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Archive for the ‘2013-14 Jazz Season’ Category

Jazz at Trailblazers 2-21-14

Final Score: Trailblazers 102, Jazz 94

The Jazz gave one of their more impressive road efforts of the 2013-14 season, going toe-to-toe with the 36-18 Trailblazers for 45-minutes before folding late. While Alec Burks provided a scoring spark in the 1st-half and Gordon Hayward turned in a quietly impressive line (17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists on 5-11 shooting), the two stars of the game for Utah were clearly Trey Burke and Enes Kanter.

Trey Burke

Burke scored 21 points on 8-16 shooting from the field and 3-5 from behind the arc, while also dishing 7 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds.

Burke completely owned the 3rd-quarter, in which he scored 12 points and handed out 3 assists on a perfect 5-5 shooting, including two threes. In addition, the rookie made an outstanding steal in which he face-guarded Lillard and drifted with him along the three-point line and used his peripheral vision to deflect an incoming kickout pass, that directly led to a throw-ahead assist to Alec Burks for a fastbreak layup.

Although Burke shot just 3-8 on the pick&roll, one of his misses (a driving left-hand layup) freed up Kanter for an uncontested tip-in and another attempted floater enabled Burke to rebound his own miss and score so in reality Utah was 5-10 when he shot via screen-roll. Additionally, on mid-range pick&roll jumpshots Burke hit an impressive 3-4 – critical considering it is Portland’s intent to force opponents to take contested midrange shots while trying to minimize scramble rotations that often lead to open threes and paint points.

Burke nailed 2 of his 3 catch&shoot three-point attempts and of his 7 assists, 4 came in transition (or early offense before the defense could setup) while two others were setting the table for a Kanter jumper via pick&pop.

Burke’s a playmaker with the ability to push the tempo (if the Jazz ever try to do that) and create for his teammates but right now it comes down to making shots. After inexplicably sitting for the first 6 minutes of the 4th-quarter (in which the Jazz shot 1-11 and were outscored 14-2), he came back in the game and confidently drilled a right-wing three to pull Utah back to within 83-80. There’s no question that even as a rookie Trey Burke wants to be the guy to take and make all the big shots, and that’s a quality that will only bode well for the future as the Jazz look to him run the show over the next several seasons.

Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter tied his career-high with 25 points on 12-20 shooting, to go along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.

Most impressively, Kanter scored his points in a variety of ways. He shot 2-3 and scored 5 points when getting touches on the left-block. He shot 3-4 from direct opportunities via the pick&roll, including 2-3 on pick&pop jumpers. He scored 6 points on 3-6 shooting on offensive rebounds and he was a perfect 4-4 playing off-the-ball as a weakside dive/kickout man (including 2-2 on spotup mid-range jumpers).

He’s shown he can be an effective low-post scorer but doesn’t demand the ball to find ways to contribute, with his offensive rebounding and pick&pop ability helping to round out his game.

Kanter also started in place of Favors in Utah’s December-9th meeting with Portland and had an impressive game as well, scoring 19 points on 50% shooting as Utah also hung in against the Blazers before another late collapse.

Kanter’s Screen-Roll Defense

From the outset one member of the Utah Jazz broadcast team made it a point to harp on what he considered poor defense by Kanter – namely Kanter’s refusal to show out and contest a lot of shots on the pick&roll. Similar to how teams used to attack Al Jefferson in the previous two seasons, Portland made it a priority to involve Kanter in defending pick&roll as often as possible.

Utah’s strategy remained simple – allow Kanter to drop back into the lane and force Portland into taking a lot of mid-range jumpshots. Of the 41 direct pick&rolls that involved Kanter defending the screener, Utah allowed just 31 points on initial defense (not counting second-change opportunities).  Of those 41 plays, Portland shot 13-34 (38.2) from the field, drew 3 fouls (resulting in 4-4 from the foul line) and turned the ball over 4 times. Most impressively, out of their 34 shot attempts only two were three-point field goals.

Obviously the Blazers missed LaMarcus Aldrige’s mid-range shooting but when Kanter was involved in defending screen-roll, Utah could not have asked for better results against Portland’s high-octane offense. One negative is how susceptible Utah leaves themselves on the offensive glass. With Marvin playing at PF, anytime their center (be it Kanter or Favors) leaves his man to help, Utah is left with a huge disadvantage trying to rebound the basketball (12 offensive rebounds for Portland tonight).

Nevertheless, allowing 31 points on 41 possessions speaks for itself. Considering there were also a handful of plays where the initial screen-roll yielded no shot so Portland continued to move the ball, admonishing Kanter’s defensive performance last night is not only unnecessary but ridiculous.

Kanter will give up points at the rim but he also did a good job staying vertical in his challenges which resulted in quite a few Portland misses in the paint (many by Lillard who is among the poorer finishers in the basket area). It’s also important to remember Kanter isn’t a shotblocking force. Jerry Sloan didn’t rant and rave on the sideline when Mehmet Okur didn’t block a shot and Kanter deserves a similar approach. What you ask for from Kanter is good positional defense where he can use his 6-11 frame to contest shots to the best of his ability, and if the ball still goes in the hoop you can live with it because he can contribute in a lot of other ways.

(Side Tangent: It’s also absurd to criticize Kanter when he leaves his man to pick up a free driver toward the rim and then gets burned because no one rotated to his man. In Jazzbasketball that’s called “helping the helper” and it’s very difficult to be a good defensive team when your defensive rotations can’t extend to that level.)

Blazers announcer Mike Rice may have said it best late in the 3rd-quarter, “Once again, Kanter has been the man in there, he’s been able to defend that rim against – and I mean everybody is dribble-driving for the Blazers – and testing him. So far he’s not done a bad job at all.”

Portland’s 4th-Quarter Huddle

One really neat thing about the Blazers telecast is Portland’s sideline reporter, Michael Holton, was able to listen in on the Blazers’ huddle during the timeout and then relay that information to the viewers prior to the start of the 4th-quarter.

Holton reported: “Well the entire timeout was spent talking about defense. Terry Stotts wants the Blazers to keep the ball on the sideline and then rotate the defense to the [middle]. They’re (Utah) turning the corner, getting all the way to the rim. He spent the entire timeout breaking down how they need to correct that.”

Some of those adjustments were noticeable on a Burks turnover (7:59 4th-Qtr) where they pushed him wide and stole the ball as he tried to come back middle but a lot of it came down to Robin Lopez closing up the middle when there appeared to be gaps in the defense.

Regardless, it’s nice to be given access to that type of inside information as the game progresses. It was reminiscent to the days of the NBA on NBC when Jim Gray would camp by Utah’s bench and report Jerry Sloan’s message to his team during timeouts.

The Final Word

Overall last night’s is precisely the type of contest you hope the Jazz have more of as the season winds down. Although Portland is in a bit of a funk while playing without LaMarcus Aldrige and an under-the-weather Nicolas Batum, the Jazz’s young core came to play and pushed the Blazers to their limit, forcing Portland to elevate their game to another level. I believe it’s those 10-12 minute stretches when opponents raise their intensity like Portland did to start the 4th-quarter that is ultimately more beneficial to Utah’s growth and development than the other 36 minutes played at the regular speed limit.

Burke, Burks, Hayward, and Kanter all had their moments on the road against a good team. At this point when you know what to expect from the coaching and other role players, that sort of thing is really all you can ask for at this point. I don’t believe in moral victories in professional sports, but if there is such a thing as a “good loss,” this was probably it.

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Nets at Jazz 2-19-2014 #1

Nets 105, Jazz 99

Like many sports-loving families, growing up my Dad and I would play pickup basketball in our driveway. By the time I reached junior high, I was tall, quick, and athletic enough to beat him handily, but I didn’t. Every game felt like a battle to the final shots* (*win by two). My Dad was still heavier and stronger, so he would back me down from about 20-feet and shoot an unblockable hook shot off our very forgiving backboard. Defensively, he would stand about 12-feet from the basket and dare me to shoot from 19’9″ (the high school and at the time college three-point line). I would make enough threes and he enough high-percentage twos (we scored by 2’s and 3’s not 1’s and 2’s like is done today which further skews the value of a three-point shot) that it would come down to who could achieve the elusive score-stop-score sequence. At that point Dad would suddenly come out and guard me, not quick enough to stay in front of me but clever enough to reach in and rip the ball away as I made my go-to dribble-drive moves which he knew.

The point is my Dad played “old man basketball.” He would conserve energy and turn it into a game of fundamentals and standstill shooting for 80% of the game, then get serious and ball out with the game on the line.

That’s what the Nets did to the Jazz last night, they beat them playing “old man ball.” For 29 minutes the Nets allowed the Jazz to shoot open threes, outhustle them for loose balls and beat them up and down the court. Then Brooklyn got serious, outscoring Utah 50-31 in the game’s final 19 minutes.

Defensively the Nets suddenly were alive, contesting Utah on the perimeter (Utah shot 7-13 behind the arc in the 1st-half and just 2-11 in the 2nd-half) and ripping the ball away from them inside (5 Utah turnovers in the 4th-quarter versus 13 in the first 3).

This pattern can be expected for an aging Nets team boasting the 37-year old Kevin Garnett, a 36-year old Paul Pierce and a $200 million backcourt that oddly exudes a vibe that they’re also in their late 30’s olds rather than the 29 and 32 year-olds Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are, respectively.

Regardless, when it came to “winning time,” the Nets turned on a switch that Utah couldn’t match physically or mentally. This was a great learning experience for the likes of Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke – but is also problematic of being a season long cellar-dweller in the dead of winter. Opponents test the waters to see if they can get by with a B-effort before deciding to dip a toe in or wade in up to their chest. Sometimes (see Utah’s home wins over Miami and OKC wins) it bites them in the rear, but other times (GS 3 weeks ago and Brooklyn last night) it works and you can’t help but look back and wonder how much of Utah Jazz 1st and 2nd-quarters actually represent meaningful minutes when competing against teams giving marginal effort to start.

Alec Burks

Starting from opening night against OKC when he was the only difference between a double-digit home loss and a game that went down to the final shot, Alec Burks has enjoyed a break-through season averaging 13.6 points while shooting a respectable 45% from the field and 36% from behind the arc despite just playing 27.3 minutes per game. On a Per-36 Minute basis, Burks scoring increases to 17.9 points and his free throw attempts to 6.0 per game. (By comparison Hayward, Utah’s leading scorer at 16.2 pts/gm actually sees his Per-36 scoring averages decline slightly to 16.0).

In the past three games, Alec Burks has been phenomenal – averaging 24.3 points on 60% shooting with 11.3 free throw attempts per game in just 27.0 minutes. Even more incredible, he’s the first Jazz player to post three consecutive games of 20-points all coming off-the-bench since Jeff Malone in March of 1993.

I understand why it may be preferable to utilize a gifted scorer in a 6th-man role to provide scoring punch off-the-bench. However, on a lottery bound team in a season designated by everyone as a “rebuilding year,” none of those exist with Alec. The Jazz have virtually nothing to lose in starting Burks for the remainder of the season (also maximizing the on-court time a slumping Hayward has with another scorer on the wing) and very much to gain – including a potential starting 2-guard of their future.

To Foul or Not to Foul

As anyone who watched last night’s maddening ending would know, with 32.6 seconds remaining Alec Burks scored on a backdoor cut (off a fantastic left-hand bullet pass from Trey Burke) to pull the Jazz to within 99-95. Down 4 with an 8.6 second differential between shotclock and gameclock, intentionally fouling appeared to be a no-brainer. Yet the Jazz didn’t foul. On the replay you could even see Trey Burke glancing over his shoulder toward the Jazz sideline as he guarded the ball but Ty Corbin stood there frozen as 16 seconds ticked away before the Jazz finally (mercifully) fouled. (They had a foul to give so they had to foul again to send Brooklyn to the line). The Nets made both free throws to make it a 6-point game with 14.9 seconds left.

There’s a huge difference between a two-possession game with 30 seconds left and one with half of that time. To me, a general rule of thumb is in a 1-possession NBA game, an 8-second differential is perfectly acceptable to play it out. In a two-possession game, with anything less than a 10-second differential (or lack timeouts) you foul immediately because of the old adage you can regain possession but you can never put time back on the clock.

Heck, 4 years ago Jerry Sloan opted to immediately intentionally foul in what was merely a 3-point game with a 5-second differential. The difference became an extra-possession sequence that trimmed the deficit and was culminated by Sundiata Gaines giving Jazz fans arguably the single most euphoric moment in franchise history since Stockton hit “The Shot.” Whatever your strategy, hesitancy will kill clock and kill your team’s chances and that was the case last night.

Corbin’s postgame explanation made even less sense. The bottom line is the Utah Jazz coaching staff screwed up, with their eventual decision to foul after 16 seconds of passive defense being the ultimate admission of guilt.

Trade Deadline

If the Jazz do make a deal, there are two realistic goals I’d like the Jazz to accomplish.

1.) Asset accumulation. If Utah can pawn off a Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson (unlikely) and even a Jeremy Evans (who I really like but whose bargain basement contract and off-the-bench skillset could make him very attractive to other teams) for a future protected 1st-round pick, I would do it in a heartbeat.

In the NBA, you need a star player and if you can’t sign one (thank you SLC) you either need to draft one or trade for one. To draft one you either need a top overall pick (looking unlikely for Utah in 2014) or a slew of potentially high picks in which you hope you strike oil with one. To trade for a superstar, you need to accumulate enough assets to make a godfather-type offer in the way Houston acquired a James Harden and Dwight Howard. Utah already has a slew of young talent combined with all of their own 1st-round picks plus two GS 1st-rounders. Add another one and then trust in Dennis Lindsey’s ability to draft/deal.

2.) Long-term Development. Alec Burks needs to start. Kanter (and to a lesser extent Favors) and Gobert need more minutes. If the Jazz can move one of their pending veteran unrestricted free agents (a Jefferson or Williams) who are causing a log-jam toward extending playing time for younger players who factor more prominently into the team’s future, the Jazz need to do it even if the return is only a corresponding expiring contract of a far lesser talent and/or a 2nd-round pick.

The Jazz aren’t making a surprise playoff push this season (unlike Jeff Hornacek’ Phoenix Suns). The Jazz vision has to be a 4-5 year window in which 2013-14 season is used to maximize the team’s future not pander to pending free agents the way they did in 2012-13 that netted them nothing both short-term and long-term.

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53 games down, 29 to go. In some ways the season feels like it’s taking forever and in other ways there are still a plethora of unanswered questions relating to the future of the Utah Jazz and dwindling time left to answer them. There has been noticeable growth and there has been substantial development, but hopefully we’ll see a lot more to fill in more of the blanks that the Jazz have not tried hard enough to fill.

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2013-14 Utah Jazz

With the Jazz gearing up for the final third of their season, let’s take a look and see what 2013-14 statistics carry historical significance and where some current Jazz players sit among the all-time ranks.

Jazz Three-Point Shooting

The Jazz twice set the franchise record for three-pointers attempted in a game in two double-digit losses within the span of 6 days (shooting just 33% and 34% in losses to the Clippers and Mavericks, respectively). The Jazz are currently on pace to set the franchise record for three-pointers made in a season during Game #77, and the record for three-point attempts in a season in Game #73.

In a trend that began under Jerry Sloan, the Utah Jazz have set franchise marks for three-point attempts in a season in 6 of the past 7 seasons starting in 2006-07 – with the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season the lone exception.

Derrick Favors

Favors is currently averaging 1.4 blocks per game this season. His blocks per 36 minutes are actually down substantially from last season’s 2.6 mark to 1.6 this season. Nevertheless, in less than 4 seasons Favors is already 13th on the Jazz career blocks list and just 7 blocks behind Otto Moore for 12th-place.

Gordon Hayward

In the 10 seasons since Stockton&Malone retired, the Jazz’s 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th all-time leading scorers have all passed through Utah. There is currently nobody in the top-25 on the 2013-14 roster, but Gordon Hayward is the closest. Hayward is just 81 points out of the 26th spot and 234 out of 25th. Hayward also needs 46 points to reach 3,000 for his career.

Trey Burke

Despite missing the first 12 games of the season Trey Burke, the Western Conference’s reigning Rookie of the Month, appears poised to break several Jazz rookie records in the final portion of the regular season – including three-point makes, three-point attempts and free throw percentage. He’s also on pace to finish second for most assists and 5th for most points by a Jazz rookie.

Individual Three-Point Records

With the Jazz shooting more three-pointers than ever before, several current Jazz players are etching their names amongst the more prolific long-range shooters in team history.

  • Gordon Hayward currently has the 9th-most three-point field goals made in team history, with Marvin Williams ranking 17th.
  • In terms of accuracy, Richard Jefferson’s 41.9% 3pt-FG accuracy is good for the second-highest career mark in team history. Gordon Hayward ranks 12th at a fluctuating 37.4%, Marvin Williams 15th at 36.3% and Alec Burks checks in at #18 with a 34.8% clip.

Tankapalooza

The Jazz’s 19-33 mark was their worst record entering the all-star break since the injury-ravaged 2004-05 season. That year the Jazz finished 26-56 – which represented the league’s 4th-worst record. In the 2005 Draft Lottery, the Jazz fell to 6th but were able to move up to #3 on draft night to select Deron Williams. If the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery were held today, the Jazz would be slotted 7th with a 4.3% chance at #1 and a 15.0% shot at the top-3.

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To keep track of the fluent lottery standings, check back here over the course of the season for updated rankings each morning. To keep tabs on where current Jazz players rank in franchise history, check Jazzbasketball’s extensive record book section on the sidebar that are updated weekly.

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In today’s B.S. Report, Grantland’s Bill Simmons said that believes the Celtics should and will make a run at Gordon Hayward. The entire podcast can be heard here, with the Hayward conversation beginning around the 34:10-mark.

Hayward Future

Here is the Hayward discussion between Simmons and Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

Simmons: “The Celtics made a sneaky trade over the weekend – they got rid of Courtney Lee’s contract. It’s now doable for the Celtics to make a run at somebody this summer, with a contract starting at I think – depending on where the cap is – it could be like $10 million, $11 million something like that. I think Gordon Hayward is a target for them and I don’t know if it happens next month before the deadline or it’s something where they just plan on making a giant restricted  offer and hoping Utah doesn’t match or whatever…but I think Gordon Hayward is somebody that they want.”

Lowe: “It wouldn’t surprise me, Hayward is the one restricted guy that I look at and say ‘You might be able to get this guy if you really love him, you’re confident that his sort of decline statistically this season is just because he’s on a horrible team where he has to do too much and he’s young – and you throw a huge offer at him…he’s the one guy of the restricted free agents you might be able to get.”

Simmons: “Hayward is also young, Hayward turns 24 in March and as you said not having a great season, not having a good shooting season his threes went in the tank this year he’s 31% right now, last year he was 42%. Umm, but again he’s on a terrible team, it’s not a well-coached team, I would say going from Ty Corbin to Brad Stevens would be a slight upgrade especially the way Stevens knows how to use him and I think the Celtics could construct an offer and get to, you know starting at $13 million that could probably get to like $58 million for 4 years and that puts Utah in a really interesting spot because…where-where did they – they didn’t even want to pay him what – 4 for $45 (million) as an extension? Something like that or did he want the max?”

Lowe: “I don’t think the figures ever came out, I mean th-they, umm I remember Marc Stein tweeting something that rumors that Hayward’s team demanded the same contract that Paul George got or a max-contract were not true, but I don’t know that the exact numbers ever came out and this year you know at the very least his value is sort of plateauing he’s not playing into – yet – he’s not playing himself into a massive deal.”

Simmons: “If you’re Utah would you consider trading him?”

Lowe: *deep sigh* …”I mean I’d consider anything if I were Utah.”

Simmons: “Right, but let’s say Phoenix said ‘Hey we have a lot of first-round picks, we like Gordon Hayward a lot, would you like some of our first-round picks? Then you could be reeeally bad, now you’re guaranteed – we’re taking only your kind of competent scorer other than Trey Burke off your roster.”

Lowe: “But I’ve already got two Golden State first-round picks, now maybe those aren’t going to end up being very good but one of them is in 2017 so atleast it has the possibility of being very good. I don’t know that – I might think that Utah might think the other way where, where you know ‘I’m just going to hold onto these assets and – including Hayward and try to see maybe down the line if there’s a superstar or a star that becomes available but…it’s hard when you’re Utah because you can’t trade for a superstar that has one or two years left on his contract because you run the risk of, you know he’s just going to go out of town.”

Simmons: “If you were the Celtics, would you say ‘Hey Utah, you know that pick we have – it’s the worst [least favorable] pick we have of Brooklyn or Atlanta – we’ll give you that pick right now for Gordon Hayward. It might get in the lottery. You can have it right now. Straight up. That would be interesting.”

Lowe: “Yeah…”

Simmons: “I think if I’m Utah I do that.”

Lowe: “If I were the Celtics I would do that in a second, I think Utah would demand more and I don’t know what the Celtics have that they’re interested in they’re a Jeff Green team and I don’t know that they are or not.”

Simmons: “Mmm I don’t know how many ‘Jeff Green teams’ there are out there at this point – I really like Gordon Hayward though and I think him and Lance [Stephenson] are the two fascinating [free agent] guys, Melo obviously is interesting and I think Chicago has to be considered – anything Carmelo conversation now Chicago has to be brought up because if they amnesty Boozer they’re on the road to having enough cap space to make him a huge offer.”

For good measure, Simmons and Lowe also briefly touched on Jeff Hornacek.

Simmons: “Phoenix is 20-12, I saw them in person last week and they just knocked my socks off how well-coached they were.”

Simmons on watching the Suns in person: “You would love it…you would have to…have a cigar afterward you would be so excited about Hornacek.”

Lowe: “Well they’re delightful on television and boy that’s the biggest mistake we’ve made in my short time at Grantland is ranking them toward the bottom of our league-pass watch-ability rankings.”

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On October 21, 2013 Marc Stein tweeted that: “Hayward has tons of fans in front offices around the league. Will draw tons of interest next July if he makes it to restricted free agency

That goes in conjuncture with what Peter Vescey tweeted on November 21, 2013: “According to a GM, the Suns will do everything possible this summer to sign Gordon Hayward to an unmatchable offer sheet.

Not counting Boston’s 2014 Draft Pick cap holds, assuming they renounce their rights on Jordan Crawford, don’t pick up Keith Bogan’s 2014-15 salary, and for now slotting Avery Bradley’s $3.2 million qualifying offer in – the Celtics will be around $48 million with 8 players – certainly possessing the wiggle-room to make one additional dump-deal and present Hayward an attractive 8-figure offer.

Although re-signing RFA Eric Bledose will eat up a large chunk of it, the Suns also project to have the cap room (although approximate figures vary due to fluctuating cap holds for 2014 draft picks they may or may not receive, along with a $6.8 million player option Channing Frye possesses).

So what do you think is Gordon Hayward’s free agency value is, and should the Jazz (or any team) meet/exceed it with the belief that a new coach and upgraded supporting cast can rebuild Hayward’s shooting efficiency – or should the Jazz preemptively trade him to get value in return if they think he’ll get an offer they won’t be willing to match?

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Bucks at Jazz 1-2-14

Final Score: Jazz 96, Bucks 87

The Utah Jazz defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in a battle between the two teams with the worst records in the NBA. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 22 points (on 8-16 shooting and 3-5 from behind the arc) while Derrick Favors scored 21 (on 9-16 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and 4 steals). It marked only the second time in their 4-year Jazz careers that both Hayward and Favors scored 20-points or more in the same game. They were joined in double-figures by Alec Burks (13 pts), Trey Burke (11 pts), Enes Kanter (11 pts) and Diante Garrett (10 points) – signifying only the second game that the “Core-5” (Burke/Burks/Hayward/Favors/Kanter) all scored in double-figures in the same game.

Run It Back

Play of the Game: 3:18 4th-Qtr – Milwaukee had cut what was once a 14-point Utah lead to 3 late in the 4th when Alec Burks drove middle from the left-wing and converted a fingeroll over the outstretched arm of Larry Sanders. Utah’s offense was out-of-sorts against the Bucks’ 2-3 zone and Burks’ layup sparked a 10-2 Jazz run to seal the victory.

Player of the Game: Derrick Favors displayed his offensive diversity as he scored his 21 points on 9-16 shooting in a variety of ways. He shot 4-8 on post-ups, 3-4 on pick&rolls, 1-2 on offensive rebounds (he grabbed 3) and 1-2 on direct dishes/kickouts. After shooting 41.6% in his first 7 games, Favors has shot 55.1% in his last 26.

Best Shot: 0:45 3rd-Qtr – A Hayward/Kanter screen-roll collapsed Milaukee’s defense giving Diante Garrett an open top-of-the-key three off a crisp skip-pass by Gordon – which Garrett knocked down. Garrett played quite well in 5 of his first 7 games since joining the Jazz, then jockeyed with John Lucas for 2nd and 3rd PG in the rotation and has since resumed backup duties in the last two games. With 10 points on 4-5 shooting and 2-2 from behind the arc, it was Garrett’s highest scoring game as a pro (in my opinion his 7-point/8-assist game in Dallas is still his best game as a Jazz player).

Next week the Jazz will have to decide whether to waive Garrett or guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. Garrett won’t blow anyone away with his playmaking or shooting (40%FG/36%3pt) but he’s a better option than John Lucas III (32%FG/32%FG) because he understands his strengths&weaknessess, plays within himself, has size, and defends fairly well.

Best Block: 5:14 4th-Qtr – Following a Burke turnover, the Bucks pushed the ball in transition but Gordon Hayward rejected Giannis Anteokounmpo’s layup at the rim – pinning the ball to the backboard. Anteokounmpo is a springy 6-9 athletic freak in the mold of a young Kirilenko or Iguodala – and Hayward got the better of him on this above-the-rim play. Hayward recorded 3 blocks giving him 12 over the past 7 games. Gordon’s shooting percentages have fluctuated all season but his all-around play remains a bright spot. Last night shooting efficiency was back on target last night, as he shot 3-7 on catch&shoot jumpers, 1-1 on off-the-dribble jumpers and 3-5 on halfcourt drives to the basket.

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 1:15 1st-Qtr – The Jazz got one of their easiest baskets of the night – a Diante Garrett layup – off a well-executed UCLA rub cut. The Jazz ran a few UCLA sets in the 1st-half, not many in comparison to pre-2011, but more than they’ve run throughout most of the 2013-14 season. As I’ll explain below, with so-so offensive production (still just 26th in the NBA) – running more well-executed UCLA sets could open up a much-needed avenue of high-percentage looks.

See A Different Game

The UCLA set was once a Jazzbasketball staple under the direction and orchestration of Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson. Utah starts in a standard 1-4 set with a rub cut down the lane – where the ball-handler (normally the PG) initiates the play by passing to the wing before cutting down the lane.

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #1

With proper timing and accurate passing, this simple set can garner a layup against an average defense atleast 1-2 times per half – either from the initial cut or via multiple secondary options.

Here the Jazz run the same set three times against the Bucks in the 1st-half.

1. The first possession the initial rub cut results in an easy layup for Garrett.

2. The second possession the iniital cut didn’t net an open opportunity so the Jazz run through their entire set with the initiator (Burke) running through to set a backscreen for Hayward. The next read for both Burke and the high-post passer (Marvin) is dependent upon Burke’s man (#13 Ridnour). Here, you’ll see Ridnour momentarily help on the backscreen, keying Burke to fire out weakside behind Favors’ screen. Ridnour shoots the gap, and as Burke learns more of the nuances he’ll fade to the corner and get a wide-open 16-footer from the baseline. Nevertheless Burke wisely doesn’t force a jumper with Ridnour closing out, and proceeds to quickly get the ball inside to Favors – who is able to establish deep post-position due to the location of the screen he just set.

3. The third possession the Jazz should again have had a layup, but their timing is just a tad off. Favors doesn’t get a solid initial screen on Burke’s rub cut, but Burke sets a terrific screen for Jefferson who should have a layup springing free, but Favors is a split-second late with his pass. Instead of RJ catching the ball at the rim so he can go straight-up for a layup, the pass leads him through the lane all the way over to the left block. RJ posts up and the Jazz eventually get a Hayward three out of it, but that’s not an option you want to rely on.

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Even with so-so execution, you can see just a few of the multiple options this basic set provides. Not only do you get all the weakside options having the cutter run through, you can put a playmaker on the wing so after the rub cut, instead of passing to the high-post you turn it into a quick side pick&roll. The Jazz often did this with Deron Williams on the wing and Andrei Kirilenko initiating. Similar to how the Spurs screen for their screener to setup their high screen-roll, the initial rub-cut momentarily occupies the screener’s man giving the Jazz another advantage getting into side pick&roll.

Furthermore, this set can also trigger more of what Utah used to call their “auto” set and vaunted flex offense, where you pass to the wing but instead of the initiator cutting down the lane, he “bounces” back off the screen to receive the pass at the top-of-the-key for a quick ball-reversal where you have a weakside pindown (i.e. the automatic Korver/Harpring mid-range jumper). And if that doesn’t produce an open look, you have another weakside pindown with the guard screening for the bigman to come up to the elbow (often Okur) for another ball-reversal back to side of the floor the play originated on.

Considering the Jazz so rarely run this set anymore, it’s certainly understandable that their timing and execution won’t be crisp and they haven’t put in all the options and variations – but last night did provide some examples of the high-percentage looks Utah can get from this oldie but goodie.

Odds and Ends

  • The announced attendance of 16,012 represents the 4th-smallest crowd in the 23-year history of the Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena.
  • The Jazz have now set the 4 of the 5 lowest DC/ESA attendance marks this season.
  • From Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Aaron Falk, the Bucks haven’t beaten the Jazz in Utah since October 30, 2001. That game was opening night and the Jazz lost in overtime on a night the overriding theme was the remembrance of 9/11 – that included this moving pregame ceremony featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The Final Word

The Bucks are a dreadful team with the worst-talent base in the league. As a team Utah’s level of play wasn’t great (as evidenced by a 1-possession game with 3:30 remaining) but the Jazz did take care of business at home against a team they had no excuse to lose to.

While veteran starters Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams both struggled (combining for just 6 points on 2-10 shooting), Utah’s young core provided the scoring punch with 78 of their 96 points (81%) coming from Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter. That talented fivesome is still yet to see the floor together at the same time (just 15-minutes in the entire season), but last night they all provided the scoring punch.

Aside from the “Kanter PT = 48 – Favors’ PT” and “Favors PT = 48 – Kanter’s PT” forumlas the Jazz appear to be adhering to, I feel surprisingly good about last night’s win. Beating a team you’re supposed to beat may not be an impressive accomplishment, but it’s a scenario the Jazz have rarely found themselves in this season. Seeing the future of the team succeed while still having the opportunity to play through new experiences is what I hope the 2013-14 season is ultimately about, as opposed to resurrecting the careers of soon-to-be veteran free agents.

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Final Score: Grizzlies 104, Jazz 94

‘Twas two nights before Christmas and all through Jazzland
Utah lost in Memphis as they still can’t defend.
The announcers were giddy as they came on the air
With hopes a 9th win soon would be theirs.

The team was ready to start a win streak
As Memphis without Marc Gasol looked weak.
With Sidney on probation and assisting his boss
The coaches settled in for another big loss.

When out on the court there arose such a call
Ty sprang from his chair to see if Favors fouled at all
From off the bench he jumped and leaped in the air
Before straightening his jacket and fixing his pocket square

The officials reviewed and gave Randolph 2 shots
A terrible call but Favors gets those alot
After halftime the Jazz never could adjust
And in an NBA game those little things are a must

In the 4th-quarter the Grizzlies never stopped scoring
Scoring so easily that the game would grow boring
Bayless and Miller both shot from outside
They were always wide open and never did hide

With a failing defense and an offense run dry
I knew in a moment they were both coached by Ty
4 years as coach and he still was the same
But he clapped, and shouted, and called players by name

“Sit Enes! Sit Alec! Sit Derrick and Trey!
In Richard! In Lucas! Teach the young guys how to play!
Leave their shooters wide open! Give up the three-ball!
Botch a breakaway! Breakaway! Breakaway all!”

“Miss it off-glass! Miss it off the rim!
And if Alec does it I’ll go yell at him!
He’s young and skilled but still doesn’t know
Neither do I, but I love my veterans so”

And then, in a twinkling their hole was at ten
With another road loss facing them again.
The Jazz didn’t quit and Trey Burke played well
Favors did too as you obviously could tell

But Randolph was better and Memphis shot great
The Jazz didn’t close-out and when they did they were late
Elsewhere in Miami their former draftee
Paul Millsap, now a Hawk, would make 7 threes

Had the Jazz kept Paul he could’ve been their stretch-four
A viable option since we don’t start Kanter anymore
Instead we start Marvin who still wears a mask
Is more than 3 rebounds too much to ask?

The Jazz future shines bright with their promising young core
They could’ve used some veterans but not anymore
The future is key with the playoffs out of sight
We need to play guys and develop them right.

Go ahead, argue and point out RJ’s big game
I’ve heard all the reasons and to me they sound lame
It’s possible to love and root for this team
While disagreeing with decisions and defensive scheme

We all hope to compete for a title one day
So in closing this is all I have to say
Merry Christmas and happy new year to all
May 2014 be a great year of Jazzbasketball

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And if you’re not already in the Christmas spirit, this heart-warming rendition of Jingle Bells performed by Sheed should do the trick:

(from youtube user: knasty80)

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Jazz at Magic 12-18-13Final Score: Jazz 86, Magic 82

Player of the Game: Trey Burke scored a career-high 30 points go along with 8 assists and 7 rebounds in 40 minutes of play. He shot an impressive 12-20 from the field, 2-2 from the FT line and 4-8 from behind the arc while only turning the basketball over twice. The Jazz were +21 in Burke’s 40:28 minutes and -17 in the 7:32 he was on the bench.

Trey Burke 12 Field Goals:
6:46 1st-Qtr – Left-wing catch&shoot transition three.
5:09 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 18-foot banker from off high screen-roll with Favors.
0:03 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 17-footer on high screen-roll with Kanter.
3:58 2nd-Qtr – Left-corner catch&shoot three off ball rotation.
3:29 2nd-Qtr – Uncontested run-out layup (from Hayward).
2:19 2nd-Qtr – Transition catch&shoot right-wing three (from Hayward).
10:07 3rd-Qtr – Top-of-the-circle catch&shoot three (from Hayward).
8:16 3rd-Qtr – 20-footer off side pick&roll with Favors.
1:53 3rd-Qtr –  14-foot floater off glass on high screen-roll with Favors.
0:01 3rd-Qtr – 2-on-1 fastbreak that Burke kept himself by faking a behind-the-back pass then converting a hanging up&under reverse layup maneuvering around E-Twaun Moore. The proper play was to pass the ball to Burks on the left-wing for a layup but Burke finished with spectacular ball-fake/layup so I could only stay mad at him for about 5-tenths of a second.
6:34 4th-Qtr – Side pick&roll with Favors (screening baseline) for 15-foot floater.
3:45 4th-Qtr – Pump-fake dribble-in 16-footer from Hayward running a side pick&roll.

As you can see of Burke’s 12 baskets – 5 came via pick&roll, 4 came in transition and 3 came playing off-the-ball. The Magic defend screen-roll as I’ve diagrammed in great detail here, by going over on the screen and dropping the big back into the lane – where you’re funneling the ball-handler and/or screener into taking the mid-range jumper.

Trey Burke assists:
11:47 1st-Qtr – Hayward 22-foot pindown jumper.
10:48 1st-Qtr – Ball-rotation and swing pass to Jefferson for right-corner 3.
6:18 1st-Qtr – Transition pass ahead to Hayward for catch&shoot 18-footer.
0:53 1st-Qtr – Side pick&pop to Jeremy Evans for 18-foot baseline jumper.
5:26 3rd-Qtr – One-hand off-the-bounce bullet pass to Marvin for layup.
1:23 3rd-Qtr – Fastbreak pass to Hayward for layup.
7:45 4th-Qtr – Hayward 16-foot baseline jumper.
1:14 4th-Qtr – Hayward right-wing 19-footer off curl/pindown.

Of Burke’s 8 assists, 3 came in transition (in a low-scoring game the Jazz finished with 17 fastbreak points) and 5 of the 8 went to Gordon Hayward. Also only one of Burke’s assists came via the pick&roll although 5 of his baskets did – which again reflects what an Indiana/Portland-style screen-roll (which Corbin has finally begun consistently using) tries to do – which is take away the screener rolling to the basket and take away deep penetration that leads to direct layups or drive&kick threes. Favors had a couple pick&pop jumpers he missed and Evans made the one, but the Magic wanted to force Trey Burke to beat them with his mid-range game and last night Burke made them pay.

See A Different Game

The Jazz were able to create open looks thanks to Gordon Hayward’s hard and smart utilization of off-ball screens.

1. Here the Jazz run a little stagger-screen action for Hayward. Hayward’s man (#5 Victor Oladipo) trails, giving Hayward the green-light to curl the entire way around.

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13 #10

2. Hayward curls hard off the screens with Oladipo still trailing from behind – which forces Orlando to sag down to cut off his driving lane. The result is a simple kickout back to Burke at the top of the key for a three which he made (or a swingpass to the weakside if RJ’s man rotates). If they don’t drop down from the top but the big still shows out (like #9 Nikola Vucevic does) then Hayward can look for the big diving to the rim.

Smart basketball is about reading and reacting and when the Magic tried to defend this set differently – Hayward still made them pay.

1. Here Hayward’s man (#22 Tobias Harris) tries to shoot the gap.

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13 #11

2. Hayward reads this and rather continue his curl – the on-sight adjustment is to fade. Harris is caught going under and Hayward drains the 18-foot jumper to put Utah up 4 ultimately seal the win. These are the types of mid-range shots you don’t mind because they’re wide-open, in rhythm, and give the offense a positional advantage while putting pressure on the defense.

Film Room

Here are the sorted plays I mentioned above – beginning with:
1. Trey Burke’s pick&roll mid-range scores (watch how Orlando’s bigs dare him to shoot).
2. Hayward’s hard/smart movement utilizing off-ball screens (watch how the curl sets up scenarios where a simple kickout pass leads to a three/ball-rotation).
3. Burke/Hayward Transition Opportunities

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Odds and Ends

  • Trey Burke recorded the first 30-point game by a Jazz point guard since Deron Williams scored 39 points against the Spurs on January 26, 2011.
  • Utah’s 86 points are the fewest they’ve scored in a win since February 1, 2013 in an 86-77 victory over Portland.
  • Utah’s lineup of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter played 4:30 together and were +5 over Orlando during that time.

Alec Burks – Forever Young

During last night’s game Peter Novak began tweeting out classic lovesong lyrics with Trey Burke’s name in them. (Sidenote: Peter’s is one of my favorite twitter follows, follow him for a nice dose of Jazz-related intelligent humor, snark, sarcasm, common-sense, and salary cap expertise).

In the spirit of Jazz lyrics, I thought I’d share my own – set to Forever Young by Rod Stewart.

Alec Burks – Forever Young
May Ty Corbin be your coach every day you wake
May your substitute check in after every drive you make
And may you grow to be a starter, vet-er-an and old
Who’s kept in the lineup no matter if he’s hot or cold
But if you score and play the same
In Ty’s heart you will remain
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young

May poor fortune be with you, may Ty’s job security be strong
May you always be blamed no matter if it’s right or wrong
And may you never start a game
And in Ty’s mind you will remain
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young
For-ever young

For-ever young

And when you finally leave the Jazz we’ll be doubting that we served you well
Why you never started here no one can even tell
But whatever team you choose
Dennis Lindsey wants Ty to help him lose
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young
For-ever young

The official music video is a bit dull, but in the Jazz re-make I see Jeff Hornacek singing this to Alec as they both ride in the back of the pickup immediately after he accepted the Phoenix Suns’ head coaching position, with Boler, Harpring, and Sidney Lowe making cameos in the motorcycle gang.

(And yes I know Ty has played Burks a lot more in the past few games while giving Jefferson fewer minutes and the lyrics I wrote are only like 10% serious. Well, maybe 25%.)

The Final Word

In his first 15 games Trey Burke had alot of great plays and multiple very good games – but last night it all came together as he turned in one of the best performances not only for the Jazz but in all of the NBA. Coming into the game he was shooting just 39% on two-point FG’s but he made 8-12 last night, to go along with 4-8 from behind the arc. He showcased his complete offensive repertoire, his passing ability, a beyond-his-years understanding of the pick&roll and he again took care of the basketball (only 2 turnovers and averaging just 1.4 for the season).

Burke is receiving major playing time as a rookie and he has made the most of it, continuing to develop and improve right before our eyes. I don’t think anyone is still recommending that Burke shouldn’t start simply because John Stockton didn’t start immediately nearly 30 years ago.

It’s also important to understand that the Jazz are still a team with a 7-21 record. If you claim the Jazz’s 1-14 start is irrelevant because of their early-season injuries, then you also have to say 4 of Utah’s 7 wins that came against opponents missing key players – Chicago (without Derrick Rose), Houston (without Chandler Parsons), Sacramento (without Rudy Gay) and now Orlando (without Aaron Affalo) – also deserve an asterisk.

With Burke back the Jazz are clearly playing better offensively (although even with Burke’s brilliance they struggled with a 37-point 2nd-half), played well defensively last night – and have started to resemble the fun, exciting and competitive team most hoped they would be entering the season. That doesn’t erase the trainwreck start Utah had to the season, but that reprieve seems to be a growing sentiment from those inside the organization that is reflective of the past several Jazz seasons. The problem is once you start making excuses – you lower the surrounding expectations, accountability and standards.

I feel fortunate the Jazz have a high-profile rookie like Trey Burke who not only has the talent and confidence in his ability – but most importantly is someone who’s been a winner on every level and is used to being on the right side of the scoreboard. I don’t expect the Jazz to win 3 out of 5 for the remainder of the season, but with Burke leading the way I do feel confident losing won’t be something the players will come to accept or excuse. Jazz fans have big goals in mind for this team down the road, but most importantly – so does Trey Burke.

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