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Posts Tagged ‘Portland Trailblazers’

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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Trailblazers at Jazz 12-9-302Final Score: Trailblazers 105, Jazz 94

The Jazz did so many things well last night – much of the focus belongs on them:

  • Utah’s pick&roll defense was impressive – at times looking as good as it has all season.
  • Alec Burks played perhaps the best 24-minutes of his NBA career.
  • Trey Burke did an impressive job taking what the defense gave him on the pick&roll.
  • Enes Kanter showcased his offensive arsenal – scoring on the pick&roll, pick&pop as well as on 1-on-1 face-up drives against Robin Lopez.

Ty Corbin even made some smart moves, such as with 3:03 remaining in the 2nd-Qtr. After two three-point plays where Wes Matthews over-powered Burks inside, Corbin wisely switched Hayward onto Matthews and put Burks on Batum – who doesn’t enjoy the same strength advantage over Burks.

Alas by game’s end Ty couldn’t seem to get out of his own way and at the conclusion the discussion once again settled around his decision-making – notably playing the struggling Andris Biedrins and Mike Harris ahead of 7-2 shotblocking rookie Rudy Gobert and then sitting Alec Burks for the final 8 minutes of the 4th-quarter. The more things change…

Utah’s Screen-Roll Defense

With Kanter starting at center, the Jazz went over the screen while keeping Kanter back in the lane to defend the pick&roll. This minimized the number of times Portland could take advantage of Kanter’s footspeed while also keeping their 6-11 center in position to clog the lane.

Jazz Screen-Roll Defense vs Trailblazers 12-6-2013

The results were impressive. Portland entered the game averaging 23.1 three-point attempts and 18.9 two-point attempts between 16-24 feet. Last night, the Blazers attempted 19 three-pointers and 27 two-point field goals between 16-24 feet.

With less than 90 seconds remaining, the Jazz held the NBA’s #1 offense that averaged 106.2 points per game to just 97 points, before a Batum 25-foot heave resulted in a mini 8-2 spurt to close.

Here are examples of Utah’s success and failure defending Portland’s pick&roll. When watching, focus you attention primarily on the Jazz player guarding the screener (Kanter/Evans/Harris).

The only consistent success Portland saw against Utah’s sinking bigs were on LaMarcus Aldridge pick&pops, where Utah gave up open 20-footers that Evans and Kanter were out of position to contest due to the depth of their positioning. (Even on Batum’s layup – Kanter had Lillard cut-off and no place to go but RJ was caught ball-watching on the backdoor layup) Conversely, Portland’s most significant pick&roll success came when Utah’s bigs did show out hard – often when Evans was matched up against Aldridge. The difference between the two styles of coverage was giving up 20-foot jump shots and giving up layups.

To illustrate why having your bigs show out hard is ultimately flawed – understand Jeremy Evans is one of the better run&jump athletes in all of the NBA and even he could not effectively show out on a guard 22-feet from the basket and then recover in time to prevent Aldridge from rolling down the lane. Some encouraging progress has been made in Utah’s screen-roll defensive strategy, and hopefully more is on the way.

Alec Burks

In 24 minutes of play, Alec Burks scored 20 points on 8-11 shooting and 4-4 from the FT line, continuing his recent stretch of outstanding play. In the last 6 games, Burks is averaging 16.0 pts, 3.8 rebs, 3.3 ast, and just 1.7 turnovers on 47% FG shooting, 83% FT’s and 45% 3pt. He also has a +/- of -8 in those games – impressive considering the Jazz as a team are -49 in those games.

His pull-up game was there as was his drive game where he was able to convert his hang-and-contort finishes that have become his trademark. In the 4th-Qtr, Burks sat on the bench from the 8:44-mark until just 0:22 remained. While this seemed odd and illogical, to me it wasn’t any more bizarre than opening night when Burks was inexplicably subbed out after having a hand in every Utah point in a 20-8 Jazz run that forced OKC to call for time.

When Derrick Favors scored 23 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in three quarters and then never saw the floor again in a loss last March in Milwaukee – it seemed strange and frustrated me to no end. Tonight, the substitution patterns almost felt normal in a strange, sad way. Nevertheless, it’s great to see Burks playing so well – regardless of how many minutes he gets.

Trey Burke

Following last week’s loss to Indiana, Trey said afterward he was surprised by the Pacers’ pick&roll defense – which to me spoke volumes about Utah’s coaching staff. Last night – against a team that defends high screen-roll utilizing similar coverage – Burke looked prepared and terrific.

9:20 1st-Qtr – Burke drove right and got great depth in the lane before lofting a little 8-10 foot floater over the big (dropping back into the lane).
6:29 1st-Qtr – Burke comes off the pick showing a pull-up mid-range jumper but at the last instant dished to Kanter rolling down the lane for the layup. Forcing Portland to play him for the shot resulted in Portland’s big lunging out at the last second to contest – opening up the lane for Kanter.
4:46 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 18-footer with the big dropping off.
0:14 2nd-Qtr – Another floater with the guard trailing and the big sinking back.
9:22 3rd-Qtr – Side pick&roll with Jefferson where Batum dropped back (as the big normally would) but Burke was able to get around him and into the lane where he collapsed the defense and kicked-out to Kanter for an open jumper.
3:52 4th-Qtr – Pull-up 18-footer with Lillard contesting from behind.

Against the Pacers 4 of Burke’s 5 baskets came in transition. Last night 4 of Burke’s 5 baskets came via the pick&roll. The transition baskets will be there for Burke when the Jazz can/try to run, but seeing him read and react to NBA pick&roll defenses as a young player has been impressive. He saw a lot of different pick&roll defenses in college, but adjusting to NBA defenses is a big step, yet one he’s making quite well.

Enes Kanter

After appearing to lose all confidence in his abilities when he was benched for 4 games, Kanter had one of his more impressive offensive performances of the season.
8:44 1st-Qtr – Shot-fake from right-elbow and hard drive past Lopez for a dunk.
6:25 1st-Qtr – Pick&roll layup from Burke
4:10 1st-Qtr – Right-elbow jumper off side screen-roll (forced baseline) with RJ.
4:57 2nd-Qtr – Faced-up Lopez on right-baseline and drove to the basket for a pump-fake layup.
3:53 2nd-Qtr – Facing up Lopez from 20-feet, Kanter put the ball on the deck twice before hitting an impressive fadeaway in the lane.
9:19  3rd-Qtr – Catch&shoot 20-footer from Burke.
7:07  3rd-Qtr – Jab-step face-up jumper from 20-feet over Lopez.
6:07 3rd-Qtr – Tip-in.
8:17 4th-Qtr – Hard drive on Freeland down the lane where he used a pump-fake to draw contact and finish for a 3-point play.

Yes Kanter still needs to rebound much better and yes it would be nice if he could get to the line more – but he played some of his best team defense of the season (being utilized in a scheme that better suits his abilities) and is showing the offensive repertoire he did in the preseason. Considering where he was 10 days ago, 20&10 against the Pacers and now 19 points versus Portland is definitely more cause for optimism.

Odds and Ends

  • With Favors missing the past two games, the only Jazz players to play in all 23 games are Burks, Hayward and Jefferson.
  • Quote of the Night: “Thin front line tonight – with Favors being out of the lineup, Kanter’s really gotta step up. We’ll see some Gobert tonight too.” -Matt Harpring, pregame.

The Final Word

Without Derrick Favors the Jazz gave good effort and were able to stay within striking distance of Portland for much of the game. There’s no shame in a hard-fought loss to the Western Conference’s best team when you’re down 2-rotation players – and the Jazz showed did a lot of things well.

With that said, missing Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams shouldn’t result in overrating the ability of Andris Biedrins to positively affect a game. It shouldn’t result in their best and most consistent scorer sitting for most of the 4th-Qtr. This is the problem the Jazz face after keeping Ty Corbin for arguably one season too long. Even when he makes some positive adjustments and even when his team gives a solid effort while shorthanded, the postgame discussion still reverts back to his questionable decisions and substitutions (partially because he still makes questionable decisions and substitutions, and partially because with his track record he seldom receives the benefit of the doubt).

Considering Corbin has been questioned by former players and national media experts – I’m not sure any critical tweets from various sources last night should come as a surprise – but at the same time losing breeds dissatisfaction and the Jazz are doing more losing than anyone in the league. At some point, the little things you do right don’t matter if you can’t ever seem to get the big ones correct. After two and a half seasons and now over one-fourth into the current season, that time could quickly be approaching for many with vested interests in the Jazz.

It may not seem entirely fair to Ty Corbin, but he is 199 games into his head coaching career. By comparison look at the man on Portland’s bench. Terry Stotts – a front-runner for coach of the year – coached just 137 games with the Hawks and 146 as head coach of the Bucks (where he made the playoffs in his first season) before being let go/fired. Professional coaches are ultimately judged by results, and when you fail to produce enough of them you open yourself up to criticism – no matter how many little things you may have done right.

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Final Score: Trailblazers 130, Jazz 98

My game reviews can often get too wordy and long-winded so I’ll keep it simple today. The Blazers made 10 three-pointers in the 1st-half (on 13 attempts). As you can see, the majority were uncontested.

Jazz at Trailblazers 12-7-2013 #3

But things did get better™. In the 2nd-half, Portland “only” made 7 threes on 10 attempts – although two of them were by a rookie named Allen Crabbe who had never before even attempted a 3-pointer in an NBA game.

Jazz at Trailblazers 12-7-2013 #4

Portland began the 1st-quarter taking advantage of Utah’s poor individual defense – with Damian Lillard’s first three coming after Trey Burke was in good position after fighting over a screen but then completely lost contact on Damien’s step-back. Portland hit two more 1st-qtr threes on Robin Lopez offensive-rebounds (over Kanter) and kickouts – as Utah’s team-defense began to crumble.

Portland did a great job cross-screening and back-screening to get Wes Matthews the ball on the block, LaMarcus Aldridge got it going in the post (often in a mismatch against Jeremy Evans), Portland pushed the ball for layups and transition threes off every Jazz mistake and Utah’s scramble screen-roll defense left Portland’s bigs uncovered on the glass to the tune of 17 offensive rebounds – an incredible total considering they shot so well (45.9 OReb%).

Why Trey Burke Got Benched

The Jazz trailed by 11 at halftime and then opened the 3rd-Qtr by being outscored 10-0 in the first 2:12. Following the timeout, Ty Corbin removed Trey Burke and Enes Kanter from the game. Burke would not play again.

What did Burke do wrong in the 3rd-Qtr?
1. Aldridge post-up on left-block. Batum beats Jefferson on baseline-cut (like Jazz used to run with Malone/Boozer) for layup on hand-off.
2. Left-block post-up for Favors who gets stripped by Aldridge.
3. Burke and Hayward both retreat in transition as Lillard pushes the ball on them and then kicks it to Matthews on the wing for an open three that Hayward couldn’t close out on in time
4. Hayward/Favors side pick&roll creates little so Hayward feeds Favors on left-block against Aldridge where he misses a left-shoulder jump hook.
5. In transition Favors ties up Matthews to force a jump-ball which the Jazz control.
6. Kanter misses 10-foot jumpshot off side screen-roll with Hayward.
7. Portland runs an unconventional Lillard/Batum pick&pop where Batum pops off a little flare-screen from Aldridge. Jefferson shows out and then gets caught on the screen and Batum hits the open three from the top-of-the-key.
8. Jazz run UCLA set with Burke running through half-speed before popping out on the weakside and feeding Kanter on the left-block against Lopez. Kanter crab-dribbles before kicking it out to Burke who misses a catch&shoot three with the shotclock under 5.
9. Lopez posts-up Kanter and hits a left-hand jump hook over him.

Corbin calls timeout and Burke is never seen again. Only thing I could pick at Burke on is the half-speed possession he ran but considering the collective speed at which the Jazz were playing at in their half-court sets, I’m not sure that alone is enough to single him out above everyone else.

So why did Trey Burke get singled out and bench? I still don’t know, but at least he’ll be fresh for tonight.

Jazz Pick&Roll Defense – Freeze-Frame

1. Portland runs a Earl Watson/Myers Leonard high screen-roll against John Lucas/Rudy Gobert. Obviously, Rudy Gobert is a 7-2 shotblocking center whom the Jazz announcers still rave about his “length” every game.

Jazz Screen-Roll Defense vs Trailblazers 12-6-13 #1

2. Because the Jazz ask their bigs to show-out on high screen-roll, Gobert steps out on Earl Watson 23-feet from the basket even though he theoretically should be Utah’s rim-protector and even though Earl Watson is not an offensive threat to score off-the-dribble or pulling up from three.

Jazz Screen-Roll Defense vs Trailblazers 12-6-13 #2

3. As a result, Earl Watson is allowed to play to his offensive strength which is pass – and he finds Myers Leonard at the top of the circle. Since Gobert was asked to show out, this creates a 4-on-3 advantage for Portland on a 50′ x 20′ court.

Jazz Screen-Roll Defense vs Trailblazers 12-6-13 #3

4. Myers finds the free man – 6-10 Thomas Robinson – cutting to the rim and he is fouled by 6-7 Brandon Rush trying to fly in from the backside for a 2-shot foul. As Robinson is fouled at the rim, Rudy Gobert (who in case I didn’t mention is a 7-2 shotblocker) is still above the foul line still trying to get back into the play. Ingenious.

(And this is not Rudy’s fault. It is entirely what his being asked of him on defense).

Odds and Ends

  • The 42-point margin Portland opened up in the 4th-quarter was the largest deficit the Jazz have faced all season (surpassing their 38-point deficit in Toronto).
  • The Jazz have played in 9 different games where they have faced deficits of 26, 25, 29, 38, 20, 28, 28, 37 and now 41 points, respectively. Hopefully they are so used to it by now that down the road they will learn never to panic when they get behind (or something like that, I’m sure there could be a positive in there somewhere).
  • Last night also illustrates the difference between offensive rebound totals and offensive rebound rate. Utah finished with 18 offensive rebs compared to Portland’s 17. However when you factor in the Jazz missed 54 shots while the Blazers only missed 37, the Jazz ended up rebounding 33% of their misses (a very good number) while the Trailblazers rebounded 45.9% of their missed shots (a ridiculously high number).

The Final Word

The players need to play better, and the coaches need to coach better. Last night there were major breakdowns in both areas. You could say last night was a case where the players didn’t hold up their end of the bargain – but if 8-10 guys don’t come ready to play, is that solely on those 8-10 individuals and not the coaches who are paid to oversee them?

Like I said several of Portland’s early baskets came from breakdowns that were on the Jazz players’ themselves, but that wasn’t a 32-point margin worth of poor play. Portland has a system (like Indiana their screen-roll defense is orchestrated to bait you into taking mid-range 2-pointers which Utah did) that suits their roster well. I don’t know what Utah’s system or identity currently is (other than trying to defend the pick&roll by having your big guys chase guys around 23-feet from the basket).

The good news is since Corbin waived the flag and sent in his garbage time lineup so early (late 3rd/early 4th), the Jazz should have more than enough energy tonight against a Kings team that lost a tough one in L.A. Playing at home with plenty of motivation to put last night past them, I expect a Jazz win tonight against a Kings team that certainly has the ability to out-dysfunction the Jazz.

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Trailblazers at Jazz 10-16-13

RUN IT BACK

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Damian Lillard scored 6 of his game-high 24 points in the final 3:21 to go along with 4 assists and 3 steals.

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME: After a Derrick Favors putback brought Utah within 91-89 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, the Jazz came up empty on their next 5 possessions

1) Down 2, Burks lost control of the ball on a double-clutch reverse layup
2) Hayward turned the ball over on Utah’s last possession with a chance to tie/take the lead
3) Down 4, Favors missed a spinning baseline turn-around jumper
4) Down 4, Burks missed a wide-open 15-footer off side screen-roll with Kanter
5) Out of a timeout down 6 with 35-seconds left, Ty Corbin drew up the “Randy Foye play” – a pindown and subsequent iso – for John Lucas III who had yet to play in the 4th-quarter. Lucas took 2 dribbles before launching a baseline fade-away that predictably missed.

BEST SHOT: 7:28 2nd-Qtr – With the shotclock winding down and Lester Hudson in his face, Mo Williams launched a 26-footer from the right wing that drew nothing but net and groans from the crowd. #MOLO

BEST MOVE: 1:43 2nd-Qtr – Off side screen-roll Gordon Hayward drove right, pump-faked Joel Freeland off his feet then leaned in and both drew contact and converted a right-hand “leapin leaner” off glass for a 3-point play.

BEST PASS: 4:26 1st-Qtr – Gordon Hayward pulled up from 10-feet out on side screen-roll, left his feet (which drew Myers Leonard in the air) and dropped it off to Kanter rolling down the lane for a dunk. Big time pick&roll basketball there.

BEST BLOCK: 2:16 2nd-Qtr – Wes Matthew had Alec Burks sealed beneath the rim for an easy layup before Lester Hudson flew in from the backside for an emphatic rejection that sparked a 2-on-1 fastbreak resulting in 2 free throws for Kanter. Strong showing for Hudson who hit three 3pt FG’s and played strong defense as well.

BEST STEAL: 0:02 2nd-Qtr – Derrick Favors slid in front of Lillard on high screen-roll and poked the ball away, giving Lester Hudson a last-second opportunity at points before the buzzer sounded. Utah didn’t get a shot off in time but not many bigs could make that play on a point guard of Lillard’s caliber.

WORST CALL: Any one of the six delay of game violations called on both teams. This year, NBA officials are calling violations on any occurrence where an opposing player touches the basketball following a made basket. NBA officials have done a good job giving leeway while still calling violations when an opponent deliberately tried to slow the other team down from inbounding. This “point of emphasis” is awful for the NBA and will decide the outcome of games if enforced in this manner.

STAT OF THE GAME: Kanter and Favors shot a combined 14/24 (58%) from the field. The rest of the team shot just 30%. Blazers’ bigs LaMarcus Aldrige and Robin Lopez shot a combine 13/22 (59%) from the field. The rest of their team shot 38% from the field.

“GET BETTER” OF THE GAME: Alec Burks shot 1-13 from the floor. Several of his misses were open and makeable mid-range jumpers and several were also wild attempts down the lane where he tried to draw contact and finish – but he ultimately failed at both. Also Gordon Hayward did a nice job getting to the line but shot just 1-9 in the 2nd-half. In order to win, Utah needs at least one of their playmakers to score the ball consistently throughout the game.

MAILMAN PLAY OF THE GAME: 1st-Qtr – Enes Kanter scored 16 1st-quarter points on 8-9 shooting scoring with offensive putbacks, power on the left block, hitting face-up jumpers from both the left and right wing, a fastbreak layup via running the floor, a dunk off side pick&roll and a short little jumper via pick&pop. Just your basic Karl Malone variety pack.

QUOTE OF THE GAME:Trey goes on to say in the twit…tweeter…the twitterhaha 4-6 weeks is more likely and then he gives a big thanks. Shows you how often I use uh…twitter.” -Craig Bolerjack.

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SEE A DIFFERENT GAME

The Jazz posted up Enes Kanter on the left block in 7 of their first 20 half-court sets against Portland. While that appears to be a high percentage scoring play for the Jazz (especially when Kanter is rolling like he was to start), the obvious fear of Jazz fans is “Will we get stagnant on offense like we did with Al Jefferson?”

While that certainly is a risk any dominant low-post offense carries, there are ways to prevent stagnation and there were positive signs of that last night.

Enes Kanter post-up #1

1.) Hayward feeds Kanter in the post and immediately cuts through. In the past few seasons Jazz players would feed the post and often float around the three-point line. Cutting through quick and hard is a staple of Jazzbasketball, ranging from John Stockton to Shandon Anderson to Ronnie Brewer. You can cut middle (a Stock specialty) or baseline (something Brewer mastered working off Carlos Boozer in the post) but the real beneficiary isn’t as much for the cutter as the post player.

The constant player movement keeps the help defense “engaged.” Most defenses have keys where they’re going to help off so-and-so or they’re going to send help from the top. By staying in motion, you retard immediate reaction from the help-defense who must honor the cutter and those extra moments are enough for talented low-post scorers to convert. 

Enes Kanter post-up #2

2.) Here, Hayward’s cut completely clears out the left side of the court as well as part of the lane. With nobody digging down from the top, Kanter takes two crab-dribbles to back Myers Leonard beneath the rim and finishes with a point-blank layup.

While Kanter’s low-post passing remains a work in progress, it’s important the Jazz do as much as they can to put he and Favors into situations where they can best succeed. Having post-feeders cut and stay in motion is a great start.

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The Jazz have now played four preseason games with four different starting lineups. While that’s to be expected with last night being their first game without the services of Trey Burke, the Jazz need to develop some semblance of a rotation over these final 4 games. Corbin also may need to get more creative with his rotations. Tonight Utah played a 2nd-unit of Lester Hudson, Alec Burks, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Evans and Andris Biedrins and that lineup was -7 while on the court together.

Corbin might need to sub someone like Kanter out earlier in the 1st/3rd-qtr and bring him back in early in the 2nd/4th-qtr to help anchor the 2nd-unit along with Burks. This sort of thing is clearly a work in progress and still need time to experiment in the preseason, but ultimately it’s up to the head coach to determine which rotations provide the best chance at winning.

The Jazz played well in spurts last night, but they didn’t win – and winning is still the ultimate goal.

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