NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 17:
No Marvin. Playing on the road. Against a team that is heavily favored against us? What could go wrong . . .
In the first quarter Mo Williams and Randy Foye showed no fear -- and we essentially played their starters to a stalemate. The Jazz were playing without Marvin Williams, and as such, DeMarre Carroll was on Kevin Durant. KD did go 3-3 in the first quarter, but that's not because Carroll was bad. Just that KD is good. But back to Mo and Randy, Mo went 3/6, with a three. Randy went 1/4, with a three. But both of those threes were important. They add an element to our team that we have not had in a while. Without those two threes we don't keep the Thunder in arms reach; and I will say that previous Jazz teams would have lost the game there with the Thunder extending runs had we missed those threes. We didn't. And we stayed in this. As is customary, our bench outplayed their bench to finish the first quarter.
The second quarter had the Thunder mix and match lineups, playing Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin the entire 2nd quarter while moving around Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor, and others. Corbin likes to trade off 5 guys in NHL like line changes. Scott Brooks method seemed to work better (and it of course does when you anchor your bench lineups with two guys who are both good enough to be first options on offense). The Thunder went on a 16-5 run and then a 10-3 run. The Game wasn't looking so hot -- regardless of who we put out on the floor. It felt even worse as Derrick Favors left the game with a right arch strain in his foot.
But the game wasn't over. Though some fans called it at halftime.
Big Al had his customary 3rd quarter of dominance on offense, he went 5/10 from the field and 2/2 from the line, while collecting 4 rebounds and 1 steal. In the big picture the Jazz didn't gain anything, but without him they would have turned a game of runs into a blowout against them. This is similar to how Foye and Mo kept the Jazz in it with first half threes -- despite not necessarily gaining anything. These vets kept the team close enough at times during the first three quarters to allow . . .
. . . the younger guys to spur the team to a 16-5 run to start the fourth quarter. The lineup of Jefferson, Kanter, Hayward, Burks, and Watson played against the best of OKC and went on a big run. It wasn't enough, but it was a very positive sign to me. We were doing it with defense, and getting stops -- not like we did against the Denver Nuggets with fortunate steals. Stops are harder to get, esp against the #1 offensive team in the league. And we got them and forced OKC to dial it in.
The Jazz EARNED this loss because that mixed lineup forced OKC to win it. We didn't lay down and let them romp over us with dunks and smiles. The final score was a 12 point margin -- not bad when playing against the best in the west on their home court (where they got a ton of calls, but we expected that) without one of our starters -- and our best defender gets injured for the game in the second quarter.
I'm not happy at the loss, but I'm happy for our future. There are good things in this team that can't be discounted or overlooked.
- Enes Kanter (PF/C, 15:06) -- The Big Turkey played a bit more than one quarter and LED THE TEAM IN POINTS. He had 18 points off of 11 shots, shot 72.7 fg%, made all of his 2 FTs, and had a very amazing PPS value of 1.64. He also had 7 rebounds (ZERO on the defensive side of things, so this means you are just the worst ever!), and was 3rd on the team in +/-. That doesn't mean much, but he played really well stepping up from being the 4th big to being the 3rd big.
- Al Jefferson (C, 39:03) -- Al had 16 points and 11 rebounds, along with 2 blocks, 1 assist, and 1 steal. He was very good in the third quarter, however the majority of his makes were from the outside. He did kind of disappear on offense in the fourth -- but he can't be asked to do it all by himself every night. It's not like he's a real first option. He'd be the best second banana in the league though. (Dwayne Wade is a 1st banana) Al shot 38.9 fg% in this game, and hats off to OKC's bigs Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins -- they are really good defenders.
- Mo Williams (PG, 31:49) -- In his first game back since Gm 1 vs the Sacramento Kings, our starting PG came out and had a 13 and 6 game against Russell Westbrook. That's not bad, he did have 1 steal and a three while going 4/4 from the FT line. Most of all, we missed how he pushed the pace to start games. I loved seeing that.
- Randy Foye (SG, 30:02) -- Randy had 12 points, by going 4/8 from deep. He had some timely threes, and added 3 assists and 3 rebounds. He got absolutely torched by Kevin Martin (Martin scored most of his points against Foye -- but Martin always torches the Jazz, so it's not like this wasn't something we would have assumed would happen).
- Gordon Hayward (SF/SG, 28:17) -- Gordon played solid defense in this game against Kevin Durant, and added 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. He did go 1/6 from deep, and 6/18 over all. 13 points off of 18 shots isn't good. He's going to need to do better if he wants to take it to the next level.
- Paul Millsap (PF, 31:15) -- Sap had another forgettable game, with 13 points and 6 rebounds. He also added 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block whole shooting 5/11; and yes, how silly is it that this (a great game from a Matt Harpring) is seen as a forgettable game for Sap. We want him to do more. We expect him to do more. And Sap knows he's better than this too. That validates the expectations. This Jazz team isn't going to go far without Sap playing well.
- Earl Watson (PG, 13:00) -- Earl is the "Dad" of the second unit. He makes things better. He's not a more naturally gifted passer as Jamaal Tinsley is, but he's been in this system back when Jerry was still the head coach, and back when Deron Williams was on this team. Watson knows what to do on the court, and our younger players need that direction. He finished with 8 assists (1 turn over) in 13 minutes. He was the director of the team during that 16-5 run. We missed him. He had 2 points and would have been even more impressive had Russell Westbrook's hip check have been called a foul, and not a Watson turn over.
- Alec Burks (SG, 14:27) -- He made a three, had 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block while (more importantly) playing the defense that Foye could not. Baby steps. You need to do better to keep getting playing time. And I know two of your FGA would have been called as fouls in Utah. But this is the road. And you need to play smarter.
Have you seen the basketball fiction movie "Above the Rim" (1994) that stars Duane Martin, Leon, Tupac Shakur, Marlon Wayans, Bernie Mac, and, uh, a bunch of other actors and actresses you've never heard of? Well, in that movie, one of the main conflicts surrounds a young basketball player and his decision to side with the easy path or the hard path in life. The easy path has him running with criminals and people of different morals who praise him and give him gifts -- while corrupting him. The hard path has him waking up early to exercise, listen to his coaches, and accept flaws in himself. It's essentially a basketball version of Oliver Stone's "Platoon" (1986). In it the mutable young individual is tempted by both sides, with personifications of both extremes offering a helping hand.
The Sgt. Elias character is played by Leon, a former young player and star who let personal problems derail his chance at success on the court. He's also the sacrificial lamb in this story, taking everything from elbows to the head to gun shots in his quest to prove something to himself and to this young player played by Duane Martin. The main thing, from a bball standpoint, is how Leon comes off the bench when the coach calls his number and plays very good basketball -- essentially draining every shot he took.
Last night this was Enes Kanter -- who due to injuries to Derrick Favors -- got more playing time. Kanter didn't start off hot, he made his first shot in the first quarter, but in the second he went 1/3 and his crew went -3 overall with him on the floor. Corbin called his number in the fourth quarter and he went 5/6 being decisive and getting open, turning, and shooting the ball. He was a finisher (not unlike how Malone played as a kid -- get the ball and score it, don't try to dribble or whatever). He also finished an and one, a product of his pure hustle -- and also added two offensive rebounds to his tally during an impressive 16-5 run by the Jazz bench + Jefferson against the best players OKC had to offer.
That was the game changer. Sure, Kanter missed a rotation here or there in the 4th against the former NBA Finalists -- but if he wasn't playing like Leon from Above the Rim to start the quarter -- we're not even in a position to gripe about his mistakes.
Beware, there be some F-words in this video.
Earl had a nifty pass to Gordon for an Alley-oop -- but I'm a defense first guy, so I'm going with Alec Burks ' block at the rim on help defense against a Thunder bigman (I think it was Serge Ibaka). Ibaka got Burks earlier in the 4th with a block (in Utah -- it's Alec going to the line for two, but we were on the road), so it was nice to see Burks pay him back.
The Good News:
Earl Watson had a really good game, and I hope he takes control of the second unit and leap-frogs Jamaal Tinsley soon. Also Alec Burks played as well. Both where rotation guys on my pre-season rankings. I think that if we're going to make the playoffs this year, it will be an easier task if both of those guys are contributing to what we do on the court.
The Bad News:
Derrick Favors got injured last night, a strained right arch. That sucks for us because he's one of our few defenders out there. But with the inspired play of Enes Kanter -- maybe Enes can hold things down as the #3 big for a while, while letting Favors finally get a rest? We're not really going to need Favors until the December 9th game @ the Los Angeles Lakers anyway looking at our schedule.
Tonight the Jazz play their last game in this dreaded stretch ... and do it with another road game (#12 of the season ladies and gentlemen) against the Houston Rockets. James Harden will look to shake off his poor performance (and sickness) in the last game and feast on our noted starting shooting guard Randy Foye. Foye, well, Foye is who we thought he was on defense, he's ranked #265 out of over 400 players by Synergy in Points given up per Possession. His man shoots 46.8 fg% against him, and 35.7 3pt%.
After tonight, though, the Jazz play 7 games in the next 14 nights -- with 5 of them at home, and only two back to back. Starting Monday (with a day off in-between each game) the Jazz: host the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, play @ the Los Angeles Lakers, have two nights off then play the San Antonio Spurs, then at the Phoenix Suns, and the next night, host the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Clippers, Lakers, Spurs, and Memphis are all better teams than we are -- but we've played all but the Clippers before this season and been in all of those games (winning one of the three). Hosting the Magic and Raptors -- these ARE easier games than we've had so far this season. I think outright winning games will make us look better on paper, and as fans, feel better about our team.
Post Game Immediate Reaction Video:
No Video yet . . . will do one asap . . .