It ain't over till the skinny man dunks.
Now that was awesome.
Our heroes scored, they defended, they ran up and down the court like madmen. They beat the snot out of Denver and just kept destroying them. It got chippy, but our guys again kept their cool while the others fell apart. And the pace. My goodness, the pace. Despite the periodic opining "the Jazz need to get back to their speed," they kept it up and blew the Nuggets out of here.
And as great as that was, the specific details of that game make it even better:
- This was the second game of a back-to-back
- The Jazz endured a wild, exhausting game the night before
- Yet it was our guys who had all the energy and ran them out of town
- It was against a division rival
- It was against a team ahead of us in the standings
- It was a win that got our guys back into the playoff count
Damn, that game was fun.
More ... including the Quintet ... after the jump.
It's hard to remember now, but it was close early. Denver led after the first quarter and was ahead 45-41 early in the second. They started out shooting like the Jazz were: about 60%.
And then our guys decided to play defense. Just one game after getting killed defensively ... and getting some guys a scolding by me ... they played the kind of D they can. And the D led to fast-break points, the Jazz ran, and the rest was history. From that point, down by four, the Jazz would score 50 points and hold the Nuggets to only 19 over the next 16 minutes.
Read that again: In 16 minutes of game time, the Jazz outscored the Nuggets 50-19!
There was so much that I loved in this game, but here's a few highlights:
The Jazz ran.
We have so many players who can thrive on a fast paced game ... Devin, Hayward, CJ, Millsap, Burks, and Favors. Included in this group are guys whose defense a) specifically enables a fast pace, and b) are quite good at defending the other team doing transition things. The Jazz didn't fight it. They let these guys do the things they are good at.
The Jazz ran a balanced offense
When they ran their half-court sets, they didn't throw the ball into the post and watch Al do his thing. They passed. They cut. They screened. They helped each other, and everyone was participating. Six guys had at least eight shots, and a seventh only didn't because he went to the line seven times (Gordon).
But they didn't just get great contributions from everyone, this kind of offense let Al Jefferson kick butt. Four dunks! When was the last time that happened? He ate the Nuggets alive in the half-court set, and it was because the Jazz worked together and helped each other (including Big Al) get great shots.
This is the great lesson I feared coach Ty would never learn with this roster: work together on offense, involve everyone, and not only will the team win more, but even the best of the players will be better individually.
The Jazz defended
There's a brilliant article over at Denver Stiffs about lineups and how finding players who work together is far, far more important than finding great individual players. The more I watch and study basketball, the more I'm convinced this is true. And it is so important for our guys to get this.
Big Al is never going to be a great individual defender. Nor will Millsap. The days of strong D left Devin about five years ago, and I don't know if he'll ever get it back consistently. But in the end those things don't really matter—not if the players can figure out a way to work together, to balance and work with their strengths and weaknesses.
And last night, they did it. They did it brilliantly. It was the biggest difference between that game and the Kings game, I believe. The defense fit together and worked.
Yep, we're looking at the starters here. It was these guys that put on the majority of that 50-19 run. It was these guys who killed it on offense and defense. And while Favors, Burks, and Tinsley were great ... this Quintet HAS to be the starters. And Al Jefferson HAS to be wearing the high heels this time.
The Lead Singer: Al Jefferson
23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. He was the anchor of both the offense and defense. And four monster dunks. Four Malone-esque dunks—the kind that the defender better just run away or get destroyed. My favorite comment about this game came from Jason-For-The-Love:
Al had 3 assists tonight. That's become so normal that we've stopped pointing it out. Stop and think about that.— Jay Eh Ess Oh En (@JasonForTheLove) March 24, 2012
The Fiddling Improv Maestro: Devin Harris
I debated between Harris and Hayward here. Who was the number two this game? In the end, I went with the PG playing like a true PG. After all, everything the Jazz do begins with the PG. 9 assists and 13 points in only 28 minutes. Running the offense, running the break, passing lobs. And swooping in for a Wait-was-that-Deron-Williams? Dunk in the third quarter.
The backdrop: Gordon Hayward, Paul MIllsap, and C.J. Miles.
Hayward's line was simply ridiculous. 15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, and
a steal 2 steals (Thanks gpayle). Plus he ate Afflalo alive on defense and hit two of three from behind the arc.
Sap and CJ combined for 26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks.
* * *
There's nothing more to say here. It was a brilliant game. Thanks to all the players and the coaches. Everyone scored except Earl, who just wanted to throw lobs to Jeremy Evans. What fun.