The Utah Jazz, somewhat predictably, fell on the road to the Sacramento Kings 108-97 after beating them at home in a close one the night before. In last night’s victory, some late game heroics from Gordon Hayward and Jamaal Tinsley were needed to complete the comeback, and it just didn’t seem like the Jazz had enough gas in the tank left to do it again tonight.
Watching the Jazz lose on the road, even to inferior opponents, isn’t all that shocking to Jazz fans. We’ve seen it for years, perhaps even decades. That’s what home court advantage is all about. It’s tough to win on the road. The frustrating part is seeing the team’s biggest strengths become the teams biggest weakness. This Jazz team prides itself on being deep. Coach Corbin probably wishes he could start seven guys. The scoring this year has been spread out and the source of the offensive spark changes from game to game. Because Rich Pedroncelli, AP of that, it seems like in games like this, there isn’t anyone stepping up and taking over the game offensively. If one or two of the main cogs of this team struggle, it will often lead to a tough night.
Getting off to an 8-0 deficit is not a great way to start the game. The Jazz were able to claw back to a 14-14 tie, but would have really been struggling if not for Randy Foye’s hot hand as he sunk three three-pointers to get them back into the game.
As was pointed out after yesterday’s game, this team really needs a shot in the arm, especially early in games against teams that they should beat easily. That lack of energy is apparent when you take a look at Sacramento’s 55% shooting, which is about where they were last night before the Jazz buckled down and forced some misses. As pointed out by David Locke, this team has done themselves no favors at the beginning of games (no pun intended) and coming out after halftime, allowing the Kings to make easy runs.
In addition to their slow starts, it warrants pointing out that the two players who really stepped up at home last night to help lead the Jazz to a victory struggled mightily tonight. Hayward and Favors went a combined 1-14 from the field and didn’t contribute in any significant way. Is that a result of the back-to-back? Young players still struggling to find consistency in their third years? Too much lineup tinkering and not enough of a defined role as the up-and-coming future of the team? These are two players who are a joy to watch when they are on their game, and give Jazz fans hope for a Deron Williams-less future, but performances like this leave many fans doubting.
Ten Things I Liked About Tonight’s Game
1. Randy Foye’s shooting in the first quarter reminded me of playing NBA Jam on Sega Genesis. I used to play that with the sole goal of getting John Stockton to hit three shots in a row so he became “on fire” and could drain three-pointers effortlessly from anywhere on the court. After an 8-0 deficit to start, that kept hope alive for this team, at least for a while.
2. It’s great to see a spark in the game when Kanter comes off the bench. With inconsistent opportunity, he seemed to do well tonight running the floor and making a difference during the 14 minutes that he was on the floor. We all had hopes after the preseason that this would be his inaugural All-Star season and he’d immediately begin chasing Karl Malon’s Jazz record 14 appearances, but we’ve tempered expectations and it’s nice to see him come in and contribute solidly off the bench.
3. Watching Jimmer play without the smattering of boos and cheers that he gets when he comes to Energy Solutions Arena. It was refreshing. Yeah, he only played a few minutes and had minimal impact on the game, but it was a relief not having to shake my head at the Jazz home crowd. I don’t get why he’s treated why he is when he returns to Salt Lake City. All I know is that he was a treat to have watched play locally in college, and now he plays for the Kings. Just let the man play basketball.
4. The Kanter, Favors, Carroll, Hayward, Watson lineup. This is the team’s all hustle lineup. They were getting up and down the floor. They played the Kings tough on defense, got a number of deflections, and Earl got up and down the floor quickly and got the Jazz some easy points. Sometimes I feel like Tinsley is moving in slow motion, so having Earl come in and push the pace will be somewhat of a treat until Mo Williams can return.
5. Fearsome Arco Arena being reduced to a mild environment aptly named “Sleep Train Arena.” The late ’90s/early ’00s NBA, and particularly the Western Conference, was a treat. The Kings fans quickly gained a reputation as some of the most intense in the NBA as they battled the Lakers in the playoffs. They were the only team that had fans that could hold a candle to what visiting teams experienced at the Delta Center in the Glory Days of the Jazz. Now…welcome to Sleep Train Arena.
6. DeMarcus Cousins getting tossed. Just earlier today, on this very site, we debated about who has more potential between Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins has loads of talent, but one of the biggest advantages that Favors holds in that argument comes above the neck. It’s nice to see that confirmed when Cousins was thrown out.
7. I mentioned yesterday and above that it was nice to see Earl back in the lineup, and I’ll just repeat that here. I hope his hustle gets the team pumped up and ready to go, because that’s what it does for me.
8. Jamaal Tinsley’s defense in the clutch. I would have never thought I’d be writing this (unless it was down in the next section). Last night, Tinsley’s clutch steal against Aaron Brooks gave the Jazz a chance at the game-winner, which Gordon calmly drained. For the encore? Tinsley had two steals down the stretch tonight when the game was still in reach. It wasn’t enough to bring the Jazz back, but he’s taken a beating for his defense this year, so it’s been nice to see him buckle down when absolutely needed.
9. Al Jefferson playing through whatever he tweaked in the third quarter. It probably wasn’t much, but he came back fairly quickly after asking to come out of the game to get checked out. With all of the injuries around the league (see: Minnesota), it was a relief to see Big Al tough it out for the team.
10. Because this is tougher following a loss than a win, I’ll go ahead and use this space to give David Locke a shout-out. The radio voice of the Jazz puts in a lot of extra work on Twitter, his blog, and his Locked on Jazz podcasts. He really cares about giving his best to Jazz fans, and he really goes above and beyond. Thanks, Locke.
Three Things That Could Use Some Improvement
1. Randy Foye and Paul Millsap missed five free throws during crunch time in the fourth quarter. What caught my eye though was Al Jefferson during Foye’s three attempts. He was the only one on the court who made no effort to give Foye the between-free-throw-high five/fist bump. Foye even reached out towards him after each free throw, but he just looked the other way. It may not be a big deal, but missing those free throws quickly halted any comeback bid the Jazz were hoping for.
2. 55% shooting for the second night in a row for Sacramento. It looks like their offense comes so easy against the Jazz. There is little resistance, especially when any sort of penetration from the Kings perimeter players. Against a team with a reputation of being selfish and frankly just not very good, the Jazz ought to be able to do better.
3. Consistency. It’s not really coming from anyone on the team. Al Jefferson seems to be rounding into last season’s form, and we occasionally see flashes of brilliance from the surrounding pieces, but if it all worked together on a consistent basis, it would be a thing of beauty. I’d love it if we were debating whether or not Millsap should be an All-Star this year like we were last year. Having Favors and Hayward bring what they did last night on a nightly basis would truly help this team become one to be feared.
Get well, Mo.