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Utah Jazz

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Three Stars, Brilliant performance and Courtney Kirkland set a big pick

David Locke

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SUMMARY:  Despite a tumultuous start the Utah Jazz put together one of the best regular season performances in years with a stunning 118-91 blowout win over the Houston Rockets

  • The Jazz were brilliant tonight. The win over the Spurs was largely because of 20 three point shots.   Tonight was about intensity, execution, attention to detail, relentless pressure and perseverance.   One of Quin Snyder’s favorite concepts is Grit.  This was Grit personified.

 

  • The night started with Rudy Gobert getting called for a foul on the tip off and then getting a foul at the 9:17 mark on a James Harden flop. Rudy snapped and got ejected.  I will address this more later, but I don’t want to distract from the brilliant performance of his teammates.

 

  • On a night like this I would usually avoid individuals but tonight three players deserve huge kudos. Derrick Favors did it again. This is like a broken record.  When needed Favors has been amazing and he was again tonight.   The entire defensive game plan is based on Rudy in the middle and Derrick did everything Rudy does.  The defense going into the night with Derrick at center had not been very good and it is a key going forward for the Jazz.  Tonight, he was outstanding.  He defended the rim.  He denied Capela.  He took advantage of the Rockets 27th ranked (30th over last 10 games) defensive rebounding and he was the best player on the floor.

 

  • Dante Exum has been out of the rotation. However, at shoot around today it was Dante who was participating.  Quin Snyder deserves some credit for this, but let’s focus on Dante.  He was given the assignment largely because of his defensive prowess and his ability to beat players off the dribble.    He was great defensively impact both James Harden and Chris Paul and making their lives very difficult.  On the offensive end he was blowing by people.  He made Chris Paul look all of 33.  He got to the rim time and time again.  He was a force on the pick and roll beating the slower guy.   These are all the things Quin knew Dante could bring that didn’t match Neto or Korver tonight because of the Rockets switching and he delivered.

 

  • How awesome is Ekpe Udoh. He is the best.  His teammates love him.  You can see it every time he does something.  Tonight he was great defensively.  He got switched out on Harden and CP3 and held his own.  He is so solid defensively.   Little did we know at shoot around when he got switched out on Korver and forced him into a missed shot and jokingly said “That is what I do” that it was a sign of things to come.  He was really good and his minutes in the first half were vital.

 

  • The Jazz opened the third quarter on a 16 to 2 run that ended the night. The Jazz played brilliantly in the first half but they only lead by 53-45 and it felt like the Rockets could turn it on and come after the Jazz.  Instead, Ingles and Crowder hit threes and the Jazz got rolling and the Rockets wilted.

 

  • The Jazz had a very specific plan on how to attack the Rockets defense and it was wildly successful. The Jazz went 29 of 36 at the rim tonight.  For all the talk of three point revolution the rim is still the most important shot and the Jazz got 36 of their 89 shots at the rim 42% of your shots at the rim is a crazy high number

 

  • The Jazz had a very specific plan on Harden and it was executed perfectly by Ricky Rubio, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles and Dante Exum. There was a break down or two in the first half on the step back three but other than that the Jazz denied him from getting into his dance step and rocking into a step back. They forced him right and stayed attached and he was never comfortable.

 

  • The Rockets aren’t great shooters. They work off of Harden and he wasn’t creating.

 

  • The Jazz didn’t want to send the Rockets to the line. They are now 1-5 when they shot under 20 free throws. They never got to the rim either.  As much as the Rockets are three-point team what really makes them go is the line and the rim.  They only made 12 of 26 at the rim.

 

  • Now to Rudy Gobert.  Take your fan hat off for a moment.  When one of our players gets hit with a hard foul or a big pick what do we want his teammates to do.  You want someone to stand up for their teammates.  Rudy Gobert hit the officials with a big pick in Miami.  Courtney Kirkland foul call on the jump ball to me was him standing up for his teammates.  I don’t like it, but that is how I read it.  I find it way to coincidental that Rudy killed the officials (again) in the media and a veteran official of nearly 20 years makes that call.  He was telling Rudy they heard him and that was enough.  He was setting a hard foul.  Rudy put himself out there with him comments in Miami and that is the price.  I am guessing Courtney Kirkland’s 40 teammates think it was great because they don’t like being told it is the same s(*&* every night and they are inconsistent.
  •  Worth noting the crew v. San Antonio had a 14-year vet, a 6-year official and 3rd-year official.  Tonight we had a 19-year vet in Kirkland, a 28th-year official in Tom Washington and Leon Wood in his 23rd year.
  • The 2nd foul call is a brilliant play by James Harden and a bad call. Harden knows he can’t go to the rim on Rudy and he knows he has a foul so he does down for a rebound and he flops.  He wants to get Rudy out of the game.  Bad call and a chance for a game-changing impact.

 

  • Then Rudy snapped. You can’t hit stuff off the table like that because it could go into the crowd.  You can’t scream at an official like that.  Hard to argue with the ejection.  Rudy got baited and bite.

 

  • Why did Rudy snap? I haven’t talk to Rudy but let me take a stab at it.  All the same reasons Rudy is great worked against him.  He demands excellence out of himself, he plays with great passion, he knows what people say, he wants to be the greatest in the game.  It is why Rudy is defensive player of the year.   However,  Rudy knows this was on national TV, Rudy knows he has to live up to being defensive player of the year and Rudy knows people are talking about how he got outplayed by Capela and couldn’t stay on the floor last year.   He was fired up.  He was ready to be Rudy and prove his point and it leads to him snapping.  Rudy has to be more in control, he is too good and too important to the franchise.

 

  • The best part of the Rudy is he is really intelligent and his care factor is through the roof. He very rarely makes the same mistake twice.  He has had other moments that he regrets.  He usually doesn’t do it again.   This is a great reminder of how he is still going through new experiences.

 

  • This is a great example of why this year is not like last year despite the same team coming back. Rudy is dealing with the pressure and expectations of being defensive player of the year.  Those pressures are both from him internally and externally.   Donovan Mitchell is dealing with being Donovan Mitchell and tonight is a great night for him because he wasn’t very good and the team was brilliant which can re-leave that burden.

 

  • This team is finding itself inside this iteration of who they are. The game plan the last two games was brilliant. The players were engaged and executed it perfectly.  They are all understanding their value to each other and what they need to do.

 

  • This was a good as the Jazz have been all year and maybe in the last two years in the regular season.

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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Utah Jazz

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