Saturday, December 13, 2008

Game 7 Recap: Utah 93 - Philadelphia 80

Game at a Glance:

The Jazz bounce back from the ridiculous loss to the New York Knicks and win a game on the road. This was the first win on this five game Eastern Conference Road trip, and was a necessary win in the first game of a back-to-back set. Adding to the drama of this event was the fact that it was Kyle Korver's return / revenge game against his old club, the Philadelphia 76ers. It was also Kosta Koufos' first start in the NBA because every other bigman was out: Mehmet Okur was in Turkey to be there with his ailing father; Jarron Collins was still injured from his golf cart incident during the summer; and Kyrylo Fesenko had to leave the country due to visa issues. Oh yeah -- it was also Deron Williams' first game of the season as well. Pretty big game, storyline-wise. The real story of the game was the dominating performance by the Jazz bench (38 to 12 points), and the Ronnie Brewer show in the 4th quarter. Philly had no answer. (and haven't had him for a few seasons now . . .)

[ ESPN.com's boxscore -- Yahoo!Sports.com Game Recap -- NBA.com's game highlights -- SLCDunk.com -- TrueBlueJazz.com ]

Jazz Quartet -- Top Four Players of the Game:

Andrei Kirilenko Carlos Boozer Paul Millsap Ronnie Brewer
Nov 11 2008 [Ron Cortes Staff Photographer Philly.com] Kirilenko says no Nov 11 2008 [Tom Mihalek AP Photo] Boozer pump fakes Millsap was big inside, as usual Brewer was a layup machine in the 4th
Photographed by Ron Cortes for Philly.com Photographed by Tom Mihalek for AP Photo Photographed by Jesse D. Garrabrant for NBAE/Getty Images Photographed by Jesse D. Garrabrant for NBAE/Getty Images

Andrei seems to have a permanent spot here as the team continues to have a wide variety of injuries this season. Andrei had a much better game than the last one, and he finished with 16 points (6-8 shooting, 4-4 from the FT line), 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block in 33 minutes of action (and only 1 turn over!). Andrei was patient on offense finding his team mates, out-rebounded Dalembert on some misses and shot at least three outside jumpers with a high level of confidence, and swished each of them. He was one of four guys with at least 16 points in the game!

Boozer had another double double, this time with 19 points and 16 rebounds. If he was shooting better from the FT line he would have had a 20-10 game, something that has so far been elusive to him in the last few outings. He made himself a good target for Deron Williams, and the side pick and roll was called often, and worked often -- Boozer actually had a double double before halftime in this game, and Deron Williams had 8 assists. Boozer was a beast inside, scoring in a variety of ways, but his jumper was off -- and that's something that we're going to need to be on during the rest of the season against harder clubs.

Millsap tied Kirilenko with 16 points off the bench (though, he was slightly less efficient, going 8-12), and added 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal. His defense and rebounding was instrumental during the 4th quarter run by the bench, and his hard work was rewarded as his team mates looked for him inside. So far the unselfish play of the Jazz has really been a key reason why they've continued to win games with so many guys out. Millsap is a great example of this unselfish play.

Ronnie Brewer is going nuts these last few games. Last game was a 12/7/7 with some other stats for change. This night Brewer started off slowly (zero points at half, after missing all of his shots), but his team continued to work the ball to him, and he delivered when it counted. Ronnie finished the game with 16 points (6-16 fg, 0-3 3pt, 4-4 ft), and had 9 assists and 4 steals. Yes, he and Andrei almost had double doubles in this game, and both are 'second' tier players on this team. That's depth!

Digging Deeper:

There were several points to this game. The first is that, really, the Jazz won yet another game while being vastly short-handed. Kosta Koufos has to start, and nearly played half the game, against some of the best bigmen in the business (Brand and Dalembert). He did a fantastic job, and while he did not shoot a great percentage (3-8 fg), the times where he caught the ball somewhere close to the rim he did not hesitate and made a good, solid move to score. He still managed to get 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal and an assist in his time on the court. I was impressed with him on the offensive end with his ability to actually make a fluid post move. I was also impressed that he got the rebounds he was supposed to get. (nothing amazing, like how Boozer or Millsap get rebounds they should not get, but at the same time, not like Collins who misses rebounds he should get) Lastly, while he was really nervous (as any rookie should be), he manned up and played good ball. He had a good sequence in the 2nd quarter where he was making life hard on Elton Brand (who would finish with 13 points and 5 rebounds), and tied him up and forced a jump ball -- which Kosta won. Great job, Kosta!

While Koufos was impressive Deron was somewhere between impressive and 'meh'. He felt the need to come back sooner than he should have, and while he did have an okay game (statistically at least, with 7 points and 9 assists, 2 boards, 1 block and 2 turn overs), he did not play a good game. He did control the pace and was able to break his man off the dribble and find an open man on occasion -- but he was just as likely to pass the ball to someone a bit off where it should have been. He also forced his way inside, but did not have the speed, lift, or balance to make layups. His outside shooting was also pretty off.

Deron does make life easier for others . . .

Photographed by Jesse D. Garrabrant for NBAE/Getty Images

All in all he finished with 1-8 shooting (worse than Kover's 1-7, or Price+Knight's combined 1-5) and was just not quick enough on defense. Lou Williams was going by him with regularity before halftime. Even worse is the impression this game may have left on the minds of some people -- Andre Miller finished the game with 25 points -- most of them coming on unmolested layups. Some people may attribute that to Deron's defense, however, that just is not the case. Miller got many transition buckets, and lay ups in the same way Brewer does -- camping under the rim and getting the pass. Still, 25 points to Andre Miller is ridiculous. It's a good thing that no one else showed up . . .

Or more precisely, that Philly only really showed up in the 3rd quarter when their defense really clamped down on the Jazz when Deron and Boozer went to the bench. What was once a 14 point lead ended up becoming a 4 point deficit after the 3rd quarter was in the books. While that may have been reminiscent of the previous game in New York, the outcome of the 4th was nothing like it. Why? I'll tell you why! The Jazz bench (Knight, Korver, Kirilenko, Millsap, and starter Ronnie Brewer) started the 4th quarter on a 9-0 run which was mix of hustle on offense (like Andrei's 2nd tip shot attempt basket) and defense (Millsap had 2 blocks early in the 4th). By the time the main timeout of the quarter occurred the Jazz bench had outscored Philly 15-4 in the quarter. After that it was lights out as Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko kept feeding the hot hand, Ronnie Brewer, and he finished with a high number of layups and 'and ones'. Game over.

Next Game: Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 -- Utah @ Washington Wizards [2nd night of a back-to-back]

Game 6 Recap: New York 107 - Utah 99

Game at a Glance:

The Jazz and Knicks play a very sloppy game that featured a combined 38 turn overs and 25 steals and a very explosive Jazz-killer Jamal Crawford going bombs away from deep (5 threes out of 7 tries on the way to a 32 point game). Utah was looking good early, with a 5 point lead at the half, but a spectacular 3rd quarter collapse (27 to 15 in favor of the Knicks) occurred where the Knicks continued to exploit the Utah Jazz/'Jerry Sloan coaching staff' doctrine of going behind the screen to the result of countless open shots by their guards. Furthermore, the Jazz ended up getting some really cheap fouls (both Boozer and Millsap got tagged with their 4th, on offensive fouls each on layups they made) in the 3rd which compounded things, but that's what happens when you're not at home. It was during this quarter where I got that feeling in my stomach that the Jazz were not going to exorcise their Madison Square Garden Demons just yet and well . . . a picture says a thousand words . . . even Andrei's late game three point shooting couldn't save the Jazz, as their defense on the three, and inability to make their open shots doomed them to the first loss of the season.

This is how I felt during the 3rd quarter

[ ESPN.com's boxscore -- Yahoo!Sports.com Game Recap -- NBA.com's game highlights -- What would Oakley Do ]

Jazz Quartet -- Top Four Players of the Game:

Andrei Kirilenko Brevin Knight Carlos Boozer Ronnie Brewer
Andrei was forced into shooting threes in this game to bring the team back, and he did for the most part Knight was not a world beater, but he played well enough to stay in the quartet for another game Boozer was a workhorse who had 19 and 17 in a losing effort Brewer finished the game with 12/7/7 which is pretty good if you ask me.
Photographed by David Dow for NBAE/Getty Images Photographed by David Dow for NBAE/Getty Images Photographed by David Dow for NBAE/Getty Images Photographed by unknown for NBAE/Getty Images

Andrei Kirilenko should have excelled in this type of game, and some of his stats reflect that, though I think that he could have played better. 'Drei finished with 18 points (7-16 shooting, perfect from the line, and made 2 clutch threes in the 4th quarter), but only 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. At times he was posting up against the much shorter Chris Duhon, yet the Jazz were able to get him the ball with mixed success, but other times he was unable to score on him. This upset me, though people who were actually at the game were quick to point out that Duhon fouling the hell out of Andrei, and was not getting called for it. Aside from that, Andrei was clutch down the stretch and made some really good passes off of drives. It just was not enough.

Knight was more effective than Price was in this game, and seemed to really get the other Jazz players involved when he was on the floor. Brevin was able to give the Jazz 10 points (three deep jumpers in rhythm and perfect ft shooting), 5 rebounds and 6 assists in 24 minutes of action. Knight was effective defensively in hounding the other teams' ball handlers in the half court set when he was in there, but could only do so much to affect the outcome of this game. He had a few Almond like experiences in this game, working hard to get the ball to an open man, only for that guy to miss an uncontested shot. Knight continues to shows that he can be a good back up PG with defensive instincts.

Boozer continues to be an offensive rock for us, in Deron William's absence. Boozer managed to notch 19 points (7-11 shooting, 5-6 ft) and grab a mammoth's worth of rebounds (17 -- 6 offensive). He also added three assists and 3 steals. He played good defense inside as well, being able to neutralize Zach Randolph in the paint. Unfortunately, Randolph did manage to shoot four open three pointers (because Boozer did not follow him outside the paint to defend him), and Randolph managed to hit two of them -- one of them the proverbial dagger three. Boozer only played 32 minutes because he was sidelined in the second half with foul trouble -- the culprit being the previously mentioned 4th foul in the 3rd quarter -- called on a made layup by Boozer.

Brewer finally makes his first Jazz Quartet of the season, and deservingly so. Brewer was one of the few capable Jazz players on this night, finishing with 12 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 7 steals and he made both of this three point attempts! Due to the crazy monkey lineups that Mike D'Antoni used, Brewer was rarely able to match up against Jamal Crawford though, which is a shame. Jamal did score a 4 point play against Ronnie though which really sucks. Great game by Brewer, none the less. His utility and usefulness will only improve with Deron finding him around the basket for dunks.

Digging Deeper:

This type of game really burns me up for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it started really early (1 pm EST) and this loss was the first loss of the season. Secondly, it was to the Knicks -- a team we have trouble handling for some reason. Thirdly, it was at Madison Square Gardens, a place we seemingly can't win it. Fourthly, it was to the @#&*#@ Knicks! Sure, the Jazz were without Deron, but you'd think that we would be talented enough to handle this team. I thought so, but I was wrong.

One of countless underdefended outside shots the Knicks took

The Knicks really killed it from the three point line, five different Knicks scored from deep, three of them for at least 2 threes. The Knicks took a lot of threes (24) but made an astonishing number of them (11). It was not just guards that got in on the act either, as Zach Randolph and Wilson Chandler (face up bigmen, but bigmen still) both went 2-4 against the Jazz from three. That's 8 uncontested, outside jumpers that the Jazz let the Knicks take.

This is not the 1980's anymore, many bigmen do have legit range -- just the other game against Portland (Game #4) the Jazz let Channing Frye and LaMarcus Aldridge shoot and make open threes against us. This may continue to be a problem down the line as our team defensive philosophy seems to over-emphasize defending the paint at all costs.

This is further compounded by the fact that many teams run sets where the ball handler is screened for. The Jazz coaching philosophy is to go behind the screen, instead of fighting through it to keep the ball handler defended. This left a number of open shots for the Knicks players that were not three pointers, but still very good looks. According to my scribbles notes on this game, the Jazz left a Knicks player open on these two types of plays (guy open for three, or guy open on perimeter screen) over 20 times. And the Knicks made the Jazz pay for it. Will every team shoot so well against the Jazz? Hopefully not, but if your defensive schemes rely on 'HOPE' then some changes need to happen.

As bad as the game looked, the Jazz were still in it, but were unable to retake the lead, despite being close in the 4th quarter on the road, without their best player. Part of the problem was rebounds. Sure, the Jazz managed to rebound the ball 41 times, but the second highest rebounder on the team was Brevin Knight. Mehmet Okur, who no doubt was severely distracted by off-court stuff, played 42 minutes and finished with 17 points but only 3 rebounds. That's one rebound every 14 minutes of play. That's not too good. The biggest beef I had with this game was the sheer number of open shots that the Jazz missed. There were a lot of good looks that were just missed. The Jazz could have won this game, and really they should have. Props to the Knicks . . . grudgingly. 

Next Game: Tuesday November 11th, 2008 -- Utah Jazz @ Philadelphia 76ers

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wounded Jazz beat the Kings on the road

Hey all . . . posts have been slow lately as I try to a) re-organize and b) back up my work these past few weeks. [Not just blog stuff, but all my files] I'm almost all done, but don't worry, I'm still watching every game and taking down notes. December started off with a win for the Jazz on the road in the usually (just not this season) difficult to win in Arco Arena. The Kings aren't perfectly healthy right now, but it's not like they are missing two Olympians or anything like that. (For those keeping score at home, yes, Utah is in that situation right now)

Anyway, it was a close game much of the second half, with the Kings making it an 8 point game a few times. Spencer Hawes (14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals) was a major catalyst for the Kings. Brad Miller (18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks) was out Memo-ing Memo with outside shots and their wings were working hard all game long. Kevin Martin played in his first game in a while, and came off the bench to punch in 33 minutes of action. He was having his way against our defense when out of desperation Sloan had to substitute in Morris Almond. Martin would still end up scoring 22 points, but most of that would come at the line (he was not sent there often by Morris), otherwise he had a forgettable 6-16 shooting night. Almond did well enough on defense -- fighting through screens and hounding his man without being called for fouls -- to earn some time on the court that normally would have gone to the starting wingmen.

Martin tries to bait a ref with this forward flop, but Almond was no where near [Photographed by Rocky Widner for NBAE / Getty Images]

Almond (who would end up playing all of the 4th quarter, most of it with fellow bench player Kyle Korver) finished the game with 12 points (5-9 shooting, 1-2 from three, 1-1 from the free throw line), 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist and 1 steal. It's very easy to conclude that this was his best game of the season, and perhaps his best game ever in the NBA. Good for him. He contributed to the Jazz win, and was instrumental on defense. So he gets mention here, even though this is not the official game recap.

Here Kevin Martin took a wild drive and propelled himself forward (attempted flop) late in the 4th quarter trying to force the ref to call a foul -- but Morris Almond moved out of the way so Martin ended up taking an awkward shot that missed badly.

I may appear to be an Almond sympathizer, in that I am unlike many other Jazz fans who are quite hostile and outright wishing that Almond does poorly.

Nov 29 2008 [Melissa Majchrzak NBAE Getty] Morris Almond isn't as bad as you want him to be

I like Morris, I think that he can be a solid pro. There's no playing time right now for him, but that doesn't mean that we should be rooting for him do play poorly. He's young, and apparently capable of working hard. I don't quite get why we should be automatically hostile towards this guy. No one said that he was NBA ready on defense when he was drafted -- he has a lot to work on. I just think that if given the chance he can do well. After all, this was his first game playing with Deron Williams, it's no surprise that Deron was able to find another guy who can finish a play on offense, and score the ball. It's pretty much what I said all along, when he's the only guy who can do anything, all of his faults are magnified -- when he's the 3rd or 4th option on a team, he can do some good things when he's being passed the ball where he can do something with it. (Seriously, I'd take getting passes from Deron Williams over passes from Kevin Kruger any day . . .) He's not a perfect player, and we can clearly see that he's incapable of making those Brewer type of passes, but if this last game is any indication, then he is making strides to improve. And he gets props for that from me.

Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE / Getty Images

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Schedule Overview

Just to refresh everyone's memories . . . last season Utah played 16 games in December and managed to go 5-11over that span. The main reasons why the Jazz lost so many games happened to be a mixture of injuries, off-court drama (thanks Giricek!) and the fact that teams learned to just play zone defense against Utah. This season we have a slew of injuries and go into December looking to play 15 games.

The first three games are an away game @ Sacramento on Tuesday, quickly followed by a home game the very next night against the Miami Heat. I've never flown from Sacramento to Salt Lake City before, but that doesn't seem to be too bad -- weather permitting. The Jazz do not play again until Friday, with a game on TV (ESPN) hosting the Toronto Raptors.

After the two game home stand the Jazz face off with a pair of road games -- the first @ Phoenix (the 2nd night of a back-to-back) on Saturday, and then @ Minnesota on Tuesday.

Again, alternating between home games and road games the Jazz return to Salt Lake City for games against Portland (also on TV, this time TNT) and then two days later, against Orlando. Then the fun starts . . .

Fun being our 2nd 5 game Eastern Conference Road trip in two months. Thankfully it appears to be a bit more spaced out than last time. On the 15th the Jazz play @ Boston, on the 17th the Jazz play @ New Jersey, on the 19th the Jazz play @ Detroit. The next night the Jazz play @ Chicago -- this is not only the 2nd night in a back-to-back set but also the 3rd game in 4 nights. The Jazz's last stop is against the Milwaukee Bucks on the 23rd. On paper playing against Boston, Detroit and Chicago should be harder than playing against the Wizards, Bobcats and Knicks -- but the Jazz lost all three of those games too, so who is to say how Utah will fare this time around?

After Christmas the Jazz play Dallas on boxing day, then visit Houston the very next night. Utah finishes the month with a home game against Philadelphia.

For those keeping score at home that's 6 games against the West, and 9 games against the East. (We've only lost once all season against the West so far, and 6 times against Eastern foes) Furthermore, the Jazz play 6 home games and 9 road games.

There are only four back-to-back sets (@ Sac, vs. Mia; vs. Tor., @ Phoe; @ Det, @ Chi; and vs. Dal, @ Hou) this month, so that's one good thing from this mess that we can look forward to.

There are a number of 3rd game in 4 nights: the Toronto game is one, so will be the game @ Phoenix, the game @ Chicago and the game at home vs. Philadelphia.

It's not easy, but December is very rarely easy for the Jazz. Anything less than going 7 - 8 would be horrible.

Not-so-Jazzy nicknames, the Third.

Just to recap, so far we've done 10 of the 15 guys on the roster. Part one goes over Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Part two goes over Brevin Knight, Kosta Koufos, Kyrylo Fesenko, Morris Almond and Ronnie Price. If you've been following along, that leaves us with Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles, Jarron Collins and the irreplaceable Kyle Korver. Let's get to it, shall we?

C.J. Miles Jarron Collins Kyle Korver Matt Harpring Paul Millsap
Nov 12 2008 [Nick Wass AP Photo] CJ for the jam He was bad back before it was cool to be bad Kyle shoots the three against Portland last season Running into something as usual Nov 3 2008 [Stephen Dunn for NBAE/Getty] Sap throws it down hard
'Jillah Krappa Omega The Closer The Georgia Freight Train Thrillsap
Ceejay, Calvin Jr., Air Miles Tree, DNP-CD, Jargon, Flop K2, Kyle-lee, K2 "Harp", "Missed layup" Mansap, Paper Boy, etc.

Carlos Boozer explained (last month, I believe) that this is what he calls him, or perhaps, that this was his name. Jillah. (Djillah? like Djibouti?) I don't really need more information on this, if this is what Boozer calls him then I guess it's his nickname.

So ever since then whenever C.J. does something good on TV I yell "Jillah!", I encourage you to do so as well.

Yeah, Jarron Collins is part of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. He plays like crap. He's the best at playing like crap. Hence, Krappa Omega.

While looking for names I stumbled onto the Jazzbots website. The pure, aryan pride robot still freaks me out. Anyway, this guy basically rips off my articles, but doesn't actually give any new insight.

Anyway, back to Korver. Last season he was "The Closer" (a play on the TV show of the same name), however that hasn't been the case this season much. I'm sure as the games become more important, and we have to hold onto leads while the other team goes into intentional foul mode that he'll get crunch time minutes again, and regain this title.

Dude is built like a truck, and for all of his faults, he does play physical, smashmouth basketball. He's an Atlanta area product, and went on to play at Georgia Tech. A big part of his game is running into things and 'derailing'. He will later on go and become a spokesperson for Amtrak, I'm sure.

We've all heard those alternative names before, but I like the name Thrillsap better. It's got the whole 'sap part of Millsap. And Thrill rhymes with Mill. Additionally, it's a petite homage to The Simpsons animated TV show because Millhouse once imputed his name in a video game as "Thrillhouse". Probably more importantly, Paul plays a thrilling type of game with all of his dunks, blocks, and now, his driving spin move in the lane.

As always, comments are encouraged!

New Poll: Remembering November

Now that the first month of the season is in the history books, how will you remember it?

Somehow we lost to a team that plays this land whale

Is the fact that the Jazz lost to so many crappy teams how you are going to remember this month? I know I was upset at losing to some of those teams, but you just can't expect to win every game -- especially not when it comes down to a broken play, 2nd shot attempt buzzer beater in transition (Chicago), or playing an unbelievably hot player (Devin Harris). That said, I'm still pissed off at all of these losses to East Teams.

Our young players are great

Or are you optimistic about our future, based on the solid, and somewhat spectacular play of our younger players -- Brewer, Miles and Koufos are all doing better than I thought they would early on!

Things are bound to get better now that Deron is back [Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE / Getty Images]

Perhaps you're just happy to limp into December, and recognize that once the Jazz are finally healthy, that they'll be fine.

Gobble gobble

Ooof . . . too much Turkey

Korver, Kirilenko, Millsap, Okur and Knight are all good enough to start on any team in the league [Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE / Getty Images]

Depth is a reason to be satisfied with this team early on.

Nov 12 2008 [Nick Wass AP Photo] Matt getting blocked

Hardly any Harpring! Hooray!

I have my own opinions, and decided not to put a 'bench' option because that plays into our depth.

Poll Result: What's the main problem so far this season?

So far the Utah Jazz have been one of the better teams in the conference, though not one of the top 5 teams in the league. There are some serious holes in the way the team has been playing, and as a result, the record Utah has produced reflects this -- as of today, the Utah Jazz are 11-7, which is 3rd best in the Northwest Division. There were 30 votes in this poll, and it's no big surprise to see which category was voted the main problem so far this season. My 'joke' entry ended up being second though, so that was surprising . . .

  Votes % Notes
Not defending the perimeter 5 16%

According to 82games.com, the Jazz are 3rd worst in defending the three -- 39.4 3pt%. Just re-watching the Knicks game shows how important this is. That link does support the fact that the Jazz are very solid at defending inside shots (relative to the NBA average, the Jazz are 5th best in the league -- without having any real shot blocking guy in there).

Not making open shots 3 10%

Well, the Jazz are 2nd in the NBA in made dunks (106 so far this season), and shoot 61.4% from inside. Pretty much, most of the time, the Jazz are making their easy shots. However, I've seen countless examples of missed layups, missed post up shots when our guys are posted up against smaller defenders, and way too many missed open threes. We make one of those open threes each game and we have a much better record.

Not healthy enough 12 40%

This is the big reason -- and really, the only one we need. If the Jazz are healthy, they aren't losing 7 games this month. Last game the TV crew showed a graphic of how many games the Jazz players have lost to injury/illness this season. Right now we sit at more than 60. Last season alone the Jazz missed only about 45.

Not running? 0 0%

No one picked this. Without Deron Williams running the half court the only time the back up point guards were useful was in a running game -- this was especially true of Brevin Knight who doesn't even know all the plays yet. (He admitted as such) Our offense (which, btw, isn't even scoring 100 ppg this season) is predicated on point guard play. When our PGs were busy turning the ball over, or taking early shots, the rest of our team can't get it going.

Not playing every game at home 10 33%

I put this up there as a joke, but apparently 10 people felt that it was a real reason. True, the Jazz usually win their games at home, but Utah lost 2 games there in the last week (Chicago Bulls and NJ Nets) -- just because it's a home game doesn't mean that it's a win anymore.

November 2008 Monthly Recap

I really mailed it in late this month, much like the Jazz have as well. With my birthday and thanksgiving and all that jazz, I really started to let myself slack on the whole blog front. Anyway, let's try to right this ship here. There were only 31 posts this month (down from a massive 65 in October), but some posts are worth checking out.

Regular Features:

YouTube Tuesdays: [2]

  1. Millsap own Kaman
  2. Ronnie Price Buzzer Beaters

Flashback Fridays: [1]

  1. The first 10 games of the last two seasons

For the records, there were four tuesdays and fridays in this past month, so 3/8 is pretty poor.

Original Articles:

News Inspired:

Amar's October Recommendations:

Slim pickings this month, but I'd check out the Elie Seckback interview of Fesenko; the re-imagining of 19 year old interviews, starring Kosta Koufos; and the 2nd part of the 3 part series of Utah Jazz Nicknames.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

10 Things Jazz fans should be thankful for

It's genocide day turkey day here in America, and one of the most gluttonous days of the year. (nothing says 'thanks' like your body physiologically shutting itself down so you do not eat anymore food) Anyway, so far this season the Jazz aren't one of the top 5 teams in the league (percentage-wise, the best teams are the LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns), but they Jazz very well could have been one of the bottom 5 teams if they felt sorry enough for themselves. There are a number of things the Jazz fans should be thankful for. Here they are:

1. Despite all the injuries/absences, the Jazz are still in it

 
Deron Williams approves

I felt as though the Jazz could hold then own in the chance that Deron Williams had to miss 6 weeks of action. Little did I know that he really WOULD be gone for almost that long. Even more upsetting was the fact that as a team, the Jazz lost quite a few players over that same time frame: Deron missed 13 games, Harpring missed 9, Collins more than 7, Okur missed 5, Boozer and Kover both missed 4 each, Brevin Knight and Andrei missed two games each as well. That's about 45 missed days of action, in only 16 games. The Jazz still managed to win 10 games and are only a win off of last year's pace. (Though, I thought that the Jazz would be 12-4 at this point in time this season, without Deron's injury)

Aside from shitting the bed against the Knicks, Wizards and Bobcats on the road, and the ridiculous loss to the Bulls (on our homecourt) the Jazz have played pretty well in every single game. Utah is 8-1 versus the Western Conference this season so far, and while we currently sit half a game out of 1st in our division, the Jazz are undefeated in games against division opponents this season. The Jazz are still in this, and if the playoffs started today we'd face off against Houston again. Don't tell me that wouldn't be a favorable match up?

2. The schedule

 
They suck, but we only played them half the time

This is an easy one as the Jazz have a record of 10-6 even though they were a walking M*A*S*H unit for most of the season. We Jazz fans should be thankful for the schedule makers and the schedule they gave us. Our first five games were comically easy -- especially when combined with the fact that we played clubs that were either not very good, or without key players in the first few games. (E.g. Denver without Carmelo Anthony due to a suspension, the Clippers without Baron Davis and Marcus Camby for one game, Portland without Greg Oden, etc).

Aside from the brutal 5 games in 7 nights Eastern Conference road trip (where the Jazz limped home going 1-4), the schedule has been pretty favorable early. Sure, this means that we have a brutal finishing schedule -- but I'd rather have it easy now when the team is trying to form an identity through all the injuries. If the Jazz had a brutal schedule now we may have 5 wins instead of 10.

3. Internal Development

 
Nov 17 2008 [AP Photo] Sap slaps Shaq

Regardless of who you play, you have to still be good enough to win games -- which the Jazz have been doing. The Jazz have been playing a kinds of crazy line-ups this season due to injuries -- and it's worked so far because of the internal development of the younger players. Paul Millsap, Ronnie Brewer, Ronnie Price and C.J. Miles have played in every game for Utah this season. They average between 21.8 mpg and 31.9 mpg -- and three of the four are averaging over 10 ppg. (Price is scoring the least, with only 7 ppg) Taking Deron Williams out of the equation (he's just as young as those guys), that's a pretty solid core of 4 young rotation guys.

Two or three seasons ago if you told me that Millsap would be using dribble spin moves in the lane to score on his man, Ronnie Brewer would be hitting threes, C.J. would be taking it strong to the rim, and our point guard (Price) would be dunking with two hands I'd call you crazy. Even our really young (in terms of NBA experience) guys aren't doing that bad. Morris Almond (for all of his flaws) is shooting 53.6 fg% in the NBA against NBA defenses, Kosta Koufos had a series of games where he was a shot blocking force and Fesenko (all of 18 minutes played total this season) showed that he can play -- in 12 minutes of action against Tim Duncan and the Spurs he had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and made all of his shots. We should be happy our kiddy corp. is doing so well. They are a big reason why the Jazz are winning.

4. Team play

 
Nov 11 2008 [Tom Mihalek AP Photo] AK and Booz win on the road

Without Deron Williams (out of 13 of the first 15 games), the Jazz have had to rely on each other more. This is no more apparent than the number of people who have played point guard for the Jazz so far this season: 5 (Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, Brevin Knight, C.J. Miles and Andrei Kirilenko). Everyone seems to be pretty pass-happy though, and the Jazz are still among the league leaders in some offensive statistics.

For example, the Jazz worked the ball around so much that they still managed to be shooting the ball extremely well, 48.4 fg% so far, which is good enough for 3rd best in the league. The team is working well within the system, and it shows, as the Jazz are leading the league in assists per game (24.9 apg), even without a guy who averaged over 10 apg a game. Utah's also tied for 4th best in the league in assist to turn over ratio. Moreover, the Jazz have 6 guys who are averaging over double digits in points per game this season -- with Deron being close to making it seven (he's currently averaging 8.7 ppg in only 3 games).

Defensively the Jazz have been working better as a unit as well -- finally being able to actually execute a good zone defense at times, and helping one another -- which has resulted in getting 9.1 steals per game (3rd best in the league). Imagine how much better it'll get with Deron stopping penetration, now that he's healthy again!

5. The Coaching staff

 
Scott Layden, Phil Johnson, Jerry Sloan and Tyrone Corbin on Jazz media day (photographed by Melissa Majrchzak for NBAE/Getty Images)

Not only are the coaches a huge reason why the Jazz have weathered the storm early, but they are a huge reason why the Jazz have been in games at all. Who developed our younger players? The coaches did. Who has been making smart substitutions this season? Again, the coaches. Remember a few games back when we actually saw Ronnie Brewer play in the 4ht quarter, and how amazed we all were? Now we see that every game, and it's normal for us. That's a coaching decision that has paid off. Another happened to be taking Andrei out of 'observer mode' as a starter, and put him in 'active mode' off the bench. Speaking of our bench . . .

6. The Bench

 
 Kyle Throws it down [Melissa Majchrzak NBAE Getty]

. . . our bench is awesome this season. Sure, injuries have taken a bite out of our bench recently (Millsap has to start, Brevin is hurt, Kyle is hurt, Harpring is playing again, etc), but our bench has a lot of firepower. We actually won our first 5 games of the season because our bench was so much better than the other teams' bench during that span: +57 points, +34 rebounds, +27 assists, +16 steals, -4 blocks. (again, in just 5 games) The disparity would be even larger had guys like Baron Davis or Marcus Camby started in their games.

In previous seasons our hope as fans would be that the bench doesn't lose too much ground during their time on the floor. Now we have the opposite expectation of hoping our bench extends the lead during games. This is further constructed by the belief that all of our early season challenges with injuries will only further season our bench guys. During the last 16 games we've had crunch time line ups made of up Ronnie Brewer and 4 bench guys. This is the silver lining of having so many injuries though, our bench guys are stepping up and can contribute.

7. Defense

 
Brevin Knight makes life hard on other PGs

If you ever listen to our head coach Jerry Sloan you would come away with an integral understanding that the Jazz never ever *ever* play defense. This may very well be the case in Jerry's eyes, but when compared to the rest of the league the Jazz do not look too shabby on defense. Utah is allowing 95.9 ppg (even with all the injuries), which is good enough for 11th best in the entire league. We're doing better than noted defensive clubs like the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and under-rated Dallas. (At least when Avery was there) Furthermore, teams are shooting 45.3 fg% against the Jazz . . . while only being 17th best in the league, it's still better than a lot of clubs out there.

Lastly, the Jazz are very stingy when it actually comes to letting the other team get a number of possessions. The Jazz have shown a better tenacity for the ball than I can remember (thanks to, early on, Brevin, Brewer, AK and 'Sap getting a lot of minutes -- the Jazz force 16 turn overs per game, that's tied for 4th best in the league). If you keep this in the perspective of how many actual possessions this is, this is a greater feat than other teams that play a quicker pace (like the Nuggets, who are 3rd with 16.4 turn overs forced per game -- but play a game with way more total possessions).

8. Andrei is playing great

 
Oct 9 2008 [Steve C Wilson AP Photo] AK blocks Matt Barnes

Can you imagine how poorly we'd be floundering if it wasn't for his all-around (dare I hint at a performance that's near all-star level) game this year? Sure, statistically he's achieving stats that ARE comparable to what he used to net as an All-Star, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that the coaches will notice this, and put him on the team. For the record, though, he is playing 30.1 mpg and shooting pretty well (save for from deep -- but everyone's had this problem with Deron out so long). He's giving the Jazz 13.3 ppg (48.3 fg%, 82.7 ft% on an average of 6 fta per game, tops on the team); 6.1 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.4 bpg. He's down from his 14/9/3/2/2 first week of the season, but it's still pretty good. Statistically, he's having the 4th best season of his career -- and he's doing it off the bench!

I've actually been more impressed with the stuff that he does that does not get much notice in boxscores. Specifically with the second unit he is always pointing and directing players to where they are supposed to be. It's a level of command and control that he deserves (as being the longest tenured player on the team) and finally gets, as the leader of the 2nd unit. It makes him happy, and he plays better when he's happy. He's had 15 points and above 8 times this season so far; last season he had 15 points or more 23 times the entire season including playoffs. Getting the ball in scoring position also fuels him on defense. Remember back when he had two blocks on Shaq with the game still in the balance? That happened in a game where he shot 50 fg%, nailed all of his free throws and finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds & 3 steals to go with his blocks.

9. Love him or hate him, Boozer is getting 20 and 10

 
Boozer had a wickedly quick spin move on this play to get open

Now that everyone is back on the "I Love AK" bandwagon, and no one is even talking (for better or worse) about Fesenko, it's Boozer's turn to be hated on again. He's injured right now, and has missed the last 4 games (games in which Millsap has occasionally produced some really crazy numbers), but day in and day out, Boozer has been a key component in 8 of our 10 wins. Forget that, Boozer has come to play (on offense mostly) every game. Here's his stat lines in losses:

  • 19 points, 18 rebounds;
  • 20 points, 7 rebounds;
  • 26 points, 15 rebounds;
  • 17 points, 9 rebounds (in the 5th game in 7 nights)

He's averaging 20.5 ppg and 12.3 rpg in our losses, so it's not like the losses are his fault. (per se) Dude is in a contract season, and we can't worry about what's happening this off-season right now. Right now wins are important, and Boozer's play so far has been quite positive. His defense still leaves something to be desired, but his numbers are hard to dismiss entirely. For those interested, Millsap's numbers in the last four games (all without Boozer) have been 15.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Clearly there is still a significant difference between the two, and we should be thankful that Booz has been so consistent so far this season.

10. Deron is finally healthy

 
Nov 26 2008 [Melissa Majchrzak NBAE Getty] Deron go to move is the step back jumper

Sure, his minutes may be graduated right now, and he may play less in the second game in a back to back set than normal, but he's back. For good. Having him on the floor really made our offense look 'back to normal'; and Brewer's sharp cuts near the basket are useful again with Deron's passing ability.

I'm thankful for him being back, as he elevates the team from being a 'good team' to being a championship contender.

There are many things we all can be thankful for, as Jazz fans, the best is yet to come for our team this year. (Even some of the talk heads at ESPN have already admitted in their chats that the Jazz are the team to watch for the 2nd half of the season, or alternatively, the team to watch in 2009, depending on the guy chatting)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Poll: What's the main problem so far this season?

Here's a new poll, you have until December to vote on it . . . it appears simple enough. What's the main problem so far for the Jazz this season? The usual suspects of not being healthy, not defending the perimeter, and not being at home are tempting answers -- but perhaps it's a problem with our offense missing 'gimmie' shots more than ever, or the fact that we're not running when we should run? We have some good athletes, but we often prefer to let the other team set their defense up before we attack them. I don't mind getting easy shots now and then, do you?

Personally, I voted for not making open shots. I don't expect the Jazz to shoot 60 fg%, but I do expect them to make more than half of their really wide open jumpers / layups. So far (and particularly on the road trip) this was not the case. What do you guys think?

You be the coach . . . what's the main problem so far this season?

Poll Result: 5 game East road trip

Watching this road trip was like watching the movie Platoon -- eventually, you know that the chaulk is going to get all kinds of messed up because everyone keeps getting killed. The Jazz lost to the Knicks, beat the Sixers, lost to the Wizards (with Deron Williams playing), lost to the Bobcats, and lost to the Cavaliers. It was pretty bad. Only three people were honest enough to pick the Jazz going 1-4 on this trip. The most of us picked the Jazz winning 3 of 2 . . . obviously the Wizards and Knicks games were very winnable, and let's not even talk about the Bobcats game . . .

5 Game record # of votes  
5 - 0   4  
4 - 1   2  
3 - 2 13  
2 - 3   3  
1 - 4 3 <-- What actually happened in real life
0 - 5   2  

YouTube Tuesdays! Ronnie Price Buzzer Beaters

Yes, I haven't posted in a while. It's going to be okay Jazz-er-oo's. We also had a poor road trip. That's also going to be fine. Why? Because we're slowly getting healthier, and Price is getting his shot back. (Something he struggled with as a starter) Here we can see him hitting two buzzer beaters in the game last Saturday vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Go Ronnie go!

Video posted by EjR2911, total run time of 0:57.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

201!

It took me a while to get to 101 posts . . . it took even less time to get from 101 to 201. I really have no life. The winner of the caption contest was Collethegoalie. He won by default. The prize is that he's gets to be named in my blog as the best commenter in the History of this blog. It was still funny though, I just hope more people try this time around . . .

CAPTION THIS!
Sam and Muggsy