Jazz Ring The Bell, Keeping The Grizzlies Away, 94-85

I didn't realize that the NBA Cares program was making a stop in Salt Lake City last night.  The Utah Jazz and Memphis grizzlies rolled up their sleeves and went to work making bricks in the first half of their game to benefit Habitat for Humanity.  It takes a caring group of players to sacrifice their shooting percentages and continue to put up brick after brick after brick, working under the hot lights, while under the constant scrutiny of hundreds of fans in attendance.

In the end though, it was all worth it.  Fifteen hundred homes can be built as a result of their efforts.  How many NBA players do you know that would take time out of their jobs, to help lay bricks on a night when they could have been having fun putting the ball through the hoop?  These two teams ought to be commended for their commitment to poor execution and sloppy play.  Their efforts will go a long way to putting people into homes.

All kidding aside, the NBA Cares program does do great work.  Deron, and a lot of the other Jazz players, go above and beyond that.

This W counts as much as the wins against Miami, Orlando, Portland and LA, but it was ugly.  What's the opposite of a moral victory?  You know, where the team loses, but they play well?  Is this an immoral loss?  This is one that you stay in the shower an extra 10 minutes to wash the stink off.  Maybe a tomato juice bath is in order.

Both teams came out in the first half and forgot how to put the ball in the basket.  There was sloppy play but not an awful amount of turnovers.  The only redeemable player from the first half was CJ Miles.  He went off for 15 points in the second quarter, including three three-pointers.  He kept the Jazz in the game.   Even just a solid performance in the first half from Utah would have given them a double-digit lead going into the half.  Instead, they shot 34.8% to Memphis' 36.3% and led by just 1, 41-40.

Deron woke up again in the third to the tune of 9 points, matching his first quarter total.  Raja Bell came around on his three-point shot making 2 of 3 in the quarter and 4 of 5 overall for the game.  It would be nice to get him back up to his lifetime mark of 40%.  The Jazz were able to put together a good third quarter offensively scoring 29 points on just 18 shot attempts (9-9 from the line).  That would give them a 5-point lead heading into the fourth.

In that final period, we finally saw the Jazz start clicking and at one point looked like they were going to start to pull away.  Memphis wouldn't go away though and found themselves down just 3, 84-81 with 4:06 to go in the game.

On the next possession, Bell had the stroke going and nailed a three that gave the Jazz some separation, 87-81.  That sparked a 10-2 run to close out the game for the Jazz before a Rudy Gay dunk gave us the final score.

That was a span of four minutes to close out the game where he only buckets the Jazz allowed were two Gay dunks.  The first came on a nice drive down the lane while the second one came in the closing seconds with the Jazz not playing much D.  The  Jazz weren't that much better over the last three minutes of the game.  The two teams went two minutes without a field goal while putting up a few more bricks so that one of the houses would have a nice bird bath out back.

Click on through for some thoughts on the players

Deron Williams

He took over when he needed to while getting most of his points driving to the bucket.  Despite his 1-7 shooting night  from the three-point line, he finished with 27 points on 11-21 shooting while dishing out 8 assists.  He could have a had 20, but you don't get credit for an assist if your teammate doesn't make the shot.  Crazy, I know.

CJ Miles

He was the spark tonight in the second quarter when the Jazz needed him.  My only concern is that he'll go cold Wednesday night against the Heat.  Still, an impressive line.  20 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 boards.

Raja Bell

Bell, along with Deron, were responsible for the 29-point third quarter.  He had 6 of his 14 points in that quarter and 2 three-pointers.  He finished 4-5 overall from downtown.  Nice to see him get his stroke back.

Andrei Kirilenko

Offensively, you just burn the tape on this one.  He was just 1-10 from the field and surprisingly had just one three-point attempt.  To his credit, he was fouled quite a few times on some of his attempts but overall just a bad night from the field for him.  He didn't see any fourth-quarter action.

However, he was primarily responsible for Ding up Rudy Gay and holding him to just 8-22 from the field.  While AK was out in the fourth, Gay was 3-3 (though two of those were the dunks at the end).  Gay was just 5-19 in the first three quarters.  You'd like to see AK make some shots, but playing good D on the other team's star player is always going to be him primary role.

Paul Millsap

It wasn't much better for him on offense.  He had 7 & 7 on the night on 3-11 shooting.  He made up for his poor showing in quarter 1-3 though by helping the Jazz win the game in the fourth.    Here's a list of all of the important plays he made down the stretch.  This starts when the Jazz were up 81-75:

 

6:30, Strips Gay on the drive

6:15, Offensive board

6:04, Hustle tip, out of bounds utah

5:23, Save falling out of bounds 

5:08, Drive and reverse layup

3:22, Board for millsap

3:06, Reverse layup, assist from Miles

2:15, Millsap tips pass on D, goes off the board to Jefferson

1:47, Offensive board

That's the kind of hustle play that wins games for teams.

Al Jefferson

He continues to have poor shooting percentages. He was 5-13 last night for just 13 points.  Nobody else really shot the ball well either, but it's starting to become a trend.  He misses more than he makes on his push shot it seems.  It still think it's early and he'll come around, but it's disconcerting to see close shots continue to not drop.

I also noticed that he has at least a couple times a game where a pass comes his way, often from Deron, and he can't handle it.  Either he doesn't have his hands up or he's not expecting it.  He's not going to be perfect on those, but you have to always be looking for that pass in this system.  Maybe it will take another month or so to deprogram him.

Finally...

I'm still worried about the offense.  We're still seeing a lot of jumpers and not nearly enough baskets close to the rim.  You have to remember that while this team has been playing together for a little over 2 1/2 months now, the previous team had been together for 4 years.  We'll still see some bad play, but what you're hoping for is continual improvement.  We haven't' seen that the past couple of games.  They'll need to get back on track so that they don't get down 22 again on Wednesday against Miami.

Other notes...

  • Fess left the game after falling down awkwardly after a block.  He sprained his left ankle and it looks like he won't play on Wednesday though he is listed day to day.  Also, both Harpring and Boler said that he was over 300 lbs.  That's not true though.  He was down around 275 I believe.
  • When Fess went down, he didn't make the trip up the court.  He was still down when Memphis brought the ball back up the court.  None of the Jazz players fouled to stop the clock and to get a player in for Fess who was hobbling on one foot under the basket.  I don't know which was dumber, the Jazz not fouling or Memphis for getting called for the offensive foul on a pick and not taking advantage of the situation.
  • The nail in the coffin for the Grizz was after Conley lost the ball on a drive and Deron led the break, finding CJ was a lefty layup and the and-1 (3:39).  That put the Jazz up 9 and was the final difference in the game.
  • Straight Outta Vancouver (Not sure if they'll have anything)
  • 3SOB
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