could be the Nuggets are so good that the Jazz didn’t have a chance against them. I think the Nuggets are a solid team that is going to win between 35-42 games, but I don’t think they were doing anything so special that they made the Jazz become really poor.

·       The next scenario is the Jazz are broken in some way. I don’t have that feeling either. The defense was great against Chicago and the offense was bad. The offense was good against Houston but the Rockets’ offense was so good, I’m not sure the defense was bad. They just haven’t put together a good both end of the floor stretch in this losing streak.

·       The next idea is that this isn’t that great of a team right now. Unfortunately, this is probably true. If the Jazz’s off-season had been to release Derrick Favors and Alec Burks and sign Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw while doing nothing about the point guard, where do you think they would be projected to finish? If the Jazz’s projected starting line-up was Exum, Hood, Hayward, Lyles and Gobert (two second-year players and two third-year players) with a bench of Mack, Ingles, Johnson, Diaw and Withey, where would the Jazz have been picked? Then, two losses on the road to Houston and Denver — both at full strength — don’t seem too alarming.

·       Lastly, the Jazz have played more games than any team in the NBA, and two more road games than anyone other than the Suns. It matters. You can give me all the “They get paid to play” noise, but the other guys who aren’t as tired in the other uniform get paid as well. When you are a step slow or a step off, they are there to expose you. The Jazz were exposed tonight.

·       The Jazz have played nine games in eight different cities in 14 days. IT MATTERS!

·       Who had a better roster on the floor tonight?

·       With all of that said, the Jazz weren’t very good tonight. They didn’t come out with much juice and the Nuggets jumped on them, going up double digits in the first quarter and the game was never close. The Jazz made some slight pushes to get the game within striking range, and then it just never materialized.

·       When George Hill was healthy, the Jazz were having a hard time scoring when he was off the floor, and then he got hurt and somehow, we hoped that would go away.

·       Rodney Hood and Dante Exum went 0 for 5 from three. This is not because the Nuggets’ defense, this is because both of them have had to carry a huge load over the last two weeks.

·       The good news tonight was Gordon Hayward got back on track with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists.

·       Rudy Gobert got two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and had to sit down. Coupled with an already thin front court, the Jazz had to throw out some different rotations than the coaches anticipated. The Jazz played Mack, Rodney, Ingles, Joe and Boris for part of the first quarter. Since Rudy was out, Quin had to run Rodney and Gordon for more of the first quarter and it changed their rotation.

·       The coaches have figured out how to use Joe Johnson. Extended stretches have made him more effective.

·       Denver is solid. They play 48 minutes of solid lineups. Their bench and their starters have very little separation. I was a big Jamal Murray fan in the draft and think he will be able to score in this league. They play 48 minutes of solid centers. Wilson Chandler is a good 4 off the bench and could win sixth man of the year. They will be able to survive the yearly Danilo Gallinari injury.  Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

The tough schedule lets up and the Jazz play just three games in the next eight days. There are just two plane trips between now and Dec 16th.  It is time to get healthy and take advantage of the schedule.

Emptying the Noggin — Shorthanded on the road again

Summary: The Jazz fell behind early and James Harden scored 15 in the first quarter, and Utah never got enough stops or enough offense to get back in the game, and lost it 111-102.

·       Shorthanded on the road against a really good team was too much for the Jazz tonight. No George Hill, Derrick Favors, Boris Diaw and Alec Burks. It is a lot to overcome. You pay these guys a lot of money because they are really good at what they do; The guy that comes off the bench is just not as good. The trickle-down effect of this is enormous, and it is impacting the team in a ton of ways. I will try to show those in today’s “Emptying the Noggin.”

·       Gordon Hayward continues to struggle. It’s going to be hard to win games with Gordon struggling the way he is right now. He is missing shots he usually makes, and having a tough time going to the basket. Hayward was 4 of 12 and is now 11 of his last 41. He just looks off — nothing is in rhythm. What I have no idea is how much pain he is in with his finger. He has not been the same since it got re-hit in the Memphis game.  I imagine if he is getting a shot of pain every time he catches the ball or off each dribble, then missing shots and being a little off makes a lot of sense. This is also where this team really misses a veteran point guard. If George Hill were playing, he could go out of his way to make sure Gordon got some good looks or a transition bucket. Without Hill, I didn’t see Hayward get many good looks or looks created by anyone else.

·       The Jazz’s defense is not forcing turnovers. Today, they forced just four turnovers on a team that is in the bottom of the league in taking care of the ball. The Jazz are nearing the bottom 5 in the NBA in forced turnovers. This is a real issue. It is really hard to be a great defensive team if you aren’t forcing turnovers. It is just too many shots to give to the opponent. Plus, if you aren’t getting any live ball turnovers, then you aren’t getting out for any easy buckets.

·       The Jazz are keeping Rudy next to the rim on the pick-and-roll coverage, dropping him in coverage, and then they usually switch on the outside pick-and-rolls that are 1-4. Both of these are the right strategy but the end result is a lack of pressure on the ball, therefore a lack of turnovers. This again has an injury impact. If you have Derrick on the floor, there are a lot of different options on how you attack the pick-and-roll and how Rudy plays. You can’t afford Rudy away from the basket without Derrick. George Hill would make a difference here with his length as well.

·       Interestingly, before the game Quin Snyder pointed out that he wants Dante to get back to being the defensive player he was his rookie season. I hadn’t noticed a lot of defensive issues for Dante, but it was clear that Coach Quin had. Today, Dante was -19 in 28 minutes. Quin also pointed out that without George, the ask on Dante is much larger and he is processing an awful lot during the game and it may be impacting his defensive play.

·       Trey Lyles had another solid offensive game as a starter. He took advantage of Ryan Anderson’s inability to move. He finished with 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting. He showed some strong post moves and put the ball on the floor nicely. He was one off of his career high from last April.

·       Rockets hid James Harden on Dante Exum early in the game. In the second half, Dante was more aggressive trying to take advantage of the match-up.

·       Clint Capela is good. He had 20 points and 8 rebounds and had a big impact at the rim. Rudy was solid with 12 points and 14 rebounds, but this match-up may have been a draw, which you didn’t think coming in.

·       The Rockets are going to win lots of games. Harden is incredible and they are tough to guard.  They are going to be a top five offensive team and that will give them a ton of wins. Capela is a nice defensive piece.

·       The Rockets without Harden had been a mess, but tonight they were +11 with Harden on the bench. This where the game was won: The Rockets bench against the Jazz’s bench to open the second and fourth quarters. This is when you have to beat the Rockets. The bench unit we were so excited for has never been on the floor this year.

·       Joe Johnson has been better with longer runs on the floor.

·       The Rockets are my pick for the 4th seed.

Emptying the Noggin — We miss George Hill

Summary:  The Jazz couldn’t get the offense going against the Bulls, and despite a great defensive effort, fall 85-77 for their second straight loss at home.

·       Hayward and Hood couldn’t get a rhythm in this game. Hayward has not shot well against the Bulls over the previous five games as well. Butler is big and strong and evidentially gives him trouble. Hayward is now 29/98 in his last six games against the Bulls.

·       Hood didn’t find his offensive game either. He made a strong effort to drive to the basket and get to the line, but he couldn’t get calls against Lopez. He finished 5 of 16 from the field and 1 of 7 from three.

·       The Bull’s defensive game plan was clear from the beginning: Make life miserable for Hayward and Hood with physical tough perimeter defense and then clog the middle with the three other defenders if Hood or Hayward beat their man. The Bulls didn’t respect the shooting of Diaw or Exum. This was clear when Diaw was left open for the first three shots of the game. He made one of them, but the Bulls had scouted the last games and saw that both Exum and Diaw were reluctant shooters

·       Dante ended up with 12 shots, which was clearly by design. He attacked the basket when he was left unguarded and hit on 2 of 5 from three.

·       Diaw was 1 of 6 with 0 assists and 2 turnovers. He doesn’t look physically right yet.

·       The Bulls went on an 8-0 run to open the third, going right at Diaw with Taj Gibson. They ran Gibson into the post on almost every play. Then when Mirotic was in the game, Withey had a really hard time getting out on the floor to guard him. This is a bit disconcerting since it is clear Favors is going to be out for a while and the Jazz need minutes from these two.

·       Trey Lyles was able to take advantage of the Bulls dropping off him with 11 points in 20 minutes.

·       The Jazz changed the way they are using Joe Johnson. This is the first time Joe has been coming off the bench in over 900 games and he hasn’t looked comfortable. The Jazz brought him into the game sooner and allowed him to play two extended stretches of 12 minutes. The end result was a far more productive player: 9 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.

·       The Jazz’s defense was great. They had an awesome game plan on both Butler and Wade and broke their rhythm. Butler wants to go right and the Jazz shaded him left and knocked him out of what he wanted to do; He finished 7 of 19. Wade wants to go left and the Jazz held him down until the final few possessions of the night.

·       Rudy Gobert was just great tonight: 16 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. He was a dominating force inside against a really tough physical match-up in Robin Lopez.

·       Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson make lots of plays. They do everything a team needs for wins.

·       The Jazz came in as the #2 defensive rebounding team and the Bulls as the #1 offensive rebounding team, and the Bulls won that battle grabbing 14 offensive rebounds in 52 chances for 27%.

·       Shelvin Mack was -11 in 13 minutes.

·       Denzel Valentine and Joe Ingles looked to be on athletic par with each other.

·       Losing both games of a two-game home stand is tough for the Jazz after such a great road trip.  These two teams were better than any of the four teams the Jazz beat on the road.  The Jazz being 5 of 25 from three is not what this team is supposed to be.

·       The Jazz are not winning games when Hood and Hayward go 8 of 31 and 1 for 10 from 3.

·       It’ll be interesting to see how this Jazz team plays good teams. Obviously, George Hill would have changed a lot

Emptying the Noggin — Old-man Grizzlies put it on the Jazz

Summary: The dreaded first game back from a long road trip, plus a ton of injuries bit the Jazz tonight versus Memphis, falling 102-96. Old-man Grizzlies Gasol (22), Carter (20) and Randolph (18) carried the Grizzlies to their first road win of the season, and since midway through last year

·       The Jazz played without Hill and Hood, instead starting Exum and Ingles. Joe played really well and Dante was aggressive, but missing those two guys plus Alec was a huge part of this game.  Without being specific, there were numerous plays that swung in the fourth quarter where the ball is the hands of Hood and Hill instead and they make plays. But that is the reality of the NBA, and tonight the Jazz couldn’t overcome it.

·       The real problem tonight was the Jazz starting the game very poorly defensively, and Memphis got rolling and had confidence. Memphis had been terrible in the first quarter of games (30th in offense) and they came with a lot of energy and effort early to rectify their poor play. Memphis scored 33 points in the first quarter.

·       The Jazz couldn’t rebound at all in the fourth quarter. Playing Lyles and Diaw as the front court and without Hill and Hood — who are above average rebounders at their position — the Jazz allowed the Grizzlies to get six offensive rebounds and only got five defensive rebounds.

·       Quin closed the game with Boris Diaw instead of Rudy Gobert and when asked why, he said “Rudy wasn’t playing well.”

·       Rudy made a really poor decision with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter to commit his fifth foul on a trap at the sideline, 27 feet away from the basket on a reaching foul. You can’t make that mistake when you are as important to the Jazz as Rudy is. Before the game, Quin was asked about how great Rudy is playing and he ended up talking about his lack of discipline in the Charlotte game that got him in foul trouble. It was a pre-cursor to tonight. Rudy is a great player, he has been in foul trouble more this year than before. I am sure why, but he is so important to the Jazz, he needs to mitigate fouls any way he can.

·       Gordon Hayward didn’t hit shots tonight. Some of the defense from Memphis resembled what Gordon saw last year at times when Rodney wasn’t rolling. Last year, Rodney had 33 versus Memphis when Memphis put Tony Allen on Hayward and Hood went off. Tonight, there wasn’t anyone to relieve that burden on Gordon. Nonetheless, Gordon got some really good looks you would think he would make.

·       Trey Lyles —  who has been scuffling with his shot — got rolling tonight. He had 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting. He came with a calmness to his game tonight.

·       The Jazz only had one field goal for a 7-minute stretch in the fourth quarter. The Jazz were without Favors by that point of the game, who after playing a non-impactful 20 minutes, was not able to continue.

·       Joe Ingles had a career high 20 points and came with a great understanding of what the Jazz needed from him in the game, he played a role outside of what he is usually asked to do, and he did it well. He is the ultimate team player.

·       Derrick Favors inability to play is concerning. He has been gaming it for the team, but he didn’t play well tonight. He was playing so well during the road trip, it is really too bad to see him limited like he was tonight.

·       Vince Carter is incredible – 31 minutes and 20 points and turning 40 in January.

Emptying the Noggin — You have every right to be excited

Summary:  A third quarter shutdown by the Jazz’s defense led the Jazz to their fourth win on the five-game road trip in a 102-91 win over the Heat. Gordon Hayward scored over 20 for the fifth straight game on the trip with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.

·       Miami is an offensively challenged team, similar to Orlando, and the Jazz put the defensive clamps down on them in the third quarter. Miami didn’t get a field goal in the third until the 6:19 mark of the quarter. In that time, the Jazz turned a five-point halftime lead to a 15-point lead, and the game was basically over.

·       The Jazz just wrapped up a 4-1 road trip in which George Hill played one game, Derrick Favors only played six minutes of the last game and Boris Diaw and Alec Burks didn’t play. That is four of the 10-man rotation, and the Jazz got through it without much damage.

·       Gordon Hayward is playing at a completely different level. He is so strong. He is getting where he needs to go on the floor. He is so strong that he is abusing any defender that he gets an edge on. He is putting in shots that are seemingly impossible. He has been the best player on the floor every game he has played this year.

·       The Jazz’s defensive rebounding was incredible. The Jazz got 91% of all available defensive rebounds. Gobert had 10 and Hayward had 8.

·       The Jazz didn’t have their usual ball movement against Miami; Instead, they only had 12 assists on their 40 field goals.

·       Rodney Hood was the master of the mid-range. He was 8 of 13 shooting on the night, and hit his four free throws. This was another 15+ point night for Rodney, whose consistency so far this year has been terrific.

·       Rudy Gobert had a huge impact on the game. The Heat got a bunch of restricted area baskets in the second quarter, and when the Jazz eliminated that in the second half, they couldn’t score. I want Rudy Gobert on my team before Hassan Whiteside 10 times to Sunday.

·       Dante Exum played more aggressively and in an interesting paradox, the more aggressive he is, the less efficient his numbers will be. But that is what he needs to do. His rookie year, he played inside such a small box because he never wanted to make a mistake. Now, he is willing to venture a little, and when he does that, he is going to miss a lot of shots and commit a lot of turnovers.

·       I am so tired. These guys must be completely wasted. How they dug down and had enough energy with all these injuries to dominate this game is really awesome.

·       The Jazz accomplished a 7-4 to start the year. I am not sure I had the Jazz with this record if they were healthy, and they have played one game with Hill, Hood, Hayward, Favors and Gobert as the starting five all season. The Jazz’s losses are to Portland without Hayward and Favors, the 9-1 Clippers, the Spurs and the Hornets who are 7-2. The Jazz will struggle Monday on the first game back from long road trip, but they are going to be favored in about 12 of 16 games. That would be a 21-8 start. I think that is probably unlikely, but it is in play.

·       Derrick Favors played 6 minutes.

·       Really great start to the season – you have every right to be excited.

Emptying the Noggin — This was not pretty

Summary:  In a slow-paced, lifeless basketball game, the Utah Jazz defeated the Orlando Magic, 87-74. The Jazz’s defense was stifling. Gordon Hayward led the way with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.

·       This was not pretty. The 27th ranked pace of play team faced the 30th rank pace of play team and it was a grinder.  Just 88 possessions in a game is incredibly slow. The amount of misses were something else as well.

·       The Jazz led by six points after the first quarter. The Magic went on a 16-2 run from the first to the second, but the Jazz got back in control and led at the half. The Magic led by four going into the fourth quarter and the Jazz clamped down, holding the Magic to 10 fourth quarter points and blowing them out in the fourth, 27-10. The Magic shot 3 of 21 in the fourth quarter. Rodney Hood had 11 points in the quarter.

·       The Jazz executed the defensive game plan really well. Orlando’s players are all (maybe not Fournier) flawed in some capacity, and the Jazz exposed each of those flaws. They laid off Gordon and Payton. They got into the body of Vucevic and didn’t give him space. Ibaka seems disengaged.

·       Rudy Gobert was a beast around the basket. Derrick Favors paired with Gobert for lots of time tonight and the Magic had no chance offensively. Favors and Gobert had only played eight minutes together all season in the fourth quarter prior to tonight. They had only played 11 minutes outside of the starts of the first and third quarters since Favors had moved into the starting lineup. Tonight against the perfect match-up — Orlando’s bigs, who aren’t a threat to go outside — the Jazz showed how dominate these two can be defensively. There are times when it is very hard for Favors to have to guard at 24 feet and the Jazz aren’t always to take advantage back on the other side, so the Jazz can’t become dependent on this group, but when the time calls, it is a dominating twosome and it showed tonight.

·       This game felt a lot like last year. The point guards weren’t able to control the game. Hayward and Hood had to do a tremendous amount of the ball handling without George Hill. The Jazz ended up with eight different players with assists, but Gordon had eight on his own.

·       Gordon Hayward is really special. There are about three small forwards in the league who can become their team’s offensive initiator and primary scorer at the same time. For a large portion of the night, he had been directly responsible for over half the Jazz’s points.

·       The greatest story of the night is the roll of George Hill. Hill is not playing due to the thumb injury and Rodney Hood was having a brutal night. He evidentially was sick, was battling it at shoot around, and George Hill told him he needed three minutes from him. It changed Hood’s perspective. He was worrying about surviving the night and Hill made him think positively about giving three minutes. It was those three minutes that won the game for the Jazz. Hood was super aggressive and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.

·       The above story is where this team is completely different than any of the last few years. Even at shoot around today when the team was running through plays, George Hill was telling people how they ran the same plays under Orlando coach Frank Vogel in Indiana. This team is Gordon’s because of the commitment level and work he put in the last year, but the vocal leadership is coming from George.

·       Shelvin Mack had huge guts. He nailed a huge three after having been way off tonight. The Jazz’s point guards without Hill were 5 of 17 shooting with six turnovers and only four assists.

·       Gobert and Favors had 31 points and 22 rebounds to go with 5 blocks. Ibaka and Vucevic had 12 points, 16 rebounds on 5 of 24 shooting. That is a white wash.

·       This game was ugly. The Magic shot 33%, their EFG% was below 40%. The Jazz’s defensive rating was 88.

·       3-1 on the road trip is fantastic.  If they can get Miami, that would be something else.

Emptying the Noggin — Boring but true, it’s a make or miss league

Summary:  The Hornets dominated the fourth quarter to beat the Jazz, 104-98, outscoring Utah 28-20 in the quarter. Gordon Hayward had 29 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, and Rodney Hood had 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

·       This is a make or miss league. For all the other analysis, it comes down to making shots. I will be curious to see the Stats VU advanced stats. It felt like the Jazz got a lot of open 3 looks and just didn’t knock them down. Maybe Charlotte is a little longer and a little quicker, and that disrupted the shots. The Jazz finished 8 of 34 from three. The Jazz have been hitting at an absurdly high rate, 40 percent for the season, so this may have been coming.

·       The first two nights of the trip, the Jazz got 39 uncontested looks and shot over 45 percent. Tonight, the Jazz got 45 but only made 17 of the shots. Sometimes, it isn’t complicated, just boring. It is a make or miss league.

·       Jazz took 41 percent of their shots as threes, and never did I think they were settling and not being aggressive.

·       Not having George Hill tonight had a large impact on the game.

·       The Jazz came out in the first quarter and played great basketball. They couldn’t hit the outside shot, but they were crisp offensively and knocked Charlotte out of their comfort zone defensively. The Jazz led 32-24 after the firtst quarter.

·       Jazz scored just 40 points in the second half.

·       The Jazz started grabbing offensive rebounds, immediately spacing the 3-point line and looking for 3-point opportunities off of the offensive glass. I love this. This is one of the best ways to get open looks.

·       The Jazz didn’t have a very good defensive night. When more data is acquired, it is going to be interesting to see which lineups and which big combos are good defensively.

·       The Jazz have been owning the beginning of the fourth quarters with a lineup featuring Hood, Johnson and Favors. Hood has been playing too much, so Quin didn’t open the fourth with Hood and the Hornets went on an 8-0 run to take control of the game.

·       Derrick Favors had 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Jazz were +6 when he was on the floor.

·       Charlotte is a tough matchup with three good perimeter defenders in Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Batum. The Jazz, with multiple pick-and-roll players, can usually find a weak link defensively and expose it, but tonight, the only players the Jazz had their way with were Belinelli and Kaminsky.

·       I believe Clifford made a nice adjustment moving Kaminsky from the 4 to the 5. In the first half, we went after him on seemingly every play. In the second half, Clifford had him at the 5 and the Jazz weren’t able to expose him as much.

·       Hayward having 29 and Hood notching 20 is a really good sign against this good of a wing defensive team.

·       The Hornets don’t turn the ball over, and the Jazz only forced nine turnovers the entire game.

·       This was not a good defensive night for the Jazz: The defensive rating was 115.

·       Rodney Hood is getting more consistent and has had five straight games of 18 or more points.

·       The Jazz’s defense on Kemba Walker was pretty solid. He shot just 7 of 20 and 1 of 7 from 3, but in the fourth quarter, it was his game.

Emptying the Noggin — Solid win. Bad team. No doubt.

·       This was a solid win against a not very good team. However, with a back-to-back and playing without your starting point guard, it had the script for something that could go wrong. Instead, the Jazz took control early and never relented.

·       The starting lineup tonight of Mack, Hood, Hayward, Favors and Gobert started 20 games together, which is actually a lot for a returning group. They looked comfortable together. The Jazz are playing with a stunning amount of cohesion for all the injuries and lack of group time together.

·       The Jazz’s depth showed again tonight. They had the better unit on the floor for all 48 minutes.

·       This is going to be the case for a lot of nights. The different 5-man units the Jazz can put on the floor means that for most minutes in a game, the Jazz’s 5-man unit will be better than the opponents.

·       The Jazz shooting continues to be incredible. Tonight, they were 11 of 19 from 3 and had five different players who hit 3-point shots.

·       Rodney Hood’s stroke is other worldly right now. He came in making over 70% of his long twos and had hit 11 of his last 22 from 3, and then made 4 of 5 tonight.  This is not sustainable, but it tells you how much he worked to become a better player. He is stronger and playing the game with better balance than he did a year ago.

·       Favors and Gobert were much better than Embiid and Okafor. The size and strength of the Jazz’s defense was more than they are used to seeing, and it caused them a lot of issues. Favors and Gobert played 49 minutes and had 26 points, 20 rebounds and 6 blocks. Embiid and Okafor played 42 minutes, had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 1 block. However, they went 5 for 6 in the fourth quarter when the game was decided. Prior to the fourth quarter, the two of them were shooting 6 of 16 with 13 points.

·       Gordon Hayward had another solid night: 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. The game looks easy.

·       The Jazz lead by six points after one quarter, nine at the half, 16 after three and pushed it to 20 for most of the fourth.

·       Gobert got in foul trouble and was on the bench within a minute of the start of the third quarter, and it felt like the game might change. However, Favors and Lyles did a nice job defensively and the Jazz ran away with the game.

·       Favors had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks.

·       The Jazz went at Okafor all night and made him try to move his feet.  He was -19 in 22 minutes.

·       On a back end of a back-to-back, no Jazz player played over 30 minutes.

·       Solid win. Bad team. No doubt.

Emptying the Noggin – Cobwebs out and baskets start to fall

Summary:  In Gordon Hayward’s return to the starting lineup, the Jazz fought from behind to catch the Knicks and win in Madison Square Garden. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 28 points and George Hill had 23 points.

·       Solid composed win for the Jazz. They got hit early with red hot shooting from Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony while being way off on natural body clock (10 am start mountain time).  The amount of defensive breakdowns early in the game were a clear sign that the Jazz were off.  They trailed by 10 by the end of the first quarter.

·       The key stretch of the game was to close the first half. The Jazz had trailed by 8 points or more the entire second quarter and by as many as 13, but they closed the first half on a 8-2 run and got the game to 5 points. A perfectly executed 2-for-1 was the key.

·       Gordon Hayward returned to the lineup for the Jazz. His shot was off, but his impact was massive. He hit a career high 14 FT and did it on 14 FTA.  He finished with 28 points. He went on a key run at the end of second quarter and played the entire third quarter, bringing the Jazz within two.

·       The biggest impact having Gordon back was on what it allowed Quin Snyder to do with the lineups. The Jazz were able to start the fourth quarter with two scorers in Hood and Johnson along with Favors and the Jazz opened the quarter on a 9-0 run. With Hayward back, Quin was able to pull Hood with 3:55 left in the third quarter, while having Hill and Hayward play the entire fourth.  Hood returned to start the fourth with Joe Johnson and Derrick Favors and the Jazz had three bonafide starters against second unit players.  This could be a key stretch in each game all year.

·       With 7:33 left and the score 90-87, Jazz leading, Quin went to the lineup that has had everyone excited all off-season: Hill, Hood, Hayward, Johnson and a big (this time it was Gobert). On paper, this lineup looks unguardable. Four pick-and-roll players, four + 40% catch-and-shoot 3-point shooters and a big to put pressure on the rim. The Jazz would score on 7 of the next 14 possessions for a total of 16 points. 114 pts per 100 possession rate is really strong for a lineup’s first time on the floor. The Knicks are not good defensively, so it is not a super test. This lineup gave the Jazz a 9-point lead with 2:36 left, 106-97.

·       George Hill was terrific again: Zero turnovers, 23 points and 9 assists. He is in complete control and is giving the team such a great calmness to moments. The Jazz are running a lot of interesting sets at the top of the circle late in games, and it is because of how capable George Hill has been.

·       This is the first time in 983 games that Joe Johnson came off the bench. The last time was Dec 9, 2003. He finished with 10 points in 23 minutes. He is going to have to adjust and figure out how to play in this role, but there are going to be days where he annihilates second units. 38 minutes for Rodney Hood is probably too many, so I would suspect that Joe Johnson could get up to 28 or so off the bench.

·       Rudy Gobert had the exact day you want. He had 11 points on 6 shots, which is awesome. That is a major offensive impact, plus he added 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. Plus, I would guess, about 5 or 6 screen assists

·       The defensive game plan was to keep Derrick Rose off the rim and for the most part they did a really good job of this for the night. The other thing the Jazz wanted to do was make the Knicks’ bigs move in the pick-and-roll, and they did.

·       I have a new view of perfect offensive game – a 30/30: when you shoot more than 30% of your FGAs as 3-point attempts and still take 30 or more free throws. The Jazz took 25 of 75 shots from 3 and took 35 free throws.

·       Lots of strategy in the game with Porginzis going to the 5 to try to bring Rudy out on the floor and Carmelo to the 4.  The Knicks are playing Jennings and Rose together. The feeling around the Jazz after the game is that the Knicks are going to be ok this year, in fact, they might be pretty good. I am not as convinced.

Super fun to see the Jazz team we have all been excited to see.  The road trip continues.