The remains of the rim the Clippers abused last night in Energy Soultions Arena - via Flickr, Scrunchleface
For a 10-game stretch Ty Corbin had gone to Paul Millsap as the first option in the scripted, early offense. Last night marked a shift back to Al Jefferson after Millsap's offensive game continually abandoned him as opposing teams began bringing doubles early and often, throwing him off his game. Ty messed with the mojo. Now this pair will have to re-find that rhythm that had them so successfully scrambling defense as a tandem.
Jefferson responded well in his return as number-one O-option, to the blistering pace of orange iron destruction set by the Clippers, keeping the Jazz close even as the ESA crowd were ooh'd and awe'd by a display of inhumanity from Blake Griffin. Chris Paul makes Griff an entirely different beast, both on the floor and in his consciousness while on it.
It was pretty apparent Millsap's number one goal last night was to not end up in Griffin's growing file of Mozgov and Perkins posters. After that defensive disappearing act I'm tempted to Photoshop him into one (especially after I'd spent 10 minutes pimping his improved defense in a segment for WERW Syracuse that afternoon). It's an interesting dynamic that a single display of obscenity at the rim such as Griff's utter disrespect for Perk can seep into opponents' minds and have the far-reaching effect of making them fear to be next, compromising their defensive effort.
Last night I got to see what I'd hoped to in the previous SLC tilt with the Clip Show a couple of weeks earlier. And it was glorious. At times all I could do was put my hands over my mouth and make gutteral grunts with wide eyes. That was one helluva a game, a worthy battle for a national audience. The Jazz fought to the bitter end. Be proud.
• Al Jefferson is a willing passer. The ball never stops in his hands unless he feels an advantage in the post. He juked DeAndre Jordan out of his shoes countless times, avenging his previous effort against the league's second-best block artist making him a non-factor on the D end. Big Al is averaging elite big-man-passer numbers over his last five games, 3.0 assists per game
• Really nice effort from the wings on defense with Raja Bell still strained. Gordon Hayward was given various difficult defensive assignments and managed to make an impact on both ends of the floor with that floppy hair flying. He even dunked with one hand. No, really, he did
• Alec Burks came in and made a really nice, patient dribble penetration and pass that resulted in an easy bucket for the Jazz. Unfortunately, he then reverted back to crazy-legs Alec the next three possessions shortening his stint considrably
• Enes Kanter made a mid-range shot. Repeat, Enes Kanter made a mid-range shot! It's good to see him wrap his head around these opportunities from a little further out and take advantage of them finally. Hopefully his confidence here continues to grow
• After the Jazz shot 40% from the free throw line in the first half I offered a solution to this funky fundamental predicament: Let Derrick Favors take the techs. Favors started the season shooting 42% on freebies. He's made 86% of his last 22 tries
• And speaking of the big young guns, they've looked really good together or singularly on the floor in recent stints. Kanter's defense is becoming a factor for opponents to have to overcome and his footwork on the low block is fooling them as well. Favors continues to tease us with ever-improving post moves too.
• For those worrying on their minutes, don't. Kanter is averaging about what Al did as a rookie and Favors is what Millsap did as a soph. Their developmental arcs are right on track and being managed very well by Ty Corbin and Mike Sanders. It's frosting that we're able to actually count on them for meaningful minutes in important game situations
• Count me as not a fan of the Devin Harris-Jamaal Tinsley backcourt. I get that Corbin was trying to counter the Clippers' David Kahn-esque collection of point guards, but Tinsley is pass-first and Devin isn't a spot-up shooter by any stretch. Either way you mix and match this pair in the backcourt is counterproductive
• That marks three straight wins over the NBA's toughest division, the Northwest, by the Clippers. They've now beaten the top three teams there in consecutive games and go to Denver tonight
• Two players, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, combined for 61% of the Clippers points. Three players, Griff, Paul, and former Jazzman Mo Williams combined for an astounding 79% of the Clippers points. The Jazz guards and wings did a nice job on CP3 for the most part. He just hit some really incredible daggers down the stretch with hands in his mug. He's that good
Some great links on the game that fill in the blanks nicely:
David Smith's always-interesting Instant Analysis
Nice recap-DownBeat this morning from Twitter's @YuccaManHoops at SLCDunk
Popcorn Machine's game flow chart, very helpful in determining when and where holes were or weren't filled