Last night the Utah Jazz hosted the Los Angeles Clippers. While it was ultimately a defeat, there were plenty of things to be happy about. Let's go over some!
- The Jazz first offensive possession (Q1: 11:30) -- Richard Jefferson gets a defensive rebound (our Achilles heel has been wing rebounding last two seasons), and the Utah Jazz get right into their offense. There isn't anyone standing around watching. Two players (Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward) handle the ball from facilitator aspects, and these players get right to setting off-ball screens. There are three pass options the ball handler (Hayward) has to pick from. RJ gets open, gets the ball right on time, but just misses the shot.
- Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter were not just going to show up to play Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan -- they were showing them up in the first quarter. While neither of them were doing their Dirk Nowitzki impersonation by draining jumpers they all were scoring with ease in the paint. More-over, the Jazz enjoyed seeing a variety of methods to score. Kanter scored in transition, by outrunning his opponents (thanks Karl Malone!), and once on a great up-fake and drive where he posterized Jordan. Favors got things going with a face up jumper on Blake Griffin, offensive rebound dunks, and post up hook shots. It wasn't the same thing each time for each player. And while most of the damage was rightfully done in the paint, these two scored in a variety of ways. And that makes you hard to guard.
- Utah owned the defensive glass (for the most part) in the first quarter -- which is what started everything for us on offense. Defensive rebounds lead to a chance to counter-attack on offense. And the early 18-9 lead was a product of defensive rebounding. Who knew we could get rebounds with Favors and Kanter on the floor together?
- It was awesome to see Mehmet Okur at the game. #JazzManForLife
- Gordon Hayward didn't rush things tonight, he observed how the Clippers were set up on defense, made a plan, acted, they reacted, and he adjusted. He was like a quarterback out there and got his teammates good looks -- even if all of them didn't go in.
- Chris Paul and Darren Collison are both small, quick, and pesky -- and Trey Burke more than held his own against them all game long. In the first he was making jumpers. And . . . if you watched the game you know that he never stopped. Seriously, 18 points on 10 shots. That's ridiculous.
- It's under-reported at how well Diante Garrett and Jeremy Evans are getting at defending the pick & rolls together. Many times Evans just switches and ends up causing the ball handler to pick up his dribble. This is really cool because if he can occasionally slow down PGs enough he may actually be able to defend perimeter guys more . . . within the greater idea of giving the opposition a lot of looks, if Evans can continue to work on his quickness and dribble defense discipline, he could see spot minutes on defense against small forwards I think.
- Alec Burks had a really difficult shooting night, especially in the second half, but it appears that other teams respect him enough to make him a focus of their game plans. How Alec re-adjusts his plan of attack will tell us a lot about his future in this league as a potential primary scorer. He did still go to the basket hard, but you just don't get the calls against the Clippers.
- Their bench has more star power than our starters -- but Utah never gave up.
- Improvement sometimes is slow, but it's still measurable. The Jazz only left three total points at the free throw line tonight. Of course, the team was only rewarded 13 total free throw attempts -- but going 10/13 is way better than going something like 7/13 for sure. Improvement!
- I loved watching Richard Jefferson talk to our players during game breaks and during free throws. He's imparting legit life experience here. He also shot 50 fg% and helped the team keep their lead during parts of the game during the first three quarters.
- DID YOU SEE ALL THE BLOCKED SHOTS? Rudy Gobert got at it. Jeremy Evans got at it. And Gordon Hayward just crushed it! Okay, so it was only three blocked shots, but each time the Jazz made the defensive sequence pay off. These weren't blocks where the other team just collects the ball and score. These were blocks that the other team had to think about next time they went up.
- The Clippers were fighting all game long to come back into it -- previously we would expect the Jazz to fold after a quarter. But this team held onto the lead until a 17-2 run by the Clippers very late in the third quarter. You never want to be down on your home floor going into the fourth, but when you look at all the on paper disparities, it would have been hard to expect the Jazz to be up after turning the ball over so much in the second and third quarter.
- Blake and DeAndre finished with 29 and 15. Derrick and Enes? They managed 29 and 24 -- despite a) being in foul trouble, and b) not getting any star/benefit of the doubt calls. You love to see that. It's such a blue collar / Karl Malone (if we historically forget all his star calls) thing. Jazz fans live for that type of dirty work in the paint. (aka. not a 180 turn around, one handed fade away, push shot, from 6-9 feet out -- named after the wife in the show The Jeffersons)
- This team showed a lot of heart and passion tonight. Guys were diving for lose balls, and trying to extend every possession. On defense if a guy got beat he would work hard to recover and disrupt the shot attempt. And they did it against one of the best teams in the West, currently on one of the hottest streaks in the league. Win or lose, that's what fans want to see.
I hope you enjoyed this, I enjoyed dropping everything to watch the game all over this afternoon and seeing our team play hard and not make it easy for Flopcity. If you are interested in more #LACatUTA coverage you can read the Preview (Diana), Game Thread (Diana), Recap (Yucca), or watch these highlights of Favors dunking over Big Baby, Kanter dunking over Jordan, or the full game highlights (all three by Spencer).
The Jazz next play on a three game road trip @ San Antonio Spurs, @ Houston Rockets, and @ Memphis Grizzlies. There will be plenty of awesome and/or amazing things to see in those games too! I love the Utah Jazz and the play on the court to end this season may not lead to a championship this year, but there's lots to be happy about as we look forward to next year!