Yeah, Rudy Gobert’s expression is a fair metaphor for this game. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
The Bucks play hoops like it’s 1978, and tonight the Jazz should have as well. There were a host of odd things about Utah’s 84 – 81 victory over Milwaukee, but three point shooting was, for the second night in the row, perhaps the most alarming.
The Jazz hit just eight of 27 attempts from long range. That’s 29.6 percent. That’s bad. Unless you put it in context of the first three quarters where they shot five of 22 for 22.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the Bucks compensated for their atypical1 50 percent sniping from behind the arc with a paltry 14 attempts. Against the Wizards, Stephen Curry seemed to take that many by himself in the first quarter.
So the Bucks stayed in character by refusing to take threes while the Jazz, sadly also somewhat in character, at least with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert back in the lineup, were unable to make them.
There are two ways to look at the atrocious shooting from long range the past two games. One: It’s great that the Jazz defense is dominant enough (81 per game allowed the last two contests) to win ugly, and the team will really dominate some opponents when they catch fire from behind the line. Or Two: In a league churning ever more heavily toward dependence on long range shooting and the spacing it provides, the Jazz may find themselves dangerously behind the curve.
After five straight wins, I think a little optimism is warranted. After all, these guys just won a game shooting 39 percent from the field. That’s deliciously obscene.
Player Behind the Player of the Game: Rudy Gobert
As the team’s only consistent (and sometimes one and only) offensive driver on the night, player of the game honors have to go to Rodney Hood, whose 23 points on 18 shots propped up Utah’s futile offense enough for the defense to carry the day.
More quietly, the team owes a great deal to Rudy Gobert, who managed to supply steady production on the most unsteady of nights. In 38 minutes he put up 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 blocks, and 0 turnovers while shooting 6 of 7 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the line. Add in several nifty interior passes Favors bumbled out of scoring position (more on this soon), and his quiet2 constancy proved a desperately needed element of the victory.
Favors had as bi-polar a performance as you’re likely to see. Defensively, he hit the Bucks like an earthquake followed immediately by a meteor strike. 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals in 32 minutes is ridiculous. Unfortunately, four of 15 shooting (26.7 percent!) and only 50 percent with freebees (three of six) is as well. D-Fav’s jumper has left him and filed a restraining order. Right now, he can’t get within 500 feet of it, or the rim, or so it must seem to him. But the guy has 34 rebounds and 15 blocks (!!!) in the last three games. Once his jumper gets going again, and it will, Jazz fans should get ready for a ride.
Gordon Hayward showed a slightly schizophrenic game himself. Through three quarters, Hayward was three of 10 (one of six from three) with five turnovers. But he made both three pointers he took in the fourth quarter and capped that off with a hard charging layup through serious contact from two defenders with 1:32 remaining to put the Jazz up seven. He then hulked out, showing his guns as he strutted back to an ebullient bench. That’s twice in a week the team’s go-to guy delivered a layup in the clutch despite being mugged. It looks like Hayward may be realizing that just because Quin Snyder has him watching James Harden film doesn’t mean he’s going to get James Harden let’s-make-this-beautiful-game-nausiatingly-unwatchable calls and so has increased his determination to score rather than drawing fouls.
Utah’s offense on the break is sad. Just sad. The Bucks turned the ball over 20 times, yet the Jazz managed a pitiful eight points on those opportunities. It got to the point where the goal was simply to maintain possession until they could set up in the half court because, you know, that was so successful. The team displays a desperate lack of players able to run the break at speed and make good decisions. Hood seems the only player really able to advance the ball while geared up, but if he can’t get all the way to the cup things get dicey. This is one area where a 6’6″ bolt of quicksilver with a gift for crisp passing would be helpful.
Joe Ingles got a forearm shiver to the back of the cranium, and Miles Plumlee got the heave ho. I don’t know if Joe did anything to incite the blindside to the back of the head, but take a look at his grin and you can tell he’s mighty pleased in his belief that he did.
Jabari Parker, the Bucks can’t-miss franchise centerpiece taken in the vaunted 2014 draft, managed only 2 points and 4 rebounds with 4 fouls and a turnover in 33 minutes of play. It’s too early to draw even premature conclusions about Parker, whose is essentially still a rookie after an injury shortened season last year. But just hear me out. Is there a possibility that the NBA is now beset by the curse of Michael Beasley? Consider that Beasley, a 6’8″, 240 pound tweener phenom in college, was selected second overall by Miami in the 2008 draft. He quickly became one of the more epic busts in league history. Three years later, Derrick Williams (6’9″, 248 pounds) was also taken second overall and has since become a major bust. Who went second overall three years after that and just so happens to measure in at 6’8″ and 240 pounds? Yup, the 2014 draftee from Duke that isn’t ringing up points for the Utah Jazz. Just saying. To whoever drafts second in 2017, for your own sake, if your guy isn’t a good seven feet tall, pick a guard.
The Jazz starters scored 75 points. The bench added nine. Um, little help there?
Trey Burke is in trouble. He only played three minutes tonight. Three. Part of that is certainly the Bucks’ freakish length and athleticism on the perimeter. They’re about the worst match up for Burke in the league short of a one-on-one assignment to shut down Russell Westbrook. But his minutes have been shrinking of late, and too consistently to accept it’s all a matter of match ups.
Following Hayward’s hulk out, Trey Lyles gave him this Just In Case You’ve Missed What I Been Send’n Ya All Season, Boss!
The Spurs ground the Mavs to paste then sifted through the remains like a kid in a sandbox. They cruised to a 116 – 90 victory after an astounding 63 – 26 first half demolition. Now it just so happens that Dallas and Houston, currently sixth and seventh seeds in the western playoff chase, have 25 losses–just like your Utah Jazz.
Tomorrow’s game at Phoenix scares me. It’s a classic trap game. A 24-hour turnaround after three Jazz starters just played 38 or more minutes and an out-of-shape Favors played 32. First road game after a strong home stand. Weird Utah connections with Jeff Hornacek shipped out and Earl Watson taking his place. A dysfunctional, offense-first team fueled by a little bit of hope after Markieff Morris was apparently cuddled into a career game. This one just stinks of a potential head shaker. I don’t see this being a close game, one way or the other. If the Jazz shoot well, there’s no reason they should lose to the Suns. None. If they struggle with marksmanship again, however, then I have a sense the Jazz won’t walk away with their sixth straight win, and that’ll be pretty clear well before the final buzzer.
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.