EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — Draymond makes the Jazz pay

Summary: The Jazz picked their poison and the poison got them beat. The Warriors take a 2-0 series lead with a 115-104 victory over Utah Thursday night.

  • Every time Draymond Green uses a possession to take a shot, it is better than if Klay, Steph or Durant take it. Green was a 30% 3-point shooter this season. The Jazz dropped off Green to try to cut of the Warriors’ penetration and attack of the rim, and he made them pay by making 5-8 from 3. The Jazz’s strategy is the right one. If Draymond Green goes 5-8 from 3, the Warriors win. It is really that simple. Draymond Green has made these shots in the playoffs at a higher rate than in the regular season, but it all comes down to making reasonable choices to give yourself the best chance to win.
  • The Jazz got blitzed early in the game again; They were down 12-3 at the first time out. The Warriors kept putting it on Utah and led it 33-13 near the end of the first quarter. From there, the Jazz fought and showed great grit to keep battling. However, every time the Jazz huff and puff, the Warriors blew the house down. It is hard to tell if the Warriors are just so good they are toying with you or if the Jazz are really making inroads throughout the game. To me, it seems like the Jazz are making progress and staying with the Warriors, but every time it gets close, Golden State stretches their lead back out.
  • Gordon Hayward was brilliant. I thought he was as good as his 40-point game versus the Clippers in the first round. In Game 1, he played rushed — he seemed out of rhythm in the shots he was taking. He was terrific tonight. He was assertive. He played with a calmness and confidence, knowing what he was going to encounter. Along with his incredible offseason work, he made a bunch of changes to his game preparation and film work. It has paid huge dividends. His growth is remarkable. I am on top of the Gordon Hayward fan club, but I honestly never thought he would be this player.
  • The Jazz were 4-18 to start the night in the final seven seconds of the shot clock. Then, they picked up the pace and started pushing the ball up the floor. Throughout the year, the Jazz have been able to make defenses shift, create overcompensation to their actions and then take advantage. That doesn’t work against the Warriors. Instead, the Jazz got into early actions and took the first looks they could get. It worked much better.
  • The Jazz’s offensive rating (points per possession) in each of the first two games has been a notch above what the Warriors allowed for the season. Since the Jazz were ranked 12th offensively this season, that makes some sense. What the Jazz have not been able to do is get their defense to have an impact on the Warriors’ offense. They will need to do that if they are going to win a game in the series.
  • The Jazz are not getting the shooting from Hood and Ingles they got during the season. The big jump in Joe Ingles’ game this year was his ability to hit the 3 off the bounce. In the playoffs, however, he is 1-12 on 3- pointers off the bounce. He is also 4-17 if a defender is within six feet of him, according to Stats Vu. This is the playoffs. Joe doesn’t have a quick release, and teams aren’t giving him room so it is hard for him to get looks. He was 1-2 tonight. Rodney is the opposite story: He is being left open and he is not making the 3. He has made just 27% of his 3-pointers this postseason. Prior to tonight’s 0-5 performance, Rodney was 2-10 if a defender was within four feet, but was 6-19 if the defender was within four to six feet. Without George Hill, the Jazz need those shooters.
  • Dante had some solid play tonight and did some nice things. He knocked down a shot. He drove to the basket. He has to get a left hand dribble. It is really obvious how little he wants to use his left hand.
  • Kevin Durant and Steph Curry scored 48 points on 28 shots. They can’t lose if this happens. It is virtually impossible, mathematically.
  • The Jazz are battling one of the greatest teams ever compiled in NBA history. If we were playing anyone else, I would have felt as though we had turned the game in our favor at halftime and were on our way to a comeback. Against the Warriors, that thought is fleeting.
  • Saturday night will be fun. An underdog crowd is a fun crowd.

Emptying the Noggin — Warriors dominate the Jazz

Summary: The Warriors show signs of being an all-time great team with a dominating performance.

  • The contrast in speed from the Clippers to the Warriors was tremendous. It seemed to stun the Jazz in the early moments of the game, though Utah got more adept as the night went on. Early on, it led to the Jazz committing a bunch of turnovers, and those turnovers are points the other way every time.

 

  • The Warriors’ defense is incredible. They switch more than any other team in the NBA and are at a disadvantage. The Jazz were never able to penetrate the switching defense. The hope was to break the paint for the purpose of creating points for others and it happened very rarely in the first half. In the third quarter, the Jazz got a little better at breaking the paint and creating points.

 

  • For Jazz fans, it has been hard to understand why Draymond Green could win defensive player of the year over Rudy Gobert. Once you watch him in person, it becomes more evident. Rudy is equally as impactful, but, wow, is Draymond something else. He ends up on the ball all the time. I’m not sure anyone on the Jazz scored on him all night. He seemingly never guards his man and yet is always guarding someone and it is usually the man with the ball.

 

  • The Warriors weren’t out of the ordinary tonight and they were in complete control. The Jazz got them to shoot only 7 of 29 from 3, their offensive rating was their season average and their defensive rating was their season average. This is what the Warriors do every night. What happens when they are good?

 

  • Hayward and Hill had poor shooting nights, which could change the Jazz’s ability to stay in the game and control the Warriors’ ability to run.

 

  • The Warriors EFG% in transition is over 75% and they turn about 25% of all missed field goals into a fast break. If, for 1 of every 4 misses the Warriors average 1.5 pts per possession, then taking away a few misses changes the game a good deal.

 

  • Rodney Hood had a really nice stretch in the third quarter.

 

  • The Jazz want to force the Warriors to get out of their passing system and go one-on-one at times, and Utah couldn’t dictate that tonight. The Warriors assisted on 29 of their 33 two-point field goals.

 

  • The Warriors hit the Jazz with a 9-0 to open the game and the Jazz fought back to get within one point, but the Warriors closed the first on a run and then hit the Jazz with a 12-4 run to open the second quarter. After that, the Jazz only got the game under 10 points on two occasions and never for longer than a minute.

 

  • The Warriors opened the game with immense pressure on the ball, particularly on Rudy outside at 35 feet. It disrupted what the Jazz were trying to do.

 

  • The Warriors have two of the top five players in the league and four of the top 15 or 20. A team with this much talent has ever been compiled. If the 72-win Bulls lost Jordan, they were a 50-win team with Pippen. If this team loses Curry or Durant, they are still a 67-win team.

 

  • The last time the Warriors lost a game they were trying to win was March 10 versus Minnesota when Durant was hurt. Since then, they have won 20 of 21 games and the one loss was to Utah when they pulled all the starters after the third quarter.

 

  • With all of this Warriors love, most of the people I talked to who covered the Warriors thought the Jazz were really good tonight.

 

  • Game 2 on Thursday.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — This team was built for today

Summary: The Jazz win the series.

  • I don’t even know where to start. There are so many things to write about. There is the pure admiration of this group and the coaching staff and the incredible effort under adverse circumstances the entire season and series. The constant effort throughout the season has been exceptional. The team was built for today and it answered.
  • From an X&O standpoint, the Jazz played more aggressively on the pick-and-roll with the big up. It allowed a few more Jordan dunks, but it took CP3 out of his rhythm and none of the other Clippers did enough to cause the Jazz issues.
  • The Clippers only led this game at 3-2 and 5-4. The Jazz controlled most of the first quarter and the Clippers tied the game at the end of the first, but the Jazz regained control in the second when Chris Paul took his break and Utah led by seven points at the half. The Jazz only allowed the Clippers 15 points in the second quarter. The Jazz’s offense exploded in the third with a 33-point quarter and a 15-2 run. Coming into Game 7, this was a series that was within two possessions 75% of the time. Today, the Jazz were in complete control.
  • Derrick Favors was the MVP today. With Gobert completely eliminated (read however you wish) by foul trouble and only playing 13 minutes, the Jazz needed Derrick to be terrific and he was. In some ways, as Ron pointed out, Favors was the more important big in this series. He is better at playing up on the pick-and-roll and he has a better chance to hit a midrange jump shot that DeAndre will give up every possession. In the series, Favors was 1-10 from outside 10 feet but today he nailed a few midrange shots. In addition, the amount of times on the broadcast that I said “Favors cuts off the path” was enormous.
  • This is a great day for Gordon Hayward. He and Derrick have been through the entire rebuild. It was really hard at times. It was seriously unpleasant. Today, Gordon completed an unreal series where — despite all the talk of Chris Paul — an argument can be made that he was the best player in the series. Similar to Paul, the Clippers’ defense was set to take him away and they couldn’t do it. In the six games he played, he averaged 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He shot an incredible 47% FG and 46% from 3. He hit on 43-45 free throws. It is unusual that a player gets better and more efficient in the playoffs. This is where all of his offseason conditioning really may have had a positive impact. For those fans that have been with this team each step of the process, Hayward’s growth is really a remarkable story.
  • The Clippers went 6 for 25 from 3. Rivers, Redick, Pierce, Crawford and Speights were a combined 5-18. That was huge.
  • George Hill had a really good series. Today, the Jazz were +21 when he was on the floor. He shot 48% from the field and 39% from 3. He nailed some really big shots in this game when the tide felt like it might turn.
  • The Jazz made a huge run in the third and when the Clippers tried to mount their comeback, the Jazz were in the penalty and were able to quell the rally with free throws.
  • Quin Snyder used the Jazz’s depth to their advantage. They grabbed two minutes from Neto, three from Mack, three from Withey and eight really solid minutes from Dante Exum. This was huge. The Clippers were running on fumes. The effort that Paul and Jordan had to put out without Griffin was otherworldly, and the Jazz’s use of depth became a big part of this game.
  • Joe Ingles was 2-3 from 3. Rodney Hood was 4-6 and 1-3 from 3. Both hit really big shots in rallies that pushed the Jazz to a big lead.
  • Boris Diaw had the Jazz’s best plus minus of any Jazz player in the series. He did so many good things and hit his shots. He hit 56% of his shots and was 5-10 from 3. Playoff Boris.
  • The crowd at the Staples Center was a nonfactor. It never really felt like a Game 7 environment. Now, we move to the two loudest arenas in the NBA.
  • The Clippers fell behind by enough that Rivers had to go to his offense-only lineup and the Jazz kept scoring and scoring. The lineup matchups he tried to avoid with Jamal Crawford and JJ Reddick on the floor at the same time were back and the Jazz went at all of them. Joe Johnson kept going against Jamal Crawford time and time again.
  • What happens next for the Clippers is one of the biggest offseason stories. Will Carmelo join Blake, CP3 and DeAndre? Will Blake move on? Will Melo replace Blake? Will CP3 decide that after five first round losses in nine years that he has to go play for a winner and take a pay cut? What will Ballmer do and what is the Clippers’ place in the LA sports market if it loses stars?
  • Off to the Bay Area. If you are going to beat the Warriors, you have to do four things: Slow the game way down, cut off the play at the rim, get a high offensive rebounding rate and have to have multiple pick-and-roll ball handlers. The Jazz have all four. The last thing you have to have is a lot of luck. The Warriors might be the best team ever compiled in NBA history.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN — The Clippers control Game 6

Summary:  The Clippers controlled Game 6 for the entire second half and forced a Game 7 with a 98-93 win over the Jazz.

  • The Jazz made a flurry late but this game wasn’t really that close until then. The Clippers led by three or more possessions for most of the second half in a slow-paced game. The Clippers — playing with their lives on the line — played inspired basketball and the Jazz have some very serious questions they need to answer.
  • The Jazz’s number one weapon in the first part of the series was the lineup with Joe Johnson at the power forward. This lineup was negated in Game 5 with an offensive rating of just 93.5 and in Game 6, the Jazz were -18 with that lineup on the floor.
  • In the regular season, the Clippers only allowed Rodney Hood to get four catch-and-shoot shots in 30 attempts, but in the playoffs, they have allowed him to have at least 25 in six games. This either is because the Jazz are doing something dramatically different or because the Clippers have decided they are okay letting Rodney Hood shoot. Moreover, Rodney has not made a shot in the midrange all series, so when the Clippers run him off the line it hasn’t been productive.
  • The Jazz have yet to come up with an answer to the Chris Paul pick-and-roll game and the reason is because he is the best point guard in the game since John Stockton or Magic Johnson. There may not be an answer for this. The Jazz have put a huge focus on cutting the head off the snake but the snake is awesome and it is not easy to do. Chris Paul scored 29 points and had 8 assists tonight.
  • In a playoff series when things happen more than once, you have to begin to assume there is a reason. Joe Ingles has not scored it either of the last two games and is now shooting 32% in the series and below 30% from 3. The Clippers may have figured out how to take Ingles out of the offense. The other angle is that how Joe Ingles looks reminds me a bit of how he looked in the games after guarding LeBron James for 36 minutes in Cleveland. Guarding Chris Paul and JJ Redick is a big ask and his offense has been impacted. Quin Snyder pointed out earlier that JJ Redick’s defense is the amount he makes you work on offense.
  • The Clippers are allowing Rudy Gobert to catch the ball at 15 feet and forcing him to make plays from that spot at 15 feet. This is new for Rudy.
  • Every series is about matchups and how teams can create answers to cover the weaknesses as the series continues. The Jazz don’t have an answer for the Clippers and the Clippers may have found an answer for the Jazz.
  • The key stretch of the game was in the first quarter when the Jazz were playing really well. The Clippers took Chris Paul out of the game and they were +6 when Chris Paul was on the bench. They let CP3 rest for a long time and it showed in the end when he was still able to contribute.
  • The Jazz made a furious rally late. The Clippers led by 14 with 4:00 left and just about blew that when Chris Paul threw away back-to-back passes and Hayward hit a big 3. The Jazz had a shot when Joe Johnson missed a 3 over DeAndre Jordan that would have tied the game. It looked good but Joe Johnson proved to be human tonight.
  • The Jazz’s offensive rating in this game was 104. Here is what the series looks like for the Jazz offense:

Game 1: 105 offensive rating

Game 2: 102 offensive rating

Game 3: 121 offensive rating

Game 4: 119 offensive rating

Game 5: 105 offensive rating

Game 6: 104 offensive rating

  • Austin Rivers return has had a big impact on the series. Rivers is guarding Hayward and doing an okay job which is allowing Mbah a Moute to guard Joe Johnson. Maybe more importantly, by starting, Rivers took some of the ball handling duties from CP3 and relieved the pressure on him.
  • Hayward had 31 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists on 9 of 20 shooting.
  • George Hill was +7 in a 5-point loss and had 22 points in the game.
  • The Clippers got great supporting players performances: Rivers, 13 pts; Mbah a Moute, 13 points; Crawford, 12 points and Speights, 9 points. The Jazz didn’t get the same production from their role players, which is surprising because you usually get these at home. Ingles was scoreless, Johnson had 9 points, Hood had just 4 points, and Favors had 2.
  • The Clippers have done this before and it looked like it.
  • Game 7s are awesome. Let’s hope it is one to remember.