Late in the 3rd quarter of last night’s game, David Locke was talking to “Big T” Thurl Bailey to get his thoughts on the game to that point. Thurl said overall he liked what he had seen but what had put the Jazz in the 14 point hole they were in was a lack of patience and focus. I thought that summed up perfectly what lead to a 3 point loss in an otherwise exciting and thrilling game. These are the things we are going to be seeing from a growing team and it’s going to be a fun ride. Before I get to the “patience and focus” I want to focus on the many positives from this game.
Assists - The Jazz had 25 assists on 35 field goals made. That is really good. Favors, Lucas and Hayward each had 5 assists and Alec Burks had 6. What that tells me is the Jazz are playing team basketball. The players are willing to find their teammates and to move the ball. Everyone on the court is being given an opportunity to score and to be involved in the offense. Mike Harris looked like the happiest man on the planet yesterday and was a big benefactor in this new focus on team play. How often did we see this last season? Not a lot. This type of offense is going to make a lot of players happy this year.
Defense - Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are going to be very fun to watch play together this year. When those two are on the court they intimidate, block or alter almost every shot that comes their way. Mike Harris did a terrific job of pestering Kevin Durant into a 9-24 shooting night; that’s only 37.5% shooting. The Jazz finished with 5 blocks, 6 steals and 34 defensive rebounds. The Jazz played good enough defense to win this game and this type of effort on the defensive end will put them in position to win their fair share of games this year especially at home. Very pleased with what I saw in this regard.
Rebounding - Enes Kanter lead the way with 10 boards followed by Favors with 9, Gobert with 7 and Burks with 6. Solid rebounding by the bigs and nice rebounding from the wing with Burks. The Jazz were crashing the boards and fighting all night long.
Alec Burks – Solid line by Alec last night; 24 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists on 8-16 shooting and 8-9 from the line. Gordon Hayward was struggling with foul trouble last night and Alec did a great job of stepping in and shouldering the scoring load. More than the scoring though, Alec was really hustling out there and the 6 assists show that he is willing to play with others. He had some amazing circus shots at the rim that we have come to love and even made #2 on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the day. Nice job by the Jazzman who I think has the most to prove this year.
Heart - This team showed a lot of heart. Down by 14? No problem. They kept on playing, fighting, attacking and got themselves back in the game. Teams will not be able to sleep on the Jazz this year. They have too much talent and athleticism. Even when they dig themselves a hole, this team will do everything to fight out of it. The effort on both ends of the court was a joy to watch. The brand of basketball this team will play this year is much appreciated and will be a lot of fun to watch. I hope they sellout every game this year.
Now for what needs to improve:
Patience - Of all the mistakes made by young players, turnovers is the one I can live with the most. A lot of times young players are just trying to do too much by making the spectacular play instead of the simple play. Having 9 more turnovers than your opponent isn’t going to help you win a lot of ball games. Derrick Favors lead the way with 6 turnovers followed by Gordon Hayward with 4 and Alec Burks with 3. This will improve over the course of the season. They will become more patient within the offense and will make the correct play instead of forcing something that isn’t there. This is the least of my worries but it was something that lead to the loss and will need to be corrected.
Focus - One thing I don’t have a lot of tolerance for is missed free throws. Making or missing free throws is all about focus. The Jazz were a pathetic 20-30 from the line last night. Make half of those missed attempts and you win the game. Gordon Hayward is much better than shooting 50% from the line and I believe Favors is better than the 43% he shot from the line. Favors is going to get fouled a lot this year and he needs to make those freebies. This will be a big adjustment for him this year as the team will rely heavily on his ability to make free throws and keep them in games. Chalk it up as hopefully, another lesson learned.
Gordon Hayward - Gordon had a rough night shooting the basketball going 4-13 from the field. This is because he could not find a rhythm due to foul trouble. He still managed to put together a line of 12 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. He also had 4 fouls and 4 turnovers. I think this was a good lesson for Gordon on what it’s going to be like when you are the main focus of the other team. Gordon was working hard out there he just couldn’t get into the flow of the game. By cleaning up those fouls and staying on the court, he’ll be able to put together some lines like the one Burks had. I’m not worried too much about Gordon. I expect him to bounce back against the Suns on Friday.
Other than not being able to pull off the victory, I was very happy with what I saw from the Jazz last night. That type of effort and defense is going to give them a chance to win games. It will help this team grow up quickly. It will also be very entertaining to watch. Can they improve? Of course they can, but that’s what this season is all about. Let’s enjoy the ride.