So last week I wrote about how the Jazz had exhibited a pattern this season of falling behind in the first half, especially the second quarter, only to turn it on in the third before eventually falling short (most of the time). Turns out, I'm not the only one that noticed.
In his latest post on his personal website, Gordon Hayward called out this fact specifically as part of the "learning curve" the Jazz are going through right now:
One of the bigger issues we've had is falling behind early in games, and putting ourselves in a hole. That said, I've noticed that when we get our backs against the wall, we want to fight. We come out and perform, and we make a run to come back. Unfortunately, when we do that, we often run out of gas and end up coming up short.
If we can learn to not let our back get up against the ropes before we start playing with that drive and that fighter's mentality, I believe we can be a lot better.
When we put it all together, we have spurts where we look really good. I think we're the number one scoring team in the NBA in the third quarter, which just goes to show we have that ability. When we come out of the locker room after halftime down big, everybody's active, everybody's engaged and everybody is trying to do everything they can to help us get back in. I love that urgency.
But we need to have that from the start of games.
Thing is, the Jazz have flipped the script in the last two contests, taking halftime leads on the road at Washington and New Orleans before succumbing in the second half. (The Wizards blew the game open in that usually-solid third quarter, while the Pelicans spanked the Jazz in the fourth last night.)
Personally, I don't think it's terrible that the Jazz are finding new ways to almost win. What it shows is how young this team still is, mentally if not physically. Like the classic cartoon gag, they plugged one hole in the dam -- poor first-half performance -- but another leak sprang almost immediately. The good thing is that I think this roster has enough fingers to eventually plug 'em all. Metaphorically speaking.
(And if not...well, we can watch water shoot out of Quin Snyder's ears or something.)
One of those metaphorical plugs, though: Rudy Gobert. Last night he was seen making some fairly pointed comments at Enes Kanter, even physically pushing him into defensive position at one point. DJJazzyJody has the dirt:
Snyder said he liked how Enes and Rudy yapped at each other. He wants communication, and he'd rather they yell at each other than not talk.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) December 17, 2014
Gobert said he was literally pushing Kanter in the back to get him into the proper defensive position, and it took a while to explain that.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) December 17, 2014
Gobert: "Sometimes you need to do something to get a reaction. I did it to help the team."— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) December 17, 2014
I LOVE this. Quin's right -- far better than the players talk to each other and get things worked out than suffer in silence. And each of these two big men has skills that the other lacks. (We'll get to Enes' offensive prowess and progress in a minute.) If it takes that kind of verbal and even physical force to get the team to improve, so be it. I think it's healthy.
It's also a sign that Rudy just hasn't played a whole lot with either Kanter or Derrick Favors. It's only in the last few games, as Favors has dealt with injury, that Rudy has been pressed into a starting role rather than pairing with Trevor Booker off the bench. Hardly surprising, then, that the Frenchman and the Turk have had to get accustomed to each other. (And by the way, it's still baffling that Gobert and Favors have played so few minutes together. The defensive potential is delicious.)
Anyway. This is all a good sign. You do you, Rudy.
FanPosts! Here's what we've got for you this week...
Aged fan makes an insightful comparison between Enes Kanter's development and that of Andrew Bogut:
I was reading an interesting ESPN article/interview on one of the frontrunners for this year's defensive player of the year, Andrew Bogut. Not having paid too much attention to the Utes when Bogut was there, a statement he made surprised me: "I came out of college being a horrible defender." He said he had to learn to think the game better before he became a defensive force. I thought there's no way that could be true.
But then I looked up the stats, and as a number #1 draft pick, he anchored the defense for a team that ranked 23rd, 29th, and 30th defensively during his first three seasons (under Larry Stotts and Larry Krystkowiak, interestingly -- two coaches who have bounced back nicely from less-than-stellar initial head coaching experiences).
JRN5150 scans the NBA landscape for some situations to keep an eye on:
Well, obviously this season won't turn out to be what some thought. I, for one, bought into what I saw in the preseason and raised my expectations to the 35 win range. That is still attainable, yet seems increasingly doubtful as we been disappointed for the last nine games in a row. To make things worse, I dont really see us finishing much worse than the 5-7 range for the lottery. In my opinion, Jazz should focus on acquiring assets for next year, not further into the future. Lets turn next season into one where we can compete for 40-45 wins and really make some progress. Trades will need to be made, and it will affect our shot at a top pick in this years draft.
And longtimejazzfan asks what you would do to "fix" the Jazz. One issue he points to that needs fixing:
Poor defense-we have all seen it, from blown assignments to poor defensive Jazz players to questionable coaching game plans with teams and players. The number one issue seems to be high pick and roll defense. Main culprits Enes and Trey with Burks also being caught spacing out while his man goes back door on him. Also starting a small front line with Favors and Enes by NBA standards is questionable at best.
Great food for thought, as usual. Thanks, everyone. I like you.
Back to Enes Kanter. He was a monster last night offensively, scoring in diverse ways and showing off his beautiful footwork in the paint and on the baseline. Here's the ever-popular Zach Lowe on Kanter's "one-dribble bursts":
Kanter is still struggling on defense, but he’s become a polished offensive player. Opponents know Kanter munches on pick-and-pop jumpers, and Kanter has countered with a bunch of nifty one-dribble moves that get him to the basket:
Big Turkey -- and by the by, that's his nickname, Boler; no more of this "Kanter Man" nonsense -- has always been more gifted on the offensive end, but he does have the size to be a decent physical post defender. Which is why I'm so happy that Rudy Gobert isn't afraid to show him some defensive ropes. I really think the two can be very good for each other.
To end on a serious note: This piece from the D-News' Doug Robinson on Hot Rod Hundley's battle with Alzheimer's is required reading for any Jazz fan:
It is cruel irony that Hot Rod Hundley can no longer complete a sentence. As a TV and radio play-by-play announcer for the Utah Jazz, he described more than 3,000 games, stringing together thousands and thousands of sentences in his rapid-fire staccato delivery. Now he struggles to make one of them.
Hot Rod has Alzheimer's.
"You wouldn't be able to get a complete sentence out of him if you tried to talk to him now," his girlfriend, Kimberly Reardon, says.
And in case you forgot how amazing Hot Rod sounded -- not that you could forget -- here's one of his (and the franchise's) most iconic moments:
Love you, Hot Rod.