Final Score: Jazz 109, Rockets 103
Run It Back
Players of the Game: The Jazz enjoyed standout games from Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors – who each utilized their own unique styles and skillsets in making major contributions to Utah’s 3rd win in 4 games. One of the bigger challenges the Jazz have faced is getting most/all of their primary players playing well at the same time. Over the past two games, they’ve experienced more of that due to some outstanding individual play combined with better coordination and rotations.
Hayward shook out of a recent shooting slump with 29 points on 12-18 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. In Hayward’s last 9 games, he was averaging 12.2 points on 40% shooting overall and 23% behind the arc. Hayward started last night’s game the way smart players do when they’re struggling – going inside-out on his way to a 17-point 1st-Qtr.
10:52 1st-Qtr – Scored Utah’s first points on 2 FT’s where a Marvin screen through the lane allowed him to catch the ball at 12-feet on the wing drive baseline.
9:52 1st-Qtr – Garcia pressuring him off-ball setting up a Marvin backscreen at the right elbow for a back-cut dunk.
8:58 1st-Qtr – In transition, Hayward turned on the jets to run by Harden where Burke hit him with a rocket one-hand bounce pass for a layup.
6:07 1st-Qtr – Misses pull-up 18-foot jumper in transition.
5:13 1st-Qtr – Basic 1-on-1 drive starting at 20-feet against an embarrassingly weak effort defensively by Harden.
2:26 1st-Qtr – At this point, Hayward was 3-4 for 8 points. Now off a right-elbow dribble handoff with Evans and he knocked down an open 18-footer.
1:54 1st-Qtr – Hayward completely loses Ronnie Brewer on a curl cut through the lane and hits a wide-open 8-footer on the baseline.
1:07 -1st-Qtr – Transition and-1 layup off another Harden ole’ where he drew contact at the rim and still finshed.
0:49 1st-Qtr – Another coast-to-coast transition layup.
Hayward’s Shot Distribution ended up looking like this:
Of Hayward’s 6-10 mid-range performance, he shot 5-7 in actual half-court sets (as he shot 1-2 from mid-range in 1-on-1 iso’s and the missed pull-up jumper in transition). This has been one of my points from the beginning – that if you can create some open catch&shoot looks from 15-18 feet – that’s still very beneficial to your offense and players such as Hayward more than any concept that states you should only shoot layups or three-pointers – especially when you don’t have a roster that’s particularly conducive to playing a “moneyball” style that the jury is still out on regarding championships.
As you can see here, the Jazz ran some well-executed half-court sets that started with some off-ball movement centered around the high-post while running a weakside curl/pindown for an open mid-range jumper that history has shown can succeed within the framework of a top-10 offense.
It’s not a mirror image of the sets Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson once orchestrated, and the Jazz are still missing out on some layup potential with their execution and orchestration – but they have diversified their offense recently to include more sets than basic pick&rolls and that’s a good thing because offensively challenged teams need to manufacture some open looks. A few layups with a couple of open mid-range jumpers can get a young player back into the flow and then the basket gets real big.
In scoring 21 points on 9-18 shooting, 3-6 3pt, 6 assists, and 0 turnovers, Trey Burke showcased his near-complete pick&roll package. He encountered different types of screen-roll defense throughout the game, and was able to adjust and make plays against whatever the defense threw at him.
0:24 1st-Qtr – Burke/Evans high screen-roll guarded by Brooks/Casspi. Brooks gets caught going under the screen and Casspi is late showing out so Burke pulls up at the top-of-the-circle and drills the three.
9:03 4th-Qtr – Burke/Kanter high screen-roll vs Brooks/Asik, Brooks goes under and as he lunges out Burke crosses him over to set-up an open 20-footer – similar to the game-clinching three he hit in Phoenix where he comes off left then crosses back right.
4:48 1st-Qtr – Burke/Favors side pick&roll where Beverly initially fights over the screen going middle. Burks crosses back and they re-screen baseline (something Burke talked about in preseason), where he loses Beverly on the re-screen resulting on a 1-on-1 blow-by past Dwight Howard’s stabbing help-defense for a layup.
4:15 1st-Qtr – Burke/Favors side pick&roll where Beverly trails going over and Burke drives into the paint, draws Howard’s help and dishes to Favors rolling to the rim for a dunk.
Rockets Switch: Twice the Jazz ran a Burke/Favors pick&roll which initially resulted in a Houston switch giving Burke a 1-on-1 against Dwight Howard.
6:35 1st-Qtr – 1-on-1 with Howard, Burke walked him out and then pulled up and drilled a three.
11:31 3rd-Qtr – 1-on-1, this time Burke crosses Dwight over left-to-right and finishes at the rim with a layup.
Playing Off-The-Ball: Burke also showed he could play off-the-ball, similar to the way the Jazz would slide Deron Williams off the ball and let AK or Ronnie Brewer initiate in an effort to take full-advantage of Deron’s shooting ability.
3:11 3rd-Qtr – Throwback Jazz basketball high-post set where Utah runs two wings off a weakside curl. Burks’ man (Brooks) gets lost resulting in open 21-footer for Burke. These types of easy wide-open jump shots are what helped Deron average 19-20 points per game while shooting in the high 40’s instead of scoring 15-16 in the low 40’s.
6:31 4th-Qtr – Here Burke is the weakside shooter on a Burks/Kanter side screen-roll where Burks’ draw&kick results in open catch&shoot left-wing three to put Jazz up 93-89.
With the 16-2 Indiana Pacers coming into ESA on Wednesday, Burke will likely have to get his mid-range game going as the Pacers wisely defend the pick&roll by having George Hill go over the screen (to chase point guards off of the 3pt-line from the backside) and drop their big guys back into the lane. It will be interesting to see what happens as the Jazz go up against the league’s best defense.
Once again seeing a consistent role and playing time, Burks continued to flourish scoring 21 points on 7-11 shooting, 4-5 FT’s, 3-4 3pt, 4 assists and 0 turnovers.
Alec Burks played his first 8:32 without attempting a single shot or field goal. In the middle of the 2nd-qtr Utah began running more screen-roll with Burks facilitating where he set up Garrett for a corner three (6:23-2nd-Qtr) and Evans for a layup (5:52 2nd-Qtr). After missing a left-hand layup, Burks’ drilled his second shot – a left-corner catch&shoot three off Hayward side pick&roll and followed that up seconds later with a run-out dunk.
4 minutes into the 2nd-half Burks replaced the struggling Richard Jefferson and on his first possession took advantage of an awful close-out by Francisco Garcia to convert an and-1 dunk over Terrance Jones. Burks’ next shot came 3-minutes later on a wide-open right-wing catch&shoot three off a Hayward kickout and he closed out the 3rd-qtr with a high-screen roll contested left-hand layup. By now his confidence appeared as high as it’s been perhaps since the season-opener vs OKC and in the 4th Burks hit a 1-on-1 pull-up three with Casspi in his face as well as a 1-on-1 drive and floater over the shorter Aaron Brooks.
In his last 3 games, Burks is averaging 16.7 points, 3.0 assists on 17-32 (64%) shooting from the floor, 12-15 from the line, 4-5 behind the arc and has turned it over just twice in a little over 29 minutes per game.
With 14 points on 6-6 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds, Favors quietly had one of his better games of the season.
Favors’ 14 Field Goals:
9:21 1st-Qtr – Two-hand dunk after picking up a loose ball off an errant Trey Burke pass (2).
4:15 1st-Qtr – Two-hand dunk off pick&roll w/Trey Burke (4).
2:48 2nd-Qtr – High screen-roll with Burke, who drove and missed floater over Howard but freed up Favors for put-back (6).
6:39 3rd-Qtr – Fadeaway over Howard on the right-block where he faked a drop-step then came back and shot fading off his right-shoulder (8).
5:40 3rd-Qtr – 12-foot jumper off side pick&pop with Burks (10).
4:31 4th-Qtr – Fouled on offensive rebound resulting in 2 FT’s (12).
3:15 4th-Qtr – Layup off beautiful cross-over penetration and dish by Burke (14).
Favors had just one 1-on-1 opportunity in the post yet still managed to score 14 points – simply by diving to the rim, crashing the offensive board and playing pick&roll basketball that takes advantage of his size and athletic ability attacking the rim.
Favors also played solid post-defense against Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard Shot-Type Distribution
In the low-post, Howard shot just 2-5 and scored 4 points going 1-on-1 against Favors with his back-to-the-basket. In the pick&roll, Howard scored 9 of his 15 points on shooting 4-5 from the floor. None of those scores were Favors fault, as he was once again being asked to show out and recover which made it impossible to keep up with Howard rolling to the rim for a lob-dunk. The only time Utah’s screen-roll defense was (and likely will be) successful is against a screener with limited offensive ability like Omar Asik last night or Boston’s Vitor Faverani who was benched against Utah after an ineffective 1st-qtr.
Jazz Pick&Roll Defense
Against a Houston team missing their starting point guard (Jeremy Lin) and small forward (Chandler Parsons), Utah’s defense in the final 3-quarters was fairly pedestrian – and once again they had all kinds of issues defending the pick&roll. In the final 6 minutes of play however, Houston ran just two Harden/Howard pick&rolls – which resulted in a Howard dunk and a Harden layup. As Matt Harpring noted during the broadcast, it felt like Houston could run a Harden/Howard pick&roll every possession and score on Utah. Utah’s team-defense continues to be worrisome, but with their offense in high-gear last night it wasn’t an issue.
Odds and Ends
- Last night’s official attendance of 15,801 was the 2nd-smallest regular season crowd in the 23-year history of the Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena history.
- Gordon Hayward did not attempt a three-pointer for the first time this season. In 2012-13 he had two games with out a 3pt-Att.
- While shooting just 30% behind the arc this season, for his career Alec Burks is a 33.9% 3pt-shooter which places him 19th in franchise history among Jazz players with atleast 50 makes.
- After playing in the first 17 games of the season, John Lucas III has received two consecutive DNP-CD’s.
- Since losing his starting spot 5 games ago, Enes Kanter has averaged 17.6 minutes per game. In 2012-13 he averaged 15.4 mpg.
The Final Word
The Jazz are suddenly playing a fun, exciting and high-scoring brand of basketball. Given the fact that they had already hit (what we hope was) rock-bottom, it certainly has come as somewhat of a welcomed surprise. Going back to the preseason, this is closer the level of play I had expected when I predicted here in October that this team could win 35 games. While it’s clear they missed Trey Burke, it’s also they were significantly underachieving earlier in the season where they went entire games without any offensive cohesiveness, any defensive identity and without any energy or competitiveness.
The Jazz are far from running on all cylinders and it should be pointed out that they’ve caught some major breaks facing a Bulls team in complete disarray, a fluky same-team back-to-back with the Suns in addition to a Rockets team down two starters. However, their level of play – particularly on the offensive end – has significantly (and predictably) improved (it couldn’t possibly have gotten worse) to the point the Jazz should at the very least play competitive basketball for 48 minutes. I’m not talking about x-amount of wins yet but I am saying they’ve re-set the bar to where wire-to-wire blowout losses are completely unacceptable – which should have been the case in November.