The Jekyll and Hyde show continues for the Utah Jazz. This time, both faces managed to show in this game, as it was truly a tale of two halves in Houston, with the Jazz ultimately succumbing to the hideous Hyde side late in the fourth. Also, it’s quite clear that Utah is consistent at one thing: Inconsistency.
Things were looking up for the Jazz early on. Houston had benched starting center Sam Dalembert for showing up late to a meeting earlier today, and Utah responded. Offense was clicking and points from the frontcourt of Jefferson and Millsap were coming easily and often. In fact, the duo shot 12-21 for 24 points and looked poised to be Utah’s ticket to a big road win.
The problem? Houston was answering back. Neither team really took much of an advantage, though. A 46-45 halftime score was fairly inidicative of how the first half went. Stride for stride, neither team truly doing enough on both ends collectively to pull away. The good news for the Jazz? Road wins have been scarce this year (only three in 12 attempts) and they had a great flow going. Shooting 49% and forcing 7 steals and 6 blocks showed, to me at least, that they were up for the challenge. The bad news? Kyle Lowry was doing Kyle Lowry things. Unstoppable in the first two quarters, Lowry gave Utah a taste of what ultimately would be their demise: Inability to stop opposing point guards.
We’ve seen it all year, and it’s come from unlikely suspects. Jrue Holiday, Roddy Beaubois, Darren Collison, Jarrett Jack, Jeremy Lin (although that one now feels a lot less painful)…not to mention guys like Russ Westbrook, Chris Paul and the likes of the elite. This is becoming more and more problematic, as the Jazz don’t have the luxury of a “go-to” guy who will put the team on his back to mask such shortcomings. You could argue that Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are of that mold, but unfortunately in this league (to steal from Matt Harpring’s staple phrases), that isn’t going to cut it.
Lowry went off for 18 points in the first half alone, hitting all four shots he took from beyond the arc. And, yes, the first half foul discrepancy did invoke a bit of a chin scratch from me – Houston shooting 10 free throws to Utah’s whopping ZERO – but ultimately that would even itself out (24-20 in favor of the Rockets). Yes, Luis Scola’s affinity to lie on the ground when lightly brushed or breathed upon also caused me a few fits of rage. But, again, that didn’t decide this one.
Late in the third, Utah had kept the game relatively close, but trailed 67-63 and you could just feel Houston itching to go off. In fact, I tweeted at the time "Jazz letting this one slip away...", even before the lead would open up. The line up of Favors, Kanter, Miles, Bell and Watson was tasked with not allowing many of Houston’s starters to explode. Sadly, it didn’t work. Houston opened their biggest lead of the game on a late-in-the-clock, wide open (surprise!) three by Courtney Lee to close out the quarter 72-64. That lead would eventually climb to 13 before Utah decided it would attempt to get back in it.
An 11-0 Millsap fueled run brought Utah back within 2. Shades of last year’s road game at Houston, another Millsap takeover mission, were flooding back into my mind. And then, someone killed that dream. None other than Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry drained a NASTY three pointer, sharply pulling back on an attempted drive that left the defending Alec Burks helpless with his back turned to a now wide open Lowry. And while the lead was only at five points after his shot, the effect thereof was crippling. You felt the wind leave the sails of the Jazz’s ship. A couple of extremely frustrating C.J. Miles bailout fouls followed the shot, effectively raising the white flag of surrender. Utah would go on to lose 101-85.
Everything that could’ve gone wrong in that second half did. Utah’s 49% first half shooting? Dwindled to a mere 39.5% by the end of the game. Yep. A 10-36 second half performance – 27.7% - was quite the departure from earlier on in the evening. Jefferson, Millsap and even Raja Bell did their part to keep things moving in the right direction. Utah’s bench overall were the culprits to poor offensive execution. Would you like a taste of what we watched? I thought so.
Earl Watson: 0-7 FG (0-4 3P), 0 points, 1 assist, -12. Youch. Hardly the Earl we’ve come to love.
Derrick Favors: 1-7 FG, 3-6 FT, 5 points, 4 rebounds, -12. Yuck. Forgettable performance.
C.J. Miles: 1-5 FG (1-1 3P), 3 points, 3 rebounds. C.J.’s 2 early blocks were his real saving grace tonight. His 2 late fouls that blew the game open for Houston unfortunately canceled them out.
Alec Burks: 0-3 FG, 0 points. He’s earned the playing time. Now’s not the time to force Ty to question that decision.
The only guy off the bench who gets a pass is Enes “The Menace” Kanter. A strong stat line helps. But in the long run, the stats are hollow in blowout losses. The fact that Enes had six points and seven boards in just 12 minutes of play does give me hope that he’s got his head in the right place and is simply ready to maximize every opportunity he gets, no matter how small. God bless you, Enes.
Kyle Lowry would finish the night with 32 points on 9-13 shooting (7-8 from three) and a game high +22. There’s a reason the #KLOE hashtag exists. Kyle Lowry Over Everything, y’all. At least for tonight. The good thing about Lowry going off? Point guard Jonny Flynn didn’t see a minute of time, thus preventing Utah from being the team that #Flynnsanity takes off against.
Jazz will need to have short memories and move on quickly, as a showdown with the San Antonio Spurs is only a day away. Who shows up for that game - Jekyll? Or Hyde? I have no clue, honestly. At least this team keeps us guessing and on the edge of our seats.no comments
A Chippy Practice and a Crappy Team Gives us a win.
The Utah Jazz had their best offensive game of the season last night in a 114-100 win over the terrible Wizards team. Much of the credit should go to Al Jefferson (+25) who had one of his best games as a Jazz player scoring 34 points on 16-23 shooting. Harris had a season high 9 assists and Millsap added a double double.
Millsap, Jefferson, and Raja Bell talked about practice this week being chippy. Bell talked about guys going at each other and taking out their “road trip” frustrations on each other. I think we all know how frustrated the team was during the road trip, and it’s good to see that they were showing that during practice. Millsap mentioned how good it was to actually have a practice. I don’t know how many practices the Jazz have had this month, but I wouldn’t put it at more than 3 or 4. This team needs practice. It is apparent both on and off the court. As a fan I also appreciate the openness of that practice.
Raja Bell has turned his season around, for now. We can praise him when he plays well. as long as we can criticize him when he hasn’t played well. I don’t think his wife having a baby has anything to do with it, but here are the numbers. Raja has more points in his last five games than he had in his first thirteen combined. The most important part of his recent hot streak is that he has started games really really well, which is where this Jazz team has struggled. He has scored 10+ in 4 straight games and has hit a three ball in 18 straight games.
Al Jefferson=Beast Mode. He played fantastic last night. If you haven’t seen his stat line, check it out.
Alec Burks might be that guy... to say that we have been waiting for that guy for a long time would be an understatement. He is young. He plays a little out of control and turns the ball over, but every game he does something that makes you say, “He could be that guy.” There are times when I hear the, “We have to be aggressive” talk. Burks does it all the time. CJ does it every once in a while, and Hayward has his spots, but Burks makes a B-line to the basket almost every time he touches the ball. Good/great things happen when you go to the hole: free throws, open guys on bad rotations, high % shots, and broken down defenses. Burks is our best player at creating his own shot. As he grows in his role as a scorer he will also grow in his role as a passer and when to pick his spots.
It was good to see the Jazz win a game that they are supposed to win against a team that they are supposed to beat. The bigger challenge is, as always, to see if they can bottle up that energy and take it to Houston on Sunday night.
This was a forgettable game. A game that hurts.
Back to back or not...it was a winnable game.
A night after an inspired performance in Memphis, the Jazz come up empty handed in New Orleans against the Hornets. After spending a team building day remembering history, they resort back to old habits. Turnovers, lack of energy, no offensive flow...need I go on? This was ugly basketball at it’s worst. You can’t get much lower than this.
New Orleans Hornets guard Marco Belinelli (8) scores over Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The Hornets won their fifth game this season 86-80.
I’m not going to pound on the low lights. The game was a collection of those. But I will take a moment to talk highlights. There weren’t a lot, but as the cliche suggests: “every cloud has a silver lining”.
#FreeAlecBurks had it’s time tonight. Although his line doesn’t seem to suggest impact it was the silent stats that seemed to keep me on the edge of my seat...and yes for a few moments in the fourth quarter, I was jumping up and down in complete excitement.
It was as if via @clintonite33(above) Ty said: “Go get em, kid”. What did the Jazz have to lose? They were already getting run out of the building. The starters and even much of the bench had the body language of a team DISINTERESTED in really making things happen. So Ty reached deep down the bench and called up #10...and set him loose.
He did all the right things, things that dont show up on the stat sheet. He was in Bellineli’s face, hounding him defensively, not allowing him any level of comfort on the floor. He got his hand on many a loose ball and even rebounded the ball well in his stint on the floor. He attacked the basket in a number of ways and found his teammates for wide open layups and dunks. It is those kinds of little things that equate to playing time. And Burks may have just earned himself some extra time in the coming games.
Favors continues to show signs of what we all can only drool over. His athleticism got him many opportunities at the rim tonight and every one of them were impressive. He continues to work on his post game and seems to have found a nice fade away jumper in the post. Indeed, if he continues on this path, the future is VERY bright in Jazzland.
Kanter also continues to show flashes of brilliance as he dominated the night on the glass, finishing the night with 12 rebounds in just 22 minutes. While he still struggles at times to gather himself under the basket, he had moments where he was able to finish strong and draw the foul on the defender.
Utah Jazz shooting guard Raja Bell (19) shoots the ball over New Orleans Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez (21) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012.
And finally worth noting, Raja Bell continues to be hot from long distance finishing the night 3-4 from downtown. And as David Locke(@lockedonsports) pointed out Raja “has hit a three in 15 straight games - 3rd longest streak in the NBA”. Raja has found a grove that works. He’s scratched and crawled his way out of a slump that has spanned over the last year and a half. Raja is “ringing the bell” again. And it’s a pleasant site to see.
So the Jekyll and Hyde identity of the Jazz continue. Which team will we see next? Jekyll or Hyde? The team that beats the Lakers, Nuggets and Memphis with an air of confidence or the one that goes on the road in New York, Indiana, and New Orleans and struggles with the basics?
You’re guess is as good as mine. But hopefully we find the answer to those questions sooner than later.
The Jazz’s schedule continued to get harder last week, and it showed as the team went an ugly 1-3. This is obviously the type of record that causes you to miss the playoffs, not make them. You could say the Jazz were a “team effort” away from a road win in New York and just one or two possessions away from coming back in Indiana, which would have put the Jazz at 3-1 on the week. But at the end of the season, no one cares about how many games your team “could have” or “should have” won, it’s your final record that gets you in the playoffs or sends you to the lottery. The Jazz are still filled with young players, a new coach, and haven’t played together for that long, so this is somewhat expected of them. The more experienced the team gets, there will hopefully be less “could have” and “should have” games and more wins. That being said, not everyone played bad last week, and credit is due.
(Note: I am changing up the way I write these posts (as you’ll see below), let me know if it’s good or bad thing)
Last Week’s Line: 10 points (59.8%), 4 assists (2.3 TO’s), 1 rebound, 2 steals
I feel bad for Harris, I really do. Just a few years ago he was an All Star, now he is desperately trying to fit in on a new team while struggling to look like a starting point guard at times. Offensively he didn’t have a terrible week, in a matter of fact his shooting % has been great as of late. But 10 points and 4 assists isn’t that good either, but that’s not the main problem. Harris has been a major liability on defense this year, something we see as opposing point guards continue to go off on us. This week it was Jeremy Lin, Darren Collision, and Russell Westbrook. It would be easier to handle the 10 points and 4 assists if he wasn’t allowing 25+ points on the other end.
Last Week’s Line: 11.25 points (60%), 2 rebounds
You would have never guessed, but Bell has turned out to be a nice surprise this year. Ever since his wife had that baby he’s actually played at serviceable levels! Bell has turned out to be the Jazz’s best (and only?) 3 point shooter (39% this year), not to mention one of the team’s best defenders. Now by looking at his stats you can tell he doesn’t contribute a whole lot anywhere else, but at 35 years old I’m not sure if we can expect much more from him.
*Bell has shot over 50% for 4 of the last 5 weeks
Last Week’s Line: 15.3 points (58%), 2.5 rebounds, 4 assists (.5 TO’s), 1 block, 1.3 steals
It took him a few weeks, but Gordon is starting to look like a lottery pick again, and a damn good one at that. Hayward contributed from everywhere last week, and I mean everywhere. I look at that line, and I see just the tip of the ice berg. Hayward is showing he has the potential to be a legit 17/5/4 guy with a dangerous 3 point shot and tenacious defense. He showed us flashes of this last year, and now it’s becoming a consistent thing. Hayward is already a top 3 player on this team.
Last Week’s Line: 13.3 points (48%), 10 rebounds, 3.3 assists (2.8 TO’s)
I was asked earlier this morning why Millsap is starting to fade away (not the shot, but his performance), and I think we can blame it on a number of things. First off, teams are simply defending him more and better. Then there is the compressed season and all of the effort he has put out; he is just getting worn out. He’s also getting fewer touches on offense, which is going to lower his numbers. Paul didn’t play like All Star last week, but was able to fight through it. 48% shooting, 10 rebounds, and 3.3 assists is actually pretty good and something I can definitely live with from our starting power forward. It will be interesting to see if his play goes up after being snubbed from the All Star game.
Last Week’s Line: 19.8 points (47%), 8.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists (1.8 TO’s), 1.5 blocks
While Jefferson led the team in scoring and blocks and was second in rebounding, I still feel something is off with his game. David Locke mentioned on Twitter that he hasn’t been the same since his ankle injury from a few weeks ago.
Jefferson can be a very fun and a very frustrating player to watch. I think we can all agree that he has improved a lot since joining the team last year. But @jazzingitup made a good point on slcdunk this morning.
“Al Jefferson is an above average center, but you aren't going to be an above average team if he is taking the most shots”
Last Week’s Line: 0 points (0%), 5.3 assists (1.8 TO’s), 1.3 rebounds
One week after being named the Player of the Week, Earl Watson goes four games without a point. I know he isn’t a scorer, but I didn’t expect that. While Watson was still able to lead the team in assists (despite coming off the bench) he really didn’t do much else. Now this isn’t completely on him, the team played poorly for a good portion of last week. If we have learned anything about Earl, it’s that he knows he played bad and will do his best to step it up. Don’t be surprised to see him play much better this week.
Last Week’s Line: 8.8 points (50%), 1.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists (1.5 TO’s)
For the third consecutive week, we have seen CJ Miles minutes dip (18 last week), as well as his productivity. CJ is a very fun player, unless he is shooting jump shots. The most common dig on CJ is his consistency. Which I think all comes down to his shooting.
(CJ's percentages on jumpers this season)
Now in his seventh season, Miles still hasn’t proven he can be an NBA shooter. I don’t know if he ever will be one. However, Miles still can be a good player; he just needs to play to his strengths.
Last Week’s Line: 3.5 points (24%), 3 rebounds, 1.3 Turnovers (.3 Assists)
It’s funny how Jazz fans went from hoping to resign Howard this next offseason to hoping he is traded before the season is over. It’s hard not to blame them as Howard’s game has gone completely downhill since his leg injury. One of the biggest questions in signing him was his health and would he be able to maintain it. Have to hope this isn’t a trend and he gets his legs back under him.
Last Week’s Line: 7.5 points (50%), 3 rebounds, 2 TO’s (16.5 minutes)
Favors still seems to be in a funk. He’ll play good for part of the week, and he’ll look really bad for part of it. You have to wonder how he’d be playing if he was given more minutes. He is averaging 20 right now, only .3 more than last season.
Last Week’s Line: 3.5 points (47%), 4.3 rebounds (13.5 minutes)
While Kanter is also struggling to get minutes, he is doing good job of making the most of them. For a 19 year old you have to be pleased with how he is developing. I honestly think he could be a double-double player very soon if he had the minutes. One nice surprise about Kanter is his defense, something that was originally put as one of his weaknesses.
*Players who didn't play (very much): Jeremy Evans, Jamaal Tinsley, Alec Burks, DeMarre Carroll
It wasn’t much of a challenge for me to pick a winner this week…
Player of the Week: Week 7
G-Time pretends not to care about his recent award. (Photo via Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune)
Gordon Hayward: 15.3 pts (58%), 2.5 rebs, 4 asts (.5 TO’s), 1 blk, 1.3 stls.
Runner up: Al Jefferson
Special Mentions: Raja Bell, Paul Millsap
*Thanks @sproul13 for weekly stats.
This game had a “big game” feel to it. Utah was riding an ugly three game losing streak which included a Jeremy Lin/Jared Jeffries beat down in NY, a failed comeback attempt in Indiana and a demoralizing defeat at home handed out by league leaders Oklahoma City. Tonight’s game kicked off the Jazz’s only back-to-back-to-back of the season, and let’s be honest, a real possibility of doubling that nasty losing streak to six. Insanity is the definition of doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.
A shakeup was in order. A new routine. A lineup change. Something, anything. And that’s just what Coach Ty Corbin did. However, this wouldn’t be the break in formation you’d be thinking.
Earlier in the day, the Salt Lake Tribune posted an interesting article on a team unifying, chemistry building field trip. Ty took the guys to the National Civil Rights Museum to shake things up a bit and take advantage of a much needed off day (in preparation for three games in three nights). As I read about this experience, it felt like the team had come to a crossroads and was struggling to know who they are and what they want to be. Taking a break from the daily grind to learn, to focus the senses on topics and events that helps one gain perspective can be just what the doctor ordered.
My opinion? The Jazz team that took the floor tonight resembled a rebirth, a phoenix from the ashes of a team struggling to find an identity. They looked rejuvenated. They worked hard. Sure, they made mistakes. But they adapted. They relied on some hard-nosed defense coupled with a surprising visit from an in-rhythm Gordon Hayward. And Al Jefferson? My goodness, what a fantastic performance. Raja “I owe you a million apologies” Bell made clutch shot after clutch shot. Ball movement was as good as it had been all season long.
I’m not going to bore you with statistics or try to prove something special happened tonight by overloading this piece with numbers and hyphens. Tonight’s 98-88 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies was a “feel-good” victory. In many ways, this game could’ve been one of the season’s biggest. Utah had come in, as mentioned, on a three game slide, and had lost 5 of 7 in February. Let’s also not forget that ugly elephant in the room: The Jazz had only been victorious outside the friendly confines of Energy Solutions Arena twice this season (at Golden State and at Denver). Not to mention, Utah seems to shy from the national TV spotlight, having only won once this season on that stage. With an all important three games in three nights (all on the road) looming, tonight sets the tempo for who this team thinks they are.
Had Utah lost tonight, the losing streak jumps to four and no doubt dampens the mood for the remainder of the trip. Now? Utah holds its collective head high, grabbing a vital road win that in my mind felt truly (dare I say?) inspired. Yes, Ty Corbin is finding his way as not only a head coach in this league but is a shining example of a leader in its truest form. Coaches teach. Leaders inspire. Ty is still young, but quickly proving he can do both.
I can’t say what the next two games hold. But when a confident Gordon Hayward goes for a team high 23 points on 8-12 shooting, 5 assists and 2 steals OUT OF NOWHERE, then that’s a good sign. When Al Jefferson drops 21 on 10-17 FG, 15 boards with 4 (!!!) assists, that’s a good sign. When Raja Bell is knocking down clutch threes late in games for daggers, that’s a good sign. And when your team scores 30 points off 18 forced turnovers, you KNOW that’s a good sign. Also, I guess I lied about sharing stats. Couldn’t help myself. Those guys particularly were absolutely impressive tonight on both ends.
Something felt different for me tonight. It was an ugly, scrappy game, but as our friend Dustin (@prodigal_punk) points out, those are games that favor this Jazz team. Utah muddied up the game early and enforced that things weren’t going to come easy for Memphis. Deflections, challenged shots and solid rotations set the tone for a Utah-type game. While the Jazz did struggle to secure quite a few defensive rebounds (giving up 18 OREB to Memphis), Utah countered with their own gritty effort, nabbing 13 of their own to somewhat even the balance. Overall, this felt like a solid win for a team in desperate need of some positivity. Sounds to me like more “field trips” are in order, Coach.no comments
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
The Jazz have hit the skids losing three in a row with their back-to-back-to-back of the compressed season looming large, and it's a puzzling matter to pinpoint where exactly they've gone wrong of late.
Some want to pin it on the starting bigs for not defending, but is this fair when opposing point guards have either strolled through a perimeter saloon door defense and into the paint, breaking down the D in doing so, or just plain been hot from mid-range as Russell Westbrook was?
David Locke, statistical-search guru, breaks down the numbers at Locked On Jazz here, but no one has solved the puzzle yet. Is it simply scouting by the opposition that has stalled out what was the most potent frontcourt to start the season, in Al Jefferson-plus-Paul Millsap, allowing teams to pack the paint and dare Utah to bang from range, something they haven't been able to do outside of a revitalized Raja Bell?
Maybe. But I've found another piece to said puzzle. And it's a doozy.
Click here for full size
What's happened during this three-game skid is the Jazz's turnover rate is simply dreadful. Utah is turning it over in the last three games at a higher rate than the worst team in the league do, the Detroit Pistons, while at the same time Jazz opponents are turning it over at a lesser rate than the league-leading Boston Celtics do.
Over the last three games the Jazz:
• Have turned it over 18.3% of the time, that's nearly one in every five possessions, a worse rate than the league's worst of 17.8% for the season
• Have not forced turnovers, letting opponents flourish on offense with the ball by forcing turnovers only 16.3% of the time, less than the league-leader at taking care of the ball, at 16.6%
• The Jazz have been one of the best in the league this season in both categories until the last three games, 5th-best at taking care of the ball and 9th-best at forcing opponents to cough it up
What we've got here is a stretch of carelessness with the precious rock coupled with a coinciding stretch of failing to do their due diligence on defense, creating a perfect storm that's caused them to sabotage their own efforts to win a ballgame. Defense of the turnover variety not only stunts opposing offensive abilities, but also often creates transition opportunities, and when that happens too often a defense gets gassed much sooner for having to scramble to get back and play catch-up all game long. It's incredibly hard to finish a game as it is this season, let alone contributing to your own demise in this way. Opponents have found an easier path to victory by using their defense to create offense.
This is one of the biggest contributors to the Jazz's demise of late, and they must turn this around first if they are to win many more ballgames this year. Here is the Jazz's turnover rates on the season, courtesy BasketballReference.com. I suggest scrolling down to the Advanced Stats section and viewing the rate under the TOV% column, as this is the most accurate way to equalize for the different minutes played among players, especially since minutes on the Jazz are so spread out compared to most other teams.
Let's see if they can manage to cinch up their belts and rectify this egregious aberration sometime soon, in time to right the ship before it's too late and the season is sunk.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
In a late night outing on ESPN the well rested Utah Jazz failed to keep up with the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder on the second game of a road back-to-back. I've been to a small number of games at Energy Solutions Arena and the only losses I've witnessed (with the exception of the playoff position deciding season finale that Boozer sat out in '10) have come at the hands of Durant and Co. The outcome of last night's game wasn't surprising.
I wish I could hate the Thunder the way I hate other Western Conference power houses that have dominated the Jazz in years past. I don't. This Thunder squad is the culmination of an experiment in drafting, trades and small market management that should make Jazz fans hopeful for a similar future and former Sonics fans saddened and outraged at what could have been.
The reality is that when Russel Westbrook goes off for 28 and the trio of Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka go for 63 while the entirety of Utah's starting lineup barely eclipse them with 67 (and for that most part thats an impressive 67), there is little to be done do unless your bench dramatically outplays theirs. They didn't, nor did any of Utah's defensive efforts.
Early in the game the Jazz moved the ball well, got great looks and distributed the scoring load. In the starter's first stint Raja knocked down two threes, Al had 2 assists and 4 boards and while Millsap scored little, he came up with a steal, a board and an assist. Sadly his performance lacked the "I just got snubbed for an All Star spot and I'm going to prove to you why you are idiots" flair that could have saved the Jazz from embarrassment if not defeat. The OKC starters went on a 16-4 run in the third that put the Jazz in the ground for good.
While the second unit kept the game competitive in the second quarter, neither Earl Watson's tenacity or his incessant lobs to CJ Miles would be enough to keep the Thunder bench from keeping the game blown open late in the third and early in the fourth. The return of the starters toward the end of the game did nothing to preserve the Jazz's dignity and the game ended inauspiciously, without any fight from the home team despite a eager and energetic crowd.
A team playing their second game on a back-to-back on the road made a well rested home team go from looking fresh and crisp to dog-tired in two quarters. Its impressive. The Jazz do not have answers for play like this, they won't for a while yet. They lost last night to the fruits of developing around a young core, if they are lucky, they lost to a future in their path.
Just remember, the Thunder had to take their licks too.
The lesson to be taken away from last night's loss is two fold. First, CJ Miles is a player who belongs at the rim. While he shot 0-4 from 16-23 feet from the basket, he was 4-4 at the rim, and while his perfection at the rim is certainly exaggerated by the sheer torrent of lobs delivered by Earl Watson, his career numbers support the premise. At the rim in the last six seasons, CJ Miles shoots 65%, this season alone, above 70%. CJ Miles makes the Utah Jazz a better team when he drives to the basket. His talent isn't in daggers that punctuate the flow of a basketball game in decisive fashion, his power is in consistent interminable drive to the rack.
The second is that Enes Kanter's tenacity increasingly leads me to believe that if there is a three piece core of young talent that this team will take going forward, Kanter is currently the most likely member of the Check ID team to last with this organization. Burks, Favors and Hayward all have big question marks floating above them right now, but Kanter with last night's 5 boards in 14 minutes and a season average of nearly the same is a piece the demands more minutes and more attention.
The future is bright, but the immediate present will be a hard slog. Stay tough Jazz fans, the rewards will be worth it.