The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers 3/19/2015

March 20th, 2015 | by Andy Larsen
Hayward had 18 points in the last 16 minutes of tonight's game to lead the Jazz to victory. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Hayward had 18 points in the last 16 minutes of tonight’s game to lead the Jazz to victory. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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:

  • Holy cow, the media seats were incredible. They’re essentially in the second row behind the basket, and, well, the NBA game is very different from down there. It’s intense. Even bad defending teams like the Lakers are focused on every possession, and on offense, everyone is just insanely focused on their surroundings and the exact fundamentals they need to pull off. It’s pretty neat. Here’s a picture:
Photo by me.

Photo by me.

  • On the other hand, media have to pay for food in LA. No free ice cream machine there, you have to pay for your right to write satisfied.
  • The theater-style lighting, in which the crowd is dark while the court is lit, makes for a very different dynamic. Even when the Lakers made exciting plays to pull their team back into the game, and Laker fans got on their feet and cheered, the actions on the court were always the main focus. In EnergySolutions Arena, when that happens, the spotlight is on the reaction of the crowd, and the natural back-and-forth between the fans and the players. It’s a different dynamic in LA.
  • The sound system is incredible in Staples. This is no doubt the level of audio quality that the Jazz were going for when they renovated the sound system just a couple of years ago. Instead, the audio at ESA is tinny and overwhelming: the pumped in “Aussie!Aussie!Aussie!Oi!Oi!Oi!” chant, for example, is only insufferable because the sound system makes it obnoxious. On the other hand, the sound system at Staples is great: you can hear different levels of music, the sound comes at you in stereo, and always at the perfect volume. It’s like the difference between listening to music in your car and listening to music played through a megaphone.
  • Always a big fan of in-arena organs, too. The Lakers’ organist played the Legend of Zelda theme tonight. Sir Foster, the Hawks’ organist, is still better.
  • Every attendee of tonight’s game got a free copy of the movie Linsanity, which is hilarious, given the somewhat tumultuous relationship Jeremy Lin has had thus far with the Lakers and the Laker fanbase.
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. Neal says:

    Hey Andy, just in terms of your experience in LA do you possibly feel like the sound system sounds better due to your position in the stadium/crowd? Just from my experience in ESA the sound is better in the lower bowl as opposed to the upper bowl, and I imagine right next to the court is better. Also do you think ESA should switch to theater style lighting? You say it is a different dynamic but do you also think it is better?

    • Andy Larsen says:

      I don’t think it’s that, I’ve spent significant time courtside at ESA, and the sound system, while better the lower you get, is still much worse than Staples’.

      And I prefer ESA’s lighting the way it is: focusing on the fans and their experience seems like a good way to go, given the Jazz’s legendary home court support.

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    Concerning the mid-air collision between Hayward and Tarik Black on Hayward’s drive to the basket: It appears there is still a hang-over with NBA refs in insisting on giving “star treatment” to the LA Lakers–even though they clearly no longer have any stars on their team (and a lot fewer stars in the audience)–and in insisting on giving the Jazz “non-star treatment” even though the Jazz are starting to have some stars on their team. If that same collision would have occurred between almost any big on almost any team and a star wing player, such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul or James Harden, not only would that collision have resulted in a foul being called on Black almost instantaneous to its occurrence, but the referees would have also called for a review to determine whether it should have been classified as a flagrant foul on Black.

    There were several other calls made in this game that were just odd: (1) the “palming the ball” call on Hayward (I don’t recall seeing that call made on any NBA player for many years, if ever)–and besides, from what I saw, it didn’t even look like he palmed the ball; (2) a couple of ticky-tacky “touch foul” calls (they were literally “touch fouls,” as Danter only briefly and lightly maybe touched him with one finger somewhere on his body for a nano-second) called against Dante Exum when guarding Jordan Clarkson way out near the three point line–this was especially odd in light of all the wrestling around the refs were allowing to go on throughout the entire game on both sides of the ball by both teams; and (3) a moving screen call on Jack Cooley concerning Carlos Boozer–first of all Jack Cooley was not even moving on the screen–it looked like a classicly-executed screen to me; secondly, it was against Carlos Boozer, who doesn’t even make an effort to fight through any screen, ever; and thirdly, the referees routinely let the bigs on play-off teams like San Antonio, Washington, Memphis, etc., set screens dozens of times a game that look more like either run-blocking or pass-blocking in football (with the screening player constantly moving his feet and body into the player being screened) than basketball screens, and yet, because Jack Cooley is a guy on a 10-day call-up from the D-League, they apparently had to “put him in his place” and call a phantom “rookie” foul on him.

    And, I’m sure the Lakers’ fans could also point out some odd calls that went against their team.

    If Adam Silver wants to fix the NBA, he should first start by having NBA referees show some integrity by consistently making the same calls on every player, despite the team the player plays for and despite the player’s status in the league.

  3. LKA says:

    Would agree with Paul on the ref preference. The Fakers lost the game but on the post game pictures and replays were all about them. A AP writer even wrote in the summary that the Jazz had lost the game. No wonder only a handful of team have won the championship..

    • The Other Spencer says:

      The ESPN highlights were basically the same thing. They showed a bunch of plays of the Lakers doing some awesome things, then basically ended with “Oh, and the Jazz actually wound up winning this game.”

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