10 March 2012
Admit it, you felt disappointed that the Jazz lost to the 76ers. But, if we're being real, the past two games were teams the Jazz should have beaten. The first one was the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers. The second was the only-wish-they-were-rebuilding-but-completely-awful-and-a-mess-(pray-for-@cardboardgerald) Charlotte Bobcats. This game was basically a penciled in loss. That's okay. The Jazz are still "rebuilding" (Don't tell Kevin O'Connor). These losses are to be expected. So let's dig a little deeper into this game.
First of all, the first challenge for the Jazz was the 76ers unique backcourt of Holiday and Turner. David Locke talked about these two earlier in this article here. Locke explains that Holiday does not distribute like a normal point guard. That duty falls to Evan Turner. Raja Bell got the first go on Turner tonight and it wasn't pretty. Turner had 7 points and 3 rebounds during that stretch with Bell. In fact Turner just had his way with almost every match up he had. He was productive on every stint even if he wasn't touching the ball. His next stint in the game he had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Then his next stint he had 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. He finished the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Oh yeah, did I mention that he's a SG?
[Sidenote: Locke in his post expounds that Turner is in the role that Hayward would thrive in. The initiator of the offense. It's weird to see Doug Collins make that great adjustment and not have a Jazz coach make it for Hayward. We saw Hayward last year thrive in that role yet this year the coaching staff is still dead set on turning him into a Small Forward.]
Then Andre Igoudala. How efficient is this guy? I mean, seriously, the guy is a machine. An efficient machine. Look at this stat line and it'll make you drool. 5-5 from the field, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, and not too mention the most suffocating defense you'll ever see. He can guard 4 different positions effeciently, runs like a gazelle, passes like a PG, and dunks like he's an extra on NBA Jam. Hold on, I need a moment. This is some steamy basketball love going on here. All basketball love making aside, Josh Howard had one of his worst games in the past month and Iggy was most likely the reason for it. He's large for his position and quick. He can bully people around on the defensive end. Instead of complaining of what Iggy doesn't have, an outside shot, we should marvel at everything else he does well.....which is everything.
So if you are keeping count at home the Sixers held the edge at the PG position, SG position, and SF position. But now we're to the Jazz's strength. Their frontcourt of Jefferson, Millsap, Favors, and Kanter. Surely the Sixers couldn't match the firepower there.....right?
[Insert Groans Here]
It wasn't that the Jazz's frontcourt was ineffective, it was made ineffective by the lack of spacing. You see, the Jazz are ineffective against teams that pack the paint. Or in other words, teams that employ the zone defense. The zone defense collapses on the Jazz's big men forcing them to kick out to shooters. Many Jazz fans, me included (guilty as charged), have complained that Al Jefferson is a black hole and doesn't pass out. Well, we have seen he has become a very willing passer the last few games. In fact, tonight when the zone defense was employed and Jefferson was swarmed with the ball he did kick out. Unfortunately our shooters (or so we call them), continually missed open jumpers. This falls heavily on Josh Howard, Raja Bell, and CJ Miles. Hayward actually was quite efficient from the field shooting 5-7. Howard, Bell, and CJ combined for a woeful 3 of 21. Yes, ladies and gentleman, 3 of 21. When your outside threat is shooting 14% from the field no one in their right mind is going to stop a zone. This fell right into Philadelphia's strength which is the Iggy-led fastbreak.
The big men did pretty well considering they were all consistently double teamed and sometimes triple teamed with little help from outside shooters or cutters. Al Jefferson continued to pass to open men only to see them miss shots. He finished with 14 pts and 6 reb and 1 assist. Even though he only had one assist that's not an indictment of his passing out of the post. It's an indictment of the lack of shooting on this Jazz team. Millsap also played a respectable game with 14 pts and 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
The real joy to watch was Favors. He is really blossoming in the post and getting a really good feel of the game. He's in his best stretch of any season so far. He had 14 points, 5 reb (2 offensive) in only 19 minutes. Including one beatiful fadeaway in the post. Seriously I got a Favorsgasm. He's forcing his way into the starting lineup. Legitimately making a case. It might be time for Favors and Millsap to switch. This is definitely a trend to watch for the month of March. Favors is coming into his own. Enjoy this time. It's fun to see a player realize his potential. Doesn't happen often.
[Sidenote: You may have noticed I left out Kanter and Burks. They're starting to hit their respective rookie walls. Which is expected at this point of the season. They'll play through it and burst through. Both have valuable skills that allow them to play through them. Kanter is really struggling but I attribute that more to being a big man and taking a beating on a condensed season with little playing time after NOT playing for almost a year. It's understandable. Burks is still learning the crazy nuances to playing in the Jazz's flex offense as a two guard. It's complicated. He'll figure it out. Plus his shot his not falling. It'll come.]
Philadelphia had control of this game the whole way through. Even though the Jazz made a couple runs here and there you never thought the 76ers would let it get away. They're just a better team and there's nothing wrong with losing to a better team on the road. It happens. It's not the end of the world. So no. There's not trading for Al Jefferson for everybody and your friends. Just a normal road loss to a better team. There were some positives to take from this game. Our big men are producing. Now our wings and guards need to make up the difference at Chicago. I'm sure Chicago will employ the same strategy of packing the paint and forcing the guards to make a difference in the game. If the Jazz's guards and wings don't make a difference we'll see a similar result against the Bulls tomorrow.