Win or Lose, the Jazz showed some real improvement in this game that should give Jazz fans a lot of encouragement for long and short term development of this team. For the first time, the starters outplayed the bench players and they got us off to great starts in the 1st and 3rd quarters. That is probably the first good 3rd quarter of basketball for the Jazz. The team showed that they can be competitive on the road, on a back to back. Raja Bell played very well tonight. Oh, and the Jazz won on top of it all.
This was the epitome of what we need/want Gordan Hayward to be. Eighteen points on only 11 shots, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block that you won't find in the stat sheet, because it was after a foul and prevented a 3 point play, and I think he passed out orange slices and capri suns to the team after the game. He did a little bit of everything. I commented that he was having a fantastic game. My friend mentioned that this is what Hayward should do every game, so he wasn't impressed. In a season or two Hayward just may be averaging these type of numbers.
Corbin has the Midas touch right now. He is making good substitutions, getting closer to setting his rotations and winning basketball games. No doubt every Jazz fan has something they wish Coach Corbin was doing differently. But think about the alternative. I would love for Favors to get 5 of Al's minutes, and keep all the big men under 30 mpg, but that's nitpicking at this point. I have to applaud coach for sticking to his guns and playing the players that are playing well and sitting guys that aren't. He's doing it. And taking Al out of the game on the final possession tonight and putting in 5 guys who could move and play help defense was one of the little things that will go unnoticed, but helped win tonight. If you didn't notice, Millsap and Hayward were the two tallest guys on the floor on the last defensive possession and they were in position to help on Ellis if needed.
Somebody should tell Cher that Raja found a way to turn back time. Maybe it is just due to playing against Monta Ellis, but Bell was the veteran and defensive leader we thought we signed 18 months ago. A lot of credit is due his way.
Not his best night statistically, but he played well. And his 15 foot elbow jumper that tied the game gives him a little bump up. But Jefferson is playing within the scope of the team offense much better than he used to, even this season. He took probably only 2 or 3 ill-advised shots this game (it used to be 8 or 9 to start the season). You can't ever convince me that it's a good idea to shoot over a double or triple team. In fact I googled "Is it a good idea to shoot through a double team" and a big word "NO" appeared on my screen. But Jefferson only did this once, from what I remember. Even if other guys miss a shot that Jefferson assists out of a double team, at worst, Big Al is telling his teammates, "I trust you and you can trust me." It's important to remember that Michael Jordan has as many big game winning assists as he does shots. But Al took mostly good shots that came from the flow of the offense, even if Kwame Brown gave him a difficult time tonight. Should be noted that Kwame Brown is a very good defender, even if he isn't worth $7 million a year.
Paul Millsap's Passing:
All assists are not created equal and lately Paul Millsap's assists have been of the very best variety. Millsap is making passes that lead to guaranteed points. Tonight he had four assists, but 3 of them led to uncontested layups and the other was a wide open 3 pointer. So Millsap scored 9 points, but he created 9 others for his teammates. His shooting left something to be desired, but Paul Millsap is back to the hustle, "do a little bit of everything" guy that we used to know, and it's fun to watch.
CJ Miles psyche:
Every Jazz fan feels differently about CJ Miles. Some love him. Some want him traded for a hot dog. Some think he's a great role player. Some are mad that he isn't a 20 points a night scorer. The truth lies in the middle, although I am sad that he hasn't had a more dominant season. CJ is an awesome guy, who makes himself even more likeable, by his playful banter on twitter and his genuine attitude. He is very talented, but he hasn't been able to display that talent consistently. This is due to many reasons, but it isn't fair to blame it all on him or the coaching decisions/playing time. This situation can't feel good to him. He is playing better all around than he ever has, but he is also making sillier mistakes than he has in years. We need to remember that he is doing his best and he is paid role player money. And for all his faults, he is still one of our best 3 point shooters.
Three point shooting is going to be important, because the book is about to be out on the Jazz. We are going to struggle against the zone all season. The Warriors slowed us down significantly tonight by forcing us to hit 3 pointers and outside jumpers. We don't have the personnel to effectively beat zones on a night to night basis, but CJ Miles is still a threat. But it's something to keep an eye out for. How will the Jazz respond to a zone defense in the future? Deron Williams and Kyle Korver aren't walking through that door. Smart coaches are going to make us beat their zones. We will get to find out, starting Tuesday. Cleveland comes to town with a surprisingly effective team. Be there.