17 January 2012
"You know David, at the beginning of the year we were just hoping the Jazz would win a game" - Ron Boone.
"The Grasshopper, whatever you call it... He just throw it, I go get it" -Jeremy Evans
They'll say that the Jazz won against a team without CP3 or Mo Williams. They'll say that the Jazz beat a team on the tail end of a back to back to back at home. They'll say that Blake was tired and Chauncey couldn't step up. They'll be 100% right, but in stating the obvious, the NBA punditry will do something dangerous on behalf of many teams in the league: They'll miss the fact that Paul Millsap is an All-Star whether he makes the West's roster or not; That a superstar-less Jazz team has gelled with the kind of chemistry that will propel it from the post Deron era with the momentum that any rebuilding team could only dream of. They won't talk about how not a single player on tonight's Jazz roster had a negative +/- or how the deepest bench possible for the Jazz looked like the '92 Dream Team. They'll say or omit all of this at their own peril because the Utah Jazz are coming. Maybe not this season, or even next, but believe you me, they are coming and they're going to blow a lot of people's minds some day.
...before they blow minds, however, they are going to start consistently winning the games they should and lest my hyperbole mislead you, that is exactly what happened tonight.
The First Quarter: Where CJ Miles Pokes his Head Out and Declares Winter is Over
CJ Miles is a demonstrably better player when he drives to the basket instead of trying to make a statement jumper at the beginning of his rotation (let me learn how to use statistics to prove my point and until then, just take my word for it). So, when Paul Millsap started sharing the torch off offensively toward the end of the first quarter after a precedent setting eight points in four minutes and CJ's opening play was indeed a drive and not a jumper, it followed that #34would post the same number of points as #24 in close to the same amount of time. While fans might have been worried about Josh Howard's absence, CJ allayed those fears with a stellar performance on both ends of the floor. While it it helped that Raja played strong and stayed in almost all 12 minutes, the unit on the floor in the last 4 minutes of the first (of which CJ was the shining star) were +7 to the starter's +5 demonstrating just how deep Utah is and how potent they can be in a pinch without either Derrick Favors or Josh Howard available to contribute. My favorite moment, even if there wasn't a hug this go around, was a pass from Al to Paul in the post. Our bigs are sharing the ball and buying in to what Tyrone Corbin is selling and that's a really, really good thing.
The Second Quarter: Where Foul Trouble is the Price the Jazz Pay for Solid Defense.
Even though CJ Miles was killing it on the hardwood at Energy Solutions Arena Ty Corbin found time for Alec Burks (Eric Burks, Eric Books, Alex Borks, whatever) who while going +10 on the night was -2 in his first stint, to take the floor. On the whole, this quarter was the weakest the Jazz played this evening. There are alot of reasons for this, but from where I'm standing the most significant is that the Jazz pushed hard for fast break points born from solid defense and the price they paid for that defense was foul trouble. Our boys were in the penalty early in the second and it was likely a contributing factor to why the they couldn't blow the Clips out before halftime. Our defense made DeAndre Jordan look like an obstinate middle schooler and Al Jefferson's infamous ball fake continued to find biters. At the end of the half Big Al had 4 assists, the Jazz had 28 points in the paint, 25 boards and 18 bench points. The Clippers didn't have an edge in a single one of those categories.
The Third Quarter: Where the Jazz Lull LA into a Sense of Complacency... then Destroy Them
The Jazz started slow. The Clippers looked so tired it made me almost pity them and somehow for the first 8 minutes and 12 seconds the Clippers stayed close enough to the Jazz to keep me worried. After a disorienting air-ball from Raja Bell (Who at +17 on the night shouldn't have done that, tsk tsk) Ty called a time out to put that nonsense to a stop. The Jazz went somewhere in the range of +23 from that point on, as well they should have in a stretch that featured a Big Al to Millsap to Big All to the rack sequence that demonstrates quite clearly how Al has worked on the very nature of his game to the Jazz's advantage. While a clearly exhausted Blake Griffin demonstrated that even when he's running on fumes, he can still explode CJ knocked down a three and beasted for boards, Devin Harris nailed a clutch trey and Al and Paul showed that when they stay in the post a little longer before transition can occur, beautiful things can happen.
The Fourth Quarter: Where I can't Say Anything that will do a Butt Whoopin' Adequate Justice
The youth movement started the fourth quarter, dropped bombs all over the Clippers and then finished the fourth quarter. Ty Corbin, showing a lack of restraint in a way that Jazz fans like myself adore, let the young'uns run wild and embarrass the Clippers' bench all the way to second in the Western Conference (yes... go look... for one shining moment, that's true). It, at this point was a haze for me, so instead of trying to coherently explain how things unfolded I will share three thoughts I had in the fourth. First: "Burks to Evans who seems to have taken off from Bountiful? -- crystal ball yes plz" Second: "We got two Earl-y-oops! Booyeah" Third: "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Go Jazz! I forgive CJ Miles all the time and I love it!" Ahem. Yes. Yes indeed.
*Song that tells the story: Marathon - Dilated Peoples
Also, is anyone surprised?
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