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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.

Jazz Year in Review 2013

2014 is upon us but let’s take one last look back at 2013 – and the 5 biggest storylines for the Utah Jazz.

1. 2013 Draft – Jazz Trade for Trey Burke

The Utah Jazz packaged their 14th and 21st picks in a draft night trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves netting them the draft rights to Trey Burke – the 9th-overall pick and collegiate player of the year who was widely considered the top point guard available.

After missing the first 12 games with a broken finger, the early reviews have been terrific. Despite lingering questions after a rough summer league performance, Burke has made a seamless transition adjusting to the NBA 3pt-line where he’s shooting 38% from and playing against NBA length – where just 11 of his 284 shot attempts have been blocked. Burke has posted averages of 14.4 points, 5.5 assists and just 1.9 turnovers since taking over the starting position. His current season average of just 1.8 turnovers per game are the lowest by a fulltime Jazz starting point guard since Ricky Green in 1986-87. That average may not continue but it emphasizes (even with a recent rash of TO’s last week) how remarkably well Burke has been handling the basketball.

Burke’s biggest performance so far was a 3o point, 8 assist, 7 rebound night in Orlando), and has hit numerous clutch shots late in games (against Chicago, Phoenix, Houston, and Charlotte), and is now one of the favorites for NBA Rookie of the Year. The questions about Burke now have become how high is ceiling ultimately is, and that’s a great sign when you’re still talking about a 21-year old rookie.

2. Jazz retain Ty Corbin as head coach/Jeff Hornacek leaves for Phoenix

After failing to qualify for the 2013 postseason during a season in which the playoffs were identified as the ultimate goal – the Jazz opted to retain Ty Corbin after two-and-a-half seasons on the job. As an indirect result, bright and widely respected assistant Jeff Hornacek interviewed for both the Philadelphia and Phoenix openings before taking over as Suns head coach late in May.

Despite a roster possessing comparable talent and experience to Utah’s, Hornacek’s Suns have shocked the NBA by racing out to a 19-11 record playing a highly-entertaining style focusing on tempo, floor-spacing and shot-selection. Of all the attributes used in the glowing reports on Hornacek, the most common one is how he builds confidence in his players. In a season in which the Jazz have seen noticeable struggles from Kanter, Burks and perhaps most disconcerting Hayward – confidence-building appears to be a quality sorely lacking from the Jazz coaching staff. Hornacek also heeded his general manager’s advice, bringing in former Boston defensive assistant Mike Longabardi who has improved the Suns’ 2012-13 23rd ranked defense to 13th as of January 1st.

This blatant oversight can be smoothed over nicely if the Jazz land a potential franchise player in the heralded 2014 Draft while using the offseason to secure a quality long-term coach for the future. In the present, it continues to sting. As Hornacek has allowed young players such as Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Eric Bledsoe among others to flourish, the Jazz continue to marginalize the development and experience of 3rd-year lottery picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks while relying heavily on veteran pending free agents Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams.

Despite emphasizing improvement on team-defense entering the season, the Jazz’s defense has actually grown substantially worse – dropping from 21st in 2012-13 to 29th in 2013-14. 210 games into his head coaching career, it appears Ty Corbin will coach the final 48 games of the season as a “lame duck” coach in the final season of his contract.

3. Jazz Sign Derrick Favors to 4-year Extension

On October 19, less than two weeks before the window ended, the Jazz and Derrick Favors formally agreed to a 4-year/$47 million extension (plus incentives) to keep Favors in a Jazz uniform through the 2016-17 season. Not only is the longterm stability welcomed, the Jazz did it at a relatively low-risk cost that won’t hamstring their future flexibility (considering DeMarcus Cousins re-signed for $62 million) while allowing Favors to establish himself as a fixture on their frontline.

While Favors may have disappointed Jazz analyst Matt Harpring during the preseason, he has quietly pleased the majority of Jazz fans during much of the regular season. He’s averaging 13.4 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 52% from the field and playing less than 32 minutes per game. In his last 25 games he’s shooting 55% from the floor and since the Jazz have mercifully altered his pick&roll defensive responsibilities, is averaging nearly 2 blocks per game.

Always a presence going hard to the rim via the pick&roll, Burke’s playmaking ability has showcase more of Favors’ developing catch&shoot mid-range game on high screen-roll to the point he’s now shooting 46.2% on mid-range shots down the lane (8-16-feet), up from 37.8% (on middle-of-the-floor 8-16 footers) in 2012-13.

In terms of shooting percentage – Favors has increased his accuracy from virtually every floor level this season, up to 58.8% from 0-8FT (from 55.9% in 2012-13), up to 42.5% from 8-16FT (from 31.5%) and 28.1% from 16-24FT (up marginally from 26.2%).

While Utah may still have longterm questions at other positions, it’s clear Trey Burke and Derrick Favors solidify 2/5’s of their starting lineup for the next 4 seasons.

4. Jazz Do Not Re-Sign Paul Millsap

In July Utah allowed 7-year Jazzman Paul Millsap to walk in free agency, where he signed a bargain-basement 2-year/$19 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. This was done primarily under the pretense that the Jazz were serious about allowing both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to develop and grow on the court together.

Instead the Jazz coaching staff concluded that their nightmare start (that was heavily affected by the absence of Trey Burke as well as the lack of an effective offensive system and bizarre defensive strategies) verified that Favors and Kanter simply could not play together. As a result, the Jazz are now starting 8-year veteran Marvin Williams at power forward. As a starter in the final year of his contract, Marvin is having a career year from behind the arc shooting 41% while averaging nearly 30-minutes per game. Conversely, Enes Kanter’s playing time has declined to 22.6 mpg when coming off the bench.

In Atlanta, Paul Millsap is playing at a near All-Star level averaging 17.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while averaging 2.6 three-point attempts per game on 43% 3pt-shooting despite attempting just 39 threes all of last season in Utah. In his last 5 games, Sap has been spectacular posting averages of 25.8 points per game to go along with 11.2 rebounds on 50% shooting.

There are valid reasons for starting Marvin at PF, but if any of those reasons meshed with Utah’s offseason goals just 6 months ago, then the Jazz made a clear mistake not re-signing Millsap – who would fit their “stretch-4” role better than Marvin in virtually every facet. Not only are they currently starting the lesser option of the two, it comes at the price of marginalizing both the development and trade-value of the #3-overall pick in the 2011 draft while not providing any tangible short-term benefits such as a surprise playoff berth.

5. Jazz Fail to Qualify for 2012-13 Playoffs

A 3-12 stretch last March sabotaged the Jazz’s playoff hopes, as the Lakers narrowly limped by them for the 8th-seed on Kobe Bryant’s tired and eventually wornout legs. Following the 2011-12 season in which the Jazz secured the #8-seed before being swept by the Spurs, that step back along with the gradual assimilation of Dennis Lindsey into his general manager role sparked an apparent shift in Utah’s philosophy.

After looking to upgrade the PG position by acquiring veteran Mo Williams and opting to keep pending free agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson through the trade deadline, Kevin O’Connor’s 2012 win-now approach struck out which Dennis Lindsey has since hinted at as early as exit interviews last April saying, “We’re not collectively afraid if, that the best alternative is to go young, and be very patient with the flexibility that we built in. I’m not afraid of that. You know, so to speak, take a step back. If we need to do that, then we’ll do that.”

Lindsey’s preseason comments echoed the team’s approach the following summer, where he identified “3 D’s” as his goals for the Jazz – being establishing a defensive culture, development of young players and a disciplined level of play.

The Jazz currently have the 2nd-worst record in the league and appeared poised for a high draft choice. Had the Jazz secured the 8-seed and won a game or two, perhaps the franchise would have been more inclined to bring back Al Jefferson, Millsap, and Mo Williams which would have relegated them to middle-of-the-pack status and further stifled the development of their young core.

Their current blueprint hasn’t been perfect, and obviously retaining Corbin (which elimintated the possibility of considering Hornacek) appears to be a huge mistake, but this path still allows Utah to right that wrong in the 2014 offseason while perhaps also making a franchise-altering draft pick.

A new coach and the addition of a potential all-star (whether it be Jabari, Wiggins, Randle or Embid or a late-riser), would put some serious shine on the bright Jazz future that may have dimmed over the past couple seasons as internal growth was impeded. Nevertheless, I’m convinced this youth movement remains the best path for the franchise as long as all parties (ownership, management, and coaches ) are fully committed to it. Five years from now, I hope we look back at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season as impetus for a franchise course-correction, under Dennis Lindsey’s guidance.

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For the Jazz, 2013 was a year of change, a year of frustration and a year of promise. Let’s hope it will ultimately be remembered as the first of several baby-steps in the right direction for the Jazz, as they look to once again build a potential title-contender.

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)

Final Score: Jazz 88, Bobcats 85

Following the Jazz’s last-minute road win Jazz assistant coach Brad Jones, nephew of Hall-of-Famer Jerry Sloan, was so fired up that he inadvertently hit Diante Garrett in the head with is clip board at the conclusion of the game. It was reminiscent of a incident involving Sloan and former Jazz assistant Kenny Natt during a 1999 contest in which Sloan accidently struck Natt as both he and John Stockton were emphatically demonstrating a clearout (offensive foul) that should’ve been called against Shaquille O’Neal.

Considering the tear Brad Jones was on, perhaps Jazz assistant trainer Brian Zettler should consider himself fortunate he didn’t step on the floor any sooner following the game’s final play. Between Sidney Lowe’s tax evasion conviction and Brad Jones’ streak of violence, I nominate Mike Sanders to win the best-behavior award for the Utah Jazz’s 2013 coaching staff.

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Note: Due to weekend events and the upcoming Christmas holiday, I haven’t posted in-depth game reviews for the last two Jazz games (not that there was much to review during Friday night’s abysmal showing in Atlanta) but they will resume next week. I greatly appreciate the compliments and interest I’ve received in the past few months and enjoy using twitter and this blog to discuss Jazzbasketball not matter how fun or frustrating it can be at times.

Jazz at Hawks 12-6-2006Seven years ago today, the Utah Jazz made their greatest 4th-quarter comeback in franchise history (and 5th-largest in NBA history) as they rallied from a 21-point 4th-quarter deficit with a 40-13 explosion in the game’s 12 minutes to defeat the Hawks 111-106 in Atlanta. As was often the case during Utah’s magical 2006-07 season, Jazz center Mehmet Okur provided the late-game heroics with his clutch three-point shooting.

Okur scored a game-high 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds on a ridiculous 11-17 shooting from the field and 4-5 from behind the arc. Andrei Kirilenko was also exceptional – with a 12-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist, 2-steal, 1-block fill-in-the-blanks performance. They were joined in double-figures by Derek Fisherlied (18 points), Deron Williams (13 points), Carlos Boozer (13 points) and Matt Harpring (11 points). Current Hawk and former longtime Jazzman Paul Millsap – then a rookie – scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in 16 minutes of play off the bench.

Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 27 points while Josh Smith added his own swiss-army knife exhibition with 23 points, 12 rebounds 4 blocks, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Atlanta’s starting lineup also included their 2005 #2-overall pick and current Jazz forward Marvin Williams. Battling a few bumps throughout the game, Marvin scored 9 points on 2-11 shooting with 4 turnovers and 3 steals.

In the midst of a 5-game road trip, the Jazz saw a close high-scoring 1st-half give way to a sloppy 3rd-quarter in which Atlanta outscored them 39-19 to take a 93-72 lead into the 4th-quarter. In the final period, Utah’s monster run was sparked by rookie Ronnie Brewer who came off the bench to score 6 points in the final period and give Utah a burst of energy with his defense and hustle.

The 7-Point Possession

Ronnie Brewer also sparked perhaps the most productive Jazz possession in team history – essentially a 7-point trip down the court for Utah.

Score: Hawks 95, Jazz 76
Time: 10:35 4th-Qtr
10:34 4th-Qtr – 2 Brewer FT’s off a steal and subsequent clear-path foul that resulted in 2 FT’s in which Utah also retained possession. Hawks 95, Jazz 78.
10:23 4th-Qtr – On Utah’s ensuing possession, an extra pass by Okur resulted in a Fisherlied three that he was also fouled on for a 4-point play opportunity. Hawks 95, Jazz 81.
10:07 4th-Qtr – Fisherlied missed the free throw but Boozer corralled the offensive rebound. On the extra possession, Utah turned a UCLA set into a weakside drive and dish by Kirilenko to Boozer for a layup. Hawks 95, Jazz 83. Atlanta timeout.

In 28 seconds without the Hawks even touching the basketball, the Jazz scored 7 consecutive points. Despite Mike Woodson’s (who had hair back then) timeout, Utah still outscored Atlanta 30-11 in the game’s final 10-minutes behind 12 points from Okur on 4-5 shooting.

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The Jazz have played a some dramatic and memorable games in Atlanta over the years – overtime losses in 1987-88 (a 130-124 overtime loss thanks to Dominique Wilkins’ 46 pts) and 1993-94 (100-96), a thrilling 101-99 victory in the 1997-98 season thanks to a Karl Malone game-winner in the closing seconds, a 90-86 win rallying from an 11-point 4th-Qtr deficit early in the 2010-11 season and of course the infamous 139-133 four-overtime debacle in 2011-12.

However, Utah’s 21-point 4th-quarter comeback in 2006 is perhaps one of the more overlooked wins in franchise history, partially because it was in Atlanta but moreso due to the fact there were so many other memorable finishes both by Memo and in the entire 2006-07 season that culminated with a thrilling run to the Western Conference Finals.

A 21-point comeback outscoring their opponent 40-13 in the final 12 minutes was remarkable – but so was Okur’s penchant for clutch late-game shooting. The Jazz didn’t play their best game but they came through when it mattered most – in the 4th-quarter that by then had simply become known as “Moneytime.”

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.

Jazz at Heat 12-16-13Final Score: Heat 117, Jazz 94

Run It Back (Jazz Superlatives)

Player of the Game: Alec Burks scored a career-high 31 points on 12-17 shooting from the field, 5-8 from the foul line and 2-4 from behind the arc. He also added 7 assists, 4 steals and just 2 turnovers.

If it wasn’t for #6 in the red jersey, Burks’ level of play offensively would have easily made him the best player on the court. What made his performance so impressive was his efficiency combined with the fact he had to do it on his own rather than benefit from utilizing a system that placed him in advantageous situations.

Of Burks’ 12 field goals – the over-whelming majority came from open-court or 1-on-1 opportunities:
1. Burks intercepts a Mario Chalmers pass and takes it the other way for a layup.
2. Burks drives around Battier, spins by LeBron and hits a floater over the out-stretched arm of Bosh.
3. Burks drive and step-back 20-footer over Ray Allen to close out 1st-qtr.
4. Burks pokes ball away from Norris Cole from behind resulting in 2-on-1 Jazz fastbreak that Burks capped with a hanging layup against Bosh.
5. Baseline drive from right-corner past Wade and by LeBron for soaring reverse layup.
6. Baseline drive past Wade from left wing for hanging reverse-layup.
7. Loose-ball from an errant Garrett pass is tracked down by Marvin who kicks to Burks in corner for open three.
8. Baseline drive past Allen from right corner and hanging layup against Rashard Lewis and Birdman.
9. Steal and emphatic fastbreak dunk against a late Birdman contest.
10. 1-on-1 drive against Chris Bosh originating from top-of-the-key for another smooth extending left-handed layup.

Only two of Burks’ field goals were products of well-executed half-court sets:
1. A Burke/Favors high screen-roll results in a kickout to Burks where he took advantage of a reckless Chalmers close-0ut to drive down the lane and finish with the left-hand over Bosh.
2. Burke/Kanter high screen-roll results in swing pass to Burks on weakside for three.

This discrepancy is largely due to what has become Utah’s offensive identity – which is basically a series of multiple screen-rolls and dribble-handoffs originating from outside the three-point line. That style had success against Sacramento and Denver but played right into Miami’s hands defensively – where the Heat’s ball-hawking speed and athleticism feasted on Utah’s perimeter players in screen-roll with their aggressive traps resulting in turnovers and stalled possessions more often than not. Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke struggled the most at making quick and deft passes before Miami’s length and aggressiveness could sink their teeth into them.

Given the scenario – the Jazz desperately needed Burks to do what he does best which is attack with the basketball and he did so at an all-star caliber level.

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Best Play: 5:51 4th-Qtr – From the top-of-the-key, Alec Burks beats LeBron down the lane where he draws the help-defense of Chris Bosh and dishes to Favors, who absorbs contact with Rashard Lewis with his left-shoulder while converting the layup for a 3-point play opportunity. Considering the opponent and degree-of-difficulty by both Burks and Favors – to me that may have been the most impressive play of the entire Jazz season.

Best Shot: 10:59 2nd-Qtr – In a pick&roll with Burks, Enes Kanter caught a pass at the elbow, put the ball on the floor then pulled up for a 10-foot jumper on his first shot of the night. After clearly struggling since being replaced in the starting lineup, Kanter hit his first shot and was a force in his limited time (17 minutes) scoring 14 points and pulling down 8 rebounds. In 8 minutes in the 2nd-qtr, he had 10 points and 7 rebounds as the Jazz out-scored the Heat 22-10 in that stretch.

Best Pass: 8:51 2nd-Qtr – In one of Utah’s best screen-rolls of the night, Miami trapped a Burks/Evans high pick&roll with Wade and Lewis, but Burks made a crafty side-arm pass to Evans slipping to the basket for a 5-footer.

Of Burks’ 7 assists, 3 came in the first 3-minutes of the 2nd-Qtr where Miami showed out hard on him and he hit the screener going towards the basket. Over the course of the game Miami tightened their defense to take away those automatic would-be assists until late, where Burks picked up his final 2 assists on screen-roll with less than 5 minutes remaining in the 4th-qtr.

Best Block: 10:08 3rd-Qtr – In transition, Derrick Favors did a terrific job against LeBron by what you call “corralling the dribbler” – where you build a corral or barrier while retreating on defense that limits where LeBron can drive . LeBron still tried to split Marvin and Favors and his layup attempt was stuffed by Favors.

Best Execution: 7:04 3rd-Qtr – The Jazz finally executed a high-low. With Rush trying to enter the ball to Favors who was being fronted by Bosh on the left-block, Marvin Williams flashed to the top-of-the-key where he had the angle to throw a lob pass to Favors at the rim. Favors caught the pass and finished with a dunk while also picking up a touch foul against Bosh.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I could probably count on one hand how many times the Jazz have executed a high-low in the past season-and-a-half (with most of them coming between Favors&Kanter). Long overdue but good to see.

Quote of the Night: “This is Alec Burks, he’s in the game along with Trey Burke. Could get a little confusing.”
-Heat play-by-play announcer Eric Reid, who has no idea how confusing it’s been for the Jazz’s own TV crew.

Odds and Ends

  • Alec Burks’ 31 points tied John Drew (1983), Thurl Bailey (1987), and Matt Harpring (2007) for the 18th-highest scoring game off-the-bench in franchise history.
  • American Airlines Arena in Miami was also the location of Paul Millsap’s (46 points) and Andrei Kirilenko’s (31 points) career-high scoring performance.
  • Burks joins Gordon Hayward as only two players on the team to have a 30-point game as a Jazz player.
  • Derrick Favors shot 8-12 (67%) to raise his FG% to 53% for the season. The Jazz have not had a starter shoot 53% or better since Paul Millsap in 2010-11.
  • After shooting 13-23 from three in Sacramento and 6-7 from deep in the 1st-Qtr in Denver – the Jazz have shot just 13-52 (25%) from behind the arc in their last 11 quarters. They’re better than that so this is likely a momentary rough patch – but it was also highly unlikely they were going to continue shooting in the mid-40’s.
  • Also, if you’re logged onto twitter and you want some chuckles go do a twitter search for “Harpring” and “LeBron”

The Final Word

With 10-minutes to play in the 4th-quarter, the Jazz were within 7 points of the Miami Heat. At that point, Dwayne Wade had started to overwhelm the Jazz in the post and the rest of the Heat kicked into high-gear and went on a 32-9 spurt to close the game.

For the past two seasons, the Jazz organization constantly told their fans that the “Core-4” wasn’t ready and that in order to develop they needed time to learn by watching and playing behind “veterans” such as Randy Foye, Raja Bell, Josh Howard, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Now in 2013-14, the struggling Jazz routinely experience 2nd-half meltdowns with the reasoning being that they simply are too inexperienced to do better – which shouldn’t be the case with all of that valuable time they had to learn by watching from the bench.

I don’t fault Utah for losing badly to a defending champion Heat squad clearly on a different level than the Jazz, but the fact that “inexperience” is still being used as reasoning behind much of Utah’s 6-21 start shows the idea that young players must learn from watching veterans for 3 seasons before being fully thrown into the fire was silly then and silly now. The Jazz are young and lack experience in their most-talented players and have benefited little from their watch&learn approach with 2nd and 3rd-year players.

Last night was the type of game that serves as real developmental experience. After the second-unit (led by Alec Burks and Enes Kanter) put the Jazz in prime position with an 8-point 2nd-quarter lead, the Miami Heat began playing defense at their relentless championship-caliber level igniting a series of fastbreak dunks to seemingly regain control. The Jazz countered with a Burke-to-Favors transition layup (where Favors was likely fouled on the play as well) and a gorgeous Burks lefty-layup against a challenging Bosh to help rebuild a 50-45 halftime lead.

Utah’s young players can learn more from those moments competing against the Heat at their absolute best than they can by sitting and watching from the bench as mediocre veterans struggle on the court or from any blowout victory over a short-handed Sacramento team.

Players like Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward can learn how to attack and protect the ball against an aggressive pick&roll defense. Derrick Favors can continue to gain confidence learning how to find the vulnerable spots in Miami’s incredibly quick help-defense. Alec Burks and Enes Kanter can reinforce their confidence by knowing they have the physical tools and skills to score at the highest of levels.

It’s not evident in the final score, but this was a game the future of the team needs to experience first-hand if they hope to one day compete consistently at or near the level the Heat are at. It’s only a shame it took this long for many of them to receive opportunities like that.