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Archive for October, 2013

Thunder at Jazz 10-30-13

Run It Back (Jazz Superlatives)

Final Score: Thunder 101, Jazz 98.

Player of the Game: After a relatively quiet 1st-half, Alec Burks sparked a furious Utah rally from a 14-point deficit by practically carrying Utah’s offense in the 2nd-half.

Alec Burks – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att 3pt Att Ast TO Min
1st 1 2 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 5
2nd 4 2 2 4 0 1 0 2 3 1 12
3rd 8 1 2 6 4 4 0 1 0 0 7
4th 11 1 4 5 3 3 0 0 2 1 8
Total 24 6 8 16 8 9 0 3 6 3 31
FG% 50% FT% 89% 3pt% 0%

Burks did all of his damage in the lane, shooting 8-10 in the paint and 0-6 outside the paint. Nevertheless, the Thunder were powerless to stop him, first switching the veteran Derek Fisher onto him early in the 3rd-qtr and then Kevin Durant onto him late in the 4th-qtr.

Burks scored 8 in the final 2:26 of the 3rd-qtr to cut a 12-point deficit to 8. I mentioned in the game preview Utah needed to figure out ways to hang-around to give themselves a chance in the 4th-qtr, and that’s what Burks’ did with his relentless forays to the basket. He did commit a tough turnover late but without him this is a double-digit blowout. Easily his best game as a pro.

Best Shot: 9:41 4th-Qtr  – Burks came off a Gobert screen and drove middle, absorbing contact from both Jeremy Lamb and Serge Ibaka to score and draw the foul.

Best Move: 7:33 2nd-Qtr – Burks cut backdoor on Lamb, went up on the left-side of the basket and converted a ridiculous hanging reverse-layup against 7-footer Steven Adams in which he put incredible reverse-english on the ball.

A beautiful pass from Favors set it up. This season the Jazz are getting the ball to their big up high and wrapping the wings around on a dribble hand-off that’s essentially high screen-roll. In response, OKC’s wings started overplaying on the permimeter. Twice in the 1st-half Favors made them pay with his passing (Hayward also cut backdoor in the 1st-Qtr for a dunk over Perkins).

Best Play: 3:35 1st-Qtr – On side screen-roll, Burks was forced baseline where OKC tried to corner him but he fired a cross-court pass to Hayward on the left-wing who knocked down the open three to give Utah their largest lead of the game at 24-17.

The Thunder did a much better job in the 2nd and 3rd-quarters forcing Utah’s guards baseline and rotating their defense hard to force that crosscourt pass through much tighter windows.

Worst Play: 0:07-2nd-Qtr – Holding for one shot, John Lucas III pulled-up for a three with 7-seconds left that caught nothing but air and resulted in a buzzer-beating three in transition for Thabo Sefalosha to give OKC a 9-point halftime lead.

Best Dunk: 5:57 1st-Qtr – Hayward tracked down the long offensive rebound and made a no-look dish to Favors for a two-hand dunk over Ibaka that gave Utah an 18-12 lead, brought the crowd to its feet and forced Scott Brooks to call an early timeout.

Best Block: 3:55 1st-Qtr – Ibaka out-positioned Rudy Gobert for an offensive rebound but had his put-back emphatically rejected by Favors. The rebound went to Lamb who’s shot was altered by the long arm of Gobert, who then secured the rebound.

Best Pass: 6:59 4th-QTR – Alec Burks pushed the ball in transition and despite OKC having 3 back, dropped a gorgeous no-look bounce pass to Mike Harris who ran the floor hard for a two-hand dunk that cut the lead to 87-85 and forced OKC to call for time.

Worst Pass: 7:45 3rd-Qtr – Left wide-open at the top of the key, Enes Kanter fired a rocket pass to a young woman sitting in the front row – a good 5-feet away from the closest Jazz player. For most of the night I felt Kanter’s performance was undwhelming. Thought he showed nerves and often looked hesitant with the ball. Also didn’t think he was overly aggressive rebounding (1 rebound in 1st-half), but worked himself into the flow in the 2nd-half with some offensive putbacks to finish with 14&10.

Best Execution: 10:10 4th-Qtr – OKC trapped Burks in side screen-roll on the right side of the floor but he was able to hit Gobert rolling to the rim for a lay-in over Ibaka. Several times Gobert looked lost offensively but on this play he showed good recognition and gave Burks a good passing window.

Run of the Game: 6:58 4th-Qtr – After trailing by 14 late in the 3rd-qtr, Utah went on a 20-8 run to cut the Thunder lead to 87-85. Alec Burks was literally Utah’s entire offense in that stretch – where he had a hand in all 20 Jazz points. Burks scored 13 of the 20 himself, assisted on two other field goals (4 pts) and made the kickout pass to Mike Harris in which he was fouled on a three-point attempt (3 pts).

The 20-8 run ended when Ty Corbin inexplicably subbed out Alec Burks for Gordon Hayward (who at that point was 3-8 and had 4 TO’s). Even Matt Harpring was puzzled, saying: “I am a little surprised right now that Alec Burks is not on the court.”
With Burks on the bench in the 4th-quarter, Utah lost their momentum shooting 2-6 and committed 3 turnovers.

Karl Malone Play of the Game: 7:49 3rd-Qtr – Off an OKC miss, Favors began the possession on the baseline 94-feet from the basket and motored past Perkins and Ibaka (putting his hand up in the air reminiscent of Randy Moss running a 9-route) for an alley-oop dunk from Lucas.

Jazzbasketball Play: I didn’t like a lot of Utah’s offensive sets. I felt they relied too much on dribble hand-offs between a big and guard at the 3pt-line which led to too many turnovers and quick perimeter shots. Utah started the game with 2 post-ups to Favors on the right block and got 4 quick points. Thought that was there all game if they stayed patient.

Stat of the Game: Utah shot 4-5 on threes in the first 9-minutes but just 2-17 over the final 39-minutes.

Quote of the Game: Matt Harpring: “So in defensive 3-seconds, you have 3-seconds to get out of the lane…in-and-out of the lane…so if you’re in there more than 3-seconds – that’s why they call that a violation.”

He’s the best.

Odds and Ends:

  • Mike Harris came out of nowhere to score 13 points off-the-bench. His points came via a cutting layup off a nice feed from Lucas (2), an open catch&shoot baseline jumper (4), a fastbreak layup (6), 3 free throws on a foul by Durant (9), a fastbreak dunk off the great pass from Burks (11) and then an open 20-foot jumper behind a Favors screen. The Thunder showed him no respect and he made them pay.
    In the preseason Harris played more PF but playing exclusively at SF, his build (a muscular 6-6/242) gave Durant a tougher look than when he was able to more easily post Jefferson and Hayward.
  • The turnovers that really killed Utah were clean pocket-picks simply from OKC applying pressure and Utah’s ball-handlers losing control. Lucas had one in the 1st-half for an OKC fastbreak and Hayward coughed up two in the 3rd-qtr. Give a team 4-6 free points per game, and that could be the difference in a 3-point loss.
  • Favors was credited with an inexcusable 6 turnovers. Looking deeper, only 4 were his fault. One was attributed to him but was actually a fumbled hand-off by Lucas who apparently wasn’t expecting the ball to be placed in his gut. The other was an offensive foul in which he was put in a bad position after gaining control of a poor pass from Hayward. 4 is still too many but Favors also had 5 assists.
  • Favors logged 42:51 in playing time. The only game in which he played more minutes was in a triple-OT game in Toronto last November.
  • Less than a week after re-joining the Jazz, Jamaal Tinsley had three wide-open threes (2 from the top-of-the-key and 1 in the right corner) and missed them all. Last season Tinsley missed 14 of his first 15 3pt FG’s but rebounded to hit 34% of his threes the rest of the season.

Next Opponent:

Next up is a visit to Phoenix to take on the Suns and former Jazz great Jeff Hornacek. Last night the Suns ran the Trailblazers ragged in a 104-91 victory, with a starting lineup consisting of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee. Plumlee – a throw-in in the Pacers/Scola salary dump – logged 18pts/15reb/3blk. The Suns did a great job spacing the floor and allowing Dragic (26pts/9ast) and Bledsoe (22pts/7reb/6ast) to attack and be aggressive offensively.

The Jazz need to do a much better job taking care of the ball than they did last night or else the Suns will really make them pay. Hornacek really wants to push the tempo and while the Jazz gave up 25 fastbreak points to OKC, Phoenix also scored 31 against Portland.

Based off talent levels, Friday night is a game the Jazz could easily win but they need to clean up game than they did in the 2nd and 3rd-quarters.

Final Word:

Utah was sloppy and had a few ugly stretches but they really played hard and a brilliant 2nd-half by Burks gave them a legitimate chance to win in the 4th-qtr. For an opening game against OKC, that’s all you can ask for. They need to clean some things up but if they can give that type of effort for 82 games this should be a fun and exciting season regardless of final record.

All I hope is for the team to be in a position to win in the 4th-qtr. How often they come through is part of the growing process.

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Jazz Future is Now - 2013-14

The Utah Jazz tip-off their 2013-14 season against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Energy Solutions Arena. Here are 5 statistics and thoughts to be aware of heading into tonight:

1.) The Jazz have won 16 of their last 20 home-openers. Since moving to Utah they are 15-7 when opening the regular season at home, with their last loss coming in 2001 to the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime. Their worst loss amongst those 22 games was a 119-96 defeat to Phoenix in 1990 in which Suns great Tom Chambers scored 39 points. All of which have no bearing on tonight’s game, but regardless of expectations – with a blank canvas for one game at least we can go in expecting to win.

2.) The Jazz will likely begin the 2013-14 season with a starting lineup consisting of 4 new starters compared to their opening night starting lineup from last season (Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson), with Gordon Hayward being the only constant (even though he came off the bench last season as well). The only other times that’s happened since the franchise moved to Utah were 2011-12 (only holdover Al Jefferson), 2004-05 (holdover Andrei Kirilenko), and 1980-81 (holdover Adrian Dantley).

3.) Derrick Favors will be making the 45th start of his career, and surprisingly/sadly still has more starts as a New Jersey Net (23) than as a Utah Jazzman (21). How will Favors do starting the game as more of an offensive focal point? Favors averaged 9.6pts/10.9reb/1.4blk in the preseason, which translates to 13.1pts/14.8reb/1.9blk per 36 minutes. With Utah he’s started 8 games in which Al Jefferson did not play, and has posted averages of 14.5pts/11.3reb/1.1blk in those 8 games with 5 double-doubles and 3 20&10 games.

4.) John Lucas III shoots a respectable percentage on threes but a dreadful mark on two’s. In his last three seasons with Chicago and Toronto, Lucas shot 38.3% from behind the arc but just a shade under 40% from inside of it. He even struggled at the rim shooting 48% within 8-feet of the basket. Those trends continued this preseason where Lucas shot 43.5% on threes but only 33% on two’s. Whether he starts or not, Lucas will undoubtedly see minutes with Trey Burke sideline with his broken finger. Lucas isn’t a pure-scorer and he’s not someone who gets into the lane to set up teammates. He will be most effective if he takes the open looks he gets from three without looking to score off the bounce. He’ll likely always have either Burks and/or Hayward on the floor with him and would be wise to defer to their playmaking ability when the shot clock is winding down. Lucas’ 3pt-shooting can be of some value, but he needs to complement that with an efficient floor game which means understanding weaknesses and accentuating strengths.

5.) The offensive talents of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get most of the notoriety but OKC’s team-defense was a primary reason they won 60 games in 2012-13. Over the last three seasons beginning in 2010-11, the Thunder’s defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) has improved from 15th to 8th to 3rd in the league.

In Utah’s 3 losses to OKC last year the Thunder absolutely put the clamps on the Jazz defensively. They held Utah to 20-points or less in 6 of the 12 quarters of play, while allowing just 87 points per game and 38.6% FG shooting. OKC also forced an average of 19 turnovers per game (5 above Utah’s season average of TO’s).

In Utah’s lone win they did shoot 48% and score 109 points (including 86 through 3 quarters), but if the Jazz are to win tonight they need to do so in a tough defensive battle in which they can hope their athleticism and homecourt advantage can spark a pivotal game-changing run.

It should also be noted how efficient Kevin Durant was against Utah last season – averaging 25.5pts/8.0reb/4.3ast/1.8blk while shooting 62% from the floor and 89% from the FT line. He shot so well and got to the line so often (over 9 FT’s per game) he ended up scoring 102 points on only 52 FG attempts.

Westbrook was nearly as good (22.3pts/6.0ast/7.0reb) but in his absence Reggie Jackson is a quality fill-in. In 7 preseason starts Jackson put up Per-36 numbers of 19.6pts/7.5ast/3.0reb while shooting 49% from the floor. The Thunder have more than enough talent around Durant to give the Jazz fits both offensively and defensively.

_____________________________________________

You never want to enter a game expecting to fall behind, but I feel like tonight will come down to Utah’s ability to hang around. Can they fight off nerves to start the game? Can they weather the late-1st/early-2nd quarter stretches that were often a disaster during preseason. Even without Westbrook the Thunder are the clear favorites. It could even be argued OKC has more experience playing games without Westbrook (9 postseason games) than Utah’s Core-4 have as playing in leading roles.

This Utah Jazz season is all about growth and while a victory over the Thunder would be nice, the Jazz would still gain a lot more out a close loss than a blowout loss – and we all can enjoy our night more as well. I have no idea how tonight’s game will play out, but after an offseason of analyzing, hoping, and predicting – it will be nice to finally get some answers.

Here’s to what we hope will be a fun and exciting season of Jazz Basketball.

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Energy Solutions Arena Empty Seats

When the Utah Jazz tip-off their 2013-14 regular season against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night at Energy Solutions Arena, there’s a very good chance they will do so in front of a less-than capacity crowd as according to @5kl there are at least 1,000 tickets still unsold. If there are empty seats, it certainly won’t be from a lack of effort as Trey Burke has further endeared himself to Jazz fans with this incredible offer and with the team plugging greatly reduced 4-ticket/4-pizza packages all preseason.

Last season fans grew weary of another unappealing brand of .500-basketball which became evident in some of the franchise’s poorest attendance figures since they began playing basketball in the 19,911-seat Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena. As you can review here, attendance figures started slow but unlike most years never picked up steam and actually declined down the stretch of the season.

While excitement and anticipation among the diehards remains high for the 2013-14 Jazz season (with the team finally embracing a substantive rebuild), it’s also understandable why ticket sales could be lacking. For casual fans, this is primarily a team that in the past 3 seasons has finished 11th, 8th, and 9th in their conference, is conducted by a coach who has yet to win over anyone outside the organization, and is being projected by many to have meager playoff hopes this season.

While the Jazz have always enjoyed incredible fan support (averaging 97.6% capacity since the Delta Center opened in 1991), the one lethal combination that has consistently repelled fans is disappointment from the previous season mixed with uncertainty surrounding the current team.

Here’s a look back at the most recent cases of “Previous season disappointment + Present uncertainty” and how that is often reflected in early-season attendance.

2003-04

The Setting: Following the departures of John Stockton and Karl Malone as well as a disappointing summer in which the Jazz possessed a large amount of cap space yet failed to land even 1 of their top-8 free agent targets, some experts predicted the team to win fewer than 10 games.

The Early Reviews: While the Jazz opened the season with a surprising 12-9 record, fans were slow to catch on to a Stockon&Malone-less team. Only 17,306 attended Utah’s season-opening victory over Portland and the franchise averaged just 17,999 in their first dozen home games.

The Final Product: The Jazz showed they were no early-season fluke, and thanks to the greatest coaching performance in NBA history shocked the league by winning 42 games and finished just 1-game shy of the postseason.

Final Attendance: Slowly but surely Salt Lake City came around to appreciate the Jazz’s resilient and scrappy play. Although their first sellout didn’t come until December 29th, the team would go on to record 19 sellouts (more than double the previous season) and average 19,730 over their final 26 home games.

2005-06

The Setting: Coming off the woefully disappointing 26-56 2004-05 season, expectations remained low with Carlos Boozer out indefinitely due to a hamstring injury, the admission to their own drafting failures (trading three recent #1-picks to re-aquire Greg Ostertag) and the uncertainty of their current 1st-round selection – #3-overall pick Deron Williams who struggled in summer league while #4-overall pick Chris Paul dazzled.

The Early Reviews: Despite a 4-2 start, the Jazz again began the season with spotty attendance. Only 18,249 were there to see Deron score 18 points in Utah’s season-opening upset over the Dallas Mavericks and an 8-11 record by mid-December lowered those figures to 17,330 over their first 10 home games.

The Final Product: Carlos Boozer would miss the first 49 games and Deron Williams was unable to impress Jerry Sloan enough to secure the starting PG spot prior to the all-star break (Deron averaged just 9.3pts/3.9ast/26.4min while shooting just 38% in the first 50 games). After the all-star break, DWill was given the PG reigns and improved his numbers to 13.2pts/5.5ast/32.8mpg on 47% shooting over the final 30 games. Boozer returned (averaging 21.3/9.8 in 19 games as a starter) and the Jazz went on a late-season 8-2 run that came up just short of the #8-seed but netted them a respectable 41-41 record.

Final Attendance: As a result of their up&down and at times ugly play (Utah had 7 games where they scored fewer than 80-points) Jazz fans never came around to the team. Although numbers would slightly, they still finished the season averaging just 18,322 with only 5 sellouts.

2006-07

The Setting: The Jazz entered 2006-07 with more uncertainty and the previous season’s disappointment still looming over them. There were rumors that Carlos Boozer didn’t like Utah and quietly wanted out. Deron Williams was expected to improve as a 2nd-year player, but unlikely as much as Chris Paul who had taken the league by storm with a 16.1/7.8/5.1/2.2 rookie season.

The Early Reviews: The Jazz came out of the gates smoking, posting a franchise record and NBA best 12-1 start. The exciting brand of basketball (Utah averaged 108pts/gm in their first 13-games) boosted the usual tepid attendance figures. An opening night crowd of just 18,133 shrank to a 18,052 average through 4 games before their 5th home game drew a sellout crowd to watch the Jazz debut their powder blue uniforms while rallying from a 16-point 4th-qtr deficit to beat Phoenix in overtime. From there fan support grew as the new-era Jazz finally gave fans reason to get excited prior to the holiday season. All-Star PF Carlos Boozer would have his finest season as a pro, playing like one of the 8-best players in the NBA, Deron Williams would blossom and reach (and at times surpass) CP3’s level and Mehmet Okur would make his lone All-Star appearance while becoming one of the league’s best clutch-shooters.

The Final Product: The jazz finished 53-29 to claim their first Northwest Division title and the #5-seed. In the postseason they upset the favored Rockets in 7-games and dispatched the 8th-seeded Golden State Warriors in 5. They eventually bowed out to the Spurs but throughout May re-captured the imagination of much of the state of Utah with a remarkable playoff run that brought them to the doorstep of the NBA Finals.

Final Attendance: Attendance flourished in the latter half of the year. The Jazz finished with a 19,566 regular season average with 30 sellouts that included capacity crowds of 20 in their last 21 regular season home games. The postseason also resulted in 8 more sellouts who created some of the loudest Jazz crowds since the glory years of the late-90’s.

For all intents and purposes 2006-07 was the final season in which Utah ticket sales faced the perfect storm. From 2007-08 through the 2010-11 the Jazz season ticket-base would grow and sellout crowds became the norm.

In 2011 the Jazz were coming off a depressing 39-43 2010-11 season in which Jerry Sloan was forced out due to friction with all-star PG Deron Williams – who was also traded midseason. However, the NBA lockout abbreviated the beginning of the 2011-12 season which began right about the time fans would normally either jump on or off the bandwagon and the demand and longing for Utah Jazz basketball overcame what surely would’ve been a steep attendance drop.

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Personally am more excited for the prospect and growth (if not necessarily win total) of this year’s team than I have been over any Jazz squad since 2010. Hopefully there will be a big walk-up showing to push Wednesday’s crowd to near-capacity. If not, it’s not an early indictment on the 2013-14 Utah Jazz. It primarily is a reflection of last season’s discouragement and this season’s ambivalence.

If the product is worth it, history shows the fans will come around over time. Until then, expect some empty seats to be quite noticeable on the new jumbo-tron. 92-95% capacity is nothing to be ashamed of, but in the “House that Larry built” – it’s not easy being green.

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John Stockton Biography - Assisted - Released Oct-29th

The release John Stockton’s autobiography “Assisted,” to the public on Tuesday, October 29th kick-starts a much anticipated week in Utah Jazzland that concludes with the Jazz tipping off the 2013-14 regular season Wednesday night against the Thunder at Energy Solutions Arena.

Two passionate Jazz writers were able to obtain advanced copies and for some terrific early insight into the book, check out reviews by Moni on Jazzfanatical and Diana on SLC Dunk. (UPDATE 10/29/13: Click HERE for a complete SLC Dunk review).

As someone who has an entire book shelf filled with Utah Jazz media guides, magazines and books (including useless items such as this), I would probably buy a grocery list if it was written by John Stockton. With that said, the early-reviews make me particularly excited for this rare glimpse into the life and career of one of the most unique personalities in NBA history.

Most NBA superstars have had their careers and lives documented and promoted by either themselves or others (Karl Malone for example has been featured in Beyond the Glory and Sportscentury documentaries) in some way, shape or form. For John Stockton, one of the most reserved and private superstars in all of professional sports, this book offers a rare public look into an often private professional career.

As a 6-1 point guard out of Gonzaga (back when very few outside of Washington had even heard of the Zags) who was cut from the 1984 Olympic basketball team and would go on to win two Olympic gold medals, face-off against the greatest player of all time in two NBA Finals, and play 19 NBA seasons in the NBA’s golden era where he became the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals – one can only imagine the collection of Stockton stories on tap.

While it’s highly doubtful Stockton will throw any former teammate under the bus the way many retired celebrities do to generate publicity and sell copies, the book still figures to be a gold mine of insight because Stockton has so often shied away from sharing his thoughts, memories and experiences to the public.

The “Forward” was written by Hall-of-Fame running-mate Karl Malone and co-authored by Kerry Pickett – Stockton’s grade-school coach in Spokane, Washington and apparent confident.

To see a cameo by Kerry Pickett, here is an “NBA on NBC” feature done profiling the off-court life and demeanor of John Stockton – which aired during the 1998-99 Postseason:

While the clip did include interviews with some of John’s closest friends and family from Spokane, in typical Stockton fashion there was no sit-down interview with John himself. As was so often the case throughout his 19-year NBA career, Stockton allowed everyone else to do the talking about him. He won’t be doing that with this book, and that’s precisely why you should buy it.

John Stockton’s “Assisted: An Autobiography” can be purchased here on Amazon.

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Rudy Gobert vs Lakers 10-25-13
Run It Back

Final Score: Lakers 111, Jazz 106.
Player of the Game: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! Rudy Gobert stole the Jazz show with 16pts/9reb/3blk in 24:34 of play. Of Gobert’s 8 field goals, 6 were dunks, 1 was a tip-in and the other was a nice 6-foot jump-hook with the left-hand.

Best Play: 5:01 3rd-Qtr – Gasol made a beautiful high-post bounce pass to Nash for a layup. Nash faked an off-ball screen, by slipping it. Lucas was prepared to switch it with Hayward, but the screen never and Nash broke completely free on a very Stockton-like cut.

Best Move: 9:13 1st-Qtr – On a Hayward&Favors side screen-roll L.A. forced Hayward baseline resulting in Favors getting the ball at the left elbow. Favors faced-up on Shawne Williams, made a quick left-to-right ball fake and with one dribble swooped in for an easy layup that Gasol didn’t challenge.

Favors only took 5 shots but his other two makes included a no-hesitation catch&shoot foul line jumper and a face-up Jack Sikma style jumper over Pau Gasol. Another solid offensive performance by him with limited opportunities.

Best Dunk: 8:24 4th-Qtr – Gobert missed a tip-in on an errant Brian Cook floater, rebounded with two hands and went up for a two-hand flush over Jordan Hill that got the entire Jazz bench up and some Jersey Shore style fist-pumping from Andris Biedrins.* (Considering Gobert is taking Biedrins minutes, really nice to see Andris up supporting his teammate).

Best Shot: 0:41 3rd-Qtr – Steve Blake hit a fall-away three out of the right corner with Justin Holiday flying at him.
Laker announcer Stu Lantz’s reaction: “What’s with him tonight?”
Blake, who was 3-27 in the previous 4 games, naturally shot 7-7 and 5-5 from behind the arc against the Jazz.

Best Pass: 0:24 3rd-QTR – Steve Nash penetrated the lane off high screen-roll and dropped an over-the-shoulder dish to Shawne Williams for the layup. As Clarkpojo said, it sucks seeing Nash close out his brilliant career on a very poor Laker team.

Worst Pass: 0:54 1st-Qtr – Rudy Gobert out-ran a lackadaisical Jordan Hill down the lane and had what appeared to be a transition dunk if not for an errant John Lucas III pass that rocketed off the rim and had nowhere near the touch to be an alley-oop. The Lakers scored in transition off the turnover.

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 3:47 2nd-Qtr – Off a Lakers miss Kanter sprinted the floor and posted up on the left-block. Lucas pushed the ball ahead to Hayward who got Enes the ball with 19-sec still remaining on the shotclock. L.A. brought the double so Kanter kicked the ball out to Jefferson who moved it around the horn to Lucas who then dumped it inside to Favors on the right-block. Again L.A. doubled and Favors found the free man (a cutting Hayward) for a layup. That’s the essence of “Jazzbasketball” – getting into early-offense, moving the ball and cutting to the basket.

Best “Karl Malone” Play: 7:49 3rd-Qtr – Off a jump-ball at the Lakers end that Utah gained control of, Derrick Favors motored down the court leaving Gasol in his dust. That forced Shawne Williams to track him down and opened up a lane for Lucas to drive down for an uncontested layup. Running the floor not only gets you easy baskets, it can get your teammates ones as well.

Underrated Play of the Game: 11:09 2nd-Qtr – The Jazz historically break full-court traps by getting the ball to their 4-man in the open court and letting him attack down the lane. The Lakers pressed Machado who found Kanter 60-feet from the basket. Kanter took a whopping four dribbles before he met a defender, where he then finished with a layup over Jordan Hill while also drawing the foul

Veteran Move of the Game: 4:49 3rd-Qtr – Hayward tried to use his size on Blake. After drawing consecutive off-ball fouls, Hayward went down on the left block to post-up. Blake got up into Hayward enough where on Gordon’s aggressive counter he sold the contact and drew the offensive foul. Although he played a frontcourt position at Butler, Hayward doesn’t have a lot of experience in the post so the nuances getting deep-position are a still a learning process for him. Nevertheless, he’s still made some nice plays this preseason inside against shorter guards.

Run of the Game: The game was comprised of three major runs. After building a 6-point lead late in the 1st-qtr, the Jazz once again imploded in the 2nd-qtr, falling behind by 11 on a 25-8 Laker run.

Once the starters returned, the Jazz then went on a 17-2 run to take a 6-point lead. On 4-consecutive Jazz possessions, Hayward score a layup off the pass from Favors (See JBB play of the game), backed Nash down in the post and drew 2 FT’s, hit a catch&shoot 3pt in transition and then pulled up for a 22-footer (foot on the line 2pt) from the left-wing. It was a brief stretch but Hayward was on fire. It should also be noted 3 of Hayward’s 4 scoring plays came in a complementary off-ball role which I believe is his ultimate role on a great team.

In the 3rd-qtr, the Lakers opened up with a 19-6 run that put Utah in a hole they could never climb out of.

Quote of the Game: Stu Lantz: “One thing about Gordon Hayward [the Jazz] better lock him up and lock him up in a hurry. You can tell he is the cornerstone for that franchise.”
Stu Lantz has seen a lot of basketball but later he also said: “Ty Corbin decides to put in probably his two-best starters in Gordon Hayward and Richard Jefferson,” so he’s probably batting closer to .500 when it comes to accurate assessments about the Jazz.

Odds and Ends:

-Ugly Jazz collision to end the 1st-half where Lucas was running down court calling for the ball and ran directly into Richard Jefferson.*

-On Utah’s first 2nd-half possession, Enes Kanter took a wide-open left-corner three that was about 6-inches wide right. Judging from the 2-seconds he held his follow-through, it looked like he thought it was good.

-2:10 3rd-Qtr Alec Burks pump-faked at the FT line, sending everybody in for a rebound that never came. Nick Young may still be looking up for the rebound.

-Brian Cook reportedly opened the 4th-qtr with a driving dunk but the producers failed to return from the break early enough to show it. Luke Walton (Lakers studio host and close friend of Cook) was upset it wasn’t shown, remarking: “He doesn’t do that very often.” If Brian Cook dunks in a game and no one shows it, did it make a sound?

-Twice in the 4th-qtr when Gobert was near the rim he motioned for a lob to the rim. Both times Brian Cook had the ball and no lob was thrown.

*For .gif’s of Lucas taking out RJ, Gobert dunking, Biedrins fist-pumping, plus other great stuff, visit JazzFanatical for fantastic postgame coverage!

The Gobert Report

Six dunks in one game is an impressive accomplishment for any player. How did Gobert get free for all six dunks?

The first three dunks came from offensive rebounds where a teammate (Hayward, McGuire & Hudson) penetrated, which drew help from Gobert’s man freeing him up on the offensive glass. Dunk #4 was highlighted previously (See “Dunk of the Game”). Dunk #5 came off a low-post touch where Gobert made a baseline dribble-hand-off to a cutting Ian Clark who drew the defense and kicked it back to Gobert for a ferocious 1-hand tomahawk. Dunk #6 came off high screen-roll where Gobert got a nice pass on the move from Lester Hudson and finished with a 2-hand flush.

Although he may be limited skill-wise offensively, Gobert’s teammates will learn the value he brings and understand when he’s on the court – drive to the basket and get a shot up on the rim which will free Gobert as a vacuum on the offensive glass.

After some impressive summer league play, the big question was whether Gobert could translate that to NBA play quickly enough to pass Andris Biedrins in the rotation. The past 2 games he answered that with a resounding “YesOui!”

There’s no reason Gobert shouldn’t be given the first opportunity as Utah’s backup center in the regular season. In preseason he’s shown he can dunk and block shots. In summer league he’s shown he can dunk and block shots. Rudy Gobert dunks and block shots. That’s a valuable commodity not many 7-2 backup centers can provide.

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Derrick Favors vs Clippers 10-23-2013

Run It Back

Final Score: Clippers 108, Jazz 94.
Player of the Game: Derrick Favors. A lot of different players played well, but Favors was an absolute monster and produced in every quarter.

Derrick Favors – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att Ast TO PF Min
1st 8 4 4 7 0 0 1 0 2 12
2nd 2 5 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 6
3rd 8 5 2 3 4 5 0 1 1 12
4th 6 3 3 5 0 0 1 2 2 7
Total 24 17 10 17 4 6 3 3 5 37
FG% 59% FT% 67%

Favors set the tone from the outset with a deep post-up on Blake Griffin where he sealed, got a nice entry-pass from Richard Jefferson and went up for a bigtime finish that DeAndre Jordan wanted no part of. By the time the quarter was over he had added a power layup on a mismatch with Jared Dudley, and two jump hooks over Griffin – a left-block baseline spin right-shoulder hook and then right-block left-shoulder jump hook.

Over the final 3-quarters Favors continued to finish strong at the rim while also stepping out on the floor and hitting mid-range jumpers and showing more of his left-hand jump hook. Easily Favors best game of the preseason and the first time he scored 20-points or more in a Jazz uniform since 3/4/13 when he posted 23&15 through 3-quarters before inexplicably riding the bench in the 4th-qtr and overtime.

Best Play: 11:10 1st-Qtr – Favors got Utah on the board with the seal and dunk against Griffin. What made it so effective was Favors started the play on the weakside while Utah ran side-screen roll with Hayward&Kanter. Because that forced Griffin to be the pick&roll rotating big, it allowed Favs to establish deep post-position on him. Utah did a nice job swinging the ball across the court where Favors could make the quick duck-in & seal the lane. That’s the type of play that can manufacture a quality look and get someone like Favors going early.

Best Execution: 2:22 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll with Hayward and Favors. Favors rolled down the middle and Antawn Jamison rotated up to cut off Favors’ drive. Favors made an excellent dump-down pass to Kanter who scored at the rim while also being fouled. Favors was an an effective stationary passer last season but this pass on the move was a primary source of turnovers for him. Malone and Boozer were outstanding at it and when executed properly is another example how a well-executed pick&roll can produce beautiful basketball.

Best Move: 10:57 1st-Qtr – Favors got the ball on the left-block, reverse-pivoted, took a hard dribble right then spun baseline and delivered a left-hand jump hook over Blake Griffin.

Worst Move: 6:20 1st-Qtr Blake Griffin tried to take Favors off-the-dribble from the top of the key, making an ugly crossover in which he turned his right ankle and fell down. Naturally, the refs whistled Favors for a foul and gave Griffin 2 FT’s even though replays showed there was no contact.

Best Dunk: 4:02 3rd-Qtr – Chris Paul and Griffin ran the side pick&roll to perfection, with Blake exploding to the rim over Rudy Gobert (who wisely pulled back to avoid ending up in a poster).

Best Follow-Dunk: 10:36 – 4th-Qtr – With one hand, Gobert emphatically slammed in a missed Mike Harris jumper. There have been a lot of wingspan giants over the years who lacked the athleticism and coordination to be an above-the-rim player at the offensive end. Even a point-blank range, Gobert still showed he has the potential to be more than just a shot-blocker.

Best Pass: 10:10 4th-Qtr – Running in transition Alec Burks shoveled a no-look dish to Scott Machado filling the lane for a layup to put the Jazz up 81-76 and force a Doc Rivers’ timeout.

Runner-Up: 7:16 4th-Qtr – Rudy Gobert got he ball on the left-block and made a gorgeous drop pass to a baseline cutting John Lucas III who promptly air-balled the layup.

Best Block: 11:18 1st-Qtr – Blake Griffin drove right on Favors only to have his 5-foot runner sent back by the long arm of Rudy Gobert. On the very next possession, it was Byron Mullens turn to be rejected by Gobert at the rim. Following his 2nd block, Gobert ran the floor hard and had what appeared to be an open dunk attempt but lost the ball on the way up. He was noticeably winded after that sequence but he played hard and made a tremendous impact (5 blocks, 12 rebounds in just 20-min).

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 9:06 2nd-Qtr – Utah quickly got setup and into their flex offense, with Mike Harris passing from the high-post (right elbow) to a back-cutting Alec Burks for a layup.

Run of the Game: A 2-hand Gobert dunk put Utah ahead 83-78 with 8:58 to play before the Clippers answered with an 8-0 run over the next 2-minutes that proved to be the difference in the game. During LA’s run Alec Burks played out of control with two wild layup attempts that were blocked preceeding Lucas’ airball off the pass from Gobert.

Sneaky Good Player of the Game: Gobert’s impact was obvious. Richard Jefferson put together another efficient game with 11 points and 5 assists on 3-5 shooting, 4-4 from the FT line and 1-1 from behind the arc. In the 3rd-qtr he scored 7 consecutive Jazz points including a nice step-back jumper on the right wing. If he stays within himself and takes care of the ball, he could definitely be a solid starter.

Quote of the Game: I watched the game on an internet feed instead of on TV. This feed played live audio instead of commercials. During halftime, Boler and Harpring had a hilarious “off-camera” exchange about Floyd Mayweather (who was apparently at the game and pointed out by one of the producers). After asking the producer if they could get him for an in-game interview, Harpring then remarked “He’s probably got $5-grand on this game.” My computer probably now a bunch of spyware on it but watching Jazz games on strange internet-feeds does have it’s perks.

Stat of the Game: It was a tale of two-halves for Gordon Hayward, who shot 5-9 in the 1st-half but just 1-9 in the 2nd-half.
After a brilliant start that likely only caused Doc Rivers’ man-crush on Gordon to grow, Hayward struggled to score in the 2nd-half. In my opinion – the struggles were partly due to the Clippers wearing him down, and party due to Utah’s lack of a quality point guard play that put too much pressure on Hayward and forced him too far out on the floor. Even in the first-half, he took a lot of off-the-dribble threes and long-2’s that are great when they’re going in overall the odds will likely catch up to you.

Gordon Hayward – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att 3pt Att Ast Min
1st 5 1 2 5 0 0 1 3 0 12
2nd 7 0 3 4 0 0 1 1 2 5
3rd 2 2 1 5 0 0 0 0 2 8
4th 5 3 1 4 3 4 0 0 2 7
Total 19 6 7 18 3 4 2 4 6 32
FG% 39% FT% 75% 3pt% 50%

Again it’s hard to criticize a 19/6/6 performance in just 32-minutes of play, but the 1-9 second-half shooting is definitely worthy of discussion following a close loss. This is Hayward’s first time in a leading role, so it’s natural for him to go through some growing pains closing out games as well.

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Final Word

Overall this was Utah’s best preseason performance to date, in my opinion more impressive than their lone victory over Golden State when factoring in opponent, competitiveness of the game and the manner in which they competed. Even though Utah tried hard to win and came up short, if they can combine the levels of intensity and execution they showed tonight 60-70 times during in the regular season – there won’t be many complaints about the 2013-14 Jazz season regardless of their win-loss record.

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He’s Back

Following the game, Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy reported that the Jazz and Jamaal Tinsley had come to terms on a contract and that Tinsley would join the Jazz prior to Friday night’s preseason finale against the Lakers in Anaheim.

There are two reasons I think this is a terrific move by the Jazz:
1. Tinsley can be an excellent mentor for rookie PG Trey Burke. Unlike John Lucas III, Tinsley has extrodinary court-vision and a 6th-sense that all visionary point guards possess. He can help Burke understand passing angles in the NBA, when to look to push the tempo (Tinsley is still very good at knowing when to throw ahead in transition), and how to slow down in transition to create passing lanes.

Also Tinsley was once in Burke’s shoes. He was the potential franchise point guard for the Indiana Pacers before his career took a sharp swerve that knocked him out of the league completely. While Trey Burke is a outstanding young man coming from a great family, having someone like Jamaal to provide that “Don’t do what I did” example as well as show him that “I’ve learned what it means to be a professional and this is how you do it” approach.

2. There’s a very good chance Tinsley can help the Jazz on the court while Trey Burke is out. John Lucas III has been hot-and-cold offensively and hasn’t been particularly strong orchestrating the offense. Tinsley is the quintessential veteran pass-first point guard who can at the very least come off the bench and stabilize a 2nd-unit that often struggles to score. If he starts, he may struggle defensively but he’ll take some of the pressure off Hayward to make a play every time the shotclock is winding down.
Bottom line: Jamaal Tinsley makes the Jazz a better team.

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Cook, Brian #3

Final Score: Lakers 108, Jazz 94.
Best Play:
4:33 1st-Qtr – Gordon Hayward forced Nick Young to take a difficult baseline fallaway, then ran the wing and in two-dribbles from mid-court was able to split Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol for a transition layup.

Best Move: 10:57 3rd-Qtr – Enes Kanter backed Gasol down on the left-block, first faking the jump hook, then stepping through and faking the up-and-under, before pivoting back and dropping in an 8-foot jump hook. Kanter did take 6 crab-dribbles, so he needs to speed that up to account for potential double-teams as well as a 5-second back-down violation.

Best Dunk: 9:56 2nd-Qtr – Xavier Henry stole an errant Justin Holiday pass and then went down and dunked it on him emphatically with the left hand.

Best Shot: 3:47 1st-Qtr – Derrick Favors faced-up Gasol on the left-block, took one dribble and hit a step-back 15-foot baseline jumper with a hand in his face. In the 3rd-qtr he also hit an 18-foot jumper from the top-of-the-key in which he showed no hesitation. Clearly Favors’ best offensive game of the preseason.

Best Pass: 2:14 3rd-Qtr& 1:12 3rd-QTR – Twice Alec Burks fed Favors in the post then cut through the lane. As Burks’ man stopped to help, Favors hit him underneath the basket for a layup. I highlighted cutting through after feeding the post last week and it’s nice to see better player movement tonight as well.

Best Block: 11:18 3rd-Qtr – Favors was guarding Gasol at the left-elbow. LA backscreened Kanter to free up Shawne Williams beneath the rim and Favors dropped down in time to stuff Williams’ layup attempt (and also gain control of the ball). That is a $49 million contract extension-type plays.

Best Execution: 9:06 1st-Qtr – On side screen-roll, the Lakers forced Hayward baseline and he made a perfect bounce pass to a rolling Kanter for a hammer dunk that put Utah up 9-0.

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 7:26 3rd-Qtr – Out of a timeout, Favors inbounded from the right wing to the top of the key, then cut to the left block off a double-screen as the ball simultaneously worked around the horn. Favors got the ball on the left-block against Gasol, took two power dribbles middle and finished with a strong layup on the right side of the basket. That’s a classic “Jazzbasketball” play that was run for Karl Malone and Carlos Boozer.

Run of the Game: In the first 3 1/2 minutes of the 2nd-qtr, the Lakers outscored the Jazz 16-1.

Player of the Game: Brian Cook. The 4th-quarter became all about Brian Cook on the Jazz. In the second-half, “Cookie” scored 18 points in 14 minutes shooting 6-12 from the field, 3-3 from the FT line and 3-7 from behind the arc. Cook is a liability defensively and can take quick shots, but when he’s on he can score the ball from the perimeter which gives him a good chance at making the inal roster. Utah needs someone who can simply make baskets on their 2nd-unit and Cook could be one of those guys. With Evans bothered by a shoulder injury, I certainly wouldn’t mind Cook getting a few more looks at backup PF.

Sneaky Good Player of the Game: In 22-minutes Richard Jefferson scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting. He made his only 3pt of the night (from the right-corner) and best of all only committed 1 turnover. If RJ can play that type of game without trying to do too much off-the-dribble he will be a serviceable and efficient starter. I still think Utah may need Burks in the starting lineup to give Hayward some help on the perimeter with Burke out, but RJ has shot 56% from the floor and 40% from behind the arc in the preseason.

Quote of the Game: Matt Harpring’s pregame opening remark: “They’re a week and a day away from opening night – that means Ty Corbin is going to have to shorten the rotations, give these guys the minutes that they’re going to have to expect during the regular season.”

Minutes Played: Hayward-31, Burks-29, Favors-28, Lucas III-27, Jefferson-22, Cook-20, Kanter-20, Machado-15, Gobert-13, Clark-12, Harris-12, Holiday-5, Hudson-5.

Stat of the Game: During one magical 8-minute stretch in the 4th-qtr, Brian Cook attempted 9 shots. Cook also committed an offensive foul in that stretch, giving him a 40% usage rate in that stretch.

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Despite the loss, Utah’s halfcourt offense looked much better and much more diverse than in previous games. I thought they ran some really good sets, for example they got into the flex more and had some nice opportunities arise when Hayward was able to cut in from the wing and quick-post his man beneath the rim with Favors feeding him from the high-post.

While wins and losses don’t necessarily matter in preseason, the stretch that killed Utah was the first 3 1/2 minutes of the 2nd-qtr in which they were outscored by L.A. 16-1. Ty Corbin had Burks and Kanter on the floor looking to stabilize the 2nd-unit (both went 0-1 in that timespan) but poor defense and 3 inexcusable turnovers by guys who simply aren’t NBA players (2 by Mike Harris, 1 by Justin Holiday) sabotaged Utah’s strong play in the 1st-qtr.

Even with someone like Brandon Rush or Jeremy Evans out of action, the Jazz need to figure out how to avoid those brutal stretches or else more games will be lost with their bench in the 2nd-qtr than won by their starters in the other three. Maybe Brian Cook can be part of the solution.

Nevertheless, I feel a little bit better about Utah as a whole moving forward than after the OKC game Sunday night. It’s a long journey with a lot of ups&downs, but hopefully a little bit of progress was made last night.

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