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Utah Jazz

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN You better know the problem and the solution

David Locke

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SUMMARY: A slow start derails the Utah Jazz as Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates with 37 points on the way to the Bucks’ 11th win in just 15 games since the Eric Bledsoe trade.

• Giannis Antetokounmpo is really special. He finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. He did it on 14 of 22 shooting. He settled for a bunch of jumpers early and the Jazz sagged off of him. He only made one midrange shot in the first half. In the third quarter, he came out a ball of fire, clearly deciding that he wasn’t going to settle. He took it to the basket every time he could and there was no stopping him. Everyone in the league knows he doesn’t shoot well outside the paint (28%) and the scary thing is there is nothing they can do about it. He is averaging 29.5 a game with no game outside the paint.

• The Jazz fell behind 16 to 5 to start the game and trailed by 10 after the first quarter. They fought all the way back to 44-42 but the Bucks closed the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 9-point lead at the break. Antetokounmpo quickly stretched the lead to 16 in the third quarter and then to 21 before cruising to a win.

• This is the second straight opponent who had faced Donovan Mitchell for the second time since he had become the primary option and it was clear they were prepared for him. Mitchell has not been good in either of the last two games. Opponents are prepared for his drives to the basket and he missed some 3s that he has been making at an unsustainable rate. This is part of the process. All signs point to him being a very special player, but he is not a finished product and there will still be lots of bumps on the road and some pretty tough stretches ahead.

• Rudy Gobert got some of his aggressiveness back in this game and finished with a nice line: 20 points, 9 rebounds on just 8 shots attempts. This league is great. Coming back after three weeks off, a player is not going to step right back in and be the same, especially if they are not 100%. He is getting back into playing form and looked much better tonight than he did in the previous games.

• The starting lineup played 5:15 in the first half and 2:30 in the second half.

• The Jazz have lost three in a row and don’t look like the same team when they were an offensive juggernaut and won six in a row.

• If there is a change that is going to made by Quin Snyder, he has to be right. There is no leeway on this and that is what makes it so difficult. Is the three game losing streak simply because something in the starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert doesn’t work? Are you certain? Because the one-big lineup when Rudy Gobert was out only played one game against a defense that was ranked in the top 15 (Philadelphia) and the Jazz had an offensive rating of 85.7 in that game, which is far worse than the Jazz have had in any of the last three games. The last three games, the Jazz have played the Thunder (#4 defense), the Rockets (#5 defense) and the Bucks (8th best sine the Bledsoe trade). Are you certain that the lineup is the issue?

• The second thing you have to do if you think you have identified the problem is have a solution The solution has to be right. Again, if you make a dramatic move and it isn’t right, you have a real problem. So what is the solution? It might be the two bigs together, but both of those players deserve to start and deserve minutes. In the previous bullet, we brought some doubt that the one-big lineup is really fool proof. Is it the point guard? He is the same point guard who was at the helm of the offensive explosion over the 12-game stretch. Moreover, what is your solution? Donovan Mitchell played eight games as a point guard in his college career. He may very well turn out to be a point guard in the NBA, but up to this moment Quin Snyder has used him in that roll very carefully and in the right moments with the right responsibility. If you believe Donovan is a Damian Lillard type, which he might be, then let’s remember that Damian had been a point guard for four years of college, came to Portland who had an All-star on the roster in LaMarcus Aldridge and they won 33 games when he was a rookie.

• There is not an easy answer other than there is a chance the Jazz have played three teams in a row that are better than they are. The Thunder have their issues, but that was one of the toughest schedule games of the year, the Rockets are great and the Bucks will likely have home court advantage in the East in the first round of the playoffs.

• Rodney Hood’s ankle soreness is complicating all of these issues.

• The Jazz get a day off and two practices before embarking on a brutal stretch of games. December is really tough.

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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