I was at Staples last night for the Jazz/Clippers game and, aside from the fact that the Clippers intro is one of the coolest multimedia displays I’ve seen–the floor ended up being one giant big screen–here are three thoughts on the game:
1. PG Play.
It’s very hard to win a game when your starting point guard is 1-5 and has six points (at least he went to the line a few times, one of my criticisms of Burke!). He had two assists until near the end of the game. That’s not going to cut it against the best point guard in the league; Chris Paul, by comparison, had eight assists in the first half. As much as Burke idolized Allen Iverson, he should be looking to CP3 to emulate, not a shoot-first shooting point guard. His key to having a successful career will be passing, craftiness (because of his lack of size), and ability to hit key shots, just like Chris Paul.
I’m sorry, but I can’t not get excited about Dante Exum. After stroking a few threes in the Suns game, every time he put up a three in this game, I thought it was going in. His shot looks a whole lot better than anyone was giving him credit for coming into this league. While he made some mistakes defensively, he’s miles ahead of where it seemed he was going to be. He had a steal against the Suns the other night because of his length, and a block last night because of his length—the one that started the fast break and ended with a Gobert dunk. Throw in a couple other instances on offense where he brilliantly read where his defender was going, found an opening or a seam, and his teammate found him in the lane for a layup or a dunk. Then there was the play where he blew by his defender and got to the lane for a layup; he’s learning quickly—he doesn’t make the same nitpicky mistake over and over and over again—and he ran the team well during his time on the court.
2. A young, growing team.
These are players who are learning to be consistent starters in this league, and it’s going to take some time. As Locke points out, Gordon’s done this before, so he’s—thus far—handling the load very well, all things considered. A line of 27/7/5 is certainly one that is worthy of the contract he signed in the offseason.
Favors had a monster game on Saturday, and then had a bit of a clunker with 6 points and 3 rebounds. Coach Snyder seemed to sub Enes Kanter and Favors in and out for each other rather than playing them with each other for much of the game. I don’t quite understand why Favors sat as much as he did; three fouls in a game doesn’t constitute foul trouble in my mind. Did he need to be more assertive? Did Snyder need to give him more time to work it out? Chicken or egg?
Luckily, Kanter picked up the slack in the post and had some very nice moves down low, mixed up with some very good putbacks. He ended up with 17 points and 9 boards and missed a few shots that will hopefully start going down as the season progresses.
Another sign of a young and growing team: turnovers. Dan, Ben, or Andy would probably have the stats on the fatal turnovers for the game, but sitting there in the Staples Center, the Jazz threw a lot of sloppy passes and bobbled the ball quite a bit. There wasn’t the precision or the quickness or the well-timed pass that there was against the Suns: whether the Jazz weren’t creating the situation or the Clippers were taking away the opportunity, I’m not sure, but the inexperience showed.
3. Bench play.
This is an area where we’re admittedly weak, but Trevor Booker has been an unexpected surprise. His three-point shooting has been impressive, his hustle refreshing, and his handle kind of shocking. He does remind me some of Millsap, which many others have already mentioned. A signing that made me go “Who?!” in the offseason ended up with a line of 12/5/2—not bad! I loved that Hood swished a couple of threes, and also corralled some boards (6) to go along with his points. Gobert also matched his points and boards (4), while Exum had 7 points on three great plays, coupled with a couple of assists. While Ingles didn’t seem quite as comfortable in this game as he did against the Suns, he did still have 2 assists in 10 minutes of action, always looking to pass and run. What a fun addition to the team!
This team has such tantalizing moments, moments where the offense looks sharp, where the passes are crisp, and where any one of the players gets a good, open look. They are looking for the extra pass—whipping the ball around the perimeter and eventually to an open Gobert under the hoop was a perfect example—and it makes for a very entertaining brand of basketball. I was frustrated by the turnovers and by the defense against the Clippers’ three-point shooters, but there are enough glimpses of what this team can be that it’s incredibly exciting–moments like the 13-0 run with some dominant defense, some transition buckets, and Hayward taking the team on his shoulders. This year is going to be a blast.