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|
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 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.
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.