The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Spurs 12/14/13

December 14th, 2013 | by Andy Larsen
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

1. A tired Spurs beat the tired Jazz. 

This was the Spurs 4th game in 5 nights, and it showed in the demeanor of the team, especially from coach Gregg Popovich. Of course, Popovich has been known to be curt in interviews even in the best of times, but when a reporter asked Popovich about the origins of the stretch 4 in the NBA, he responded, “I’m too tired. I don’t care when it started. You figure it out.” Popovich was, I’m sure, thrilled that tonight’s game was played in only 1 hour and 57 minutes.

That being said, the Jazz were tired too after also playing last night in Denver, and it showed in a sleepy start: the two teams combined for a 4-21 start and a 6-6 scoreline by the time of the initial 1st quarter timeout with over six minutes of play already flown by. It was the Spurs’ second unit, with fresher legs, that provided the spark that got them out to a lead at the end of the first and beginning of the second: Belinelli and Bonner both hit two threes, and even Aaron Baynes found success against the Jazz’s second unit. This is where the Spurs’ system really shines: even when the players are NBA castoffs and athleticism-free, the Spurs offense provides them with open looks through ball movement and clever screening. The Jazz are developing an offense system of their own, as shown in the previous two games, but can’t create offense through teamwork alone: they need a play creator to get the possession started. A Garrett/Jefferson/Rush/Evans/Kanter lineup, for example, really can’t manufacture any offensive advantage.

2. The starting lineup didn’t provide the usual advantage.

Entering the game, the Jazz’s new-look starting lineup of Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors had gone 5-2 when together as a cohesive whole. Indeed, the lineup is now the Jazz’s most commonly used, and it’s one of just 3 of the top 10 most played lineups that are a positive when they’re on the floor. They are:

  1. Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors
  2. Garrett/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors
  3. Burke/Burks/Hayward/Williams/Favors

Notice a common thread? All three lineups have the Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, and Derrick Favors trifecta, which seems to provide a nice balance between defensive ability and floor spacing on offense. Trey Burke generally provides additional playmaking and shooting, and Jefferson either provides shooting or Burks provides slashing.

Against a difficult opponent, though, a good lineup becomes just an average one. The above starting lineup was the one that got off to scoring just 6 points in over 6 minutes of play, though they limited the Spurs to just 6 points as well. Overall, that group lost just two points to the Spurs in their approximately 18 minutes together. Respectable, but not the usual advantage they’ve been creating over the last several games.

3. The Piano Juggler is another top-notch NBA halftime act. 

Halftime acts are one of the best things about the NBA. They’re generally fun, usually amazing, and always great at filling time. The relative intimacy of a basketball court compared to the outdoor sports allows for individual performers to make an impression with their wackiness. Tonight’s halftime show was The Piano Juggler. His real name is Dan Menendez, and his act is pretty simple: he puts a keyboard on the ground, and drops balls on it to play songs. Here’s an example:

Wasn’t that awesome? He’s just a guy who got really good at playing piano by dropping juggling balls on it from a few feet away. The best halftime acts are along these lines: something that you could do yourself if you had an extra 8,000 hours in your life and the creativity to spend them in this way. Red Panda’s at the top of the halftime act food chain, because of the sheer creativity of her skill. You can imagine how it came together: she’s just a woman who discovered that she could unicycle, and then also discovered that she could balance bowls on her head while unicycling, and then also discovered that she could flip a bowl onto her head from her foot while unicycling, and then while doing that particular skill, had the brilliant idea that if she stacked the bowls on each other such that the bowls were facing opposite directions while balancing on her leg, the physics would work out so that the bowls would rotate in such a way that they could finish by landing in the same direction, and indeed, this would be true for any number of bowls that her leg’s length would allow (i.e., 5). Wait, are we positive Red Panda doesn’t control the space-time continuum? Or at least the laws of physics here on Earth?

Anyway, the top halftime act spot belongs to Red Panda, but the Piano Juggler guy is in my top 5.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen


  1. Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest
    authoring on other sites? I have a blog based upon on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information.
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  2. Clark says:

    To be clear, the juggler isn’t really “playing” the keyboard. The location of the balls hitting the keys doesn’t correspond to the pitch of the notes. The juggling is impressive, the presentation is entertaining, but it’s not quite as amazing as what it appears he is doing.

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