Phew! I hate to be honest, but I did not expect the Utah Jazz to destroy the Washington Wizards like they did. In fact, I am not even sure I expected the Jazz to win the game outright. They were on the back half of a back-to-back, and they were once again short-handed. Not to mention that their confidence might have been shaken because of their first losing streak in over 2 months. But, as the Jazz have done so many times in individual games this season, they bounced back and shook off the rust.
Let’s go to the notes.
- In my preview of the game, I said that the Boozer-Blatche match-up would be the one that influences the game the most (they both led their teams in scoring by the way). Although Blatche (24 pts) put up one more point than Boozer (23 pts), he missed 6 more shots, grabbed 3 less rebounds, and played 5+ more minutes than his counterpart. A lot of times people measure success based on points scored, but they fail to recognize the importance of efficiency. If I had to compare the efficiency of Blatche and Boozer last night, I am giving the nod to Carlos. With that being said, Boozer brought some good energy last night, and he attacked the basket with force. He did not have a double-double in the game, as he came up one rebound short, but you couldn’t have asked for much more from Booze. Also, Boozer went 7-7 from the line, which is an area that has been a team concern all season long.
- Speaking of free throw concerns, the Jazz once again struggled from the line. On the night, Utah shot 21-35 from the charity stripe, which equates to 60%. This number is unacceptable, even in a blowout, and it is something that must improve once the playoffs arrive. I heard that Kyrylo Fesenko was working on his free-throw shooting prior to the game with Jeff Hornacek. In my opinion, the entire team should be learning from Horny and taking all the advice he can give them. And if he tells you to gently wipe the side of your face before shooting, you do that too!
- The play of the game has to go to Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams who completed a smooth fast-break, compliments of a Matthews around-the-back pass. I am sure the pass infuriated Jerry Sloan and only Jerry Sloan. (Siler must have been smirking when he saw the play work to perfection)
- Another bright spot for the Jazz was Memo, who had missed the Thunder game one night earlier because of back spasms. Despite Memo not feeling 100%, he came out looking to contribute right off the bat. Within the first 15 seconds of the game, Okur threw down a dunk that made the crowd go crazy. Overall, Okur had 14 points on 6-7 shooting, including a make on his only 3-point attempt. Another thing that stood out was that he compiled 3 blocked shots, which is not normally his forte. Believe me, the “Memomentum” that he added to the team was huge for them.
- The great surprise of the night definitely came from Sundiata Gaines, who held down the point guard duties with confidence for a quarter and a half. Not only did Gaines not make mistakes, but he actually contributed heavily to the team’s success, as he scored a career-high 15 points on 6-7 shooting from the field. Outside of his efficient scoring, Gaines impressed me with his fervor on defense. He stuck to his opponents like glue up the length of the court, and he played with the intensity of a caged animal. And this was when the Jazz were up by over 20 points! For Gaines to play so hard, even in a blowout, it shows me that he values the time that he is a given, and he should be getting some more time in the near future. There is no substitute for a hard-working player, and Sundiata Gaines clearly fits that bill. It is great to know that the Jazz can start to rely on him a little bit more, especially with D-Will being banged up right now.
- Since we’re on the topic, Deron Williams wore a compression shirt on his shoulder to prevent further injury. Williams already has a less-than-perfect wrist, and he landed awkwardly on his back last night. The back seems to be fine, but the Jazz took him out for the rest of the game as a precautionary measure (this was at the end of the third when the game was pretty much decided). Getting Williams healthy should be a priority right now, and anytime the Jazz can afford to have him on the bench, they should do it. Of course, despite the health concerns, Williams posted another double-double, as he scored 17 points and dished out 11 assists. If Williams does that banged up, I can only imagine what he could do when he’s fully healthy.
- 2 quick final thoughts: 1. Wesley Matthews is an unbelievable 3-point shooter. He is shooting well over 60% in his last few games. 2. My favorite play is when the Jazz run the curl for Kyle Korver. He’s automatic on the catch-and-shoot.