28 January 2012
(Photo Credit: Ravell Call, Deseret News)
The trend of losing to sub-mediocre teams at home only lasted one game as the Jazz barely dodged adding another mark to the loss column tonight. While they avoided the outcome of that heart-breaker against Toronto, they certainly seemed comfortable mimicking that shipwreck of a game for all of about 47 minutes. Yes, the Jazz won a game they were supposed to tonight (I'm not sure the crowd was rooting for that outcome at all times), nonetheless it left a great deal to wonder about, the least of which is the mental health of some of Utah's fanbase.
Snarkiness aside, the sometimes abysmal play of the Jazz was offset by some refreshing glimmers of competence from players who have looked a little less than professional of late. Gordon Hayward scored more than 20 points for only the third time in his young career (21 to be precise) and in combination with CJ Miles' 20 points two of our oft maligned wings accounted for almost 45% of our total offense. When 60th pick Isaiah Thomas from UW went on a fourth quarter tear, Alec Burks decided he wanted to make sure he wasn't completely outperformed by a second rounder. Josh Howard reminded us why he's such a valuable asset for the Jazz, at +5 on the night his hustle may well have been the spark that got the Jazz to buckle down in the fourth quarter for a few minutes and keep Sacramento from taking control of the game. Oh yeah, and Jimmer Fredette shot some threes.
The First Quarter: Where Gordon Hayward finds his "Wings" (yep.)
After an opening three ball by Raja Bell, Hayward followed suit with two more of his own. The Jazz seemed to be working to get Hayward going, and if they were indeed trying to help Gordon find his groove, it seems to have worked. I'm thinking it has more to do with Kolbi being in town, but with the inscrutable spelling of her name I may be giving her too much credit. There seemed to be a cost to getting Hayward going from outside, though, because for the majority of the quarter the Jazz weren't playing to their strengths. While Jason Thompson did his level best to imitate the Jazz's hustle game in the paint (to some good effect too), our own post presence Paul Millsap was offensively subdued and went on to shoot only 20%.
The Second Quarter: Where the Jazz Imitate Sacramento, and it Goes Poorly
Early in the second the Jazz started playing like the Jazz again, spurred on by the second unit as the second unit is often want to do. Keith Smart, sensing that it was a problem for his Kings to keep playing like the Kings called a time out just as Utah started to get rolling. But instead of the Kings coming out of the timeout playing more cohesive ball as is usually the case with timeouts, the Jazz came out of the King's timeout playing worse basketball. Starting with Favors' pulling up for an elbow jumper way too early in the shot clock and followed by a sequence of plays where Tyreke Evans, then CJ and then Tyreke again ran full court for layups, the Jazz fell right back into the disjointed tempo of Sacramento basketball. Millsap made up for his off shooting night by holding it down on the defensive end (reaching his tenth board with almost 4 minutes left in the first half) and was the only factor keeping Sacramento from running the Jazz our of their own gym. Thompson racked up twelve points for his team by the time the half ended and kept the Kings within striking distance going into the break.
The Third Quarter: Where the Wings Keep Utah Flying (mmhmm, yep.)
Ty Corbin must have said something to remind the Jazz who they are during half time because the Jazz came out for the third quarter motivated to battle hard and blow the game open. Harris opened the quarter with a strong defensive play that lead to a transition bucket. Two hustle plays and two technical fouls later the Jazz had opened up a six point lead. But two jumpers from John Salmons and Jason Thompson's last two points tied the game back up. Utah's aforementioned wings decided to take control. With strong defense at the helm, CJ scored on three consecutive plays: taking it to the hoop, knocking down a three and then running the break to reclaim a six point lead. Not to be entirely outdone, Gordon Hayward got a fast break bucket of his own. After Jimmer got his third triple of the game and Reke went coast to coast for two, Earl Watson nailed a buzzer beating three to take Utah into the fourth up 11.
The Fourth Quarter: Where Isaiah Thomas Goes "Steal of the Draft" all Over Everbody, and Alec Burks Looks Good.
After Earl's big triple, the Jazz looked positioned to avoid the hair pulling fourth quarter (and overtime (and double overtime)) they suffered against the Raptors. But knowing that Energy Solutions Arena is the building where deep second rounders and undrafted free agents tend to make careers for themselves, 60th pick Isaiah Thomas (no relation) went off the handle. In 18.6 minutes he put up 13 points with the help of 3 for 3 shooting from beyond the arc. So much for comfort zones. Alec Burks seemed to be the only Jazz man who was even remotely interested in containing the surge from Sacramento's bench, and though his play was sometimes amateurish, he did go for eight points while making two treys. As the game came down to the wire the Jazz held only a two point lead. Keith Smart drew up (presumably) a play that could give Sacramento the win and the delirous Cougar acolytes lost in thier chants of "We want Jimmer" the end they so lusted for. The ball in Fredette's hands, Earl Watson played tenacious defense and forced an airball three. After a truly upsetting injury to Chuck Hayes, Devin Harris jumped right into his own low bar by missing one of two free throws. The Kings failed to tie the game up and the Jazz (through no consistent effort of their own) walked down the tunnel victorious.
*Song that tells the story - Hiphop Music - Braille
*Final Score: Utah 96 - Sacramento 93
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