The Utah Jazz just completed their last prolonged Eastern road trip of the 2014-2015 season (unless they go to the NBA Finals). The majority of SLC Dunker readers (43%) felt like the Jazz would go 3-1. And that's precisely what the team did with wins @ Memphis Grizzlies 93 - 82 (Recap); a close loss @ Boston Celtics 85 - 84 (Recap); another win @ Philadelphia 76ers 89 - 83 (Recap); and again a win here tonight @ Brooklyn Nets 95 - 88 (Recap). There are so many stories to look at from this game. The road trip, itself. The emotional returns for Derrick Favors against his draft team. The on-going story of the Jazz defense. The on-going spectacle that is Rudy Gobert. Gordon Hayward 's maturity and ability as "The Man" . The interplay of Dante Exum and Trey Burke. The outright hustle of Elijah Millsap and Trevor Booker. You can almost go down the entire roster and find things to smile about with this team.
For me, though, I'm really impressed with how this team adjusted to the physical play and the way the refs were calling this game. Instead of whining, crying, or flopping they manned up and continued to play their inside / outside game. Brooklyn isn't a great team, but they are still miles ahead of some of the teams the Jazz have lost to this season. They cause match-up problems with their beef, and the three headed bigman group of Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, and Mason Plumlee present a challenge for every team in the league. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams can make their own shot almost any time they want.
Utah stood up to these guys, hardened vets who have played in countless playoff games -- and found a way to take control of the game, and hold them off on their home court.
The first quarter was gritty, but somehow the Jazz were in it. Well, it's not much of a surprise, G-Time and Dex were hitting big shots. I'm not crazy about a jump shooting emphasis; but our guys got some points in the paint in the second quarter and the team started to get going on offense. In the first half the defense was not great, as their pro-move scorers were getting in the lane and throwing up some shots just out of shot blocking range.
After one the team was down by three, and after two the lead was cut to one point. You know our guys had a chance then.
Brooklyn didn't want to go down easy though, and the third quarter became a little more sloppy for both teams. For us, it's a product of being young and making turn overs. But for the Nets I don't know what the excuse is? You know, beyond playing a defensively focused Jazz team... I guess that's a legit excuse now as the Jazz have kept teams under 100 points in 14 straight games. So I'll give our defense credit here.
Plumlee and Gobert started to go at it, and it is a foolish move to antagonize the freaken Kraken. The fourth quarter was not in question, as a result.
They had nothing left to give, and Hayward, Exum, Trey Burke, and Rodney Hood were all making shots today. Elijah Millsap was pure hustle and chaos, (chastle? haos?) and he turned the defense up on their ball handlers -- and kept the Jazz offense flowing during periods of stagnation.
While these guards get the glory, the battle was won in the paint. The way that Rudy and Favors "solved" Brooklyn's bigs was remarkable, and the reason why this game is a win, and not a loss.
Box Score highlights:
- Gordon Hayward: 24 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 2 threes, 9 FTA
- Derrick Favors: 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 8 FTA
- Rudy Gobert: 4 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks
- Dante Exum: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4/4 3PT, 1 assists, 1 block (on Deron Williams)
- Trey Burke: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists (0 Turn overs as usual), 2 threes
- Trevor Booker: 8 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal
- Elijah Millsap: 6 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, defense like he freakin ate with humans
- Rodney Hood: 3 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
- Joe Ingles: 2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
The Utah Jazz do not play again until Tuesday, where they start a five game home stand vs. New York Knicks, vs. Houston Rockets, vs. Detroit Pistons, vs. Charlotte Hornets, and vs. Washington Wizards. This was a great win, a great demonstration of what this team can do. And a fantastic road trip.