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.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Third quarter barrage burys Jazz confidence

SUMMARY: The Warriors followed a familiar script to dispose of the Jazz with a 3rd quarter barrage that felt unfair.
• For the fifth time this season the Warriors outscored a team by 20 points or more in the 3rd quarter. That is incredible.

• The Warriors hit the Jazz with a 10-2 run to start, but the Jazz showed more resolve than they did in Denver and battled back to take the lead after 1 quarter. The Jazz lead for most of the 2nd quarter until Draymond Green hit a three as the half closed. The Warriors lead by one going to the break.

• The Jazz have not won a game they trailed at the half on the road all season

• The Warriors came into third quarter with the #1 third quarter offense and the #1 third quarter defense and the Jazz came in ranked #30 in defense in the third quarters. The Warriors hit and they hit with an urgency and a fire that was devastating. The Jazz went from in the game to out of it in a blink of the eye.

• Thompson hit a three, then Durant followed with a three, then it was Thompson. 9 points in 3 possessions. Again the Jazz re-grouped and battled. They got the game down to 1 point again with 7:25 left in the 3rd. It was the exact same thing the Jazz did in the 1st quarter, they got hit with an initial run and then they answered and stayed in the game.

• This time however, the Warriors hit again. Thompson with a three, Durant with a three and they started running. The Warriors got out in transition and just ran by the Jazz. It was a 21 point game by the end of the 3rd quarter.

• Thru 3 quarters Donovan Mitchell was 2 for 10 and Rodney Hood was 4 for 13. The Warriors defense didn’t give the Jazz primary scored much room. The Jazz were 4 of 17 from three thru three quarters.

• When the schedule came out we all looked at this stretch and knew what was coming. I said the whole time if the Jazz could find a way to go 5-10 in December they would be ahead of the game. They are 4-10.

• However, I don’t think anyone realized what the impact of playing this many teams that are superior to you in consecutive games would do to the moral and the mentality of the group. The group looks like they have lost their collective basketball soul. They fought really well tonight for portions and they battled to stay engaged with the Warriors which was much better than in Denver. When it got stretched out a bit then you could see the impact of the past games. The impact of the lost confidence. We knew these were likely to be losses, but you forget that elite competitors are impacted by losing.

• Couple the Rudy Gobert injury into this and the Jazz aren’t sure who they are right now. They are 30th in defense over the last 10 games. They have played well at times and even pulled off two surprising wins. Yet, the losing has made you feel as though they don’t look right. The blowouts are because of the past games and the lack of collective confidence or knowledge of who they are as a team. When things start to spiral they spiral quickly, because there is nothing in the reservoir of memory right now that they can grab onto to that let’s them get settled. It isn’t clear what their identity is because of the injuries and the losing they aren’t sure where to grab the confidence. A win over Cleveland could change it all very quickly.

• The question to me is not what has happened, that is pretty clear. The question is can they find an identity and a confidence in enough time to be ready for the easing of the schedule

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Thunder contol game start to finish to win season series

Summary: The Oklahoma City Thunder were better than the Utah Jazz, start to finish, and won the season series over the Jazz with a 103-89 win.
• The Thunder’s defense makes it very difficult for the Jazz to run their offense in the manner they want. The Jazz run the third most amount of handoffs in the NBA and are the 7th best offensive team in the NBA on those handoffs. The Thunder are so physical defensively with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George and Jerami Grant. They made it very difficult for the Jazz to get in rhythm.

• The Thunder are the number one team in the NBA guarding the above the break 3-point shot, holding opponents to 33%. The Jazz are sixth best at 37%. Tonight, the Thunder got the better of that battle as the Jazz were 3 of 16 on above the break 3-point shots.

• The Thunder’s offense has been improving and over the last three games, they have had their second, third and sixth best offensive games.

• Westbrook is a 36% midrange shooter. For the past four games, however, he was shooting an incredible 66% on midrange shots and hit 7 of his first 10 tonight. He finished 7 of 14 in the midrange.

• Donovan Mitchell was the highlight for the Jazz: 29 points on an amazing 12 of 16 shooting against Roberson and George much of the night. These are the best wing defenders in the NBA.

• Mitchell — who had been struggling in the midrange — went 3 for 3. You don’t want him taking midrange shots, but if he can make the few he attempts, it will open up drives to the basket at a whole new level. I believe he was 6 of 8 in the restricted area tonight. He is now an incomprehensible 28 of his last 34 in the restricted area.

• Making 28 of 34 shots in the restricted area doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen for rookies. It doesn’t happen if you aren’t dunking. It doesn’t happen if you are a guard. It just doesn’t happen.

• There was an interesting moment after the game when Russell Westbrook stopped Donovan Mitchell and had some words of encouragement for him. I don’t see Westbrook after most games, but he doesn’t strike me as the player who does this very often with opponents.

• Westbrook’s energy tonight was awesome, as always. He came out of the chute playing a full speed on a back to back and carried his team’s energy the rest of the night.

• The Thunder struggle badly when Roberson and Westbrook are off the floor and are great when they are on. Tonight they were +12 with Westbrook and +11 with Roberson. From a Jazz standpoint, what that really means is they were +3 in Westbrook’s 10 minutes on the bench and the Jazz have to outscore the Thunder in those minutes and they were +4 when Roberson was on the bench.

• Joe Ingles has played a ton of minutes and has been under the weather. He might be a bit worn out as he has hit on just 4 of his last 17 from 3 and is a better shooter than that. Joe always has a complete game and had 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

• The Jazz as a team were just 6 of 26 from 3. The Jazz took 36% of their shots as 3-pointers; It might be nice to see that number increase a little bit as long as the team is going to play small.

• The Thunder had 15 offensive rebounds tonight. They are the number two offensive rebounding team in the league and that is a weapon for them. They ended up taking 16 more shots than the Jazz because of offensive rebounding and had just eight turnovers compared to the Jazz’s 14.

• Ricky Rubio took 6 of the Jazz’s first 8 shots. He played just 22 minutes tonight.

• Rodney Hood failed to score in double figures for the first time since November 1.

• The Thunder won the season series with the Jazz 3 games to 1 and have won 10 of their last 13. They may be finding themselves. I don’t believe they are ever going to be a very good offensive team, but they are so good defensively they are going to win a lot of games.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz get smoked in OKC

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Gassed Jazz get blown out in last game of long road trip
Summary: The Jazz got torched early and had nothing in the reserve to fight back against Oklahoma City.
• If the Jazz were going to win tonight, they were going to have to come with a burst early and then gain momentum as the night went on to be able to outlast the fatigue. The opposite happened. The Jazz came out stale, the Thunder hit them early and before you knew it, the Jazz were down 9-0 and then 17-2 and the game was over.

• Two moments exemplified how the Jazz started the game. Defensively, they wanted to build a wall to prevent Westbrook from getting to the rim in transition. The Jazz built the wall but they didn’t put up any resistance, so Westbrook waltzed into easy pull up jumpers and started the night 4 for 4.

• There was an offensive possession where the Jazz player who was supposed to go down to the corner to set the pick strolled down with no vigor and when he set the pick, the player who was supposed to sprint off the pick did nothing of the sort. The play went nowhere.

• Two other plays that jumped out were in transition when the Jazz first had a chance to commit a foul to stop a fast break and the Jazz player who was closest was a step slow and didn’t really make the effort to commit the foul. The next play, Russell Westbrook was going coast to coast and one of our players easily could have fouled him or grabbed him. It would have taken effort as Russell is strong, but instead he just side stepped him and let him go. The Jazz player had no fouls.

• This was a tough game. The Jazz just didn’t make it any easier on the themselves.

• Thabo Sefolosha had a very strong game. He was good cutting off the ball and getting free. He made some shots and seemed very engaged in the game.

• The Jazz seem to have nights where they are a step slow or seem out of gas. This could be in part due to the injuries. It puts a burden on everyone to have a larger role and this tires them out. In addition, if you match up the Jazz player to the other teams’ starter each night, how often is the Jazz player the superior athlete? It takes a lot of effort to play when the guy who is guarding you and who you are guarding is physically superior to you. This could be part of the reason the Jazz have these nights.

• The Jazz play the Thunder Saturday and can even the season series at 2-2 with a win.