A 1/2 game back of the Grizzlies and 1 1/2 games in front of the Suns is where the Jazz find themselves in the first game in the post-Deron era. Some help is on the way but is it going to be enough to stay in the playoffs? Let's look at last night's action.
Oklahoma City Thunder 105 @ San Antonio Spurs 109
Whatever slim chance the Jazz had to get back into the division race was prolonged last night as the Thunder were taken out by the best team in the league. They played them tight but some late-game mistakes cost them a chance to win this one:
But the one image that sticks in everyone's mind is the terrible end-of-game play by Jeff Green. With 7 seconds left, he chose to shoot it from extremely deep and completely airballed. If the Thunder are to be a contender this season, they can't let plays like that fly. The Thunder also need to not let emotional plays disrupt their rhythm, as the double technical did in the second. It led to a 11 point Spur lead that wasn't overcome until midway through the fourth.
Pounding the Rock had this take on the play:
My take on the last play of the game is going to lead us into my patented Like it/Love it/Loathe it sections. So we hit some free throws, the Thunder call timeout and advance the ball. They inbound and swing the ball to Jeff Green- when this happens, I'm thinking "oh wait, I've seen this play before". Green gets the ball and is under a lot of pressure. As Green is dribbling, a couple of off-ball screens are being set for Durant, who heads towards the top of the key. George Hill, perimeter defender extraordinaire and man who stands almost 1 ft shorter than Durant, does an excellent job of denying him the ball in the position he wants it. Green gets flustered and jacks up a horrible, contested, fade-away three pointer than doesn't even come close. He could have gotten the ball to Durant further away from the 3 point line, but panicked and shot with 5 seconds left. Great defense combined with bad execution= another win for the good guys.
That's all the help the Jazz got last night. There were no middle-ground games either. Click on through for the bad.
Los Angeles Lakers 106 @ Portland Trail Blazers 101
Portland had this one. They had a 10-point lead in the fourth and blew it. They were up 7 with 4 minute to go and didn't score a single point the rest of the way and the Lakers were able to force OT. LaMarcus Aldridge missed some big shots late in the fourth that would have given the Blazers the win.
The Jazz were falling further behind the Blazers as Portland had won 6 straight before this game. Silver Screen and Roll describes the last possessions of the fourth,
What happened next is still a little tough to process. At the 1:44 mark of the fourth, Artest rebounded an Andre Miller miss and at the other end drained a 25-foot three, his fourth of the night. LaMarcus Aldridge, who'd tormented the Laker D for much of the evening, got swatted by Lamar Odom. Kobe Bryant, working from the isolation sets that have had such a poor success rate this season, converted a difficult baseline jumper to pull the Lakers within two. Aldridge then missed again, and Kobe hit another tough shot to tie the game with four seconds left. On their final trip of regulation, Aldridge came up short for the third time in a row, sending the game to an unlikely OT period.
Of note was Brandon Roy's return. I don't think his play had an impact on the game but the Blazers are 10-14 when he plays. He didn't look bad according to Blazers Edge, but that's not what you want from your highest-paid player,
Brandon Roy came back tonight in limited minutes. He got a standing ovation, missed a couple of jumpers early, but connected on a nifty left-dribble wizard jumper and a three late. His defense looked better than we've seen this year, as did his mobility. He didn't try too much though.
Memphis Grizzlies 104 @ Minnesota Timberwolves 95
Even without Rudy Gay, this is a game that the Grizzlies are going to win. Zach Randolph put up a very Randolph-like 24 & 10 while getting some good contributions from Sam Young, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen.
This one seemed to be over in the first quarter ad the Grizzlies built up a 12-point lead and then pushed it to 16 at the half. Minnesota did make a run late in the third and into the fourth, cutting the lead to 3 but Memphis pulled away after that.
Canis Hoopus would rather talk about the trade deadlinerather than the game, but did have this to say,
Whatever. It's the trade deadline, and there's just not much to say about the game that was just played. Zach Randolph is a bully in the low block (and I mean that in a very complimentary way) The Wolves again collectively struggled to find the bottom of the net (37% shooting) Rambis' rotations continue to puzzle (Hayward sits 3 games straight, then checks in just 5 minutes into this one?) And Anthony Randolph doesn't get off the bench at all. About the only thing noteworthy is that Kevin Love tied Moses Malone's record of 44 double-doubles.
Atlanta Hawks 97 @ Phoenix Suns 105
Phoenix keeps looking like the team that's going to get into the playoffs. Memphis is going to drop and the Suns have been playing good basketball. They took care of a Atlanta team that has been struggling having lost three straight and 6 of their last 10. It didn't help that they were without three key players due to a trade.
The Suns took advantage and held off a late run in the fourth by the Hawks. Atlanta was able tie the game at 92 with five minutes to go but 8 straight points by the Suns and a couple of turnovers by the Hawks did them in. Despite the comeback, Peach Tree Hoops didn't like their play,
I'll touch on the Hawks roster move in another post, but this team looks terribly flat and uninspired. Larry Drew's relatively inexpensive contract and lack of long term security has this team looking disconnected and stale. That they continue to try and win games the same way, by launching 20 footer after 20 footer, will not get consistent results against the type of schedule they are seeing now and will throughout the rest of the season. Consider my 50 win pre-season prediction now "shaky".
Channing Frye was the deciding factor again,
I said Frye would have a big game and he didn't disappoint. 20 points on 8-14 shooting including 4-8 from downtown. He was clutch as always scoring 6 huge points under 2 minutes left in the game. He came up big tonight and that's what we need. Really, we do need that. Frye is the key to this team's success(besides Nash). Remember how if J-Rich scored 20 or more points we'd usually win? Well, if Frye plays well and hits his threes we usually win. Simple as that.
I'll be keeping up WYWS as long as the Jazz are seriously contending for the playoffs. Hopefully, that's right through the rest of the season.