Last night the Utah Jazz defeated the Phoenix Suns (I guess our 'rivals' this year) by the score of 109-86. It was a blowout and the 23 point margin was the largest of this season! Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Richard Jefferson and crew had their way with Phoenix and you can, and should, read about it here and here! Favors appeared dominant at times but shouldn't he when going up against Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye, and Alex Len? Hayward finished with his now traditional line of 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. For the season Gordon is averaging 15.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 5.0 apg. (Aka. The Triple couple, as opposed to the Triple Double, which he just barely missed.)
G-Time has been close and missed out a number of times before.
- March 23, 2012: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists (also 2 steals, and 3 blocks)
- November 1, 2013: 18 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists
- December 23, 2013: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists (1 steal, 4 blocks)
- January 7, 2014: 37 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists (2 steals, 1 block)
- February 8, 2014: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists (3 steals)
- February 11, 2014: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists (2 steals)
- February 12, 2014: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists (2 steals, 3 blocks)
- February 21, 2014: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists (3 steals)
- February 26, 2014: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists
Anyway, it was a good game for Hayward even if he didn't hit triple digits in those three main categories. He'll get there.
"He's not the wing player we want, but the one we deserve."
- Amar, who hasn't seen the last few Super Hero movies, so doesn't have any Captain America movie quotes.
And it was a great win for the Jazz if all you care about is the team season to season, and if you don't look at the big picture. The Jazz have now won 2 games in a row and Phoenix has lost 3 in a row. And more than that, this was the 21st win of the season! For me any more wins are wins we get playing with house money.
This 23 point loss to the Jazz aside, the Phoenix Suns are 33-23 for a reason: defense. Sure, they play at the 6th fastest pace in the NBA, and as a result they score 105.0 ppg (5th best). Part of that is their Offensive rating of 108.9 points / 100.0 possessions (8th best), but more of that is their pace. The thing that doesn't sink their style is their defense. They have the 14th best Defensive Rating in the NBA. You can play fast and win if you also defend. This is a harmony of styles and strategy that works. (The opposite would be trying to pair up opposing styles like starting and playing a small ball lineup, but trying to grind out wins with a slow, halfcourt pace. But no team in 'win now mode' would ever be dumb enough to do that, right?)
A huge part of that defense is their Assistant coach Mike Longabardi. Our sister site Bright Side Of The Sun did an interview with him back on August 9th that you should all read HERE. Check out an excerpt here:
Mike has spent several years learning from Doc Rivers and has great experience assisting renowned defensive coaches like Tom Thibodeau and Lawrence Frank. With the Suns, his primary responsibility will be to control the defensive end of the court. On a team that was among the bottom ten in the NBA in terms of defensive efficiency last year, that will be no easy task. Mike knows this, and much like Jeff Hornacek and GM Ryan McDonough have stated recently, he also knows that much of this season's "success" will be measured not necessarily in wins and losses, but in terms of effort and progress. With you youth and inexperience on the team, he spoke of the importance of teaching defensive effort and fundamentals:
"Teaching defensive values will be a day-to-day effort. There's no magic wand to immediately get there. That goes for offense too because both sides of the court are connected. If you don't take a good shot on offense, it's going to hurt you on defense. Likewise, if you don't play good defense, you're going to get a worse shot on offense. We're going to have to get consistent effort. We know that there are going to be some nights that we might lose because we're overmatched with talent. But the important thing is to give effort and see progress."
Building on the relationship between offense and defense, we then discussed the Suns' stated desire to push the pace and score at a high rate this season. I joked with Mike that to many Suns fans, the words "high-scoring" bring flashbacks of the "7 seconds or less" teams, who were often (fairly or unfairly) chastised for their perceived lack of defense. I asked Mike how he's going to instill a defensive philosophy in a team that wants to run:
"Well, you can't play fast all the time. You want to play fast to score easy points but you can't play reckless. You have to play to your strengths. Talent determines how a team should play. Taking bad shots makes it harder on defense (and vice versa). It's important to remember that in order to score, you have to get the ball, which you do by playing defense. When it comes down to it, it's tough to win playing at a high pace all the time. The game becomes a chess match in the playoffs, where execution is vital. The team that gets the most easy shots is the one that wins. So your job on defense is to make it hard for the other team to score."
-By Sreekar on Aug 9 2013, 4:42p
Yes, can you imagine that? Playing to your strengths? Amazing. Perhaps that can also be applied to not just the team or a 5 man roster, but specific plays in the game on defense and on offense? Or that's just my theoretical Xs and Os game.
Anyway, Longabardi should be a name on your lips already because of this Downbeat written back in November where Peter talks about him:
My Dark Horse Jazz Coaching Hire: Mike Longabardi. At this point guessing what Dennis Lindsey is looking for in an NBA coach is a foolhardy endeavor. I've often been accused of being a fool, so I am going to go ahead and try. I think the main thing we know about Dennis Lindsey's plan right now is that he wants to build a defensive focused team like Chicago.
Enter Mike Longabardi.
Who is Mike Longabardi you ask? Well he has been in the news lately as an assistant on Jeff Hornacek's Suns staff. In fact Longabardi has been given full credit for that team's defensive turnaround.
- By @Peter_J_Novak on Nov 14 2013, 8:00a
Read Peter's Downbeat again. And great job digging up the Bright Side Of The Sun article, @HipMrBully.
I guess if you want to emphasize "Defense" as one of your "Three Ds" of the season it kinda helps to have that be a bigger part of your over-all gameplan. The Suns have the 14th best Defense in the league. Their best defensive player, Emeka Okafor, has played zero minutes all season long. How are they doing it? They're doing it with Xs and Os.
Did you see this tweet from The Shums?
Alec Burks is like in a video game when you start a layup animation even though there's a defender in the way and you just phase through him— Layton Shumway (@theshums) February 27, 2014
This is not just implicitly a true statement based upon observational research, but a fun concept to think about. What video game power(s) do our players have? I'd say that in terms of being viewed by coaches our very own Rudy Gobert has the power to go invisible at times.
Also, this is an excuse to show this video of the best basketball video game ever for the 8-BIT NES system.
This game had "super moves", but less overt than the Lakers vs. Celtics series. It also tracked all of the stats if you played a season. So I guess that's where it really all started to get crazy for me with respect to basketball stats and video games.
*Shivers* Woo, can someone close the door? It's feeling a little drafty in here, NBA Draft -y that is! March Madness is about to start and most of us really start to take notice of the non-stars during this period. We all have read a lot about Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, and company. If you've been paying attention to my draft process the first thing I really look for is a crazy name. These guys, the crazy name guys, have a certain sense of character about them having to grow up with a crazy name. A guy like Gary Harris never had to go to school as a kid and worry that teachers couldn't say his name, and other kids would make fun of him for it. A guy like Fuquan Edwin . . . this young man never had a chance back in middle school.
It's those guys that I care about most.
Which players are you looking forward to watched the most this March, and what silly thing draws you to a specific player? Play-style? Hair-style? Region they grew up in, or play for? Do you have a thing for gingers?
The triple threat
I guess I just HAVE TO read and learn about the big names every year that it becomes boring for me. It's the fringe players that make me smile.
You may or may not have seen this already by now, but Indiana Pacers guard / swaggaholic Lance Stephenson posed with $1 million dollars yesterday.
Lance Stephenson posing with $1 million dollars cash.... pic.twitter.com/VWrtKSrFgZ— BallUp NBA (@BallUpNBA) February 26, 2014
I think that's awesome, and love how the Pacers PR people let Lance be Lance. Imagine how cool, fun, and interesting our team would seem if the Jazz PR let Enes Kanter be Enes? What thing would the Jazz PR least like to see Enes Kanter pose with one million of?