A win. On the road. What more can fans ask for? This was a solid all around game from the Jazz, albeit against a lottery team without its two best players. With the way this team as played on the road this year (see also: decade), any road win should bring a smile to your face, especially considering that the Jazz lost to this team at the beginning of November with much the same personnel.
If we’re getting picky, you’d like to see a more dominant performance against a bad team, especially knowing what it is going to take to compete with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. This was a chance for the players and coaches alike to figure out a bit of what was bothering them. They were all asked repeatedly by reporters how it felt to break out of their respective slumps, especially Millsap and Hayward. I’m not sure if they were in slumps, or if playing well in one game against a bad team means you’re out of one, but it was nice to see them play well. Right after the opening whistle Paul Millsap went right at Ryan Anderson and drew a foul. I’m willing to bet they designed that on purpose.
When you are playing bad teams on the road and winning games, one other thing you’d like to do is avoid injury. Unfortunately Marvin Williams’ head hit the floor pretty hard, and might take him out for a few games, depending on what concussion tests show. That’s a tough blow, but seeing what some other teams around the league are going through (The Minnesota Walking Dead), the Jazz can be hopeful that he’ll be back pretty quickly.
Friday brings a much stiffer test, as the Jazz head over to OKC to play the Thunder and their All-Star tandem in this decade’s Arco Arena. I’m glad the Jazz didn’t look past the Hornets because, quite frankly, they don’t deserve to. If they can split the final two games on this trip and return to The Solution two games above .500 after the first 18 games of the season, they’ll be sitting pretty.
Ten Things I Liked About Tonight’s Game
1. A quiet arena. I felt bad for the Hornets, honestly. If the Jazz were going to break out of their road funk, it helped that they were able to do it in an arena where the noise level never surpassed four decibels. If it leads to a road win, I’ll take it.
2. Not having to listen to Matt Harpring on the call tonight. I think he’s a good guy, but by the time we roll through an entire season, I can’t handle the guy and all of his quirky sayings that he repeats 19 times each game. It’s nice to have a break from him every once in a while.
3. Leading most of the second half by double digits and not letting the game get scary close. It was nice to not have to sorry about who was going to take a game winning shot or sink two free throws to finish off the Hornets. The Jazz played to their ability, and they’re a better team. Games like this add life expectancy to Jazz fans.
4. Paul Millsap busting out of his “slump.” As was briefly mentioned above, it was nice to see the coaching staff go out of their way to get him more involved. He is one of the best players on this team. Mostly, it was fantastic to see him get to the free throw line to help him get things done. He wasn’t fantastic from the field, hitting just 3-7, but the 10-12 from the free throw line showed me that he is ready to get back to being his aggressive self.
5. Gordon Hayward followed the lead of Paul Millsap and busted out of his “mini-slump.” We hadn’t seen much from him since he hit that game winner against Sacramento. 15 points on 8 shots, including 2-2 from three-point range, will get it done. 5-7 from the free throw line shows he was out to get his.
6. Spread out scoring. It was good to see four players in double figures, led by Al Jefferson with 19. Favors had 9, and Carroll had 8 to help hold down the fort when the starters rested. That is the depth that can be the biggest strength of the Jazz, but has also been the biggest weakness at times when someone is needed to step up and everyone is expecting someone else to do it.
7. This exchange happened in the first quarter (not exact quote, but close):
Boler: Anthony Davis, look at that earring!
Boone: It looks good. You should get one, but make sure you get it in your left ear.
So random. Where do we get these guys? Hilarious. (More funny to actually hear live…)
8. Three-point defense. Maybe the Hornets were just cold, but this team is, so far, a top five team shooting three-pointers. They were 5-21 tonight. Their regular percentage is 41%. Tonight they couldn’t break 25%. Even if it was just an off night, holding Ryan Anderson (1-6) and company so low is an accomplishment.
9. Millsap playing in the fourth quarter. I love this guy. I love when he’s playing well. He seemed more confident after this game, and it’s probably because the coaching staff showed a bit more of an effort to integrate him tonight. Unfortunately, regardless of how much I love Millsap, I think that this team starting front-court for the next 4 years will be Jefferson and Favors, but we’ll discuss that in another post.
10. Marvin Williams nasty dunk in the third. Dang bro! (Nice assist from a Millsap in distress).
Three Things That Could Use Some Improvement
1. Marvin Williams’ head and Mo Williams’ foot. This team misses Mo a lot, and losing Marvin doesn’t help either. Marvin hasn’t quite met my (probably unreasonable) preseason expectations so far, but his presence has helped this team become deeper and to score in more ways. I hope he can get right back at it, because I still think he can be scary once he really learns to mesh with Millsap and Al in the front-court over the next little while, especially with more home games.
2. The first few minutes of the game still need work, particularly on the defensive end in the paint. I’m not pointing right at Al, because this is effort needed by everyone, and nobody really brings it right after the tip. The Hornets started 0-2 from the field, but then made six straight field goals, most of which were dunks and layups. They grabbed a 12-7 lead after just four minutes, and it looked like their penetration into the paint was going to have me rolling my eyes all night.
3. If I’m being picky, I’d like to see this team run a bit more. I think it will come a lot easier when Mo gets back, but even tonight it was noticeable that Earl was often the first guy back on offense, and had to slow down significantly to let even one or two more guys catch up with him. If it’s that noticeable with Earl, the boys better get out and run some speed and agility drills before Mo gets back, because that’s going to drive him nuts.
The Jazz beat the bad team on the road, now we get to see what they do against a great team and a mediocre team before returning home. Hopefully they find out a little bit more about who they are and what they can do before returning to The Solution next week to take on a tough Clippers team.