NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 16:
What. We won. Shut up.
The Jazz starters started off slow, having New Orleans go on a 6-0 run almost immediately after the tip. The Jazz countered with a 5-0 run in the middle of the first quarter, essentially evening up the score when both teams went to their benches. Greivis Vasquez was penetrating and finding the right guys early on, finishing with four first quarter assists (coming into this game, he was averaging 8.8 apg). For the Jazz, it was the Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson show -- and let's be honest, these guys are good enough to make it the Big Al and Paul show every night. It was good to see them combine for 14 of our 20 total points.
In the second quarter it started with bench against bench, and as usual -- our bench hit the ground running, going on a 9-0 run. The game score went in our favor, while the game become increasingly ugly. The Jazz bench (Earl Watson, Gordon Hayward, DeMarre Carroll, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter) held New Orleans scoreless for about seven minutes. The Jazz plateaued for a while with the bench in against New Orleans' starters; however, when Tyrone Corbin put our starters back in (facing the New Orleans starters -- like at the beginning of the game), the Hornets went on a 7-0 run to erase all the work our bench did. Just so we're clear this was the starters starting slowly, getting down early, having some bench guys come in to even it up, have our bench unit then face off against theirs in the second quarter, making a lead, only for our starters to lose it again. This happened tonight. And it has happened way more frequently than we'd like. To continue to pretend that this has not happened almost every game is to be highly selective and dishonest in reporting.
This doesn't mean that our bench is better than our starters. It just means that in the first half of games our bench is playing harder than our starters. If we believe in a meritocracy, where performance and results make a difference, then we can't pretend that this isn't happening -- you can't ignore symptoms if the end result is something you're okay with. "Well, I didn't have a heart attack today, so I guess I can keep smoking and eating fatty food tomorrow!" Eventually I'd like to see every player on the Jazz team play hard from the start.
As the script goes our starters came out and played like our starters should play like. I loved what we saw in the third quarter, as our dudes did it with defense. Collecting a lot of deflections, steals, and turning the game into a running game -- that is what broke it open. Every one of our starters had a steal in their stint in the third quarter, and we stopped playing the slow down pace that New Orleans wants. It was decisive, as the starters went on 10-3, 5-0, and 8-0 runs. This shows me how capable they are, and legitimizes honest criticism of them for poor, slow, or disinterested starts. These are all veterans, and as such, should be examples of what it takes to stay in this league. These are the guys the young guys have to look up to, and should be models of consistency. Yet, they are the same team that let the injured Hornets go on runs against them -- while absolutely killing it in the third.
Against the good teams we can't afford to start slowly. We can get away with it against the bad teams some of the time.
Ultimately, though, I think this is partly the internal motivation of the starters and their desire to play good basketball combined with the under-rated ability of Tyrone Corbin to swear at his team at halftime. So far it's working. Maybe Ty should swear at his team to start the game though? : )
The Jazz pushed the lead to 17 in the early 4th quarter with our bench in the game against theirs. And the game was over. We finished with a Jamaal Tinsley, Gordon Hayward, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson lineup that sealed the deal with a mid 4th quarter 5-0 run (after the bench let their bench go on an 11-1 run earlier -- so c'mon bench! Get with the program! Someone should yell at you too!).
I'm happy with the win. I'm happy with the road win. I'm happy with the road win against a team we have trouble beating on the road. I'm happy with a road win to avenge an earlier season loss. And I'm happy with the way out a) starters played in the decisive third quarter, and b) the bench play that held the other team scoreless for 7 minutes.
I'm not happy with the inconsistency of both the starters and bench; but with the bench we know they are young and play a lot less -- so consistency is not something they could possibly have at this point in their careers. The starters though have less excuses because they are all veterans who play the majority of the minutes; while also being capable of turning it on and killing teams. If the starters weren't such a strong third quarter team than it would be 'okay' to have so many whatever starts. Because they are so good in the third that makes me hold them to a higher standard -- they SHOULD start the game like that too.
Does that make me a bad fan? Absolutely not. It makes me someone who is able to see what has happened in almost each of our games this year, and we've played 16 / 82, which is 19.5%, or 1/5th of the season. You've all seen it too. We want our team to be the best. And if they are capable of starting off better, it would help us be better.
- Al Jefferson (C, 34:23) -- Big Al shot 9/16, which is 56.3%, and scored 19 points. It's not the most efficient game he's had in the last little while, but against Robin Lopez at times he was getting whatever he wanted with his patient play isolated on the left side. He's not so much a post up player anymore, as he's becoming a triple threat guy who sets up drives or outside shots with a series of upfakes and other moves. It's fun to watch when his shot is falling -- and it was tonight. Al also had 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Food for thought, if Chris Bosh has a game like this the media talks for days about how versatile he is. If Big Al does it no one cares.
- Paul Millsap (PF, 31:09) -- Sap is playing mostly PF again, and he's much more comfortable. He had 16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. His shot wasn't always falling, but he was much more aggressive in his home state, and did damage from the free throw line: 10/12. I pointed out earlier that Jefferson makes Millsap better, and ALSO, Millsap makes Jefferson better. And they both had good games in extended minutes last night.
- Marvin Williams (SF/PF, 25:57) -- Marvin had a very solid game, with 16 points (4/7 shooting - 57.1 fg%, 6/8 ft - 75.0 ft%), 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 made threes, and one game changing dunk. (And also one bad headache today) Marvin was by far our most efficient player with a Points per Shot value of 2.29 (point of reference, Big Al was at 1.18 tonight, which is still below league average of 1.21). I think Marvin should be our third option, he has more talents than we use him for.
- Gordon Hayward (SG/SF, 23:18) -- Gordo was another dude who went to the line a lot, and went 5/7 from there -- when coupled with his 4/8 shooting (2/2 from downtown) he finished with 15 points. He added 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. He, like Paul, needed to have a game where the ball went into the hoop. You can build off of this performance. Hayward tied Derrick Favors for best +/- on the team tonight with +10.
- Derrick Favors (PF/C, 16:51) -- Favors had 9 points and 8 rebounds in 17 minutes. He also had a dime and a swat, while shooting 50 fg%. One could assume his on court performance would have been even greater if he played more . . . but we'll see him more hopefully in the next few games.
The Jazz starters came out big in the third quarter after dicking around in their earlier sequences in the game (being down vs. the Hornets starters in h2h in the first, and end of the second quarters). This seems to be what the Jazz do - so if it's working I guess it's wrong to question the results. But the Jazz starters went on a 10-3 run to begin the third, followed it up with a 5-0 run, and then a mixed lineup went on an 8-0 -- all in the first 9 minutes of the third.
The two main players during these sequences were Paul Millsap and Marvin Williams.
- Paul played 10:10, and went 2/3 fg, 5/6 ft, had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal
- Marvin played 9:31, and went 2/2 fg, 4/6 ft, had 1 rebound, and 1 steal
Each of our starters had a steal during this third quarter stretch (6 in total in the first 9 minutes), but Millsap and Williams set the tone on offense. Which is good, because with all this talent Al Jefferson shouldn't have to score 28 a night, every night.
Clearly -- it was the Millsap/Williams moment in the third quarter that happened during one of our game finishing runs. Paul Millsap got doubled, did not panic, took his time, and found a cutting Marvin Williams for a great jam.
Want to see more Jam from Marvin -- dude was super athletic with the Atlanta Hawks. He's totally taking a back seat this year, which sucks. He could be used way more than he is right now.
The Good News:
The Game was out of hand, and out of reach for the Hornets during a decisive third quarter, and we avenged our earlier in the month loss on their floor!
The Bad News:
Maaaarvin Williams hit his head on the hardwood really hard. I haven't seen any official reports yet, nor have I gotten confirmation (on my own, not using the MSM) on any CT / MRI results. Marvin hit the back of his head, his occipital lobe, and apparently sustained concussion like symptoms as a result. Having had a very similar injury myself back in my rugby playing days, they suck. I wouldn't be surprised to see Marvin upgraded to a full concussion. TBI is a real thing that I'm focusing my career on right now, so I could go on and on and on about this. I won't. He got hurt, did not return to the game, and that sucks has he was having a very solid performance.
That said, it was a freak accident. The silver lining is that he did not break his fall with his hand, as with the velocity of his fall, and the angle, he could have broken a few bones in his hand and been out weeks if not over a month if he fell differently. Falling on his head sucks, but he could be cleared to play sooner than if he broke his arm. He's a basketball player who wants to get out there to help his team win. He can't do that with a broken arm. So, I guess this is me channeling the Ed Wood played Doctor from the movie "Any Given Sunday" here.
The Jazz now stand 9-7, with one more game left this month (tomorrow at the Oklahoma City Thunder), and a game the following night (at the Houston Rockets) to end this "month" of 12 of the first 18 games on the road. We're right where we expect to be, save for a loss earlier this month to the Hornets. We've handled injuries, new starters, mixed lineups, and tread water while Earl Watson was out -- and did it while being on the road. We did our part, and over the next 8 weeks the schedule opens up in our favor.
Post Game Immediate Reaction Video:
If you missed this somehow . . .