November 20, 2009 -
For the first time in the 21st century, the Jazz actually won a game in San Antonio. I don’t even care that Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker both missed the game to injury. There is no asterisk on this game. It’s not like the Jazz weren’t depleted as well. Although Williams was back with the team (he returned Wednesday against the Raptors), Utah was without Mehmet Okur in addition to the already injured list of Korver, Miles, Price, and Harpring. Regardless, the Jazz won 90-83 to end a ten-year drought. Utah also beat Toronto on Wednesday, meaning the Jazz now have their first winning streak of the season.
Game ball goes to: Deron Williams. He returned without missing a beat, averaging 20.5 points (16 of 31 shooting including 5 of 8 from behind the arc), 9.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1 steal. As good as Maynor has been, it was still nice to have DWill back.
Stat of the game(s): The Jazz had lost 23 consecutive games in San Antonio prior to Thursday’s win. Their last victory came on February 28, 1999.
Highlight: Despite struggling through the first 3 quarters, Carlos Boozer came alive in the 4th period, scoring a number of key baskets down the stretch to help the Jazz hold off the Spurs.
Lowlight: Mehmet Okur missed both games with flu-like symptoms. The Jazz just can’t get healthy.
Other items of note:
- Utah’s starting lineup the last time they won in San Antonio featured John Stockton, Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, and Greg Ostertag.
- Paul Millsap continued his recent strong play. He was a key factor in the victory against the Spurs, scoring 20 points off the bench on 8 of 12 shooting.
- Eric Maynor had another outstanding game against Toronto and played the entire 4th quarter paired in the backcourt with Williams. The experiment worked well, as the Jazz outscored the Raptors 26-16 in the period to put the game away. Maynor finished with 15 points and 6 assists in 23 minutes.
- The Jazz seem to have gotten past their early problem with 4th quarter meltdowns. They have done a nice job closing out the past 4 games, either by protecting / extending a lead (Philly, Toronto, San Antonio) or closing a gap to make a game competitive (Cleveland).
- Utah only dressed 9 players again against Toronto and San Antonio, making 4 consecutive games with less than 10 players available.
The Rookie Steps Up
November 15, 2009 -
With Deron Williams away from the team to deal with a family medical issue, these two back-to-back games could have been extremely ugly. Compound Williams’ absence with the fact that Ronnie Price is injured, and the Jazz are only left with one available point guard—a rookie who had exactly 23 minutes of NBA experience heading into Friday night’s game.
Gotta hand it to Eric Maynor. He absolutely stepped up when his team needed him. I’m amazed at the poise and confidence he showed. He still has a lot to learn, but the kid has serious potential. We may have gotten a steal with the 19th pick.
Game ball goes to: Eric Maynor (as if there was any doubt after that lead in). The rookie formally announced his arrival on the NBA scene with 13 points and 11 assists in his first career start to help the Jazz beat the 76ers. He then dropped 24 points the following night at Cleveland in a narrow loss to the Cavs.
Stat of the game(s): The Jazz made 44 of 50 (88%) free throws over the two-game stretch. If only they could keep that up all season...
Highlight: Carlos Boozer seems to have found his game. He averaged 24.5 points (on 63% shooting), 12 rebounds, and 2 steals over the last two.
Lowlight: Despite losing in Cleveland, there wasn’t much to complain about during these two games. No one played particularly poorly, especially given the circumstances (i.e. back-to-back games on the road missing multiple key players)
Other items of note:
- Paul Millsap seems to have found his groove along with Boozer. He averaged 13 points (on 59% shooting), 5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 28 minutes off the bench. The power forward position is suddenly solid again.
- Wes Matthews continues to be somewhat of a savior. Considering he probably wouldn’t have made the roster had Miles and Korver not been injured, Matthews is proving he belongs in this league. He currently leads the Jazz in 3-pt shooting at 47% (7 of 15) and averaged 14.5 points in 36 minutes over the 76ers and Cavs games.
- The Jazz only dressed 9 players at Philly and Cleveland. Harpring, Korver, Miles, and Price are still out with injuries, while Williams missed for personal reasons.
Jazz Lose Ugly to Celtics
November 12, 2009 -
The nice thing about being a blogger rather than a beat writer is that I can actually get disgusted and walk away. I don’t have to keep watching the game when it’s not worth watching. And that’s exactly what I did on Wednesday. I just couldn’t endure the ugliness any further after the Jazz allowed a manageable 10-point halftime deficit balloon to 19 less than 4 minutes into the 3rd quarter. Things didn't improve after I stopped watching, as the Jazz eventually lost 105-86.
The only real positive I take away from this game is that Sloan yanked Boozer early in the 1st and 3rd quarters when his pathetic defense became unbearable. I hope this signals Sloan’s awakening to the fact that his lineup combinations are not working. Boozer and Okur should never be on the court together for any significant stretch.
Game ball goes to: Deron Williams. He didn’t have a great game, but I give him props for just being out there, playing through painful back and calf injuries. (Plus no one else did much to deserve it.)
Stat of the game: Utah shot 0 for 10 from the 3-point line. Have I mentioned that they miss Korver and Miles?
Highlight: Kosta Koufos scored 6 points on 3 of 3 shooting and grabbed 4 rebounds in only 6 minutes of play. Of course this all happened in garbage time against the Celtics’ bench players, but in a game like this you take what you can get.
Lowlight: Not only was Boozer’s defense horrendous, the rest of his game was rather anemic as well. He only put up 10 points and 2 rebounds in 27 minutes. He also had 4 turnovers and 4 fouls.
Other items of note:
- Once again, the Jazz faced a considerable amount of zone defense. Once again, they failed to execute well against it.
- Though he didn’t have a great scoring night (9 points on 3 of 8 shooting), Paul Millsap was much more effective than Boozer. He grabbed 13 rebounds in 23 minutes, and he played much better defense.
- This game was the only one of Utah’s 5 losses so far in which they were essentially dominated from start to finish. The Jazz never led in the game.
- I mentioned earlier that I hope Sloan is getting the message on his lineup combinations and substitution patterns. I'll post my suggestions later.
November 10, 2009 -
Word has officially gotten out. The Jazz can’t play against a zone. Oh, and there’s no such thing as a safe lead for them. At least they managed to hang on for the victory this time, albeit just barely.
The Jazz led by as much as 21 points early in the 3rd quarter and held a 14-point advantage heading into the 4th, but once again blew their seemingly safe margin and almost choked away the game. New York rookie, Toney Douglas, missed a shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime, and the Jazz held on to win 95-93.
Game ball goes to: Andrei Kirilenko. His 5 3-pointers were the only thing that kept the Jazz alive against the Knicks’ zone. If he doesn’t hit those shots, the Jazz lose. Andrei finished the game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and a block.
Stat of the game: Utah had 19 turnovers against New York but only gave up 16 points as a result of those. The Knicks only coughed up 10 turnovers, but the Jazz managed to convert those into 16 points.
Highlight: Carlos Boozer had another nice outing, scoring 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting, and grabbing 14 rebounds. If he can keep doing this, he may actually develop some trade value…
Lowlight: Deron Williams and Ronnie Price were both injured in the game. Price sprained his big toe in the 2nd quarter and did not return. Williams hurt his back in the 2nd quarter and said he would have sat out had Price not already been injured. Deron was clearly in pain and only made 2 of 10 shots for 5 points. He did, however, dish out a season-high 16 assists. I hope he can play on Wednesday in Boston.
Other items of note:
- The Knicks played a zone defensealmost exclusively beginning part way through the 1st quarter. The Jazz shot 67% (8 of 12) prior to the zone, but only shot 42% from that point on. If I’m an opposing coach, I would play little else until the Jazz prove they can handle. So far, all they’ve managed to prove it something most of us already knew: this team desperately needs more shooters.
- Paul Millsap’s struggles continued, as he only managed 4 points on 1 of 5 shooting in 24 minutes of play. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with Sap. Tought to say how much Boozer's unexpected presence is effecting him. I just hope he snaps out of it soon.
- Despite the frustration of another blown lead, this win was particularly sweet. My two favorite teams this season are the Jazz and whoever is playing the Knicks. Every New York loss brings the Jazz one step closer to a high lottery pick in next summer’s draft!
A Tale of Two Teams
November 9, 2009 -
It’s not often that you would consider the 5th game of an 82-game season as a “must win.” But that’s exactly how I felt about Thursday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. After back-to-back embarrassing losses to Houston and Dallas, the Jazz desperately needed to defend their home court.
This was the Jazz team I expected to see this season. They played hard, executed well, played tough-nosed team defense, and basically dominated the Spurs for four quarters, winning 113-99. Boozer had a breakout performance with 27 points and 14 rebounds, and the team seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. This was the turning point.
Well, at least until the next game…
Just when it seemed they might finally be on track, the Jazz turned around and lost to the lowly Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. In Utah. At least it wasn’t another 4th quarter meltdown. This time they started the process a lot earlier. The Jazz eventually lost 104-99, but it took a furious 4th quarter comeback to make it that close.
Game ball goes to: Deron Williams. He was the only player to show up strong for both games and did everything in his power to bring the Jazz back from a 17-point deficit in the 4th quarter against Sacramento. DWill averaged 28 points and 12 assists 5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, over the two games.
Stat of the Game(s): The Jazz continue to lose the battle of the 3-point line. Against the Spurs, Utah only made 1 of 7 while the Spurs made 6 of 16. Against Sacramento, the Jazz sank 5 of 15 but allowed the Kings to make 11 of 19.
Highlight: For the first time this season, the Jazz played a full 48-minutes and outscored the Spurs in each quarter (well, technically they tied in the 2nd). The team showed what it’s capable of when everyone plays to their potential.
Lowlight: After building an 11-point lead at the end of the 1st period, the Jazz were outscored 66-38 over the 2nd and 3rd quarters by the Sacramento Kings – the team with the worst record in the NBA last season, who was missing its leading scorer. And this happened in Utah.
Other items of note:
- The Jazz continue to be a Jekyll-and-Hyde team, making it tough to know which personality will show up any given game. Seeing what they did against the Spurs just made the loss to the Kings even more frustrating.
- Sacramento went on a 26-2 run in the 3rd quarter against. I don’t ever remember the Jazz being dominated so soundly in their own arena. Hard to believe it happened against the Kings of all teams. The Jazz seem to be useless against a zone defense without Korver and Miles. Brewer and Kirilenko on the wings just won’t get it done.
- With Millsap continuing to disappoint, Wes Matthews has been the only silver lining on the Jazz bench. The undrafted rookie scored 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting and is playing with confidence.
Consecutive 4th Quarter Meltdowns
November 4, 2009 -
I keep reminding myself that we’re only 4 games into an 82-game season, and there’s still PLENTY of time for the Jazz to figure things out. Still, watching them completely fall apart in the 4th quarter of consecutive games is disheartening to say the least.
With Utah trailing Houston by only 3 points at the end of the 3rd period, the Rockets outscored the Jazz 34-20 in the 4th to win easily, 113-96 on Monday night in Utah. On Tuesday, the Jazz took a seemingly safe 15-point lead into the 4th quarter in Dallas. They then proceeded to give up 29 points in the final quarter… to Dirk Nowitzki alone! As a team, the Mavericks outscored the Jazz 44-18 in the 4th to win 96-85.
Game ball goes to: No one. Seriously. Yes, this is me taking my ball and going home.
Stat of the game(s): The Jazz have now lost 3 of their first 4 games. In those 3 losses, they have been outscored in the 4th quarter by a combined total of 110-63. Ironically, the Jazz outscored their opponents by a combined 223-213 through the first 3 quarters of those games.
Highlight: Andrei Kirilenko averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2.5 steals in the games against Houston and Dallas. While he still seems out of sorts at times on offense, it’s good to see him putting up defensive numbers again.
Lowlight: Tough to choose between giving up 34 4th-quarter points and losing at home to a Rockets team that is playing without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, or blowing a 16-point 4th quarter lead in Dallas and allowing a single player to outscore your entire team by 9 points in that same period. Let's call them equally pathetic.
Other items of note:
- Utah’s interior defense is atrocious when Boozer and Okur are on the floor together. Either one of the two needs to be traded, or Sloan needs to change his substitution patterns. I’m honestly not sure which of those two scenarios is more likely.
- Heading into the season, power forward was the last position on the team I was concerned about. Unfortunately Boozer and Millsap have both been terrible. Boozer is shooting 35% from the field and has only scored more than 12 points once in the first 4 games. Millsap looked good in the first 2 games but was awful in the last 2, averaging 3.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5 fouls in 23 minutes. You would expect a little more from a PF combo making over $20M this season.
- The Jazz desperately miss the outside shooting of Kyle Korver and CJ Miles. When your center is the only player who can stretch the defense, you have issues.
- Deron Williams has been over dribbling and forcing a lot of shots the last couple of games. I’m sure this is partly due to the fact that he doesn’t have many other reliable scoring options. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of trust or chemistry on this team right now, offensively or defensively.
Jazz Win Home Opener 111-98
November 1, 2009 –
I’m a little late getting this one posted (apologies to all three of my loyal readers), but the Jazz beat the Clippers 111-98 in their home opener on Friday. Utah used a 15-0 run at the beginning of the 4th quarter to put what had been a close game out of reach. It was eerily similar to what the Nuggets did to the Jazz last Wednesday, but this time the Jazz were the ones celebrating.
Game ball goes to: Paul Millsap. He scored 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field and 5 for 5 from the free throw line in only 25 minutes. He also had 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. Millsap’s offensive game seems more refined this season, and he is showing a nice shooting touch that I don’t remember seeing in previous years.
Stat of the game: The Jazz out rebounded the Clippers 48 to 35.
Highlight: Ronnie Brewer had a great all-around game and narrowly missed out on the coveted game-ball honors. He scored 17 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He also had 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.
Lowlight: He looked good in preseason, but Eric Maynor has struggled in his first two regular season games. Against the Clippers, he had 2 turnovers and a foul in only 5 minutes of play. He did, however, score his first NBA points by sinking a pair of free throws.
Other items of note:
- Mehmet Okur sat out with a mild knee and ankle sprain sustained early in the Denver game. Kyrylo Fesenko started in his place and again looked good in limited minutes, scoring 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting. Fess and Kosta Koufos had a combined 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 33 minutes of play.
- Carlos Boozer bounced back from his abysmal performance against the Nuggets with a solid performance. He scored 20 points (9 of 22 shooting) to go with 12 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal.
- Deron Williams narrowly missed another double-double, scoring 21 points and dishing out 9 assists.
- Ronnie Price had a sweet follow-up dunk off of a missed Williams jumpshot in the 4th quarter that brought the crowd to their feet.
- With Korver, Miles, Harpring, and Memo all out with injuries, he Jazz only dressed 10 players for the game.
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang the pre-game National Anthem.