NBA Regular Season 2013-2014, Game 10:
San Antonio Spurs 91 @ Utah Jazz 82
They may have four rings, but we have Dennis Lindsey and R-Jefferson!
Future Coach of the Year (no, that's not "code" for future fired Head coach) Tyrone Corbin shook things up tonight in his revenge game against the team that drafted him. He started Alec Burks, aka Alec "is not a point guard" Burks, at point guard. This was his first careen NBA start, and because it's never easy for him, his first start happened to be at point guard when even I admit that he's really a slashing shooting guard. Anyway, shaking things up seemed to do the Jazz some good as Burks' early defense on All-world point guard Tony Parker (the engine that runs the Spurs offense the last few seasons) was a sight for sore eyes. The Jazz ended up cruising to a 29 to 16 lead after the first quarter behind the amazing efforts of Derrick Favors. Favors played like a max player tonight. He played like an All-Star (btw, be sure to vote early and often for him). By my unofficial count Favors had 6 points, 2 assists, and a whopping 9 rebounds in the first quarter alone. He was the main force attacking the Spurs greatest strength, their vaunted defensive rebounding percentage (#1 in the NBA before this game started).
It was gritty basketball, and the Jazz kept riding the Favors train almost all game long.
The second quarter had the Jazz losing some ground on on the Spurs, the bad guys made up almost 10 points; but Utah went into half time up 46-41.
Most everyone expected the Spurs to turn it on in the third quarter, but Favors, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the C4, kept the Jazz' heads above water. Gordon Hayward scored 6 points in the third. Enes Kanter was active around the rim. And "pg" Alec Burks scored 2 points and had 2 assists. In the third quarter Spurs head coach really kept things close with offense from Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. That is a troll move.
Utah went into the fourth quarter leading 67-60, at home. Then somehow went on to lose the quarter 31-15. Some observers would say that's just the Spurs doing Spurs like things and turning it on when they need to. The Spurs DID do Spurs like things. Credit them for sticking to their plan and chipping away with offensive excellence. But the Jazz should get the assist of the night as there was a very curious tactical change right off the bat in the fourth quarter. The Jazz stopped attack the rim, they stopped running plays to completion, they took early shots in the shot clock, and particularly settled for the worst shot in the game -- the long two pointer. Offensive possession after offense possession the Jazz "settled" for the long two, by guys like Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks (fans want to get on his case here for the loss, I understand why -- he shot 5/12, which is much worse than Hayward's 5/23), Diante Garrett, John Lucas III and others. Yes, John Lucas played nearly 9 minutes in the fourth quarter at point after losing his starting spot to a non-point guard who has never started before.
Most obvious was that the Jazz never went to Favors unless the Spurs were close to blowing the game open. Almost every time the Jazz went to Derrick off of a pick and roll, or a post up in the fourth quarter he scored. Did they go to him down the stretch? No. But when they did they managed to keep the margin less than 10 points.
The Spurs won the game, but we did them a lot of favors by going away from Favors and the offense that got the Jazz the lead in the first place. If the NBA was even watching Jazz games, and if we didn't have plausible deniability because of Trey Burke's injury, the NBA's competition committee could be giving Dennis Lindsey and company a call.
Three things that went well:
1. Derrick Favors dominated.
There's no other way to explain it, he finished the game with 20 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, 2 assists - and scored and defended well in every aspect of the game. Heck of a night for the young bigman. He if can do this against the Spurs, you know he can do this against any team in the league.
2. The Jazz fought strength vs strength against the Spurs, and almost won.
As I mentioned earlier, the Spurs lead the league in DRB%. The Jazz were #3 in ORB%. The fulcrum of this game was the glass, and Utah won that battle 50-43. The critical aspect was our offensive rebounding against their defensive rebounding. The Jazz had 16 offensive rebounds to the Spurs 36 defensive rebounds. That means the Spurs had a DRB% of 69.2, which is -10.7% of their 8-1 season average. Bravo Jazz!
3. The C4 did not get the win, but they give hope for the future.
There were times during the game where everything was working for the Jazz, on offense and on defense. They played 141 total minutes in this game (the only player not playing 30 was still Alec Burks, because even when you start you can't play 30 minutes). And they contributed 57 points (70% of all Jazz points), 36 rebounds (72% of all Jazz rebounds), 10 assists (63% of all Jazz assists), 5 steals (56% of all Jazz steals), and 4 blocks (100% of all the Jazz blocks). They also managed to have 13 total fouls (mainly the 4 on Favors and 5 on Burks hurt the team), and only 7 turn overs -- which is good for how frequently these guys have the ball in their hands (Burks had a 4:1 assist to turn over ratio as the starting point guard). The "Average" player in the C4 played 35 mpg, and finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Against the best team in the West this isn't that bad.
Three things that went poorly:
1. Gordon Hayward shot very poorly.
Gordon went 5/23 in this game, which is 22 fg%. He's shooting with a bruised shin, so that doesn't help. What also doesn't help is doing your John Lucas impersonation by going 1/7 from downtown. But for a shooter there just are some nights like this. Shooters gotta shoot.
2. The whole team really shot poorly, though.
If you take away Hayward the Jazz shot went 30/68 from the field, that's only 44.1 fg%; and went 4/9 from downtown, which is a very respectable 44.4 3pt%. But unless you are shooting very high, if your fg% = your 3pt% you are going to lose the game. Which is what we did. Of course, the big issue happened to be the doctrine shift once the fourth quarter started to just jack up long twos. The results speak for themselves.
3. The Spurs only needed to play one good quarter to beat us at home.
How much of this was the obvious tank and how much of this was the fact that we're playing one of the best teams / franchises in NBA History? Obviously both factors were significant. You don't play John Lucas III crunch time minutes after he didn't play at all in the game before, and expect to win. And you don't settle for jumpers against the Spurs. Of course, the Spurs still had to make their shots and get their defensive rebounds. But in light of the events, you can only really marvel at how the Spurs can win games by turning it on. That's what the Stockton and Malone Jazz teams did.
Overall, I'm not mad. We were right there, and had the lead -- until we started to change our entire gameplan and put in 3rd stringers down the stretch. Good game Jazz. And congrats to the Spurs.