1. Jazz end home season on high-note.
This was almost a preseason game in a lot of ways: Dallas held Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, and Chandler Parsons out, while the Jazz didn’t play Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, or Trey Burke.
That alone made this game pretty difficult to seriously analyze. Sure, Rudy Gobert got 20 points an 17 rebounds, and Trevor Booker got 13 points and 12 rebounds. But it came against a starting frontcourt of Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, and Amar’e Stoudamire, who are all well-known for being nearly unplayable because they’re so bad defensively. So it wasn’t surprising when the Jazz put up 57 points in the first half, and 87 points through 3: it’s just a bad defensive lineup out there.
But what was a little bit surprising is how easily the Jazz’s defense was being exploited on the other end, evocative of the Jazz’s 2 early season games against Dallas in which they allowed huge early scoring totals in massive blowout losses. They allowed 57 points and 56% shooting in the first half. Naturally, Quin Snyder wasn’t especially pleased with the effort, and talked to his team about shutting the Mavs out in the 2nd half. That they did: the Mavs scored just 12 in the 3rd quarter, including 3 separate stretches of 3 minutes in which they allowed no points at all: from 9:51 to 6:46, from 6:46 to 3:16, and then 3:16 to 0.5. Overall, during those last 10 minutes of the 3rd quarter, the Jazz went on a 25-6 run, and that’s all that was required.
After the game, and maybe because it seemed so easy, no one was focused on the game itself, but the season as a whole. Sure, there’s still one more road game in Houston, but that’s almost an afterthought: most media aren’t traveling for that game, instead preferring to stay in SLC to ensure coverage on Thursday’s locker room cleanout. In some sense, the season feels over already.
2. Bryce Cotton’s dunk: the feel-good 6 seconds of the year.
Quin Snyder, after being asked if he drew up the alley-oop for him:
“Yes. It was something that we actually asked him this morning, and Justin was telling me that they throw lobs for him in Austin2, and I was like ‘Well, I lived in Austin once.” And we asked him, and he had a little wrinkle of a play, and we tried to put it into something we knew. I’m not sure if Rodney threw a good pass or a bad pass but Bryce just jumps that high. It was fun to see him make that play.”
“I was surprised. I’ve never seen that.”
Rodney Hood, on if his alley-oop pass was a good one or a bad one that Cotton finished well:
“It was a great pass. I know Bryce can jump, so I just tried to put it up over the rim so he could go get it. I was hoping we got it, because if he didn’t, I would have came out of the game. It was a good play for him… I don’t think he could do it again though.”
“It was a designed play, and coach said go for backdoor, and I wasn’t expecting to throw it because I thought I would play pick and roll after, but I just leaped on faith and got it.”
Bryce Cotton, on his alley-oop:
“That was coaches idea. We drew it up earlier today and I was glad to see [Quin] give it a shot.”
3. The Jazz have put together a roster of nobodies to remarkable success.
I’ve written about this before, but it keeps going to such new heights that I have to keep mentioning it: the Jazz’s roster shouldn’t work. Tonight, the Jazz played 11 players, they all scored. Those 11 players have a grand total of 12 years of NBA experience between them. 7 of them are rookies. The other 4 are Trevor Booker, Rudy Gobert, Jeremy Evans, and Christapher Johnson, none of whom are exactly established NBA veterans. Everyone always talks about the importance of having experience in creating a defensive culture. Even statistically, this has proven to be valid: basically, rookies are rarely positive influences defensively.
But with the Jazz, it works, somehow. A lineup of Cotton/Millsap/Evans/Johnson/Gobert went on an 8-0 run today. Saturday, the lineup was Cotton/Millsap/Evans/Johnson/Cooley, and it went on a 13-0 run against Portland’s top-10 offense and defense! It’s ridiculous. It’s redefining what I thought I knew about NBA basketball.
Quin Snyder agreed: “When you have a group of guys that works as hard and are as committed as our guys are, it’s nice to see some of those guys get an opportunity to play. When players play hard, it’s easy to play them, because even when everything doesn’t go perfectly, it’s easy to see that.” Joe Ingles3 agreed: “To be honest, it doesn’t matter who’s getting it, it’s a team game. When everybody’s got the same mindset, it’s a great way to play. It’s a unselfish group. We’re having fun out there.”
In general, this group of rookies/D-Leaguers is, for some reason, much more dedicated to the team concept than usual suspects. D-League players on non-guaranteed contracts often are trying to make this their moment to shine, and take stupid shots or force possessions on the offensive side of the ball to get their points. Snyder’s been able to prevent them from doing that. Credit all around: to Quin’s coaching, to the players who play selflessly, and to the front office that chose players with that character. It’s been fun to watch the last couple of games, despite the lack of star power.