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Two Game Reviews are Better than One - Golden State and the Lakers

Note: I was ready to post the GS game review Friday, but my internet mysteriously went to stone-age speed. Then yesterday came, I was writing it up and I (stupidly) checked Twitter where all you-know-what broke loose. I ended up putting together my angriest post of all time. You may read it later today. Or not. I haven't decided whether to post it or not. But the object of my wrath is not who you probably expect.

Anyway, the after the Lakers Game I suspect nobody cares about the Golden State loss anymore. But I'm going to write about it here anyway, because I was proud of some of the things I came up with. It was really a fantastic game to rewatch to see if initial impressions were right or not (often they were wrong), So anyway, I was in charge of both the Lakers Game and the GS game, so you're going to get both here.

Another Note: I can't connect to YouTube, so I can't get the videos up yet. I will ASAP.

Golden State, or Sometimes the Other Team Wins

It was a game I was terrified we'd end up losing. And all my initial impressions told me the same story: the Jazz looked tired—especially our bigs. I saw it. Locke pointed it out. The stats seemed to confirm it.

But some didn't buy it. Some blamed the guard-line (Tinsley and Hayward). After all, they allowed Curry and Monta to go bonkers on us. It was an accusation that I didn't like, because Tinsley and Hayward were two guys who seemed to show up. So I went back and watched the game again. Some plays 5-6 times to see everything that was going on—and what I saw really surprised me:

More (including the Lakers review, if you're only interested in that) after the jump

The stats

Synergy Sports breaks things down by play, and identifies each play by type. It's not perfect, sometimes I'd classify a play differently, but it still helps tell the story. And here's what Synergy told about the Golden State game: Jazz scored more than 1 point per possession (ppp) on only two types of plays: cuts and iso's. The Jazz post O was abysmal: 25% shooting, and only 0.67 ppp.

For Golden State, they murdered us on three types of plays: Pick and Roll (1.42 ppp), Spot ups (1.17 ppp) and offensive rebounds (1.38 ppp). So, armed with these stats, I went and saw what happened

First quarter

Both teams played fairly evenly this quarter (actually, they played evenly until the 2:00 mark of the third quarter). But you could see some quick trends beginning. Hayward, of course, got going early and he was doing it off back-door cuts. At the same time, Al and Millsap could get nothing going. Al went 0-5 in the post (his one bucket was off a cut). Millsap was 0-1 in the post, with two turnovers. And here's the key: the Jazz weren't tired at this point. GS just had seriously great post defense. This great continued through the entire game: Favors and Kanter could get nothing going. Even when the Jazz posted other guys (Howard, Hayward) they could get nothing. GS just beat them here.

At the same time, GS struggled every time down the court except in two cases: 1) they did a P&R or 2) they got an offensive rebound. Offensive rebounds were the same throughout the game: our bigs would not box out (not even our beloved UnderKanter) and they would bobble the ball. It happened in the first quarter, in the second, and throughout the game. It was simply a universally poor display of rebounding fundamentals.

The P&R's were interesting. Here's two plays that tell the story of the entire game:

Here Hayward's on Monta. Notice he's positioned ever-so-slightly to Monta's off-center—the force him baseline positioning. As the screen comes Monta pulls the slightest shoulder fake to his right, Hayward bites, and then Monta drives opposite of the coming screen. He's so quick help can't get there in time, and he gets an easy bucket.

This happens throughout the game: Monta and Curry suddenly cut the opposite direction of the screen barely after the defender begins to go toward it. The Jazz were helpless to stop it this game. It resulted in either an easy layup or a collapsing defense, leaving a spot up shooter wide open. This is how the Warriors could score this game.

Another example, again with Monta and Hayward:

Hayward fights through the screen, but Monta changes direction after Hayward commits. Hayward has to fight through the screen again, this time the other way, Favors doesn't come out to challenge the shot effectively, and Monta gets the easy two.

Really, GS screens the hell out of Hayward this game.

Second quarter

Here Golden State stops P&R-ing, and instead get success on their spot-ups. They begin with P&R's a lot of times, but they really focus on their spot-up shots. And they work. These and their offensive rebounds keep them in the game. On the Jazz side, it's the same things—cuts work, post-ups don't.

Third quarter

And now we see some amazing developments. First, the Jazz stop trying to score on post-ups. They don't even try. They still go into the post, of course, but the scoring effort is made by ... get this ... making cuts through the lane behind the post guy. They saw what was and wasn't working and adjusted accordingly. And they scored 31 points in the quarter. It was a great half-time adjustment.

Unfortunately, the Warriors also made some good half-time adjustments. They had success off P&R's in the first quarter, but only ran 5 of them (1 spot up). They had success off spot-ups in the 2nd quarter, but only ran 6 of them (with 1 P&R). Well let's see what the Warriors ran in the third: 9 P&R's and 7 spot ups. And that is how the banana gets peeled.

Several P&R's used the same initial success: break opposite of the screen right when the defender commits to fighting through it. But GS found a new Jazz weakness: if they took the screen both Jazz defenders would follow the ball-handler and the pick-man is left wide open.

Watch Wright and David Lee:

GS also discovered they could clobber Hayward to get his man open (they did something similar in the first quarter too):

When the game breaks open and the fourth quarter

Even with GS success on the P&R (and offensive rebounding when they miss), it was tied at 75 with 2:20 left in the game. That's because the Jazz also did well with their adjustment to scoring off cuts. But by the end of the quarter, the Jazz were down 11: 88-77. How? Pretty simple actually. GS made five straight shots, including a 3 and two and-1's. Utah made no shots and 2-4 on free throws. Because it was a fast-paced game it all came quickly, but it was really nothing more than that. GS made their shots, and the Jazz didn't. Game over.

The Jazz still fought, of course. But GS still made their shots. The Jazz still couldn't do anything against the their P&R's, and the Jazz went into hurry-up mode to make things happen. And we know the Jazz simply don't do great in hurry-up mode. They end up with classic dumb-CJ shots (whether CJ is the one who takes them or not).

And, of course, Monta and Curry do well in hurry-up mode.

The Jazz didn't lose because they were tired. They didn't lose because the bigs were terrible (GS seriously had great post D), and they didn't lose because the guards were lazy on D (Hayward and Tinsley fought through a gajillion screens those last two quarters). They lost because GS found a Jazz weakness (they were not defending P&R's effectively) and exploited it. And the mistakes on the P&R defense were made by all: guards, and big guys.

Give GS credit. They made the right adjustments and made their shots. Give the Jazz credit too. They made some good adjustments (abandoning the post scoring). But in one 2-minute stretch, GS made their shots and the Jazz didn't. And that was that. Sometimes the other team wins.

One last video—my favorite play of all: Down by 17, game basically over, Tinsley fights Udoh for a jumpball. Tinsley has no shot. Udoh's about a foot taller. Of course Udoh tips it. Tinsley didn't even try. But Gordon Hayward jumps in and steals the tip. That was a classic AK-style move there.

The Lakers Game, or Sometimes Our Team Wins

After all the drama of the day, I was so afraid that the Jazz would lose. It would be the worst possible thing. It would be like how depressing and awful things got after the Jazz kept losing after Sloan resigned. That empty, nasty, gross feeling knotting in your stomach—knowing the Jazz are about to embark on their first actual road trip (2-5 on the road so far) after losing three straight—all while Greg Miller and Karl Malone were ranting and raving at each other—all while certain "journalists" giggle with delight.

I wanted a win last night more than any game in this 1/3 completed season thus far. I know the Lakers aren't great anymore. I know beating them at home isn't anything like, say, beating OKC or the Bulls. But still ... games against them are simply agonizing. We'll always feel like Calvin about to get slugged by Moe (never trust a six-year-old who shaves).

Note: I can't do a quarter-by-quarter breakdown because I didn't see the first half. And I don't have time to watch it on Synergy, because I have two hours before church starts, which means my wife is now freaking out that we'll be late. So I'll just be writing stuff.

The kids came to play. And 75% got to.

Hayward had his 6th straight good game. He's been the only consistently good player over that time. His box score didn't set the world on fire (7 points, 2-3 shooting, 3-4 FT's), but he was also charged with defending one Kobe Bean Bryant for a good share of the game. And Kobe not only shot poorly (6-16), but also couldn't get shots off period. The dude's chucking up 24 shots per game, but he couldn't get them off. And not all the credit goes to Hayward—Raja put in some good work too—but let's all agree: Hayward is one of our better defenders. He's tenacious, doesn't give up, and gives his whole effort the entire game. Sometimes the effort includes a lot of mistakes (like it did against Monta), but the effort's there. And he's getting better all the time.

And Hayward had only 2 fouls (one of which was when he challenged Kobe's shot and didn't come within 6 inches of touching Kobe ... but you know how that goes).

And Kanter and Favors, OH MY. They ate the Lakers alive. And it wasn't just against the scrubs. Gasol and Bynum played 36 & 37 minutes. Bynum in particular played a lot against Kanter and Favors. And they scored at will, and made Bynum's life miserable on the other end.

I remember in the 4th: the starters came back in and Al put up a horrible weezy. The game thread went ballistic. And Al didn't have a bad game. He had a good one. It's just that Favors and Kanter were THAT impressive last night.

Poor Alec Burks didn't get to play, though. It'll come, kid. Your time will come.

His name is Earl

I'm not going to get into a big furor over the Bulldog nickname. I like it. It's not about the dog, it's about how the dog was always portrayed on Tom and Jerry. It's that kind of Bulldog. But that's just me. A lot of people dislike it.

But who cares. He got his miracle laser treatment, came back about a week before I thought he could, and he played out of his mind. In the fourth quarter he either scored or assisted every made shot but two. He dominated the game in a way we're used to having PG's dominate games. And on a night that Devin was the worst I have ever seen (hopefully it had a lot to do with his hamstring), we needed our Earl more than ever.

Al and Sap were doing their thing

Both got double-doubles. Sap was back to shooting well and shooting the kind of shots he's good at. He also gave out 4 assists. It was wonderful to see our PF Terminator return.

The Laker Fans in Utah Got to Go Home and Cry

This alone made me very, very happy.

I'm also curious to see what happens to Mike Brown ... because he sure looked like he bumped the ref to me. Sloan got suspended for seven games for that in 2003. Of course, any suspension of Mike Brown may help the Lakers, so I'm not really hoping for anything in particular. Just curious.