1. Alec Burks’ performance won the game for the Jazz.
The game was tied at 91-91 when Alec Burks went on his own 9-0 run to get Utah the 100-91 lead that would withstand a Philadelphia run. To be honest, it was relatively easy for Burks, as neither of Philadelphia’s perimeter defenders (James Anderson or Evan Turner) could stop Burks dribble presentation, especially when set up with an Enes Kanter screen. The run capped off a 26 point performance for Burks, completed by taking just 10 shots.
Alec Burks was typically concise with his answers explaining his game-winning run, saying “I was just being aggressive, playing the game I play and trying to get to the rim.” His teammates were more enthused with Burks’ contribution, complimenting Burks on his unique athletic abilities that gave the Jazz the win.
So now that Burks has shown he’s capable of winning games for Utah, what’s the next step? As usual, Richard Jefferson had an interesting answer: “When you’re trying to be a quality player in this league, there’s never a time when you’re not doing something. Defensively, I think he has the ability to be a lock down defender. I think an All-Defensive type player. That’s a focus, that’s an attitude, that’s a mentality. I think, you know, the scoring is great, but if he ever decides that ‘hey, I’m going to approach defense with that’, he has all the tools.” Ben Dowsett looked at Burks’ improving defense here at Salt City Hoops, it will be interesting to see if that improvement continues to fulfill Jefferson’s estimations of Burks’ potential.
2. Michael Carter-Williams won the battle of the rookies tonight.
Both Carter-Williams and Trey Burke have been in slumps recently. In 5 February games, Carter-Williams is shooting just 34.6% from the field and averaging just 5.0 APG. 1 On the other hand, Trey Burke is shooting just 29.7% from the field, and is averaging just 4.8 assists. For Burke’s part, Corbin asserts that it’s largely a physical problem: Burke’s body is fatigued after playing 50 games, significantly more than he’s ever played in a season. In the locker room, it looks that way too: notably, Burke had trouble even getting to and from the shower postgame against Miami on Saturday with a painful back issue.
Tonight, right before the all-star game, Michael Carter-Williams looked the fresher of the two rookie PGs. He scored 19 points and accumulated 8 assists and 5 rebounds to go along with his scoring. Burke, on the other side of the coin, looked slow, getting just 7 points (on 3-12 shooting), 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Recently, Corbin has looked to give backup Diante Garrett more minutes as Trey has struggled.
Perhaps most indicative of his Burke’s recent troubles is his free throw rate, or really, his complete inability to draw any free throws. Burke hasn’t drawn any free throws2 since January 18th, meaning that it will be at least a full month since Burke earned his way to the free throw line by the time Utah’s next game comes around. That’s worrisome for a young player, especially one who’s such a great FT shooter (he’s shot over 90% for the season). If he could figure out a way to get going to the line again, Burke’s star would shine more brightly. It might be the beginning of next season until we find out if Burke’s FT drawing troubles are more related to fatigue or how NBA defenses will play him.
3. In the late stages of the game, the refs couldn’t hear Brett Brown call timeout.
With 28 seconds to go (Sixers down 98-91) and the ball in Spencer Hawes’ hands, Sixers coach Brett Brown tried to call timeout. With EnergySolutions Arena still energetic, and the referees focusing on the quickly moving ball, timeout was not called. Instead, Alec Burks stole Spencer Hawes’ outlet pass and finished with a dunk. Brett Brown then made sure the referees heard the next timeout call, by walking straight up to Gary Zielinski’s ear:
Naturally, Brown was frustrated with this. I asked him about it after the game:
I’ve got to find a better way to do it because I’m stamping my feet, I’m on the court, it’s a loud venue, you’re trying to call timeout, and you know the refs, they’re reffing the game. They can’t see me, they can’t see the coach, can’t hear me. Which I get. That’s a big play. I thought that I was out there early enough, evidently I wasn’t, it’s a part of the game, but it’s a really big part of the game. We would have liked to have had the ball back when we turned it over and they dunked it.
As you can see, Turner’s upset at the non-timeout call as well. Of course, with a 7 point lead and only 28 seconds left, the Jazz were still significantly favored to win the game. But when the Sixers went on a mini-run at the end on James Anderson’s 9 points in 18 seconds, the non-timeout became important: the Jazz could have had just a 3 point lead rather than a 5 point lead on the last Sixers possession.