EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Lots of really good performances and an awesome legend

  •  First of five games against Western Conference playoff teams who can not afford a loss to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz did very well tonight. They battled all the way until two minutes were left. The game had 18 lead changes, 17 ties and for only one possession did a team lead by more than two possessions.
  • The best part of the night was the Jazz taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Mavericks. There are two levels of NBA success. First, you have to be good enough to take advantage of the other teams weaknesses, either scheme or personnel. Second is you become good enough to dictate the matchup yourself. We’re not at the second one yet. The Jazz doing the first was a good sign. The Mavericks are 29th in the league in restricted area FG% defense and 28th in FG% defense in the paint. Tonight the Jazz had an awesome night in the paint, scoring 56 points. In addition, the Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the NBA at defending the ball handler on the pick and roll. Trey took advantage with 20 points and six assists. This is a really big deal. If you can’t take advantage of weaknesses, it is an issue.
  • Kanter was solid off the bench tonight—18 points and 11 rebounds for the night. He is not holding his defensive verticality, though he thinks he is. He is getting better defensively, though the numbers are still startling when he plays lots of minutes—whether this team wins or not. This is simply a sign that he still has a lot of development ahead of him, but his offensive skill is becoming clear.
  • The Jazz played a lot of the fourth quarter with Burke, Burks, Jefferson, Kanter and Favors. Gordon Hayward stayed on the bench. I have not talked to Coach Corbin, but my thought is that without Marvin on the floor the Jazz needed a shooter on the floor. With Kanter and Favors in the post and Trey and Alec at the guards, those are four non-shooters. Jefferson is a 42% 3-point shooter. Plus, Jeffferson’s ability to be in the corner for a three spreads the floor. Jefferson is one of the top five corner-three shooters in the NBA, and Hayward is one of the bottom five corner-three shooters, so when it was decided that Burks was going to stay on the floor to create, it may have meant that Hayward’s lack of shooting prevented Corbin from putting him back on the floor. I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems like a reasonable explanation. You are welcome to disagree with it, but it was not without some logic—and moreover some reasonable logic.
  • Alec Burks had a career-high eight assists.
  • Sometimes games are really basic: make shots. When the Mavericks led 95-93 with 3:51 left, Alec Burks got a wide-open three and missed, and then Ellis (who is a lower percentage 3-point shooter than Burks) buried his and the Mavericks led it by five. Switch it around and the Jazz are up by one with the ball and 3:20 left. Crazy how sometimes it is so simple.
  • Hayward played 35 minutes and played well. He missed two good-look threes in the fourth quarter. One would have put the Jazz up by six and the other would have tied the game. Gordon is 11-for-47 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter this year.
  • Dirk is fabulous. It is really an honor to watch him play, call games he plays and he a part of the NBA that includes Dirk. He went 11-for-13 for 31 points … are you kidding me?!  He’s the 12th all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA. He’s 35 years old and I can’t see him slowing down anytime soon. His work ethic is in the class of Karl Malone. His dedication to his craft is equaled only be the greats of the game. It is a pleasure to watch.
  • See you Friday for the Clippers.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz see old friends and fall to them as new foes

  • Fun night at EnergySolutions Arena to start off a great week of NBA basketball.  Millsap, Korver and Carroll all coming back to play in Salt Lake. The crowd loved seeing them and we got a close, exciting game in the end.
  • The Jazz played dead early (which is very common after a long road trip) and then fired out of the third quarter and went on a 28-16 run to get back in the game. They had the lead heading into the fourth quarter. Utah’s third-quarter run was initiated by a good defensive effort that allowed them to get out into the open floor and make a bunch of plays in the fast break. In the half court they ran it through Enes Kanter, and he was very good. He made a few nice plays in the post, and then when they started to double he passed out nicely and created opportunities for his teammates with his post presence.
  • Huge sequence of the game: it was tied at 96-96 and then Favors had an awesome block of Teague but the ball squirted out to Antic, who kicked to DeMarre Carroll for a 3-pointer to take a three-point lead. On the next possession, the Jazz executed well and Marvin got a straight-down-the-barrel, wide-open look from three and he front-rimmed it. The Jazz got another stop and then Marvin had another good-look three and it rimmed out as well. Korver followed with a jumper on a tough look in front of the Jazz bench and the Jazz were down by five points without much time to come back.
  • Marvin is shooting only 25% from 3-point range over the last seven games.
  • Gordon Hayward had a slow start and turned it into a strong game with 13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He also had five turnovers.
  • The Jazz had a miserable time guarding Kyle Korver to start the game. He had Richard trailing him, while Burks went under … and nothing was working. Korver was lighting the Jazz up.
  • Burke had 21 in the second half after a two-point first half. He went to the rim more and attacked a few times in the open court.
  • Utah got the fast break going in the third quarter but in the fourth quarter became a half court slow-down team. Utah’s pace of play for the season is 27th and has been slower in the recent stretch.
  • Four assists for Alec Burks, who is playing with a nice rhythm and is not forcing the game. He has made enormous strides.
  • Marvin and Richard got their game back tonight. Marvin had 18 points and six rebounds, and Richard had 15 points and had some nice open-floor plays.
  • Remember how awesome it was to have Kyle Korver closing out games on the line?
  • DeMarre Carroll was 3-for-5 from behind the arc. He has made 75 this year. He made 20 last year, seven the year before that, and zero the two years prior to that.
  • Millsap has attempted 159 3-pointers this season. He went 2-for-4 tonight.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Had to get it

  •  Had to get this one, and they did.
  • It got interesting tied at 91 with a little under three minutes to play, but the Jazz were able to close it out with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors on the floor. Simultaneously, Ty was not losing this game and Gordon never checked out in the second half. Ty wanted to continue the development, so despite going against what were probably his best basketball instincts, he closed the game with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors. They held on.
  • Gordon Hayward had a terrific trip. He is just playing basketball. Earlier this year he forced things—he played with an obligation and a burden. Recently, he has just played. He has let the game come to him and made the plays he needed to make.   Tonight he had 22 points, three rebounds and eight assists. He went 7-for-15 shooting for his sixth straight game of 40%+ and at least double figures, the longest stretch of his career. He also had three steals.
  • Hayward had 12 points in the fourth quarter.
  • Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors had been silent for most of this trip, but both of them had much better games tonight. Marvin got over the 20-minute mark (the Jazz are 21-20 when he plays 20 minutes and 1-24 when he doesn’t). Favors had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
  • Lineup data: The Garrett, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter lineup played 12 minutes and was outscored 25-23 and shot just 8-for-24 from the field and had an EFG% of just 38%. The four youngsters played four minutes together down the stretch and outscored the Sixers 13-5, going 4-for-5 shooting with one 3-pointer as well. Derrick and Enes played 16 minutes together, and the Jazz shot 12-for-29 with two threes.
  • Anything typed in this section has to be put in context that the team they were playing has two impact NBA players on it. Hollis Thompson, who started for them, didn’t start in the D-League the entire time he was in the D-League.
  • The matchup of the rookie point guards summed up how they have been playing recently. Burke shot 2-for-9 and Michael Carter-Williams was 2-for-13. The two combined to go 0-for-7 from three. Trey front-rimmed everything. He looked like he had no legs tonight. Foul trouble limited his minutes, but I’m not sure he had more than 23 minutes in his body tonight. He is going to have to learn how to keep himself ready and prepare his body.
  • Kanter took 14 shots and had 13 points. He has to find a way to get to the line. The shot total is a little misleading because some are tip-ins (he had six offensive rebounds). But he needs to get to the line.
  • The Jazz were awesome on the offensive glass. They grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and had 13 team rebounds—many that had to be on the offensive end of the floor. They were crashing hard. Alec was a part of it, and Enes and Derrick were killing the Sixers.
  • Alec had two fatal turnovers tonight—turnovers that happen above the free-throw line. These are really costly. They become an automatic two points every time.
  • Some good moves by Ty tonight on the guarding of Michael Carter-Williams. He got Trey off him as much as possible. He played Garrett and Trey together, and he had Burks or Hayward guard him. Nice matchup work. Interesting late that we had Trey on Wroten and the Sixers didn’t go to Wroten.
  • If the Jazz didn’t win tonight it would have been close to catastrophic. It probably shouldn’t have been as much of a battle as it was, but you’ve got to take it and run.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—New York, New York

  • Discouraging performance tonight on what is becoming a tough a road trip. The Jazz fell behind immediately. Down 18-9 and then by 17 at the end of the first quarter. It never got inside single digits again.
  • The Knicks had won three of their last 16 games. They had just ended a seven-game losing streak. This is a game with two teams that are fragile, and the start was going to dictate the game. Neither the Knicks nor the Jazz are capable of bouncing back if things don’t start well, and we got on the wrong side of that from the beginning.
  • That is a big issue this trip: if the game doesn’t start well we don’t seem to be able to make the plays to get a run started. The Jazz have been without runs this entire trip. I don’t know if it is a lack of firepower offensively, the inability to link defensive stops or a lack of confidence, but it is clear that if the Jazz are playing from behind, it is a tough battle to keep it close right now.
  • The Jazz are now 1-22 when Marvin Williams doesn’t play 20 minutes. The problem is, Marvin doesn’t seem right and I’m not sure how Tyrone can get him 20-plus minutes right now.
  • Gordon Hayward continues to play very well on this trip. He is not a vocal leader, but he might be making a statement of leadership with his consistent play right now. He is staying engaged in the game. He is battling through every possession. His defense was terrific on Carmelo for the brief time he was guarding him. He was very aggressive going to the basket. He hit his shots (both twos and threes) and he finished at the rim. Solid effort—18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
  • It seems that Gordon has stopped trying to be the #1 option—he’s eliminating the burden of being the go-to guy and is just playing. He looks more comfortable, his shot selection is better, and he is playing much better.
  • Through three quarters, the Jazz were 3-for-20 from 3-point range. Trey was 1-for-10  (and 0-for-8 from deep) and Marvin was 1-for 7 (and 0-for-5 from deep) at that point of the game.
  • One play summed up the game … The Jazz went to Favors on the left block being guarded by Chandler. For some reason that I don’t know, the Knicks decided to double Favors. Favors made the easy pass out to Burke, who was wide open because his man went to double, and the Knicks didn’t rotate at all. It was a terrible defensive play. Just terrible. But Trey came up short on the three and it lead to a easy bucket on the other side. When the other team is awful, you have to take advantage.
  • The Knicks were last in the league in points in the paint; last in the league in fast-break points; and last in the league in free throws. They got 42 points in the paint, 21 fast-break points and shot 18 free throws.
  • Over the last 15 games, the 76ers have had the worst run of any team in NBA history. The Jazz have to show up and play an inferior opponent tomorrow.

Emptying the Noggin—Jazz fall in D.C.

  • This doesn’t feel like the same team we were seeing earlier this year. When this team has been healthy they have battled through the game and taken some of the best teams in the league to the wire. Tonight they never got going.
  • Favors went out of the game with 9:06 left in the first quarter with two fouls and maybe that was the night. We know this team has not won this year without Derrick, and that is as close to playing without him as it gets.
  • It doesn’t feel like this team is playing very well from behind. Once they fall behind, it doesn’t feel like they know how to grind all the way back into the game. They were on the verge tonight, getting the game down to six, but then Alec got beat backdoor. Gordon then committed a turnover and Favors had a poor closeout and boom—it was back to 10. You just can’t blink when you are playing from behind.
  • Felt like tonight there were more mental mistakes defensively than we’ve seen in a while. Could be a fatigue level, could be playing on the road, could be numerous things.
  • It was 6-5 when Favors went out, and in the next five minutes the Wizards outscored the Jazz 16-8 and it was a nine-point game. Once Favors and Marvin got back on the floor together, the Jazz played even with the Wizards for the second quarter. The Jazz were even with Marvin and Derrick for the first 7:30 of the third quarter.
  • The Wizards have been awful this year with Wall on the bench, but the Jazz weren’t able to take advantage of it tonight. The Wizards veteran team of Miller, Harrington and Gooden were able to be successful against the Jazz.
  • Kanter has gotten his offensive glass prowess back.
  • The home/road free-throw differential of Alec Burks is strange. Not sure I have ever heard of that before, and it seems like a statistical abnormality that will rectify itself.  Burks took 3 of his 11 shots from three while shooting 10 free throws. That is getting closer to the ratio he needs to find.
  • Washington does not get to the rim. They are one of the lowest teams at FGA in the paint and they took 40 tonight and scored 56 points in the paint. Utah’s defense has slipped the last few nights. They had been the seventh-best EFG% defense over last 20 games, but the last two nights that has not been the case. The Wizards shot 54% and hit six threes.
  • New York is next.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Season of discovery

  • When the schedule came out for the season, I thought this trip would be a great litmus test for this team. Nothing is new anymore. No more excuses about first time this and first time that. The end of season is in sight. Rest is not an issue. They haven’t played a ton of games in a short period of time like the trips to open the year. So here it was a test. A non-sexy team on the back end of a back-to-back after a tough, physical game against the team with the best record in the NBA. Have you learned how to prepare? Have you learned how to fight through the mental fatigue? Have you found a way to get your mind and body connection going on a “boring” night? To these questions, Hayward and Kanter could say “yes” tonight. The rest of the team can’t.
  • In the first half I thought the night was fine. The team didn’t come out with a lot of juice, but they stayed in the game. The Bucks were making some shots they don’t usually make and the Jazz kept it close going into halftime. Then the Jazz came out terribly to open the third quarter. The Bucks opened on a 6-0 run. Corbin called an early timeout … to no avail. The run continued to 18-6, and the Jazz were suddenly down 23 and the night was over. Awful stretch.
  • The Bucks had only led by 10 points or more for 4% of their minutes this season.   They had only led by 15 points or more for 49 minutes the entire season. They led by 20 or more tonight for the final 18 minutes of the game.
  • Enes Kanter is showing great signs of growth. His passing is remarkable considering where it was. Kick-out passes to the right guy on a double team from the post. That never happened before. He is recognizing defenders and defenses. He is learning when to make the hand-off and when not to. At times this season, Enes would throw 11 passes in a night and none of them would travel farther than a body length. It would kill the offense. The opposite is now happening. This is where time on the floor is really helpful.
  • Enes is getting better defensively as well. Tonight was a dumpster fire defensively so it’s hard to give credit to anyone, but it felt as though Kanter had another night of improvement defensively.
  • Milwaukee came in 29th in FG% and shot 57% tonight.
  • Strange thing is that Utah’s defense had been so much better recently. Over the last 20 games, Utah’s EFG% against was 7th in the NBA. Tonight they allowed an EFG% of over 60%. That is insanely bad.
  • This road trip for Derrick Favors has been non-impactful in Cleveland and awesome in Indiana.  He was dominant in Indiana. He killed Hibbert and had 11 points, seven rebounds and one block in the first quarter on Sunday. And then tonight he was non-impactful again. Interesting to see what he does the rest of the trip. The Jazz really need Favors to play and impact games every night for him to assume the roll he is slotted for in this franchise.
  • Interesting to see what happens next. The season of discovery continues, and the next three games might teach us as much as any others.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Jazz show major growth in Indiana

  • This was as good a game as I can recall this year. It was carried by our five youngsters for most of the night. All of them showed what they are capable of doing in this league, and all of them made significant errors against a great team—and when you do that you pay for it. That is why I loved this game. The kids showed what they can do, and at the same time their weaknesses got exposed. Milwaukee can’t do that. Boston can’t do that. Only great teams can do that, and that is how they will learn.
  • Utah’s defense continues to make major strides. The Jazz came in the game 7th in the NBA in EFG% defense over the last 20 games and held the Pacers to 41.5% shooting (and 5-for-15 from 3-point range. This is a big development with this team.
  • The Pacers could have been a real problem for the Jazz and they battled through it.   We’ve had a bunch of guys who have been struggling, and this could have been a night that derailed them. Instead, they all ended with solid offensive nights.
  • Derrick Favors’ first quarter was awesome: 11 points, 6 rebounds and one assist, and he dominated Hibbert. He got Hibbert out of the game with foul trouble and was the best big on the floor.
  • Favors and Kanter had a very exciting two-play sequence. On one end, Kanter hit Favors on a paint-to-paint pass and Favors was fouled, and then Favors hit Kanter on a paint-to-paint pass for a  Kanter dunk. These are huge developments for both of these guys. They have to be able to pass if they are going to be able to play together. Favors’ passing is so much better this season. He is really become an ok passer. Kanter has a long way to go, but he is getting better all the time.
  • Both Hayward and Burks continued their upward trend. Gordon finished with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, and Trey hit 5-for-9 shots plus he drew a foul and finished with 16 points.
  • 18 turnovers was too many and guys got loose with the ball at times. Very poor outlet passes, not secure with the handle, bad passes above the free-throw line, moving picks, etc. Can’t do these things against great teams. They cost you points, and the Jazz allowed 24 points off of turnovers.
  • Utah had a good offensive game plan. The understood how Indiana’s defense was going to rotate and what Indiana was taking away and where to get some good looks.
  • Alec Burks went 5-for-16. This is a bad matchup for him. This is the best rim-protecting team in the NBA. But this is where he has to become a better mid-range shooter. His 32.9% is the fifth-worst mid-range percentage in NBA among players who have taken at least 125 attempts. Only Rubio, Prince, Millsap and Jeff Green are worse. However, he did a ton of other things tonight. He made some great passes and finished with seven assists and grabbed nine rebounds. He played a very strong complete game.
  • Enes had his best two-play post sequence of the season. He drop-stepped to the baseline and came up the reverse side, and then on the next play hit a rolling hook across the middle. He has been working hard with Alex Jensen on his post moves to make them quicker and less “Al Jefferson lite”—and it is working and it shows.   Couple that with his jumper, and you have a makings of an offensive player. The only concern is he has stopped getting fouled. Zero free throws in 13 shot attempts.
  • It felt as though Kanter played some of the best defense I’ve seen from him this season on the pick and roll. He made mistakes and got split on occasion, but overall you can see his understanding of the concepts and major growth from even the beginning of the month.
  • The Jazz played a good portion of the game with Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors. They played nine minutes together and the Jazz were outscored in those 9 minutes 26-14. The Pacers shot 9-for-14 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range while hitting 6 of 7 from the line. In those nine minutes, Utah’s offensive rating was 88 and the defensive rating was 152. For the game, Utah’s defensive rating was 104.
  • The Jazz were down by four with 13 seconds left and ended up taking a 2-pointer. I thought the first look was for a three and it wasn’t there. However, it is not obvious when you look at the numbers if you should shoot a three or a two. If you walk the numbers down, it is really close over two possessions what the right call is. You need the opponent to miss one free throw, which if they are an 80% free-throw shooting team should happen 60% of the time. Even if it is only one possession, an 80% free-throw shooter makes both 64% of the time and misses one 32% of the time or both 4% of the time. When you shoot the two you are banking on that 36% chance coming up, and that might be a better chance than a forced 3-pointer. If you are down five you MUST shoot the three or you are banking on the 4%.
  • A ton to talk about in this game. I hope I hit it all. Lots of really good signs and lots of room for improvement. Also, how cool would have that been if Hawyard’s shot had gone in?

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Bad matchup for the Jazz

  • Bad night for the Jazz. Bad matchup for the Jazz. Minnesota and Cleveland are similar—they are bad fast-break defensive teams who don’t defend the paint or the restricted area well. The Jazz are not capable of taking advantage of those areas, and in turn Minnesota and Cleveland suddenly look much better than they are and we look worse than we are.
  • The Jazz went 14-for-29 from deep, 11-for-25 in the paint and 3-for-26 from mid-range. This is somewhat how Cleveland defends. They are one of the worst teams in the NBA at preventing 3-point shots. So what do you do? The Jazz were getting threes and hitting them. Then they went away from it because at some point you have to get into the paint … or are you just playing into their hands? The Jazz  went 6-for-7 in the first quarter from three and then in second went 2-for-6 and in the third they were 3-for-6 again before falling to 3-for-10 in the fourth quarter. But the real issue is that the Jazz didn’t make their 2-pointers or their paint shots. In the second quarter, they went 2-for-7 in the paint (and 1-for-7 from mid-range). In the third quarter, the Jazz went 4-for-8 in the paint (and 0-for-7 from mid range). And in the fourth quarter, the Jazz went 2-for-5 in paint (and 1-for-5 from mid-range).
  • Gordon Hayward had another strong game and opened it by hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter. He added seven rebounds and seven assists to his 18 points. He also had two steals and two blocks.
  • Trey Burke’s no-free-throw streak continued. He has taken four free throws (two techs and one foul on a defensive rebound) in 488 minutes. He averaged five a game in college.
  • In the first half, the Cavs were 5-for-15 in the paint when Favors was in the game and 5-for-8 when he was on the bench, but from the opening of the third quarter on, the Jazz didn’t put up any defensive resistance.
  • Utah’s a very slow-paced team. They had some early opportunities in the first half but then slowed to a halt as the game went on—and the half court offense also left.
  • The bench unit had a very poor second quarter.
  • Kyrie Irving is really good. The Jazz dealt with him well in the first half—he was 2-for-8 and feeding others rather than getting himself going, but that all changed in the third quarter (similar to the game in Utah).
  • The Cavaliers fronted the post after the first quarter when Favors got deep position on some post-ups and the Jazz couldn’t take advantage. They tried to go high-low and they tried to swing it, but it never materialized.
  • Alec played a little at the point. Kanter and Favors played together. Corbin tried a little bit of everything and none of it worked.
  • Burks’ mid-range shooting from the left side is an issue for him.
  • Brandon Rush was disengaged in his first appearance in a few games and got pulled quickly.
  • Poor night. It doesn’t get any easier with the vaunted Indiana defense up next.
  • Hope you liked “Undercover Boss.”