Jazz Thankful for 30-Point Blowout of Bulls

November 22nd, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

 

(Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Story of the Game

Smarting after a 1 – 3 road trip, the Jazz were heartily thankful for a home game against the Chicago Bulls, who looked dosed to their noses in tryptophan. Or maybe they really are that bad.

Six Jazz players reached double figures in scoring in the 110 – 80 victory while none ended up on the wrong end of the night’s plus-minus. Not only did Utah outscore Chicago in every quarter but they did so by increasingly large margins: a one point advantage in the first quarter ballooned by eight in the second, then nine in the third, and eventually 12 in the fourth as the Bulls, on the road on the end of a back to back, ran out of both gas and gumption.

In many ways it was a repeated performance of Utah’s devastation of a lackluster Orlando team four days previous. Those two blowout wins against, honestly, bad teams have added some cosmetic coverage to the ugly reality that the Jazz have lost eight of their last 11 contests.

Utah can beat bad defensive teams when their jumper falls. Thrash them, in fact, when the defense shows up as it did tonight and in Orlando. It remains an open question as to whether the offense can create quality shot attempts against more talented or more energetic competition.

But given the challenging start to the season, which saw Utah again suffer major injuries to Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert1, stand as the last NBA team without a road win, and quickly fall behind in the vicious playoff race out west, an easy win against a bad team will certainly help digestion on Thanksgiving.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Derrick Favors

Favors produced another hyper-efficient offensive game, scoring 23 points on only 11 shots! He added 7 rebounds as well as an assist, steal, and block in 29 minutes of action. Less obvious but perhaps as important as anything else, he didn’t turn the ball over at all and earned eight free throw attempts, making seven. While Utah has unexpected jumped to the truest-shooting team at the free throw line in the league (84 percent), they’ve managed only 20 attempts per contest, which ranks only 22nd. In the last four games, Favors has taken 23 free throws (5.8/gm) while making a stellar 87 percent.

Secondary Stars: Rodney Hood and Alec Burks

Hood scored a solid 19 points but required 17 shots to do so, including making 3 of 9 from three. He added 4 rebounds and an assist and a steal. It was a fairly nondescript game in many ways for Hood, which is noteworthy for that very reason. For a player who has often been scorching hot or frigid with his shot but rarely in between, a so-so night where he contributed to a blowout win is a positive. Given Hood’s high volume shooting from long range, even a moderately productive game on his part can help the offense stay afloat.

Burks had a nightmarish road trip where he missed 14 consecutive long range shots, a part of his game that had been noticeably improved prior to that stretch. That dry spell ended tonight. And while Burks only made 1 of his 4 three point attempts, he had his best game of the season since opening night against Denver, scoring 15 points on 10 shots, earning 6 free throw attempts (making 4) and chipping in an assist and 2 of each rebounds and steals.

Secret Stars: Jonus Jerebko and Donovan Mitchell

In his 22 minutes Jerebko provided an entertaining mix of his patented long range shooting (2 of 3 from three), solid rebounding (6 boards), and tremendous hustle, including a great block of Chicago’s not-so wunderkind2 Lauri Markkanen to prevent a dunk in the fast break. Make no mistake, it’s not good for the Jazz that Jerebko is called on to start. But he’s contributing to his capability, and that’s needed.

While Mitchell’s one of 10 shooting night for a mere 4 points will dominate much discussion of his performance this game, it overlooks what was otherwise an impressive game. The rookie led the team with 7 assists, added 5 rebounds, and threw in a steal and a block. What is likely to be lost is that the volume shooter didn’t take a single field goal attempt in the second half. Knowing he was struggling, the rookie didn’t press and instead found other ways to contribute, illustration of the maturity and well-rounded game that allows head coach Quin Snyder to leave him in games to weather stretches like his cold shooting first half. And while four points isn’t anything to boast about, the way he got two of them certainly is.

Stats of the Game

26/24/19 – Minutes played by Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto respectively. How Snyder handles his point guard rotation in the absence of Exum will be a season-long story line worth watching given Rubio’s shooting woes.

23 – Jazz assists. Only three times on the season has the team had more.

7 – Utah turnovers, their only single digit mark in any game this season.

24 percent – Bulls three point shooting. Some of this can be attributed to the Jazz defense but much of it is simply Chicago missing makeable shots.

15 – Combined steals (10) and blocks (5) by the Jazz. The Bulls countered with a paltry 4 (3 steals and 1 block).

1 – Jazz player without a positive plus-minus for the game, Ekpe Udoh, who broke even.

Sundries

  • Utah hasn’t won a game in which Favors scored fewer than 20 points since November 1st. The Georgia Tech product certainly isn’t DeMarcus Cousins, but there’s a good argument that he might be Utah’s best first scoring option on the roster – certainly with Gobert out of the lineup, and perhaps even when he returns. The only double teams Utah’s offense creates that result in open shots for other players are on bigs near the hoop. If Favors can be even respectably productive with his back to the basket or facing up defenders, it might be the Jazz’s best way to force double teams to create open perimeter shots.
  • The pick and roll hasn’t been as lethal for Utah this season, regardless of whether Gobert or Favors is setting the screen. The reason is that defenses are simply collapsing off of Rubio, Mitchell, and Neto. They’re willing to let these players beat them with open mid range jumpers off the dribble, which is a good strategy. Tonight those three went 2 of 8 from the mid range. Defenders aren’t afraid of these guards getting to the rim either. Tonight they shot only 3 of 8 in the restricted area. Their 3 makes in 8 attempts from long range3 put some lipstick on the pig, but defenses undoubtedly still smell pork. As long as Utah’s ball handlers can’t frighten defenses as scorers from any area of the floor, teams will keep collapsing onto roll men off screens, significantly hampering Utah’s offense. Bad defensive teams like Chicago have enough breakdowns for Utah to get good shots despite this. Against better defensive teams, that hasn’t been happening and the Jazz have struggled to get good shots.
  • Markkanen and Mitchell are two of the league’s most talked about rookies. Both struggled offensively, with Markkanen scoring even fewer points (3) than Mitchell (4). But while Markkanen managed to gather in 7 rebounds, the eye test heavily favored Mitchell, who displayed explosive athleticism and deft passing, including single-hand, look-away skip passes. Mitchell is must-watch even without his shot falling. Markkanen was easy to miss, at least tonight.
  • Utah made 16 of 19 free throws, good for 84 percent, which does nothing to harm their league-leading accuracy there. It’s an odd development for a team that starts two traditional bigs in Gobert and Favors (when both are healthy). But when both bigs are looking like uncommonly solid shooters from this range, it may end up being an advantage this team needs if they can sustain such accuracy. Defense-first teams have a lot of close games, and this type of shooting on free attempts might mean a few extra wins, which could be desperately needed.
  • Without Zach LaVine on the floor, Chicago makes Utah look like a superteam. Favors and Hood made scoring look simple compared to anyone in red.
  • Joe Ingles made another 4 threes on 8 attempts. He’s now made 16 of his last 23 attempts, which is 70 percent shooting!

Utah is off until Saturday when the Bucks scamper into town, probably with MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo ready to go after sitting out tonight with a sore knee. It will be an important game against a must-watch player.

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.

2 Comments

  1. Jacktodd says:

    Well said Clint, I want all of our Jazz players to do well. Rubio needs to slow down when he is shooting, it looks alot like high school ball shooting skills at times. Rubio is a great ball handler, a skilled passer and his defence is impecable. Reminds me of a very athletic D-Will- Minus the shooting skills. Happy Thanksgiving !!!

    • Clint Johnson says:

      He really does need to be deliberate with his shot, especially on long attempts. It’s one reason I hope the team gets more production off of Favors outside the pick and roll, because teams are playing the pick and roll to force guards into pull up jumpers. That’s a formula for disaster for Rubio. On the other hand, I don’t think his defense has gotten enough praise. He’s turned some games defensively, which is really hard for a perimeter player. And thank you, I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving as well.

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