Tom Smart, Deseret News - See all 27 photos
Here it is. THE GAME. The chips are down and this one is for all the Tostitos. I sat down with Michael Schwartz of ESPN TrueHoop Network's ValleyoftheSuns to break down the biggest game EVER in the history of... Okay, maybe not ever, but for this group of guys it sure is.
Michael and the VotS crew will be running pre, half, and postgame live chats for the game for real-time analysis and reaction. I should be popping in for portions of that, so join us! We'll be taking questions and comments from the readers.
TheUtahJazzBlog: Michael, it's no secret that opposing scouts have pin-pointed and targeted an often porous pick-and-roll defense of the Utah Jazz. With Steve Nash feeding the second-best mySynergySports-ranked roll man in the NBA in Marcin Gortat are we expecting a steady diet of PnRs once again?
ValleyoftheSuns: This is the Phoenix Suns, what else would you expect? Like your old Jazz teams, that play is the bread and butter for the Suns with Nash running the show. It doesn't even matter that Utah struggles in that department, that's just what they run. The thing is this play has often stalled late in games when defenses really stiffen, so it will be interesting to see if the Suns can have success with the play down the stretch in what figures to be a close game.
TUJB: Many may find it surprising that the Jazz are ranked 11th in PnR defense this season on the roll man, but next-to-last at 29th on the ball handler, in this case Steve Nash. How is he holding up at this juncture of this truncated season, and do the Jazz have an answer for this future HOF'er?
VotS: When he's right, not many teams have an answer for Two Time. As always, he's been slowed by little bumps and bruises all season, most recently a hip malady that affects his movement once in a while. But he's been fine these past few games and with two full days off to recover I would be surprised if Nash isn't at his best. When that's the case, roll the tape of the final few minutes of these team's previous meeting to get your answer.
TUJB: Who are the players on Utah most suited to making you sweat in this most important, playoff-esque atmosphere and why?
VotS: Really all of the big guys, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in particular. With Channing Frye likely out or at least limited after suffering a shoulder injury on Saturday, the Suns will be thin up front and may even call on pencil thin Hakim Warrick for production at the backup four spot. The Suns did not possess the most lethal interior defense to begin with, so I definitely fear the possibility of Jefferson and Millsap having a field day inside.
TUJB: What players, doing what, are key to putting the Suns over the top after the pick-and-roll if Utah is able to stymie the steady flow?
VotS: Really, the Suns need a total team effort, especially if they're shorthanded. I hate to boil it down to something so simple, but the Suns must make shots, particularly Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown. When those guys get hot on the perimeter it can often open up the pick-and-roll game and make the Suns' offense elite. Then you saw how important the Suns' bench mob can be in that last matchup. With Bassy and Michael Redd leading the charge, the bench has really gelled in the last month. Especially with the starters shorthanded, the bench unit must step up once again.
TUJB: If you could have one player from the Jazz on the Suns who would it be and why?
VotS: Long term, it's got to be Favors, no questions asked. The Suns need a young future star and Favors could be exactly that. But for the rest of this season I'm rolling with Millsap. His bruising, physical style would fit in well at the four spot and the Millsap-Gortat rebounding tandem would make the Suns formidable on the glass for once.
VotS: Hey Clint, why are the Jazz so much better at home than on the road? Every year they seem to be two different teams depending on the venue.
TUJB: With only one season of the last five over .500 on the road that is a perplexing query. You might say it was experience except for that. With one of the notoriously best home courts in the NBA with a supportive, raucous crowd, the disparity between home and road may be striking to the players. Maybe they simply lack the mental fortitude, a trait older, successful teams acquire.
VotS: What's the biggest reason Utah is ahead of schedule this season competing for a playoff spot?
TUJB: They're really close, they have each others backs so they want to win for each other, make that extra pass, bring that help defense. Seasoned vet Earl Watson said this group of guys is closer than any locker room he's ever been in and Al Jefferson said recently that they'd "die for each other."
VotS: The Suns have already beaten the Jazz twice this season. What must the Jazz do differently tonight to prevent the series sweep?
TUJB: Obviously, minimize how the pick-n-roll happens, starting on the perimeter. If you let an opposing ball handler of Nash's quality dictate where the play goes you've already lost half the battle. And they have to put the effort in early, not wait til late like they did against the Orlando Magic the other night, when they buckled down and pulled away late. On the offensive end they need to continue to hit perimeter shots, of late led by Devin Harris who is shooting a career high from 3 this year. In the first two contests with Phoenix the Jazz hit 8 of 22.
Tom Smart, Deseret News
VotS: Who are the players on Phoenix most suited to making you sweat in this most important, playoff-esque atmosphere and why?
TUJB: Should the Jazz find themselves able to keep Nash and Gortat from dominating the paint, the player that seems to do the most damage keeping the defense honest was Channing Frye. If he's not in there I'd expect Michael Redd and Jared Dudley to attempt to open up the lanes and the Suns offense in the paint for the former pair to butter their bread. Phoenix hit on 44% of 50 3-point field goals in the first two meetings.
It also hasn't gone unnoticed that Alvin Gentry has found recent success rolling out a peaking-at-the-right-time Sebastian Telfair in the backcourt with Nash.
VotS: What players, doing what, are key to putting the Jazz over the top tonight?
TUJB: It starts with Al Jefferson directing the defense, a new trick this "old dog" added to his bag a few weeks ago. That communication is key to helping your perimeter defenders effectively counter a determined offense by pushing them away from where they're trying to be to set up a play. Failing to stave off the PnR with the starters Ty Corbin's found a lengthy, extremely successful spark lineup that includes Gordon Hayward at the 2, Paul Millsap at the 3, Derrick Favors at the 4, and Jefferson as a capable last line of defense when given the tenacious help the three in front of him have given.
And gotta knock back those treys.
Need a mini-vacation, one that's affordable yet out of this world? We can help!
On Thursday evening there happens to be an event just up the road from you that will bowl you over. The Utah Jazz's Josh Howard and his charity group is sponsoring an event whose proceeds will benefit Special Olympics Utah and the Josh Howard Foundation "which focuses on rewarding teens who excel in academics and community service; Comfort of Love, which provides clothing, blankets and toiletries to assisted living centers; Josh & Me Learning Hour, which fosters literacy in elementary school children; and No Excuses, which helps children and teens from diverse backgrounds develop their potential and increase their self esteem."
Members of the Utah Jazz coaching staff will be in attendance as well as Howard and teammates who will take on the Special Olympics bowling team in a friendly competition after an autograph session at 7:00 PM. All you need to bring is a $20 donation to get you in the door. Food, beverages, and bowling fees not included with door ticket.
1090 Center Drive
Park City, Utah 84098
Located in Newpark Town Center under the Bell Tower next to Best Buy
From Salt Lake City, go east on I-80 to the Park City Kimball Junction exit and go right. At the second light, Newpark Blvd., turn left until you reach Center Dr. Take a right and you can't miss Jupiter Bowl, right next to Best Buy.
Doors open at 6:30 PM on Thursday April 19, 2012, with the event scheduled to run until 9:30 PM. The autograph session is scheduled for 7:00 PM to 7:45 PM.
A $20 donation per attendee will get you in to where all the good stuff is; players, coaches, special guests, and much more. Donations for the event can also be made at the foundation's website, linked below.
Jupiter Bowl has outstanding food and drink menus, state of the art bowling lanes, billiard tables, an arcade, and a 360-degree-view sports bar from which to observe all the goings on. You won't want to miss this Family Bowling Night out in beautiful Park City, Utah, a real bang for your buck for a great cause!
Join Josh for a wonderful time while you help out those in need.
For more information visit:
The Josh Howard Foundation
Wayne (469) 364-4238
Or myself on Twitter at @Clintonite33
You can also follow Jupiter Bowl on Twitter at @jupiterbowlpc
See you there!
*This post doesn’t include any stats or insights from the Mavs @ Jazz game.
Last week started with promise as the Jazz won a gimme vs the Spurs [JV Team] and picked up a HUGE road win in Houston. But it once again fell apart as they lost in New Orleans (For the SECOND time this season) and in Memphis as well. Two games were “easy”, and two games were “tough”, the Jazz won one of each. I would call last week a letdown, as our team is in the heat of a playoff push and couldn’t finish off two road games they should have won.
Last Week’s Line: 13.5 points (39%), 6.5 assists (2.8 TO’s), 2 rebounds
Devin had mediocre week as he sandwiched two bad games between two good ones. While he did struggle with his shooting, he once again was able to lead the team in assists (5th consecutive week). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When Devin plays good, so do the Jazz. We need good play from our starting PG if we want a shot at the playoffs.
*The Jazz are 17-4 when Devin Harris scores 12 or more points.
Last Week’s Line: 4 points (37%), 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals
Carroll didn’t have the best week either, but he sure did come up big in Houston. DeMarre hit double digits in scoring (10 points) for just the second time this season, had a season high in rebounds (7) and even pitched in 2 steals. While he doesn’t consistently have big games like this, Carroll has consistently brought the energy, effort, and hustle, often creating a spark off the bench. Is he the wing version of Ronnie Price?
*Carroll is shooting 37.5% from downtown since joining the Jazz.
Last Week’s Line: 17.5 points (49%), 3.8 rebounds, 5 assists (2.5 TO’s), 1 steal
Fantastic basketball is becoming the norm for Hayward. Gordon’s play last week was easily good enough to put him in contention for this week’s award, marking the fourth straight week he’s done so. Hayward was second in both points and assists last week, and was really active just about everywhere. His growth this year has really been amazing. He took his increased minutes (+13.7) and more involved role and boosted all of his numbers, doubling some. Last week I mentioned he was a top three player on this team, but if he keeps this play up for the rest of the year you could argue he’s even better.
Last Week’s Line: 20.8 points (52%), 8 rebounds, 2 assists (1.8 TO’s), 2.8 steals
It was a great week for Millsap, who really has been battling the second half of the season. Sap led the team in points and steals, while finishing second in rebounding. He played good all week, grabbing no less than 7 boards and scoring no less than 17 points. And he did all this on a bad wrist, which he injured in Houston. It’s funny, after hearing about Paul’s injury, I didn’t want him to play his next game. He did anyway, and dropped 27 points. That’s pretty impressive, but yet I wasn’t surprised, because that’s just what Paul does.
*Millsap has only missed 13 games his entire career, playing in 97% of them.
Last Week’s Line: 16.5 points (52%), 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists (0 TO’s), 2 blocks
Not a terrible week for Al, but his productivity did slip a little. Jefferson didn’t finish the week leading the team in points or rebounds (3rd in both), something he has done regularly this year. However he did finish tied for blocks (had some big ones in Houston) and finished the week with 0 turnovers, not a single one (I understand Jefferson's style of play leads to less turnovers, but playing 144 minutes without turning over once is still pretty damn impressive). Having only made the playoffs once (as a rookie) Jefferson wants to make the postseason more than anyone, and it will be fun to see what he does in attempt to get there.
Last Week’s Line: 3.8 points (33%), 3.3 assists (2 TO’s), 1.3 rebounds, 1 steal
Tinsley wasn’t great last week as he permanently took over as Harris’ primary backup (Earl out with injury). Jamaal struggled to score which is isn’t out of the ordinary, but he also may have been forcing things as he had a much lower than usual Assists to Turnover ratio (1.7:1.0). While most would argue Tinsley is a better offensive player than Watson (he is), Watson easily the better defender. My point being, the team can’t afford Jamaal to be a liability on the offensive end because he already is one on the defensive end. I'm don't think he will, just making point. Our bench has been streaky bench all year long, and it’s key Tinsley runs it efficiently as the Jazz try to win their final few games.
Last Week’s Line: 5.5 points (41%), 2.8 rebounds, 1 assist (1.8 TO’s) (14.5 minutes)
Burks was able to “kinda” bounce back from his prior week of bad play, but still only played “okay”. His minutes have gone back down, and he’s struggling to find a way to contribute when he’s on the floor. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, but it feels like Alec has relied on his jumper (which isn’t great) much more the last few weeks. This could be due to fatigue, or maybe his early success. Either way I’m not a huge fan of it, and hope it starts to fall or he stops taking it. While Burks may be at his “rookie wall” I have seen one recent improvement in his game the past few weeks, his rebounding. Burks averaged just under 3 rebounds for the week (that’s 7 per 36) and had a career high of 7 (4 offensive) vs the Hornets. This was a skill he was said to have coming out of last year’s draft, and it would be great if it translated over to his NBA game.
Last Week’s Line: 9.8 points (54%), 10.5 rebounds, 1 assists (2.3 TO’s), 2 blocks (29.8 minutes)
Awesome week for Favors, who was one made shot away from averaging a double-double. Derrick has seen his minutes go up recently (thanks to Corbin’s new lineup with Paul at the 3) and he has definitely made the most of them. Favors led the team in rebounding, FG%, and finished tied for blocks, and yes he’s doing it in under 30 minutes a game. This is the type of Favors we envisioned all last off-season, and I can’t help but be giddy now that he is showing up on a weekly basis.
Last Week’s Line: 2.5 points (67%), 3.7 rebounds (11.8 minutes)
Kanter is still getting limited minutes, but he is starting to use them better. Kanter’s rebounding is back to norm, as his 3.7 translate out 11.3 per 36. While he technically led the team in FG%, he only took 6 total shots, that’s just over 1 attempt a game. I’m not going to remind you that Kanter is just 19 years old (oops, just did), but we really do need to be patient with the rookie. He’s not going to get huge minutes anytime soon, I don’t think many bigs would get huge minutes with the players like Favors, Millsap, and Jefferson ahead of them. Right now he just needs to continue to learn the do’s and the don’ts, while still trying to make a positive impact on the game.
Players who didn’t play (very much): Jeremy Evans (18 minutes), Blake Ahearn (5 minutes), CJ Miles (Injured), Josh Howard (Injured), Raja Bell (Injured)
Another average week and another tough decision.
Player of the Week: Week 16
Millsap oozes with ethusiasm after winning this week's award
(Photo via Tom Smart, Deseret News)
Paul Millsap: 20.8 points (52%), 8 rebounds, 2 assists (1.8 TO’s), 2.8 steals
Runner up: Gordon Hayward
Special Mention: Derrick Favors
Thanks to @sproul13 for weekly statsno comments
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News - See all 60 photos
Looking in on the madness from Jazz-Mavs from around the internet.
The Trib: Big Al punched out the Dallas Mavericks
Jody Genessey tells hilarious halftime LeBron joke. Wait, that was at the game. Here's the real scoop.
David J. Smith's always comprehensive Instant Analysis.
An excellent take on the temptation of tanking from The Rockmonster.
This isn't first time I've attended an insane 3-OT tilt in that building. But it was the most intense one. (You'll have to excuse HP; she's still a little sick after being uber-hacked by some Malaysian meanies. The main content is still there though)
Quite literally a franchise night for the Utah Jazz as recounted by Locke.
My day is never complete without some Jazz Bags. Now your day is complete.
Two pros put in their two cent's worth: CBS's Matt Moore has a Mansap crush and Spencer Hall doles out grades like that teacher you love.
SLCDunk's Clark Schmutz opines on the job Ty Corbin has done.
A quick note: Al Jefferson set a Utah Jazz franchise record for rebounds in a game with 26. However, the overall franchise record is held by Truck Robinson with 27 when the Jazz were still in New Orleans, back in 1977. Here's the list of Utah Jazz 20/20s. Donyell Marshall? Twice?!
A road trip that the Jazz needed to win, at the very least two, has them instead returning home losers of two straight. You can talk about which one hurt more all you want. Doesn’t matter. Jazz came away empty handed and in a deep hole.
They now sit two games back of the coveted 8th seed in the Western Conference. With just four games remaining, the Jazz need to finish 4-1 or 5-0. That’s a tough road for a team who still has to face Phoenix and Dallas. Granted those two games are at home. But those are two teams the Jazz have yet to notch a win against this season.
On a night after a disappointing loss against the Hornets the Jazz needed to come out with some fire and grit. And it was there early. They fought and battled through three quarters. And then with the game on the line in the 4th quarter, on a second night of a back to back, Memphis sucked the life right out of the Jazz with pick and roll after pick and roll. And it didn’t help that OJ Mayo hit three 4th quarter daggers from downtown.
When it comes down to it, you can blame injury, you can blame youth, you can put blame just about anywhere. But the Jazz have fought all season. They look like they have just run out of gas down the stretch. A tough, grinding, compressed 66 game season has taken its toll. They have had to fight to get every win this year.
There is still a chance for the playoffs. But it’s slim.
But regardless of what happens, Jazz fans should be proud. We’ve watched a team that was expected to be a bottom dweller fight its way into playoff contention. And we’ve watched a young team grow and mature.
That’s been remarkable and exciting. Something worth cheering about.
(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
The roller-coaster ride of dismay and elation that has been the recent Jazz playoff push continued tonight in Houston as the Rockets were dealt a convincing defeat by an intriguingly makeshift Utah starting line up. Gordon Hayward continued to demonstrate the full measure of his potential on offense, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors prevented Houston from maintaining any momentum with solid rebounding and defense and mid-season acquisition DeMarre Carroll brought an inordinate amount of hustle to the Toyota Center, all of which prevented Houston from racking up their fifth win in a row after a four game road trip that saw them defeat Chicago and Los Angeles in addition to Portland and Sacramento.
The first six minutes of play were distressingly reminiscent of many recent Utah first quarters. The Jazz gave up an early lead quickly with an absence of defense and coherent offense but after some quick adjustments rapidly tied the game back up and finished the quarter strong with a 30-26 advantage, never to trail again. Utah would continue to win the first three quarters convincingly and only lose the fourth quarter by one point all while withstanding tremendously lopsided officiating and a worrisome run spearheaded by the recently returned Kyle Lowry's many trips to the free throw line.
Unlike the victory over San Antonio two nights ago, the Jazz defeated a team at near full strength on their home floor while facing the accompanying pressure of knowing that losing tonight meant falling further away from the eighth seed. Also at stake, the crucial tie break with Houston who it wouldn't be impossible to end the season tied with. Add all of that to the fact that four Jazz players didn't dress tonight because of injury or circumstance and you find that the Jazz have won a crucial game against significant odds in a highly interesting and impressive fashion.
The same Gordon Hayward who was booed on Draft Night 2010 and caught the stiff end of a frustrated Deron Williams' pass the same year, carried this depleted Utah Jazz team on his back tonight. In 39 minutes he scored a season high 29 points on immaculate free throw shooting (7-7), near immaculate shooting from beyond the arc (4-5), and a solid 64.2% (9-14) from everywhere else on the floor. He also snagged two rebounds and two steals and dished out six assists. It isn't All-Star material yet, but its the closest thing Utah has right now.
The rest of the Jazz (active) roster weren't bad either. With the exception of Burks and Kanter, every Utah player had a positive +/-. DeMarre Carroll had 10 points and 7 boards, Derrick Favors 10 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks. Jefferson had 15 points and three blocks. Paul Millsap, in spite of a slew of bad calls and missed calls and utter officiating neglect netted a mostly efficient 21 points and locked down three crucial steals.
Devin Harris, after a night of heroics against San Antonio, sat out the end of the game after being rendered relatively inefficient with foul trouble early. Upon his departure, a lineup headed by Jamaal Tinsley and Gordon Hayward let Houston back in the game on an 8-0 run but was able to answer with a 6-0 run of their own to close the game out for good.
The victory tonight sealed up another tiebreak for Utah, put a streaking Rockets team on ice and improved the odds that Utah makes the playoffs ever so slightly while preventing our playoff chances from collapsing almost entirely. The Jazz should look to avoid laying another egg after a big road win as they did a couple months ago in New Orleans after a big win in Memphis. It may be difficult however, to string a streak together as the Hornets are playing much improved basketball.
7 games remain. All of them will be huge. Get ready for an adrenaline rush or a giant letdown.
Final Score: Jazz 103 - Rockets 91
If the season ended today: The Jazz would be lottery bound.