EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Complete Effort comes up short in the end

Summary: The Jazz put out a complete effort but are unable to close it out against the Miami Heat.
• The Jazz played really well tonight, but the Miami Heat made all the have-to-make-to-win plays late in the game.

• The final plays of the game will get most of the talk, but two plays that could have avoided those moments even being relevant were a Joe Ingles 3 and a Derrick Favors miss. The Heat were trying to keep the ball out of Donovan Mitchell’s hands in the back court. Mitchell was able to get it and he pushed it ahead to Joe Ingles who the Heat had forgotten to guard while being so consumed with Donovan. One of the best three point shooters wide open on the left side from three. This is a shot Joe makes more than 50% of the time. He missed. Jazz would have been up 7 with 2:30 left. It swirled deep in the cup and came out.

• Another late moment play was Mitchell driving to the basket, the defense collapsed on him and he was able to get the ball to Favors. It wasn’t a clean catch, but with his amazing hands Favors was able to control it and went up the shot. He missed. Derrick is shooting a career high 74% in the restricted area. This one didn’t go. It would have put the Jazz up 7 with 1:28 left

• Those misses left it as a possession by possession game late and the Heat made those plays as well.

• With 1:08 left and the Jazz up 3, Josh Richardson, who is a very good defender was switched onto Donovan. Dragic went to Ingles and Tyler Johnson to Hood. Richardson knocked the ball away from Mitchell and as they dove after it, it went off Mitchell for a turnover.

• The Jazz still lead by 1 with :37.7 left. The Heat committed to not let Donovan get the ball after he had scored and made the pass to Favors on the two previous possessions. This probably the largest statement of who Donovan has become that I have seen all season long. The Heat simply weren’t going to allow Donovan beat them.

• The ball was inbound to Rodney. He struggled to get his dribble down at first but then got across the half line and waved off his teammates and doesn’t use the Ingles pick. Then he worked one on one on Tyler Johnson into a contested three point shot that barely nicked iron.

• The Heat called timeout 7.8 seconds and ran a nice play where Donovan Mitchell badly lost contact with Josh Richardson and then got buried on a pick. Richardson caught the inbound came off an Kelly Olynyk pick used a great hesitation move and beat Derrick Favors for a layup.

• Then on the final play the Heat did an amazing job of not switching any of the Jazz action and staying completed connected with all the options forcing a pass into the back court where Donovan Mitchell got the pass and crossed mid court with 3 seconds and took an off balance shot that had little chance to win the game. Rodney Hood had run by on a peel route and while Donovan said afterwards he should have passed I am not sure with the 1.7 seconds left that he really had enough time to do that.

• Donovan needs to do a better job here to give Derrick Favors a chance to get a pick on his man. I have watched the play a bunch of time and can’t figure out how Favors could have picked off Richardson. Donovan had to force Richardson into Favors by changing the angle in some fashion. Then the ball doesn’t have to go as far into the back court.

• Quin Snyder likes the idea of the ball handler coming downhill into that play. If the play has another .5 seconds the pass to Rodney is a lot more feasible.

• The difference in these two plays is the ability of Miami to stay connected and not switch or lose their man. The Jazz didn’t force Miami off them and on the other end Miami got free and the Jazz lost connection.

• Jazz did a ton of things really well in this game. They stayed engaged for 48 full minutes and were really solid. The Heat run a quick early offense to Wayne Ellington that has been destroying people and the Jazz completely eliminated the early action. Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood and Donovan Mitchell all played really good trail defense on Ellington to negate his impact. The defense on Goran Dragic for the first half was great. The Jazz battled back from deficits to take control of the game. Donovan went off in the third quarter to surge the Jazz into the lead. Ekpe Udoh made a huge play to keep the Jazz in control putting the ball on the floor going to the basket and scoring,

• Thabo Sefolosha showed great leadership tonight. He was regularly bringing the team together and helping them thru the night. He was a visible leader on the floor. The jazz huddled and communicated more tonight than I have seen in a while.

• Without Rudy Gobert the Jazz margin for error is slim. The obvious plays late will be the items that are talked about, but Josh Richardson out running the Jazz in transition, a close to the right corner on James Johnson with hand down instead of up are equaling important and the plays that are easier to control

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – It is comes undone in the 3rd quarter in loss to Nuggets

SUMMARY: Another almost performance for the Jazz leads to another defeat on the road. This time 99-91 to the Denver Nuggets
• In the Coaches Show when I asked Quin Snyder about the defensive struggles on the road he talked about how the team has played portions of games, 2 quarters v. Golden State, 3 quarters v. the Rockets and that they needed to find a way to play the complete game. He added that when adversity hit they had to keep it from avalanching on them. Unfortunately, tonight fits into this same category.

• The difference tonight was that the offense torpedoed the defense. The turnovers in the third quarter led to the Nuggets jumping out on the break and getting easy opportunities offensively and busting the game open.

• The Jazz lead by 3 at halftime and by the time the third quarter was over they had trailed by as much as 22.

• The Wheels completely fell off in the third quarter. It is hard to understand how it is happening. The offense got stagnant, but then the defense breaks down in monumental fashions and it is on the same plays that were guarded so well earlier in the game.

• The first half of the game was really encouraging. The offense had a little rhythm early, as Ricky Rubio hit shots. The defense was forcing the Nuggets players out of their comfort zone and Nikola Jokic was not having his usual impact.

• Jamal Murray was keeping the Nuggets in the game and he eventually was the one who helped blow it open along with Trey Lyles. Murray had 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting.

• Trey Lyles got revenge on the Jazz. He got open time and time again on the pick and pop to the top of the three point circle. He finished with a career high 26 points on 9 of 17 shooting.

• Rodney Hood had some really encouraging moments when he drove the basket and made 3 of 4 shots with 5 feet of the basket. Rodney had moved some of this rim 2s into long 2s and tonight he did the opposite. This would be a huge deal if he could make this a regular occurrence.

• Plus, minus numbers were all over the place tonight.

• Donovan Mitchell took 3 shots late but for most of the night took just 10 shots and was quiet in the 2nd half. What is interesting is Denver held him to 10 shot attempts in the last match-up as well. Donovan is trying to be a good teammate and not be classified as a pig. He threw some amazing passes tonight and was a great team player. The Nuggets do something that limits his shot attempts. He finished with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

• Donovan threw two of the most incredible passes. One he drove to the basket and with his right hand on the right side of his back he hooked the pass backwards to Joe Johnson for an open 3 and on the other he was driving and wrapped the pass over his head to the far side corner for a 3 look.

• Joe Johnson 2 of 9, Alec Burks 3 of 10. Jazz didn’t get much off the bench.

• Jazz are 4-21 when they trail at any point by 10. This is not a come from behind team.

• One blip that the Jazz couldn’t control is the story of the night. When things started to go wrong they got out of control and the Jazz never recovered.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Pelicans hit the long ball, Jazz don’t

SUMMARY: Pelicans equal the season series with the Jazz with a 10 point win in Utah behind their star bigs Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
• There a lot of things that can be looked at tonight, but the essence of this game is the Pelicans made their three point shots and the Jazz didn’t. The Pelicans were 14 of 30 from three while the Jazz finished just 7 of 32 from three.

• The Jazz are not defending the three point shot well. This has some variance and luck to it. However, the Jazz came into the game ranked 24th in the league defending the three and they are really struggling defending the above the break three. This was an issue again tonight.

• Some of it however is luck. Rajon Rondo goes 2 for 5, Darius Miller 3 for 5, Dante Cunningham 1 for 2. E’Twaun Moore 2 for 3 and DeMarcus Cousins 2 for 4. All of those are above their season averages.

• The Jazz got a strong offensive performance from Joe Johnson. Johnson hit his first 6 shots of the night and finished with a 9 of 12 shooting night and had 20 points. This was his season high.

• The game swung to the Pelicans at the end of the third quarter when they went on a 11-1 run to close the quarter and take a nine point lead going into the 4th quarter.

• The Pelicans took a higher level of focus on Donovan Mitchell than they did the December 1st meeting. Mitchell couldn’t get to the rim and his outside shot was not falling. He only made 6 of 17 from the field. On the other hand, his aggressiveness allowed him to get to the line 10 times, making 9. He still finished with 24 points on 17 shot attempts which is fabulous.

• Rodney Hood is the Jazz second scorer and tonight he didn’t have it. He was 1 for 10 for 2 points in 33 minutes. Not sure the Jazz can win a game when they get 2 points in 33 minutes from Hood. The defense has a high level of focus on Mitchell right now and Hood needs to find a way to take advantage of that freedom,

• Rodney Hood entered the game shooing 37% at home this season.

• When Rodney Hood shoots below 33% the Jazz are 2-8 on the season. The bigger issue is this has happened 10 times in 29 games.

• Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are unbelievably gifted. The skill set they have with their size are once in a lifetime or once every few generations level of talent.

• These guys are so good that the Pelicans are winning the games they should and they are now 10-4 in games against sub .500 teams. That is going to get them in the playoffs.

• The Jazz offense was the issue tonight with an offensive rating of 100. The defense was average, but I am not sure without Rudy Gobert the Jazz defense is much more than average.

• Donovan Mitchell played 38 minutes tonight, Derrick Favors played 35 minutes.

• The Pelicans were +10 when Anthony Davis was the only big on the floor. They were +6 when both Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were on the floor and they were -6 when Cousins was on the floor.

• This is a tough loss for the Jazz in the playoff picture.