Jazz 112, Suns 104
Run It Back
Player of the Game: Trey Burke – 20 points, 4-6 on 3pt’s, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 32 minutes.
Late in the 2nd-half, Trey Burke went into “I’m sick of losing and I’m going to make the shots we need to win” mode – which was really fun to see. In the 2nd-half Burke scored 17 points on 5-11 shooting from the field, 4-4 from the foul line and 3-5 from behind the arc.
6:05 3rd-Qtr – On a scramble offensive rebound that Favors kept alive, Phoenix never recovered defensively and left Burke open for a left-corner three.
3:17 3rd-Qtr – Burke stole the ball from Bledsoe in transition then led a 2-on-1 fastbreak that he capped with a gorgeous back-hand drop-off to Jefferson for a layup.
2:52 3rd-Qtr – Phoenix iso’d Morris on Kanter on the left block. Guarding a spotty 3pt-shooter in Bledsoe, Burke cheated down as Morris started to drive middle, forcing him to spin back baseline where he lost the ball out of bounds. Nothing will show in the boxscore besides a Morris TO, but Burke was the catalyst on this defensive stop.
0:33 3rd-Qtr – High screen-roll with Kanter where Bledsoe went under and Burke made him pay with a “pull-up 20-footer from the angle left” as Hot Rod (who was in attendance) would say. A gentle push and a mild arc, the old cowhide globe hits home!
3:55 4th-Qtr – On Burke’s first possession after checking back in, Alec Burks drove baseline and kicked out to Burke for a top-of-the-key three
1:13 4th-Qtr – Burke ran the shotclock down before a high screen-roll with Favors (guarded by Bledsoe/Frye) where Burke went hard left (forcing Frye to show wide) then crossed back right and drained a top-of-the-key three over Bledsoe to seal the deal.
If you didn’t watch Burke at Michigan, he loves to go left off high pick&roll. He’s been extremely well coached in that he comes off hard and wide so if the big shows – he has to show out very wide which spreads the court for Burke and the screener.
How the Jazz Improved Offensively
Short answer: More “Jazzbasketball” – less “Moneyball.”
Rather than predominantly run high screen-roll with the floor spread (a la Houston Rockets without the Rockets’ personnel), the Jazz actually ran a variety of multiple sets throughout the game.
They got Favors and Kanter the ball in the post utilizing cross-screen action. They got Richard Jefferson the ball in the post when he routinely had a 6-inch height advantage on his defender. They crashed the offensive boards.
They also ran a lot more side pick&roll where they cleared out one half of the court entirely – giving them a 20′ x 20′ box to play 2-on-2 where they could see the help coming and pass weakside rather than playing in a 12’x 20′ channel where you have shooters on both sides you have to know the location of. The result was a lot of good things like Alec Burks driving middle off the screen, drawing weakside help and hitting Burke for a catch&shoot three (3:51 2nd-Qtr), Hayward hitting Favors for an and1 layup (2:36 2nd-Qtr), and Richard Jefferson making a wide-open 20-foot rhythm jumper (11:23 3rd-Qtr).
The Jazz also showed how you can create better looks for three on high screen-roll when you don’t obsess about constantly spreading the floor deep.
5:24 4th-Qtr – A Garrett/Favors high screen-roll with RJ in the left corner, Burks on the right-wing and Marvin in the right-corner. As Garrett penetrates, Favors rolls down the lane and Burks crashes in from the right side, leaving Marvin – who drifts from the corner to the wing – wide open for a three. On Friday night Utah would have 3 guys drifting around outside the 3pt-line instead of moving fluidly both outside and inside the arc, stretching and collapsing the Suns’ help defense. Instead of having 1 player to cover two shooters on the weakside, the Suns had zero players covering one shooter. Marvin’s three put Utah ahead 98-91.
The Suns are a free-flowing fast-breaking team – and the Jazz turned it into more grind-it-out game where they’re controlled the tempo – which is what the Jazz should be trying to do on the road.
How can you “grind it out” offensively?
8:58 4th-Qtr – Jazz run cross-screen to get Kanter to right block, Burks makes solid contact on Morris and Morris grabs Kanter for a foul. That’s how you not only get into the penalty late in quarters, but slow the game down to a walk against a speed team. Next possession they again posted Kanter on Morris via a Garrett screen (Jazzbasketball = guards setting picks for big guys) where Kanter backed him down and converted a jump hook.
The Jazz also realized Channing Frye, the Morris twins and many of the Suns players aren’t strong 1-on-1 low-post defender and got Favors and Kanter the ball on the block. Favors didn’t score a lot in the 2nd-half, but he drew 2 fouls early in the 3rd-quarter – which played an important role as Utah got Phoenix into the penalty with over 4 minutes left in the quarter.
9:11 3rd-Qtr – The Jazz tried to post the 6-7 Jefferson on the left-block on the 6-1 Bledsoe. Bledsoe fronted, so they swung the ball from the wing to the elbow where Marvin made a perfect high-low pass to Jefferson for a layup. That’s the pass that Millsap and Al could never connect on last season. Ironically the only 2 players who could were Kanter and Favors – although they haven’t been able to connect this season.
5:13 1st-Qtr – P.J. Tucker goes on for a dunk and is rejected by Derrick Favors – who is called for a foul on a terrible call by Scott Twardoski as officials continue to treat him as a 4th-year rookie (not surprising considering the Jazz had treated him as a 3-year rookie). What I liked is on the next possession, Favors posted up Plumlee on the left block – establishing position off a Jazzbasketball UCLA set with a shuffle-cut by Garrett then leading to Garrett coming up to the elbow and backscreening for Favors. Hayward threw the ball in and cut through clearing the entire left side of the floor. Favors made a strong move to draw contact but missed the layup, got his own rebound and powered back up against Frye who appeared to also foul him. Favors said something to the official before heading up court. I liked seeing that relentless attitude, because Favors’ has a huge advantage on 2nd and 3rd efforts on his athletic ability alone.
The Jazz controlled the pace of play and still scored 112 points primarily by getting to the line (29 times), owning the paint (46 to 38) and then running on Phoenix miscues (20 pts).
How the Jazz Improved Defensively
–Played Smarter, Played Harder:
In the first-half, Utah defended the pick&roll more aggressively. Rather than have their big show out then recover, Utah had Favors or Evans blitz the ball-handler. The results were mixed as Phoenix scored 53 1st-half points, but they did create some transition opportunities for the Jazz.
11:37 2nd-Qtr – On a Bledsoe/Plumlee high pick&roll – Garrett/Evans force Bledsoe away from the screen and trapped him along the sideline leading to a steal and a 2-on-1 alley-oop from Garrett to Burks.
The Jazz also did a good job in help-defense packing it in the paint. Moneyball fanatics always point to 3pt-FG’s allowed – but the Suns shot 12-27 and lost after shooting 8-25 on Friday night in their win. What was the big difference? Friday night Phoenix scored 52 points in the paint, and only 38 Saturday.
10:05 2nd-Qtr – Dragic/Plumlee high screen-roll vs Garrett/Kanter – the Jazz have Kanter not only show out but slide laterally the entire way on Dragic’s drive which sends him on a dribble-probe baseline behind the basket, where Utah’s defense collapses in the paint. Dragic passes out to Morris 20-feet away who tries to fire it back inside to Plumlee – but because the paint is so congested the Jazz deflect the pass.
5:28 1st-Qtr – On a 2-on-1 Suns break Trey Burke deflected a Bledsoe pass intended for Dragic out-of-bounds, preventing a sure-fire layup. Doesn’t show up in the box score, but that was a 2-point deflection.
–Not Playing Bad Defensive Players:
Tonight the Jazz didn’t play bad defensive players who consistently struggle. There was no John Lucas getting posted up by Markieff Morris or Gerald Green on switches, no Brandon Rush struggling in both individual and help situation (and Rush is a pretty good defender at 100% but hasn’t shown he’s close to that point yet).
On the Suns’ opening possession Phoenix took advantage of Utah’s pick&roll defense with a smart off-ball cut by P.J. Tucker leading to a wide-open corner three for Gerald Green that missed, and that’s how a lot of things went for the Suns.
10:50 2nd-Qtr – Dragic/Morris high screen-roll where they re-screen and Dragic drives the lane for a 10-foot floater where he misses and then Morris (rolling free down the lane) misses an easy tip. Marvin showed out and recovered (impeding the path of Garrett trying to catch up)which gave Dragic the lane. Nothing really happening here besides the Suns missing a gimme.
2:07 4th-Qtr –The Jazz switch a Dragic/Frye pick&roll resulting in the 6-11 Frye posting the 6-6 Burks up on the right block, and caught a huge break when Dragic makes a horrible entry pass out of bounds. The Jazz did this in Dallas and the Mavs torched Utah with Nowitzki and Blair punished Utah’s guards inside. Of course if you can rely on your opponent making an unforced turnover every time you switch – this is a sound strategy moving forward.
The Jazz also had some good fortune, such as on their first possession of the 4th-Qtr where Burke lobbed an ill-advised alley-oop to Evans that was broken up but deflected right to Kanter for a layup.
Those sort of breaks happen every game both ways, but even though the Suns misfired on the types of opportunities previous Jazz opponents have capitalized on – this season the Jazz will gladly take every one of those breaks they can get.
Alec Burks quietly played another fantastic game for the Jazz, with 13 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds on 5-9 shooting and just 1 turnover. After being yanked around, benched and then unbenched for the past couple weeks – Burks was able to get on top of the basket in the open-court early and his confidence only rose from that point on.
- Nearing end of 1st-Qtr, went 1-on-1 in open court and convered one of his spectacular driving/hanging/contorting layups where he also drew the foul.
- Alley-oop dunk from Garrett in transiton.
- Side pick&roll, Suns go under – Burks pulls up and drills a three.
- Burks drives baseline and is credited with driving/hanging layup on a goaltending violation.
- High screen-roll where the Suns drop their big back into the lane, so Burks pulls up for a 15-foot floater that catches rim and drops.
Burks can play out of control and inefficiently at times, but he has a unique skillset that the Jazz need to find ways to take advantage of. Don’t forget on opening night he was the 2nd-best player on the court behind Kevin Durant.
Odds and Ends:
- In the final 3-minutes of crunchtime (from 4:09 to 1:13), Ty Corbin played Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors together (along with Marvin). Burke had played over 111 minutes, but only 8 came playing with Burks, Hayward and Favors. In last night’s stretch Burke hit two three-pointers and the Jazz held Phoenix to just 3 points.
- Burke became the first Jazz point guard to score 20 points in a game since Mo Williams at Golden State – 22 games ago.
- The Jazz currently have 7 players averaging double-figures scoring – which has only been done twice in franchise history and not since 1982-83. The Jazz posted 26 and 30 wins the two other times it’s happened – so it’s not exactly an accomplishment as much as an inclination that you’re playing a lot of different guys on a team not having much success. Right now the double-digit boat holds: Hayward, Kanter, Favors, Burks, Burke, Williams and Jefferson – so we’ll see who falls off first.
The Final Word
The Jazz played a good game on both ends of the court. Equally surprising, Ty Corbin coached a good game (and yes – that felt strange to type). Ty made many smart (to some “common sense” but hey it’s welcomed progress) decisions, rotations and timeouts to manage the flow of the game. I kept expecting to see a Lucas substitution or a bizarre 10-minute stretch where he sits the hot-hand to kill momentum but it never happened.
It’s like when you’re house-training a dog and he goes an entire day without pooping on the carpet. You have the paper towels, Lysol and Febreze on hand and ready but he wags his tail and you let him go outside. Last night, Ty Corbin didn’t poop on the carpet. Now that doesn’t mean he’s fully housetrained or he’s a more expansive dog than the neighbor’s Rottweiler (whom you raised yourself from a newborn puppy but then allowed to go live next door), but for once you could enjoy your night without seeing a mess in your living room.
What the Jazz did is once again show they’re capable of being far better than a 2-14 team with a -10 point-differential and that they are massively underachieving during their numerous wire-to-wire blowout losses. I don’t know if consistent improvement is on the way, but I do know that after three years a dog better be house-trained. Last night was a really fun reprieve that hopefully will be a sign of good things to come, but keep the Lysol and Febreeze nearby. Stink normally won’t disappear forever after just one night.