1. The Jazz’s talent level, rather than effort level, got them this win.
That’s been unusual for the Jazz, who have been winning games by playing smarter and harder than their opposition. Tonight, though, off a late back-to-back that meant that they got to their hotel rooms at 3 AM, the Jazz didn’t really outwork their opponents. They only had 2 offensive rebounds for the entire night off of 46 missed shots, well below their season average of 11.4 per game. Additionally, the Jazz had 0 second chance points tonight, when they normally average 14.24. That’s been a hugely profitable source of offense for this team, and when it dried up, they looked really poor offensively, scoring only 43 points during the first 32 minutes of this game.
So how did they turn it around? Well, Gordon Hayward started to make plays. Hayward scored 18 of his 22 points tonight in the final 16 minutes of the game, largely by getting to the line 11 times and making 10 of them. He also got 3 steals in those last 16 minutes, all leading to Jazz points. It was that, as well as the late defensive stops and offensive miscues by the Lakers, that won them this game.
That’s significantly to Hayward’s credit: for a player to recognize that his team was struggling, and manufacture offense and defense on his own, is a star-level turn that very few players can make in this league. Especially given the circumstances of the back-to-back, and the hard collision1, it was an impressive performance by the Jazz’s max-money player.
2. Rudy Gobert struggled on the score sheet for the first time in a long time.
Rudy Gobert had just 3 points and 7 rebounds tonight, the lowest totals in both categories since he became a starter after the All-Star break. Teams are starting to put significant scouting efforts on Rudy Gobert’s game, especially his rebounding, and it’s beginning to show. Last night, Marcin Gortat was extremely physical with Rudy, facing him up on every rebound, doing anything to prevent his long arms from reaching the ball. Tonight, as a result, he was tired: “physically and mentally exhausted” according to a tweet he sent out after the game. When asked about his tiredness level, he admitted he was. “For myself, I was a bit tired a couple of times. But it’s the NBA, you’ve gotta be ready every night.”
I asked Quin Snyder about the causes of Rudy’s poor night, and what he needs to improve on to avoid them. He answered, almost testily, “I just think people get physical. It’s part of the growth process, really. He’s just a 21-year-old guy trying hard to get better, and he’s going to have nights when guys bang him around. Over the course of his career, he’s going to get stronger and be able to anticipate some of those bumps, and he’s going to keep getting better. Nights like tonight and last night are going to help him… I just think there’s a lot of ways he can get better. And again, with physical games, this is the way the NBA is. He’s going to learn more and more to get his center of gravity down, and do the things he needs to do to help himself.”
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember how young and inexperienced Rudy Gobert is, because of all of the things he has been able to do on the court during the last month or so. Nights like this are a good reminder.
3. Thoughts on the Staples Center experience.
For the first time in my nascent basketball writing career, I’m going on the road to cover the team. I’m attending both games of this short 2-game road trip, tonight’s vs. Los Angeles and Saturday’s vs Golden State, in hopes of gaining more experience for myself, and, of course, bringing better coverage to you lovely Salt City Hoops readers2.
As such, this is my first time attending a Jazz game at Staples Center, and I just wanted to make a few notes on the experience: