So… didn’t folks call Jazz basketball boring once upon a time? Those people likely aren’t being heard from anytime soon.
A week after a thrilling challenge to the unbeatable Warriors had the Vivint Arena crowd hoarse, the Jazz and Pacers served up dessert. What looked to be a snoozer once the Jazz took a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter turned out anything but, with 12 eventual lead changes and eight different ties in the game throughout.
Of course, forgotten in the aftermath may be that 17-point lead, which Utah squandered in amazingly quick fashion while seemingly forgetting their game plan on both ends of the floor. There will no doubt be film sessions and players taken to task for these minutes.
Unlike Thursday night’s game where the Jazz folded at the first sign of adversity, though, they fought against the Pacers. The late-game execution was night and day — Utah went to their best stuff and stayed with it. The energy looked completely different, even from a guy like Trevor Booker who was at risk to miss the game with an illness.
So many individual players had talking points tonight — Booker, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Raul Neto and even Trey Lyles got in on some positive action at various points. With that in mind, let’s get straight to some notes.
28.6 — Percent of Jazz misses which Trevor Booker, by himself, rebounded in his 23 minutes. A reminder: He almost didn’t even play and was a game-time decision.
12 — Fouls drawn by Paul George. Wow.
Good lord, Derrick Favors: Yeah, no puns or wit1. Simply astonishment. Favors continues to be Utah’s best and most consistent player, posting a 35-13 Saturday in 44 intense minutes. There might not be a more dangerous roll man in the league right now — Derrick can do everything. He can catch on the move, make the right pass when squeezed, and best of all has his one-step jumper off the bounce pass down to an art form. He once again gutted through some difficult whistles (or non-whistles) and was a monster at several points defensively. He scored 26 points in the paint by himself!2 Favors doesn’t just have a legitimate All-Star case at this point, he has a convincing one.
“Fav and Gordon — terrific job, both of them,” said coach Quin Snyder. “And I asked them for that yesterday. I just felt like we needed those two guys to step up, our two best players.”
Hayward, dominating below the radar: From a box score perspective, Saturday night against the Pacers looked a lot like Thursday night against Orlando for Hayward. He was fantastic in the first half, canning everything in sight, getting to the line, and stuffing the stat sheet. But for the second consecutive game, he found tougher sledding in the second half, both due to some Indy adjustments and a bit of a cooling off period.
Someone looking at only the box score will miss Gordon’s biggest impact on this game, though. While foul trouble early mostly kept him from matching up with Paul George as PG13 went off for a ridiculous night, the end of the game looked completely different, especially overtime, when Hayward got back to primary duties. George sank a triple to begin the extra frame, but wouldn’t score again — shoot, he could hardly touch the ball. Hayward asked to guard George down the stretch, per Snyder, and much like the team’s first meeting, was easily Utah’s best counter. He face-guarded Indy’s superstar as if he were Tony Allen for a few vital out-of-bounds possessions late, forcing the ball into the hands of other Pacers when George was clearly the top option.
“Gordon’s begun to take challenges on the defensive end,” said Snyder. “Gordon did a terrific job making it hard on him.”
Hayward’s numbers are beginning to tick upward after a semi-rough start to the year in this department, but his play on the defensive end has never been in the slightest doubt. He’s having easily his best season here so far, and has almost certainly been Utah’s best perimeter lockdown man — and likely their best overall defender compared with preseason expectations. With scoring coming in more balanced ways from the team as a whole, it’s very encouraging to see.
Second time’s a charm: Utah’s play on the offensive glass was subtly a huge factor in the win. The Jazz collected 19 offensive boards, turning them into 25 second chance points compared to just 13 for the Pacers. Booker and Favors combined for 13 of these on their own, more than the entire Pacers team. In a game they won by just three, the extra points they found here with great energy on the glass were huge.
Stop fouling jump-shooters! Okay, so not everything was hunky-dory the entire night. A big part of what allowed the Pacers back into the game was their three-point shooting, but they were aided by an incredible six fouls in the act of shooting triples by the Jazz. That’s… that’s just incredible. Can someone from Elias tell me if that’s a record?
“It comes from a good place, because you’re trying to be aggressive,” Snyder said. “But you get in that moment, you’ve gotta jump up, not out.” Enough said, coach.
Guys named Trey, playing well: Both players named Trey on the Jazz’s roster had fine games Saturday, both in obvious and less obvious ways. Burke had one of his best games ever in a Jazz uniform as far as decision-making — his floor game was nearly flawless, particularly in overtime where he found Favors with more than one perfect pocket pass on the roll. It’s hard to overstate how much his offensive game has improved from last year to this one, especially his mental focus and his ability to get his teammates involved in the game.
Trey Lyles, meanwhile, looked years beyond his age as a defender in a very tough assignment. Tasked with chasing CJ Miles around the perimeter with the starting unit, he was quite literally almost perfect — I had labeled this as an area to watch all game and therefore paid close attention, and I can’t recall even a single minor mistake. His footwork and ability to hedge out on pick-and-rolls but recover before Miles could hurt him was absolutely fantastic, something Snyder spoke specifically about postgame. Even a single step can doom you in these situations, particularly when giving up a quickness advantage to a lethal shooter, but Miles’ 2-10 game where he seemed invisible at times was in large part due to the way Utah’s rookie manned up on him. Lyles did well on the glass in his brief time, and hit a big shot late as well. He continues to look more and more like an NBA rotation player every game in the last couple weeks.
PG13 doing R-rated things: Our first right-out nod to an opposing player in this space on the year goes to Paul George, who was nothing short of unreal from the start. His numbers say enough, but even they don’t necessarily do justice to the load he carried in this game. He drew fouls left and right (the number above is insane), and finished a bucket shy of a half-century. He didn’t have quite as much success against Hayward, but he put this team on his back. In a non-Steph Curry world, he might be the MVP frontrunner right now.