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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.”

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Burks at TWolves 2-13-13

Alec Burks turned in a terrific all-around game – recording 9 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals – in a 97-93 Utah victory in Minnesota.

Throughout the game Burks displayed an ability to make plays in the open-court but more impressively – made multiple plays in the halfcourt setting in which he displayed the ability to beautifully execute some of Utah’s traditional sets. Here, Earl Watson brings the ball up to get Utah into their standard UCLA set (0:46-mark):

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #1

#1. The first read is also to see if Watson springs free off the Kanter screen. If he doesn’t – a plethora of options open. Often times Utah will hit the bigman at the high post and then get into their flex/back-screen action on the weakside.

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #2

#2. In this set however – the Jazz transition from a UCLA shuffle-cut to a side pick&roll,

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #3

#3. Burks and Kanter execute the pick&roll to perfection. (Sidenote: Steisma sagging down to help on the shuffle-cut negates his ability to body up on the screener and show out hard in the ensuing pick&roll. In the NBA – great offensive teams (like the Spurs or 90’s Jazz) don’t simply run screen-roll – they run sets that put their pick&roll players in optimal positions to succeed).

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If you’re playing the Jazz – historically you know you’re going to see the UCLA shuffle cut multiple times throughout the game. With that predictability comes the ability to run variations that will catch the defense off-guard (1:12-mark).

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #4

#1. In the 4th-qtr, Burks brings the ball up as Utah again appears to go into their UCLA set, which Luke Ridnour (highlighted in red) anticipates.

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #5

#2. Instead of the shuffle cut, Burks flares out wide and executes a give-and-go dribble hand-off with Watson on the wing – leaving Ridnour in the middle of the court still in position to fight over the Kanter screen.

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #6

#3. J.J. Barea (a point guard not used to defending the screener) doesn’t show off on Burks. That leaves 290-pound center Nikola Pekovic to try to cut off a hard-charging Burks from getting to the basket. Pek makes a good effort but can’t beat Burks to the spot and the resulting contact goes in Burks favor as he also uses his strength and body control to convert the floater.

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It’s fun seeing young players like Alec Burks succeed in their (far too) limited opportunities. It’s even more fun to seeing them succeed utilizing elements of Jazzbasketball rather than simply their considerable athletic talents.

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Lakers at Jazz - Gm 1 - 98 WCF - 5-16-98

15 years ago today, the Utah Jazz defeated the L.A. Lakers 112-77 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers came into the series with all the hype and momentum, having dispatched a 61-win Sonics team in 5 games with 4 consecutive victories coming by an average of 17 points, but Utah jumped on them from the start. Utah scored the game’s first 6 points and led by 11 after one quarter and 26 at halftime on their way to handing the Lakers what was at the time their worst postseason loss in franchise history.

The Jazz completely throttled the Lakers in all aspects of the game – confusing Shaq with double-teams and digs, beating the Lakers at their own fastbreak game, and most important in playoff basketball: halfcourt execution.

Here we examine Utah’s precision offense with a low-post pass from Karl Malone to Chris Morris for a layup and 3-point play (4:48-mark).

Guard Split #1

After feeding the post, in Jazzbasketball the post-feeder either runs through (baseline or middle cut through to the weakside) or the wings split. Here they split – with Morris (#34) coming up to set a screen for #10 Howard Eisley (circled). Morris’ defender (Kobe w/a mini-afro) now can’t double down on Malone (a major mismatch if allowed to go 1-on-1 on Corie Blount) because he has to decide how he’s going to defend the split. As any good high school coach will teach – Morris doesn’t stop moving after screening – he screens then cuts.

Guard Split #2

The Lakers opt to switch on the screen with Kobe jumping out on Eisley. Morris (who because he’s coming low-to-high already has a positional advantage off the screen) now has a step on his new defender (Van Exel) off the switch.

Guard Split #3

Malone – one of the game’s better low-post passers – hits Morris in stride and Morris eventually gathers himself for an easy layup and 3-point play opportunity.

This basic cut can work with a future hall-of-famer in the post or with an average player, as long as you have wings who screen and cut hard and a bigman who is a capable and willing passer. Not only does constant motion increase the difficulty of doubling-down on the block – it creats easy baskets so other players don’t get frozen out when running low-post oriented sets.

The Jazz ran this to perfection and their motion and execution is a primary reason they went on to sweep the Lakers and advance to their second consecutive NBA Finals. Due to the high-stakes (Conference Finals) and the fact that it came against the hated Lakers – the 1998 Western Conference Finals were perhaps the most enjoyable playoff series ever for JazzNation.

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Favors at Nets 2012-13 Filmstrip

Against the Nets, Derrick Favors recorded 13 points, 2 assists and 3 blocks in a close 92-90 Jazz road victory.

To me, the most impressive play wasn’t Favors’ 180-degree reverse dunk – it was the the second assist he recorded (0:22-second mark). The most underrated aspect of Favors’ game is his passing, and I honestly believe he was Utah’s best low-post passer last season. Here against Brooklyn he showed he can also pass out of the high-post.

Jazz Horns #1

In Utah’s standard Horns set, Gerald Wallace reads Mo Williams’ eyes the whole time and gambles by going for what he thinks will be a blindside steal. However, Favors sees him coming (most bigs would’ve kept their backs to Wallace in that situation) and picked up Marvin Williams on the auto-cut to the basket. Another impressive aspect of this play is Favors hands and fundamentals. He made a  clean catch and immediately kept the ball high – had he brought it down to his waist Wallace has a steal and fastbreak the other way.

Jazz Horns #2

Those are the little things that make the difference between an easy layup or a turnover and fastbreak dunk for the opponent – which is a 4-point swing and the type of thing that can lose you games on the road.

Jazz Horns #3

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