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.
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.