Game Recap: Jazz @ 76ers 10/30/15

October 30th, 2015 | by Clint Johnson
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Jazz are just who we thought they’d be.

Utah’s 99 – 71 demolition of Philadelphia on the Sixers’ home floor displayed practically all the likely hallmarks of the team going forward. What will certainly once again be a strong contender for worst team in the NBA1 served as little more than a canvas upon which Utah could etch an early-season statement of identity.

The Jazz outscored the Sixers by at least four points every quarter while allowing only 19, 14, 20, and 18 points respectively. They essentially flayed Philadelphia’s offense: 10 steals and eight blocked shots while allowing only a measly 63 field goal attempts — and only 19 makes (30.2%). The Jazz outscored their overmatched opponent 40 – 22 in the paint, 23 – 9 on second chance points, and 10 – 7 on fast break points.

While the Jazz offense showed marked improvement on multiple fronts, honestly, it wasn’t needed. This was a game where the Jazz could have strangled the opponent’s offense into the low 60s if they’d really needed to. But they didn’t need to, and the domination wasn’t a product of desperation or pointed desire.

It’s just who they are.

The Player Behind the Player of the Game: Derrick Favors

It’s hard to understand how someone could lead the team with 20 points on top of 12 rebounds, one assist, three steals, and two blocks and be the guy behind the guy. But this was a defensive smack-down, and Rudy Gobert laid the smack.

Gobert’s six blocks and 11 rebounds tell about half the impact he had on the game. His team-leading plus/minus of +34 is more illustrative of what it was like to see him in action. Gobert didn’t prey upon the Sixers’ young and grossly outmatched prospects, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel; he gobbled them up then, recognized how much he enjoyed it, then vomited them up to eat them alive once more. Anyone who watched the game must have ended the night with exactly the same thought I did: How in all in heaven and earth did Gobert only get six blocks?

For the first time this year, Gobzilla proved he can still rampage across the NBA cityscape, flexing and kicking and swaggering through the key that every soul in the building knew he owned. It was a show!

As is often the case, it was Derrick Favors stable presence that allowed Gobert to Gob-out as the monster. Favors snatched the rebounds Gobert scared far from any chance at going in, tipped away dribbles and passes when the Frenchman was outflanked, and added two far less demonstrative swats of his own.

Against Detroit and in the preseason, Gobert repeatedly showed frustrated body language when his “kill everything!” approach to defending the paint resulted in easy scores on short interior passes or offensive rebounds due to lack of teammate rotation protecting his back. Experiences like that cause hesitation, such as Gobert’s out-of-character inability to even get a hand up when Reggie Jackson beat the Jazz with an easy layup two nights ago.

Gobert can only be a defensive monster when he isn’t punished for contesting everything, and Favors is security the likes of which no other rim protector in the league has. When Gobert knows he can chase everything within reach, like tonight, its striking just how much really is available to him defensively. But it all depends on that far quieter defensive anchor ready to reinforce him near the hoop.

Bounce-Back Boys

Rodney Hood and Trey Burke both bounced back from discouraging games at Detroit. Hood followed his 0 – 7 performance from three point range with a 3 – 6 return to form, helping him reach team runner-up scoring honors with 17. Meanwhile, Burke followed his lost-looking, two-shot enigma against the Pistons with ten points on ten shots and, most important of all, a game-high six assists.

Each of these players will be counted on this season to do what they did tonight. Hood is the best shooter on the Jazz. He can’t hide from deep shots the way others are trying to do so far this season. Burke, on the other hand, is beginning a monumentally challenging transformation from a high usage scoring guard to a balanced orchestrator in a back-up role. Each delivered exactly what is hoped for and needed from them in the thorough trouncing of the Sixers. If these games become the norm for these two, the Jazz will be awfully hard to beat.

Be Patient, Hayward (and with Hayward)

Favors is looking like a franchise centerpiece, Gobert joined Hood and Burke with breakout games, Raul Neto is still perfect from the three point line after another 2 – 2 night, Burks is playing like a 6th man star, Booker bounced back into the fray with a highlight dunk, and Tibor Pleiss even garnered his first NBA points on a smooth little lefty hook from a few feet out.

The only significant Jazz contributor yet to find his groove is the team’s captain and possible best player, Gordon Hayward. And it’s clear that while he’s handling it well, he isn’t happy about it.

To be clear, Hayward hasn’t been bad. 13 points (on 11 shots), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, a steal, and a block each against Detroit is genuine contribution. But three of six shooting from the free throw line and large stretches of invisibility in a game that went down to the wire isn’t what anyone has come to expect from the Jazz captain.

Instead of a breakout, Hayward delivered another steady game tonight: 12 points (on 12 shots), seven rebounds, four assists, and a steal. And of course, the team didn’t need him to go into a phone booth against the overmatched Sixers.

Yet two games in, he’s shooting 35% from the field, 20% from three, and 67% from the line. He’s being outshot by Hood, outscored by Burks and Hood, out-assisted by Burke and Hood, and is appearing merely useful while Favors and Gobert reinforce their indispensability. The offense once rested fully on Hayward’s ever broadening shoulders; now, he isn’t sure where he fits inside it.

The irritation is clear in small gestures and expressions, but overall the captain has managed to keep it under control. This is vital as the team grows into a more diverse and (hopefully) more potent offense. Hayward is as good as he’s ever been. He needs to trust that and stay patient, and so do Jazz fans.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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9 Comments

  1. Daniel from Boston, MA says:

    Your writing is really fun to read, Clint! Keep it coming.

  2. Andrew says:

    That “The Player Behind the Player of the Game” section may have been the greatest non-Grantland section of sports writing I’ve ever read.

  3. LKA says:

    How come Withey is not playing?? I think Gordon still hurts a bit from the flagrant foul. I think flagrant fouls ought to be a minimum suspension of four games. Sinse the guy that got fouled wont be himself for a half dozen games.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I think it’s interesting Withey hasn’t seen time as well. Snyder is forward thinking, though, and he’s wisely not lost his focus on development even as the team shifts more toward present competition. The team invested a solid pick in Lyles to fill a need (stretch big), and the only way to see if he can become that is to give him meaningful minutes. As for Hayward being dinged, it’s always hard to know with professional athletes. They’re physical specimens and more than competitive enough to push through pain. Personally, I’m comfortable with the league ejecting more readily rather than adding future suspensions.

  4. Don says:

    How about the line from our weakest position (PG): 17 pts. on 7/15 shooting and 2/2 from 3, 3 boards, 9 assists, ZERO turnovers, and 4 steals.

    Some credit to the Sixers of course, but more please!

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Both Burke and Neto have been better than I hoped, honestly: Burke in his self-restraint and Neto in his offensive efficiency. That zero turnovers on nine assists is mammoth. There’s no way they can keep up that level of play, but if they’re good enough this team can be really good.

      But you are absolutely right, give credit where it is due. Props to the Sixers for maintaining a level of poor play perhaps unmatched in league history. Good on ya, Hinkie. For real, though, I have a lot of respect for Philadelphia fans. I’ve never understood their support for Hinkie’s strategy, which I feel is flat unethical business practice, but their patience and continued devotion to their team deserves massive respect.

  5. LKA says:

    SLC Dunk mentions Withey was on probation but did not say why. Withey is on roster for tonight vs. Indy.Mel Daniels HOF from pacers has died. I watched him play against the old Utah Stars and Zelmo Beaty. Lot of players have died within the last couple of months.

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