When the Jazz made it clear they were going to keep Al and Millsap, and then when they brought in Tinsley and Josh Howard, this was the kind of game I dreaded. A game that vets got to stink up their minutes while the kids watched on the bench, "developing."
It wasn't 100% the case, I know. Hayward got 29 minutes. Favors and Kanter combined for 30, which seems to be about their average. But still.
We haven't had to suffer through games like this at all lately, and hopefully this was just a cameo, but for me it was hard to watch.
The gig overview
The Jazz, of course, have two featured soloists—two guys who are the headliners, two guys who will get 90% of the time on stage in front of the microphone. Millsap and Big Al. Millsap was fine. Not breathtaking. Not one of those moments you're in tears knowing you'll never hear this improv solo ever again. But fine. He delivered a good performance. Al was bad. He was a trumpeter whose lips got chapped, split open, and bleeding but kept taking the solos anyway. You get why he was bad (the ankle injury), you applaud him for giving the effort because he knows he's the headliner (and probably because he knows he was missed against the Raptors)—but that doesn't mean the music was good, because it wasn't. Missed weazies over three defenders. Defensive rotations slower than stew thickened with oatmeal. It was vintage early 2010 bad Al.
As for the rest: Hayward took his role as the drummer and played great. We all would have loved some more great licks from him, maybe a drum solo or two, but you couldn't have found anyone doing the background stuff better. Devin was kind of invisible on his upright bass. Which isn't always bad. It was just walking bass lines, but sometimes that's enough. Raja did fine on the piano—even a couple of nice shots that made us momentarily wonder if he was the best of the three (he wasn't—but he had some really nice moments).
The backup crew was tough. Electric Earl was okay. Howard wanted all solos (shots) and murdered them. His background stuff was equally nasty—missing the hits, out of tune, sometimes playing the wrong part. And that's why it was so perplexing that the kids didn't get much of a chance. No Alec Burks. No Kanter in the first half. It's one thing when the vets have it going well, but another thing entirely when they don't.
More after the jump:
The teams come out with be-bop. No lazy blues to start things off—just a fast-paced, evenly matched first quarter ending at 30-30.
And I'm going to ask for an indulgence here. It's no secret that Hayward is my favorite player on the Jazz right now. I called his play brilliant today. Some have said it goes too far, since he's still passing up good shots. It's a fair criticism, but allow us to relive some of the first quarter:
Here he misses a shot. Marion takes off for a potential fast break. Notice that as the transition begins both Devin and Raja are closer to the getting back at D. Al's about equal to Hayward. Who rushes back? Hayward. Who blocks off the easy transition basket? Hayward. Who gets the steal? Hayward.
Next we get a nifty assist to Big Al.
Here Hayward fights for a rebound, or at least a tip to a teammate, but nothing comes of it. You'll see why this is important soon.
I love this next sequence: 1) Hayward makes a great cut for an possible open layup (Al ignores him). 2) He makes a good screen to free up Raja for an open 3 (but the pass doesn't come to Raja), 3) Hayward tips the rebound to Al for an easy layup. That's why the previous tip attempt is important. This tip to Al wasn't some freak play—Hayward's going after them consistently. And of course the only box-score stuff that shows up is an offensive rebound and made field goal for Al.
How about a beautiful pass that should have been an assist, but the easy shot was botched. Then on defense Hayward manages to be the only guy to challenge the shot even though he was being screened and Al was the one who had an open lane to contest.
And finally some mano-mano defense. Marion tries to post up. Hayward shoves him out. Marion tries an iso move. Hayward doesn't bite. Marion tries to back into the paint. Hayward doesn't budge. Marion tries to spin. Hayward's right there. Finally Marion gives up with a terrible off-balance shot with Hayward right in his face. The shot misses by two feet.
That was my boy this game. I was geeking out and really felt like the first quarter was the Gordon Hayward show—but you had to watch carefully to see it. You had to ignore the soloists and really pay attention to the crazy stuff the drummer was doing behind the scenes.
This was where I started losing it. Josh Howard goes 1-5, 0 assists, 0 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 1 turnover. The dude obviously didn't have it tonight. He hasn't had it since coming back from the injury.
At the same time Beaubois is running up 16 points. Devin can't stop him. Earl can't stop him. The bigs can't rotate fast enough to stop him.
Would it have killed Ty to go with CJ at SF and put Burks in—the one guy who could keep up with Beaubois? Especially since Burks has been consistently good defensively? Or put Kanter in since Al clearly couldn't move quickly with his bad ankle? Would it really have been this hard to say:
"Al, Josh, you're great guys and I really appreciate you coming back to play as soon as possible. But we're getting killed by their quick guys tonight. You just aren't 100% and more than anything right now, to win this game we need guys who can move defensively. Don't take this as an insult. Don't worry about your playing time next week. We just need people who have their A-game to try to stop the Mavs tonight."
Anyway, a tie game soon becomes a 5-point deficit. Which becomes 10.
The gig starts getting out of hand before intermission.
Mini runs happen. Dallas by 10, Jazz cut it to 6, then Dallas extends its lead to 14. There are great moments. But not enough.
Finally—his chops shot, his licks going nowhere—Al Jefferson takes his trumpet and he heads backstage. His understudy, Enes Kanter, checks in for the first time and the band start's doing its thing for the first time since the first quarter. The lead cuts to 3. Kanter, who's been a solid Trumpet 4 part thus far this season, busts out for some solos and blows us away. Spin moves, footwork, it's all there. Have we seen this from him before?
I honestly thought at first "Great, he pivoted himself behind the backboard." But then he muscles his way through for an easy two. Beautiful post stuff.
Jazz get within 2, then fall back by 6 again. And all the time we're wondering why Kanter didn't get to play in the first half—you know, when the Jazz could have taken a lead instead of tried to play catch-up.
It starts out ugly for both sides: no points for two minutes. Favors does a sweet piano intro to Josh Howard's sax solo, but Howard trips on his chair. That's right—Favors was going to end up with 3 assists tonight (5 on the year), but Josh Howard traveled.
Then Dallas pulled away. Then things got out of hand. Our best player, one of the best players in the entire league to date, takes only one shot in this quarter. Hayward, the second best player for the night, doesn't check back in until seven minutes have passed and the Jazz down 16.
And Alec Burks gets nothing but garbage time.
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I read several comments in the Game Thread that this was much less frustrating than the Raptors loss. The difference to them was the Jazz should have won on paper, and they could have won had just a couple little things gone differently. While tonight, it wasn't a game the Jazz should have won anyway.
I get that.
But I felt differently. Watching Ty stick with hobbling Al, who just could not do anything defensively with his sore ankle, while Kanter didn't even get off the bench in the first half — or watching Howard stink up the joint, clearly not ready to contribute what he was before the injury, all while Alec sits on the bench watching Beaubois eat Earl and Devin alive.
It was painful for me. It was a stick-with-the-vets kind of night, regardless of how much they weren't helping the team win.
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Millsap had a decent night. 20 points, 7-13 shooting. He also got burned a lot on defense. LaMar Odom is just a nightmare matchup for our hero.
Hayward was, I thought, mostly brilliant. I didn't even get into his block, or watching him smoothly stroke a jumper, or his nice baseline cuts for open layups (he did it at least four times, even if the passes went elsewhere twice).
Kanter showed us a glimpse of what he can be.
And that was about it.
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