Hooray! The Jazz just nabbed their fourth road win of the season! Cheers all around!
Who was it against?
The Cleveland Cavaliers, aka LeBron’s Old Team.
WELL, THAT’S GOOD RIGHT?
This was one of those games that I recorded because I already knew the outcome. The Jazz were winning this thing no matter what, and if they didn’t … shame on them! I didn’t want to watch a blowout in real time, and I didn’t want to punch my couch into oblivion in the wake of a loss. So recording was the best option. Lucky for me, my boys in Purple and Blue (well, mostly just blue) pulled out the victory in high style. In point of fact, there was never a moment where the Jazz were seemingly out of control. Nope, not even in those final few minutes when Cleveland pulled within five. Too many Jazzmen were on tonight for the game to turn THAT drastically. No, the Jazz won this thing in the second quarter and never looked back.
I could analyze the hell out of the “almost loss” portion of the game, but really I think it was a case of a good team getting lulled to sleep by a mediocre one, and then waking up at the appropriate moment. Look at it this way: Kyrie Irving, the Cavs’ best player, had all but vanished in the second half (even Boone was falling asleep). The only noteworthy performance up until that moment stemmed from Antawn Jamison. The other Cavs, notably fourth overall draft pick Tristan Thompson, had nothing to do without their star PG. And so the game just kind of sat there. The Jazz would score, then Cleveland would score, or turn the ball over, and on and on we would go … I was taking notes in the first half, but eventually gave up searching for interesting things to write down.
Then Irving suddenly exploded, catching everyone, myself included, by surprise. Suddenly the Jazz had to wake up and play some defense, which they did. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Now, some might suggest the same thing happened in Dallas last Saturday when the Jazz mounted a furious comeback and nearly upset the world champs on their home floor after trailing by 19. Well, the Jazz were in that game the entire way, even during Dirk Nowitzki’s scoring orgasm. That was a case of a good team being dismantled by a superior player.
Cleveland was never really in the game from the get go. Aside from a couple of 3-pointers, their offense looked completely off-kilter. After the second period, most of their team was jogging up and down the court. (I’m pretty sure coach Byron Scott has learned to sleep with his eyes open – that’s the only way I can explain his lack of emotional involvement.) In the end, Irving simply decided to make an effort in the final two minutes against a team that had already called it a day.
GORDON HAYWARD CAN DO MORE THAN GROW A BEARD
We’ve all known this from day one. What a difference a simple coaching move makes! Our pasty, shaggy haired fellow was moved to the bench before tonight’s game and responded in kind: 23 points, 5-of-5 free throws, five assists and a pair of treys. Wow. The kid looked completely at ease in his new role; I couldn’t tell if he was venting his frustration or relishing his new-found freedom. It’s a simple truth that Hayward plays better with the ball in his hands. As a starter he’s relegated to the third or fourth option, and is forced to run around the court looking for ways to make an impact. With the second unit he literally becomes the first option and gets to spend more time with Spalding. As such, he’s free to make terrific passes, drive the lane or pull up for treys.
I’m not gonna get ahead of myself here. He played a terrific game, albeit against a crappy team. I won’t label him as the heir apprentice to Ginobili just yet. Suffice to say, if he plays like that every night we may just squeeze out enough victories to make the playoffs! And maybe even win the championship … too much? (On a downer note: moving Hayward to the bench seriously limits CJ’s minutes … I’m not sure how I feel about that just yet.)
The stats of the night had to be those that flashed on screen during the opening period: 13.7 ppg, 52% FG, 7/15 3-pointers, 5.3 assists – Devin Harris’ numbers during the last six games. Wow. I feel bad holding a poll asking whether or not we should trade him now, although I still remain concerned that his play may or may not be impacted by the trade deadline.
Even so, his new-found abilities (or return to glory) are staggering to behold. I loved what Boone said after another one of Harris’ patented drives: “It’s like he remembered that if he drives, even if he doesn’t make the bucket, he’ll get the foul.” So true.
Of course, the only problem with such high octane play is the injuries that arrive with greater frequency. Harris left the game with a sprained knee and never returned – that’s scary. Then again, that brings me to my next segment:
WHY DON’T WE PLAY TINSLEY?
Every team has a player that the coach adamantly refuses to play. The Jazz have two: Jeremy Evans (the slam dunk champ who deserves better) and Jamaal Tinsley, the current cheerleader filling in for Sundiata Gaines. Coach Corbin will noto play the man, unless forced into a glass plated corner overlooking a pool of sharks – even though the last time Tinsley played he netted nine points and 13 assists against the Golden State Warriors. Most coaches would reward that type of unselfish play … not the Jazz. Instead, they placed Tinsley on the bench and forgot his name. I’m pretty sure when Corbin called on him tonight, the exchange probably went like this:
“Hey you on the end of the bench, get out of here!”
“I’m your third string point guard, coach. Jamaal Tinsley’s the name. You met my wife and kid last week …”
“Oh. Well then go in and sub for Earl Watson. I think his spleen just fell out.”
You get my drift. There’s absolutely no reason Tinsely shouldn’t get at least a few moments playing time in each game. Same with Evans. I’m not asking for 15 or 20 minutes, but enough to keep them happy and working hard. (Granted, there was a random Evans sighting against the Cavs, but that didn’t last long enough to make much of an impact. It was kind of like seeing George on Grey’s Anatomy before he was abruptly killed for no apparent reason.)
When Tinsley DID play, he dropped two of the most important shots of the game. Both were three point shots, taken from well beyond the arc; both stifled a Cavalier’s run. And the man made those shots with all the ease of a pilot flying a plane into the Hudson River. Tinsley needs more playing time. No, he deserves more playing time.
The man formerly known as PAUL MILSAP had a good game against the Mavs on Saturday, but this was the first time in a long while his presence was actually felt. Kudos Paul – we need you buddy. Never mind that the refs swallow their whistles every time you get the ball … keep playing tough! Even through broken ribs, black eyes and dislocated fingers.
I seriously think Milsap’s recent woeful play is a direct result of such injuries. The man plays his guts out, almost to a fault. Eventually his body just gives out. I know the feeling. I played X-Box kinect all weekend and feel like a slab of battered meat today. There has to be a point where enough is enough. I counted no less than five different plays where Milsap walked away either wincing, or rubbing his eyes after a no call. I’m waiting for the game where he throws up his arms and goes all Metta World Peace on the refs …
I hate the ISO Big Al play – the one where he gets the ball and attempts to force a 15-foot jumper over four guys. It sucks. I hate that play. But I give credit to the guy for dishing out 25 points and seven assists by doing just that – lots of ISO plays, with the occasional whacky jump shot serving as his alternative shot. Nothing Jefferson does ever looks pretty, but his play somehow gets the job done. I still think he forces the offense to a stand still every time he touches the rock, but at least he’s learning to pass the ball more. During one stretch Big Al dished the ball off to Hayward who nailed a trey, and then rewarded the big guy on the next possession. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours?
Another effective offensive scheme is when Big Al gets the ball at the top of the key and then passes inside to a cutting player – he did that a few times tonight with Howard serving as the recipient. Those are the kind of plays Big Al needs to do in order to keep the offense running effectively.
(Again, this team gets better and better with each game …)
The Jazz played an all around terrific game tonight – they hit shots from the perimeter, dominated the paint and made tremendous plays down the stretch. This was a game they should’ve won regardless, but I’m glad they pulled out the effortless victory.
Next up: MJ’s Bobcats, followed by the 76ers. If the Jazz play like they did tonight (and who knows, they may even get some contribution from CJ on the next outing), I think they could walk into Chicago with three road victories in a row whilst sitting on a +.500 record for the first time since February 17. Not too shabby.