Okay, I didn't see this game because it wasn't on legal TV. Well, I could have seen the game through other means, but ain't nobody got time for that. Especially not me, because it's forced family fun time this week (I am out of station), and we had to celebrate Dhanteras and participate in a Lakshmi puja. But Goddesses of Wealth and poor internet excuses aside, the real reason I didn't watch this game was because it was inconvenient to watch it.
I learned it from you, internet! I learned it from watching you!
What did I miss by passing on this game? I missed the Utah Jazz defeating yet another injured playoff team in the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder played their last preseason game tonight and kinda tried for it from the play-by-play and box score. No one is going to take points away from them for losing despite having so many injuries. By the same metric, I guess, few people are going to give the Jazz points for beating them. (If the change in perception has to = 0, then we can't gain any if they don't lose any.)
However, I think some people are looking at the Jazz a little more closely or favorably right now. The big difference does come on defense. The Jazz gave up 45.5% from downtown to the Thunder, but kept them to 42.0% from the field, forced them into 14 turn overs, and only gave up 7 offensive rebounds. The Jazz didn't "wow" anyone with the advanced metrics, but still managed to keep OKC at 91 points, and only send them to the line 26 times. Sure, adding a healthy Kevin Durant and that expands to 40 FTA for OKC, but this is a start. The Jazz are doing okay on defense, and the offense has a pretty high standard deviation from moment to moment, but over all Utah is playing better than they did last season. And people are noticing.
Trey Burke and Trevor Booker returned to action, and Quin Snyder played his main guys normal-ish minutes. All five starters approached 30 minutes each, while the bench guys flt into roles. The Jazz were up by one after the first quarter, but it was the second and third that broke the Thunder's back. Utah went +7 and +8 in those two quarters and the Jazz nursed a 16 point lead into the final frame.
Winning, against a disinterested club with a bunch of injuries, is still winning. And I think our young club will take it. In the preview I felt like it would be necessary to quiet Russell Westbrook. While he finished with 14 points, 11 assists (2 turn overs), 5 rebounds, and 2 assists the key issue here is that he shot 6/16 and went to the free throw line only twice. Outside of the three point shooting, no one else on the Thunder came to his assistance, Perry Jones III had 20 points off the bench, but really, is Perry Jones III is the second best guy on your team your team is going to lose.
The Jazz starters all contributed.
- Trey Burke finished with 23 points (16 shots), made 3 threes, had 5 assists (0 turn overs), 3 rebounds, and a steal
- Alec Burks did Alec Burks things, like having 15 points (2-9 shooting though), getting to the line 13 times and making 11 of them, going 0-4 from deep, getting 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and at least 1,000 new Alec Burks fans
- Gordon Hayward had his customary triple couple, with 14 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and went 5/5 from the free throw line
- Enes Kanter bullied his way to 27 points (12-17 from the floor, 2-2 from deep!), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block
- Derrick Favors had, ho-hum, another double double with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while adding 2 assists and 2 blocks
I think we're going to see this kind of thing most nights from this crew. Not particularly the efficiency or the feast or famine three point shooting; but the fact that everyone is doing a bit of everything to help the team. They may have specific roles, but aren't one dimensional.
The bench did not have their best game (scoring a total of 14 points), but they chipped in. Ian Clark made a three. Rodney Hood found a way to stay on the floor even if his shot wasn't falling. Dante Exum made this happen for his mates, even if his box score doesn't indicate much activity. Trevor Booker hustled hard. And Rudy Gobert finished with 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and went 50% from the foul line, while going 100% from the field.
It was not a perfect game, but collectively as a unit it worked out for the best. And I think that will be the undercurrent for this squad going forward this year. It's a collection of talent, but it's a unified team. No agendas. No "I gotta start because I'm a contract year vet" garbage. Everyone wants to play hard, help one another, and be a team.
Utah shot only 7-27 from outside, bricking 20 shots from there. That's not going to change the overall game plan. Against the Phoenix Suns they'll be shooting them again because they are good shots, open shots, and shots within the designated offensive game plan. And while I harp and harp about the defense so much, man, this offense is going to be scary when everything is clicking at once!
The Jazz conclude the preseason with a game against the Phoenix Suns later on this week.