Thursday, March 15, 2007
Ohhh, boy. This one was not pretty. A 101-90 loss to the Magic following last night's loss to the Heat means we are in the middle of a 2-game losing streak. Let's figure out what went right and what went wrong.
- Boozer abuses the Magic's defense with a 29-point, seven-rebound night. Sure he shot more than any other Jazz player (24 FGA tonight), but he also seemed to be the only guy playing on a full tank of gas on offense. Defensively, he (nor anyone else on the Jazz) could stop Dwight Howard. But when Howard makes up his mind to take over, there aren't many big men who can tell him otherwise. Overall, Boozer played solid, but he didn't have a whole lot of help.
- Jazz try to pull off a rally. This game looked over in the start of the 4th quarter as the Magic held a 77-64 lead. But some defense combined with some timely 3-pointers by Mehmet Okur trimmed the lead to 92-88 with 2:46 to go. Unfortunately, Howard dunked over two Jazz players a few plays later and that was the end of this one. But at least the Jazz tried to come back.
- Turnovers rule the night. Both teams had 22 turnovers, but it seemed like the Jazz were turning the ball over every time the got some momentum going. Deron Williams had a good night, stats-wise (14 points, 11 assists), but he had six turnovers. He has 11 turnovers and 19 assists in his last two games and has looked out of sync. Most disturbing is that he hasn't been matched up against top-flight PGs in that span (unless you consider Jason Williams and Jameer Nelson to be top-flight PGs).
- Matt Harpring, Gordan Giricek, Paul Millsap, Jarron Collins and C.J. Miles played 55 minutes. What did that get the Jazz tonight? How about 13 points, five rebounds, five turnovers and eight personal fouls. That's about what you'd expect (points and rebounds-wise) out of Harpring, alone.
- Atrocious interior defense. The Jazz allowed the Magic to shoot 55.2 percent from the floor and provided their trademark matador interior defense. Granted, Dwight Howard should score 31 points and have 15 rebounds on a great night, but if that's happening, don't let Tony Battie, Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu play well, too. There were wayyyyyy too many layups tonight.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
What is it about these Florida teams this year? The last time the Jazz played the Magic, Orlando wiped the floor with them in an 88-75 loss at Energy Solutions Arena. Utah was never really in that game and came out with zero heart, so the score is a little misleading.
Season series: Orlando leads, 1-0.
What happened last time: Dwight Howard had 21 points, 16 rebounds and abused the Jazz's front line all night long. Jameer Nelson had a good all-around game (15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Grant Hill hit some key outside jumpers to finish with 16 points. Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 10 rebounds, but didn't get going until late in the game. This might have been one of Andrei Kirilenko's best games of the year, numbers-wise (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks) but the team looked awful.
What to expect this time: The Magic have lost three straight (including Monday's loss to the Bobcats) and have lost 10 of 12 since the all-star break and 22 of 29 since mid-January. There's an entire Web site devoted to firing Brian Hill, Dwight Howard is kicking basketballs through the roof ... basically it's mass hysteria and craziness in The City Beautiful. The Magic are a game behind the Pacers for the No. 8 spot in the East and have gone from a sure-fire playoff team to a lottery team trying to make the playoffs. Howard, Hill and Nelson are the name players on this team, but keep an eye on Trevor Ariza. He's playing well of late (12.0 ppg, 64.8 FG pct in his last 5 games) and is the athletic X-factor the Magic look to when things bog down.
Prediction: The Jazz played last night like they thought they were invincible and they lost. The Magic always give the Jazz a tough game, but I think Utah gets back on track tonight. Jazz win, 91-82.
A look at what the Orlando media has to say about tonight's Jazz/Magic game at Amway Arena.
- Previews: Orlando Sentinel Yahoo.com
- Story on the Jazz still playing well, while the Magic have gone in the tank.
- Magic are considering whether or not to give PG Jameer Nelso an extension this off season or wait until next year. Nelson is a good point guard, but he still has a lot of growing to do. We all know he's better than ex-Jazzman Carlos Arroyo.
- Magic GM Otis Smith cites everything from a lack of leadership to the Magic players liking each other too much to this season's swoon. Maybe the team is just young? Just a thought ...
It's late and this postgame wrapup is also, so we'll keep it short. The Jazz fell to the Heat, 88-86, in Miami. A quick look at the good (and bad) from Tuesday night's loss.
- Another solid night from Boozer (20 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists), but he disappeared in the 4th quarter. In the last 1:30, the Jazz ran at least three different plays for him, and he settled for jumpers. Would have liked to have seen him take the ball to the basket.
- Memo goes for 19 points, 10 rebounds, but more importantly, takes the single-season 3-point shooting record from Bryon Russell. Okur was 2-7 on 3-pointers, giving 109 3-pointers this year (passing Russell's 108 set in 1996-97). While Russell was a key player on the NBA Finals teams of 1997 and 1998, he never delivered on his promise to be an all-star and was more or less a disappointing player. Okur has done more in his three years with the Jazz than Russell did in his tenure.
- APB put out for Fisher, Kirilenko, Millsap ... these guys combined for 6 points, 3 rebounds and an assist. While AK-47's season has been a bust, Fisher and Millsap have been two of the more reliable players for the Jazz. Sure, blowing a 17-point lead is never good, but the bench has to show up.
- A 17-point lead is not safe. Utah was up 17 points in this game and 14 points entering the 4th quarter, and still managed to lose. This game reminds me of the Knicks loss and many others this year in which the Jazz had a lead, but couldn't keep it going. I've said it before and I'll say it again ... the Jazz can't keep wilting under the pressure if they want to go anywhere in the postseason.
- ANTOINE WALKER KILLS US?! The guy had 0 points entering the 4th quarter, then scored all 13 of his points to lead the Heat's rally. Walker looked about 7 years younger in this game (driving to the basket, hitting big 3-pointers) and his play combined with Gary Payton's defe
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The Jazz got worked the last time they played the Heat, a 119-110 loss that was worse than the score indicated. The loss came during the low point of the season, when the Jazz lost 4 games in a row (including one buzzer-beater by Gilbert Arenas and a 54-point game by Ray Allen). The Jazz are humming of late and have won 6 in a row. Wonder how things will go tonight ...
Season series: Miami leads, 1-0.
What happened last time: The Heat's Dwyane Wade had 32 points (21-23 FTs), Jason Kapono had 18 points (on 4-5 3-point shooting) and Jason Williams had 20 points. The Jazz trailed 64-48 at halftime and were led by Carlos Boozer's 29 points and 14 rebounds and Deron Williams' 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. This game was lost on the free throw line, as the Heat went 42-45 from the line (compared to the Jazz's 37-54).
What to expect this time: Miami's win streak is much like Utah's in that the Heat have won against some creampuffs (Atlanta, Minnesota) and beaten some good teams, too (Chicago, Washington twice and Detroit). O'Neal has gotten a lot of credit of late, but Heat F Antonie Walker has played better the last five games. He's averaging 11.8 ppg and has made some critical baskets during the Heat's win streak. The Jazz need to get out on the break tonight and make the aging Heat run. Hopefully they can get Miami in foul trouble because the Heat are injured and don't have the depth the the Jazz have. Finally, Okur has to make some 3s tonight to loosen up the interior for Boozer (and to draw O'Neal/Alonzo Mourning out of their comfort zone).
Prediction: This seems like the kind of game the Jazz will hang around in, but lose. I'm going to go with that feeling ... Heat win, 102-97.
The latest headlines in anticipation of tonight's Jazz/Heat game in Miami. Here's what the Miami media has to say about the Jazz (and/or the Heat):
- The Heat have won 6 in a row, but other East contenders such as Cleveland (5 in a row), Chicago (5 of last 6 games), Detroit (2 in a row) and Toronto (2) are keeping them from moving up much in the standings.
- Miami's been stinking it up from the free throw line lately.
- Insight into the rough season Heat PG Jason Williams has had. This guy has been a pain the the Jazz's butt since that 1999-2000 playoff series.
- Are shorter practices helping in C Shaquille O'Neal's resurgance?
Monday, March 12, 2007
A look at what's happening with the Heat in anticipation for tomorrow night's game in Miami.
- Recap of Miam's buzzer-beating win over the Wizards.
- A column on Udonis Haslem's game-winner over the Wizards.
- Heat coach Pat Riley might actually use his draft pick this year to draft a player. Might be a good idea seeing as how outside of Dorell Wright, the Heat have zero young prospects on the roster.
- The Heat have won six in a row (just like the Jazz), but where will they end up in the Eastern Conference playoff picture?
- Recap of last night's game by Crazy from the Heat.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Jazz top the Hornets, 96-86, for their 6th straight win (their second 6-game win streak in the last 15 games). Utah fell asleep in the first quarter, but then took over in the second and coasted the rest of the night. Let's get into what went right (and what could be better) ...
NBA.com coverage: recap box score highlights
- Another "rally" victory for the Jazz as they trailed 47-45 at halftime and got the win. The Jazz are now 14-12 when trailing at halftime, although I wouldn't exactly put this up there in terms of rallies with the Atlanta win earlier this year.
- Mehmet comes through and plays well against the Hornets (29 points, 5-7 on 3-pointers, 5 rebounds) for the second time in less than a week. The Jazz started off slow, as we mentioned earlier, but Mehmet came out of the gate on fire and kept it up all night long. Although the Hornets' Tyson Chandler had six blocks to go along with his 12 points and six rebounds, Okur got the best of this matchup as he and Carlos Boozer punished the Hornets' frontline.
- Deron Williams struggled from the field (10 points, 3-13 FG), so he simply ran the Jazz's offense to precision, found open teammates (13 assists) and played great defense (3 steals). He and Chris Paul (12 points, 4-10 FG, 11 assists) had nearly identical nights, but Paul had to work much harder for his numbers.
- Matt Harpring keeps pissing off opponents. Harpring had an OK night from the floor (10 points, 2-7 FG, 7 rebounds), but it's nights like these that Harpring's value is found in his toughness. Harpring had eight free throw attempts (made six) and frustrated Hornets F Desmond Mason to the point of getting T'd up.
- Boozer with another solid night (20 points, 10 rebounds). He didn't do anything spectacular tonight, but had another double-double and is making a serious push for All-NBA Second Team honors.
- Kirilenko seems to be finding his niche. The line, as usual, for AK-47 was awful (2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks). Seems as though since the all-star break, Kirilenko is finding his way on this team (particularly what his role is) and is fitting into a role as an offensive facilitator and defensive stopper.
- Utah's lack of energy to start games has been a real disappointment. By my count, the Jazz have trailed at the end of the first quarter in about half of the 10 games since the all-star break. While the Jazz eventually figure things out (they're 8-2 in those 10 games), the slow starts have been a little frustrating. I know you have to probe your opponent and figure out what they're giving you, but the Jazz shouldn't take a whole quarter to determine how their game plan will work.
- The interior defense could use a little work. Chandler had six blocks as mentioned before, so that kind of throws things off, but the Jazz still give up some easy buckets at the basket. When Kirilenko was the starting power forward, those interior problems were masked a little better, but now that Boozer has that spot, the problems are evident. How Boozer can finish above the rim on offense all the time and allow layups on the other end amazes me.
Some quick notes for tonight's Hornets/Jazz game at Energy Solutions Arena (as well as tonight's preview):
- The Hornets have allowed 100+ points in seven of their last nine road games. Ouch.
- Memories of an ironic collapse for Hornets coach Byron Scott as they ready for tonight's game.
- Hornets couldn't quite complete the comeback last night against the Suns.
- AP's preview of tonight's game.
- A ballboy helped Jazz C Jarron Collins understand exactly how home court in the first round of the playoffs works.
Season series: Tied, 1-1.
What happened last time: Jazz dismantled the Hornets, 108-94, on Sunday. Carlos Boozer had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Mehmet Okur had 28 points and 9 rebounds and Deron Williams put up 20 points and had 6 assists. The Hornets muddled through the game, with only Tyson Chandler (20 points, 19 rebounds) and Chris Paul (14 points, 13 assists, 3 steals) doing anything of note for New Orleans/Oklahoma City.
What to expect tonight: The Jazz had their way with the Hornets the last time around by basically out-executing the Hornets all evening. David West was a non-factor (10 points, 4-12 FG, 7 rebounds) and players such as Bobby Jackson, Devin Brown and Marc Jackson contributed little to nothing. The Hornets are coming off last night's 104-103 loss to the Suns and will no doubt be tired.
Williams often says he doesn't play any harder against Paul and the Hornets than any other team. He says that the matchup is something the media makes up, but that he doesn't view it as otherwise. The numbers say otherwise:
Williams -- 23.5 ppg, 52.9 FG pct, 7.0 assists per game this season in the 2 games vs NOK.
I'd be surprised if Williams doesn't get himself fired up for this game and run the show as well as he has all season.
Prediction: Jazz win, 105-99.
Friday, March 09, 2007
A quick look at today's Jazz-related news/headlines:
- Paul Millsap is thriving this year, despite not having any plays called for him.
- Larry Miller thinks something is wrong if Jerry Sloan doesn't win the NBA Coach of the Year award. You can read my thoughts on this topic here.
- Ronnie Brewer enjoyed the annual Leapin' Leaners charity benefit. I'm sure he'd enjoy some playing time, too (4 minutes the last 5 games).
- A good column from HoopsWorld.com says the Jazz will surpass the Spurs for the Western Conference's third seed. I like the idea, but I don't think it will happen. Utah has played incredible this season, but they're likely a little too young to know what it takes to close out the season strong and finish in third.
- AUDIO: Larry Miller discusses the state of the team, other guys stepping up and Karl Malone's departure on 1280 The Zone.
- VIDEO: Finally, some great video of ex-Jazzman Greg Ostertag playing with about as much heart as we're all used to. Except he's playing PING PONG (and getting abused by a kid during the game)!
Thursday, March 08, 2007
I've always been a fan of Marty Burns' work at CNNSI.com and he has a great column about the NBA's coach of the year award. Everyone knows Avery Johnson won it last year and Johnson would seem to be the favorite for this year's COY award. But here's the rub:
* The Mavs were supposed to be good (and they are ... an NBA-best 51-9 this year).
* No coach has ever won the award in back-to-back seasons (not even the almighty Phil Jackson).
* And, of course, there's this coach in Utah named Jerry Sloan who's done a fantastic job of revitalizing the Jazz.
I've watched the Jazz since I was 14 years old and the way how Sloan has adjusted his coaching style from the Stockton-to-Malone era Jazz to the Raja Bell/AK-47/Carlos Arroyo Jazz to the current incarnation has been impressive. There was a point, probably about two seasons ago, when it seemed that Sloan couldn't relate to today's player. But he's stuck with the young guys on this team, helped them grow and (thanks to the health of Carlos Boozer) has gotten the Jazz back on track.
Sure, Toronto's Sam Mitchell has done a fantastic job getting the Raptors to play an East coast version of the Suns style. You can't discount the work Jeff Van Gundy has done in Houston (mostly getting T-Mac and the Rockets to keep playing hard despite the injury to Yao Ming).
But at the end of the day, Sloan has helped his team go from a playoff hopeful to one that could make it to the West Finals if things go right.
Utah won easily last night, 94-72, for their 5th straight win. What's going on today in Jazzland?
- Andrei Kirilenko was tired yesterday after the birth of his son, Stefan Kirilenko. The Salt Lake Tribune blog has a great post on the whole thing.
- The Pacers were tired last night, but did the Jazz play poor defense, or just take advantage of a worn out team?
- Why hasn't AK-47 been playing more in the 4th quarter? Oh, thanks.
- Audio: AK-47 on the Jazz staying focused.
- Audio: Jerry Sloan, excited about another win.
- Photos: Jazz/Pacers photo gallery from the Indinapolis Star.
- Sloan praises the Jazz's bench.
- Jazz have been keeping folks off the offensive glass (probably helps fuel a winning streak, wouldn't you think?)
- On the Pacers side of things, it might be panic time (at least Mike Wells thinks so).
The Jazz are rolling, having won 5 straight games with tonight's 94-72 win over the Pacers. It wasn't exactly a pretty game (in terms of high scorers, execution or consistent play by the Jazz), but a win is a win. Let's get into the notes ...
NBA.com coverage: recap box score highlights
* Deron Williams played well (16 pts, 6 ast, 3 reb), but also had 5 turnovers and banged knees with a Pacers' player and sat out some of the 3rd quarter. It was quite a scare, but Williams came back and played well in the 4th quarter with some nice assists to Harpring and a couple good shots.
* Carlos Boozer was horrid from the field (5-16 FG), but still managed a double-double (14 pts, 16 reb). He has 37 double-doubles this season and has been one of the biggest reasons the Jazz have already clinched a winning record. Where would the Jazz be without him? Probably aspiring to reach 40+ wins and squeak into the playoffs. With him, the Jazz are a possible 50-plus-win team and could squeak into the Western Conference Finals if they get the right breaks.
* What has gotten into Matt Harpring lately? The guy had 14 points tonight (which is about the usual for him), but the team seems to get an extra boost of energy when he and Paul Millsap check into the game. He has 14 or more points in 8 of his last 9 games.
* The Jazz's execution during this little win streak (and pretty much since the All-Star break) has been nearly flawless. Tonight's game was the exception as the Jazz settled for outside jumpers with the clock running down, but unlike earlier in the year, the Jazz aren't getting rattled when teams come back. This look like a veteran Jerry Sloan team; they run their sets, cut to the hoop, get back in transition and just keep working. There were a few sequences tonight when Jazz players were diving on the floor for loose balls and contesting inbounds passes. This is the behaviour of a high school team or an NBA team fighting to make the postseason, not one assured of a spot.
* I would complain about Andrei Kirilenko's line here (9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists), as I've done most of the year, but it's finally dawned on me. AK-47 is just having a bad year. It's not going to end soon, so he's just going to have to suck it up and do what he can to contribute to a playoff team heading for the stretch run. I think he can do that.
* Was this just a bad game for Gordan Giricek (8 points, 1-8 shooting) or is he regressing into the Gira-suck of old? It was hard to tell tonight. He tries to play good defense and stay on his man, but he gets too physical, too often and gets himself in foul trouble. I don't have a problem with him bumping T-Mac, Kobe or even Jason Richardson, but is it really that hard to stay with Mike Dunleavy without getting in foul trouble? Dunleavy doesn't have a ton of moves.
* Darrell Armstrong looked like he found a time machine tonight. He had 12 points, 3 assists and a steal and flustered the Jazz's guards at times with his pressure defense. Might be a tactic some teams might try against the Jazz as the season wears on.