1. GORDON HAYWARD FOR WORLD LEADER
President isn’t enough for the man known as G-Time. Gordon Hayward was absolutely incredible for the Jazz tonight, scoring 37 points for the Jazz. That wasn’t enough for him, so he added on 11 rebounds and 7 assists, because he’s a well-rounded individual.
Would you like some more stats? Gordon Hayward made 37 points on 16 shots tonight. That’s pretty good. That’s also 2.31 points per shot (PPS), which means when he hit yet another jumper to seal the game for Utah at the end, his PPS actually went down. In his words, “Yeah, I was in the zone a little bit tonight.”
Oh, these stats aren’t enough? Well, he was also clutch. He scored Utah’s final 17 points of the game, single-handedly ending a 34-15 run that the Thunder went on to cut a 24 point lead all the way down to 5. He scored 17 of Utah’s 22 4th quarter points. So, you know, just winning games by himself against the team that leads the Western Conference.
In short, Gordon Hayward was too big, yo.
2. Jazz defense was good tonight.
Yes, the Jazz gave up 101 points tonight, and it’s difficult to give plaudits to a defense that gave up three figures and allowed a player to score 48 points. But then you look a little bit deeper, and get some more context: the Thunder had 97 possessions tonight, meaning that the Jazz allowed a 103 DRTG, much better than their nearly 110 DRTG average for the season. They forced the Thunder to shoot just 39% from the field, and just 17% from 3. Kevin Durant scored his 48 points on 14-34 shooting. Oklahoma City’s average ORTG is 109.
Admittedly, things were better in the first 3 quarters: the Jazz fouled 9 times in the first 3 quarters and then 11 times in the 4th, sending the Thunder to the line 21 times(!) in the 4th quarter. This is always a Jazz bugbear, but the Jazz did well for 3 quarters at defending a typically excellent OKC attack. If the Jazz can figure out how to defend without fouling, even when a team presents them with physicality, they’ll be able to take a step up defensively.
3. Scotty Brooks has very positive feelings for both Ty Corbin and Jerry Sloan.
One of the best parts of covering every Jazz game is the chance to interview a rotating cast of opposing coaches before the game, getting a chance to pick apart some of the best minds in the game and figure out what their philosophies are and makes them successful. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks is a coach who emphasizes hard work above all else, and he believes that approach is what has led the Thunder to such success. When I asked him about his team’s defensive quality (currently 3rd in the NBA in team DefRtg), he indicated that he wasn’t doing anything unique schematically, but instead had a group of players who bought into the system and worked hard on the defensive end.
Where did he learn this coaching technique? Former Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. According to Brooks, Sloan is “one of the greatest coaches of all time. A guy I look up to. His commitment, dedication, and consistency is unmatched. His no-nonsense, no excuse mentality is something I try to live by as a coach. I admire him.”
Brooks also played alongside Corbin in Minnesota, and had was relentlessly positive in his valuation of the Jazz’s coach: “One of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet. A man of integrity, a man of commitment, and I like what he is as a coach.” After the game, he commented on Utah’s work ethic, saying “Give Coach Ty credit. That guy is battling every game and getting these young guys to play hard. Going into the game, we knew they were going to play hard. That’s what they do. That’s how they play.”
To be sure, Brooks is part of the coaching fraternity, where rarely, if ever, a negative word is heard about an opposing coach. But Brooks more vigorously defended Corbin than is typical, and indeed talked for several minutes about the importance of having a coach who can consistently get his guys to work hard, rather than the schematic, Xs and Os specialists that are the trend in today’s NBA. Of course, Brooks has had his own problems schematically (having Derek Fisher guard Gordon Hayward for so much of the game is an example), but his is an interesting example of the success that can be had when a coach gets his players to play with effort. Corbin certainly does that.
As an aside, though: in a playoff series, I’ll take the Xs and Os coach.