I wrote a week ago that not all wins are equal. The same goes for losses. There's getting blown out by the Wizards (let us all pray we don't have to suffer through that), and then there's an overtime loss to the Lakers thanks to Pau Gasol's corner three.
More after the jump
It was the kind of game in which everything was hard. That was a bad thing if you like the Jazz and would like them to score. Unless someone named "Paul" or "Josh" was putting on a move, the Jazz offense was as smooth as an old man's toenail. Those two went 20-38 (53%) and scored 47 combined points. The rest of the team contributed 40 points while shooting 15-42 (36%)
However, everything being hard was a good thing if you don't like the Lakers and would rather they not get easy shots. Everything was contested, every play had Jazzmen fighting for position, through screens, and for the ball. The Lakers took ten shots in the paint in the first quarter. Seven in the 2nd. Five in the 3rd. Four in the 4th. Two in OT. Their 7' monsters up front combined for 10-27 shooting. Even Kobe had to work like a garbage man for his points — unless you include getting to the line and hitting FT's. Those two things came easily for him.
But for everything else for either team, it was all hard. The game had the aesthetic of a bulldog.
And for Jazz fans, this is a good thing. The team is really committed to defense and playing their guts out. A wonderful feeling reminiscent of 2004. Hopefully, one day, when we have a super team again, they can continue to play this hard all the time. Because defensive effort is something you can count on. Shots fall or don't according to the mysteries of the universe, but you can always fight like Raja on Kobe.
Subtract one crazy three from freaking Pau Gasol, and the Jazz probably win.
Paul Millsap, Josh Howard, and Raja Bell.
It wasn't just the scoring. Sap also gave the team 9 rebounds, an assist, and three steals. Josh gave another 4 rebounds. Howard contributed 4 rebounds, two assists, and a steal. These two guys have become the most consistently good players on the team. Every game, they contribute everything you could hope for.
As for Bell, his line isn't staggering. But he played like the guy we hoped for last year. Offensively and defensively. He did everything any Jazz can could hope for from him.
Defense and effort. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't always brilliant, but it was consistent and it was admirable. We thought the change was forcing guys baseline. No, the real change is having five guys battling to make life miserable for the bad guys every chance they get. Some guys could get singled out here, but I think that misses the point. It's the team's defense that is doing it's thing. Everyone is a part, everyone is buying in, and everyone is contributing.
As for individual performances:
Favors had a moment. Earl and Josh thankfully know how to make free throws.
Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris.
Remember, D was already praised, so the other contributions are discussed here.
Al shot 5-17 and killed the Jazz with some real clankers. We're all waiting for him that big game against big-time competition. It didn't happen last night.
Hayward, sadly, seems more passive with his scoring every game. His shot isn't falling, he forced a couple transition shots that weren't there. He made some nice passes, but he's got the talent to do so much more ...
And Devin Harris. How bad is it when your starting PG plays 11 more minutes than our SF—a guy fighting confidence issues and getting zero scoring plays run for him—and that starting PG musters virtually the exact same line? 3 points (1-7 shooting), 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover, 1 foul.
Based on how he did last year when he came over, I wasn't all that high on Devin this year. But I didn't expect the garbage he's contributing game after game after game. Thus far he's been Keith McLeod. Not even a rich man's Keith McLeod. Just Keith McLeod.
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The good news is the Nets are coming next. The bad news is Deron will be playing with vengeance on his mind. The good news is the rest of the team is the Nets.