Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jazz Update 1/29/8: Crazy crazy nights....

Three wins in three tries? Including one win against the San Antonio Spurs? What does dramatic gopher have to say about that?

That officially means that the Utah Jazz are leading the Northwest Division, half a game ahead of both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers.

This win streak began on Friday night at home, as the Jazz beat the Sacramento Kings, 127-113. Even though both teams forgot to bring their defense, it was somewhat like an All-Star game in the sense that everyone was just looking to score. You could see this especially in Carlos Boozer who scored thirteen consecutive baskets and had 33 points on the night. Kings forward Ron Artest had his hands full guarding Boozer, as he was frustrated into getting two technicals and was ejected in the fourth quarter.

The Kings were kept in the game mostly buy guard Kevin Martin, who scored 32 points on the night.

The Jazz had a bunch of players with good statlines including:
  • Deron Williams, who had 16 points and 14 assists.
  • Kyle Korver, who came off the bench to give 15 points on some outside shooting.
  • Andrei Kirilenko, who played like the All-Star he was back in 2004, scoring 25 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks. That's an insane stat there.
Sunday the Jazz traveled to Texas to take on the Houston Rockets. Everyone knows about the Jazz's trouble on the road so this game could have easily been another loss. But it wasn't, as the Jazz took one on the road, winning 97-89.

They were helped out by the Rockets, as Yao Ming missed the game due to an injury and they surely missed his defense. The Rockets also seemed to be able to get nothing done offensively, shooting 36-82 from the field. Tracy McGrady led Houston with 21 points, but really hurt them as he shot 10-24 on the night.

For the Jazz, things were different. Ever since the first round of the playoffs last year, Boozer has made a reputation for himself in how much trouble he can cause when Yao has to defend him. Without his partner there, he had a really off game, scoring only 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

So who carried the offensive load for Utah? Williams, Kirilenko and Kover, who each scored 17. This was Korver's highest point total since he came to the Jazz. Deron had a game high 12 assists and Kirilenko played great defense throughout the goal.

This leads us to last night when the Jazz beat the Spurs, 97-91. How the hell did this happen? The game being in Utah had some effect on it, as the Jazz are killers at home.

The Spurs got 26 points from Tim Duncan and 29 from Manu Ginobli. But what they didn't get from Duncan was defense on Boozer. Carlos had 23 points and 7 rebounds, but what was so impressive was that he had 7 assists on the night. He was able to find an open man when he was in trouble, and hopefully he'll be able to contribute in that area more often.

Tony Parker was also held to 5 points and 3 assists. Williams (11 points and 14 assists) and Ronnie Brewer (8 points) kept him in check throughout the game. Kirilenko had another superb game, with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Even Mehmet Okur had some quality plays last night. Watch him, a big slow center, come out of a curl for a three pointer!


In a nutshell, we've learned that the Jazz win when they do the following:
  • Boozer being a beast in the paint.
  • Williams going out of his way to set up his teammates and playing good defense against opposing all-star point guards.
  • Kirilenko being an option on offense.
  • Korver and the rest of the bench coming up big.
January has been much better than their awful December. The Jazz look like they're back and have a chance to further improve the record when the New York Knicks come to the Energy Solutions Arena this Wednesday.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jazz Update 1/25/8: Jazz try to beat Kings at home...TONIGHT

Tonight the [[Utah Jazz]] look to make it three wins in a row as they take on the [[Sacramento Kings]] tonight at the [[Energy Solutions Arena]]. The Jazz hope that they can get some proverbial “home cooking” and pick up an easy victory at home.

On the flipside, the Kings feel very confident about tonight; they’ve won 11 of their last 14 games in Utah. They should also feel confident, as their roster seems to be complete for the first time in a while.

The last time the two teams met was on November 12, and the Kings won 117-93. This was mostly due to an epic collapses of the Jazz in the fourth quarter.

Recently, the Jazz have picked up their defense and have been limiting their opponents to 93 points a game.

Currently the Jazz are one game behind the playoff eigth-seed [[Golden State Warriors]]. I’d like to see the Jazz improve on their record heading into the All Star Break.

As for tonight’s game, the Kings are a much quicker, guard oriented team as opposed to the bulldozer forward style that the Jazz uses. To combat this, Utah must make sure that they play strong man-on-man defense, limit their own turnovers, not give the Kings too many opportunities at the foul line and control the paint.

Gametime starts at 9 PM Eastern Time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jazz Update 1/22/8: Utah celebrates MLK with a W against the LAC

How did the Utah Jazz celebrate Martin Luther King Day? By getting a rare road win against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center, 109-93. This was the second time they beat the Clippers in the last four days.

You could just tell that the Jazz were confident and playing tough. After all, they really need to shed their image as a weak road team. Yesterday they showed that, and at one point had a 23 point lead against the Clippers. That’s the total points that LA’s lead scorer Corey Maggette had in the whole game.

So how did they do it? They did a good job on defense, causing the Clippers to turn the ball over 20 times during the game. That led to 29 easy points for the Jazz.

"We ran and pushed the ball up the floor more than we should have instead of just walking it because we hadn't put a lot of pressure on the defense until today. That's what we have to do on the road. We can't just sit back and wait,” said Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan.

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy agreed. “You just have to look at one stat line. Our 20 turnovers led to 29 points for them, which tells the story of the game for us. There were too many easy baskets because of our turnovers. They established a style of play and played a more physical game than us."

The Jazz had seven players in double digit scoring. Deron Williams got his typical 18 points and 13 assists, while Carlos Boozer had 12 points and rebounds. His scoring is down the last month, but I think that’s a combination of other teams defending him better and Williams getting other players involved more in the offense.

Kyle Korver had 13 points (3-5 from three point land) and Ronnie Brewer appears to have gotten himself out of Sloan’s doghouse, getting 15 points.

Paul Millsap and Matt Harpring each chipped in 17 points. This was of note for Harpring, as he’s been medically cleared by his doctor to now have no playing time restrictions due to his ongoing knee problems.

Much of yesterday’s playing time came at Andrei Kirilenko’s expense. AK-47 picked up 4 quick fouls in ten minutes of playing time and was scoreless. I hope this isn’t a sign of Kirilenko and Sloan aren’t feuding again, but more so that this game was an easy win and that Kirilenko was just having a really bad game or some sort of unnamed injury.

The Jazz have some time off this week. Their next game is on Friday, January 25 against the Sacramento Kings at home.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jazz Update 1/21/8: Jazz beat Clippers on Friday, play them today

Oh the whacky world of NBA schedules. The Utah Jazz get to pretend its playoff time as they played the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and get to take them on again this afternoon as one of the league’s many Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute games. Thirteen NBA games are scheduled for today.

Friday night, the Jazz looked to make a statement after getting routed by the Denver Nuggets. They beat the Clippers 106-86 at the Energy Solutions Arena.
How did they do it?

They started the game strong, outscoring the Clippers 106-88 and never looked back. The Jazz were lead by Carlos Boozer, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Seven Jazz players score din double digits. The Jazz’s pass first offense was in full effect; the team out assisted the Clippers, 28-19. They were not lead in assists by [{Deron Williams]] who had 6, but by Andrei Kirilenko, who had 7 on the night. The Jazz really look sharp when they can have those two running the offense.

On the defensive end, they did a good job causing problems for the Clippers the whole night. The Clippers wound up turning over the ball 14 teams to the Jazz’s 10. Utah also did a good job throwing off Clippers swingman Corey Maggette. He did lead Los Angeles with 20 points, but he was prevented from adding any assists or rebounds to his stat line.

This afternoon, the Jazz get on the road to play the Clippers at the Staples Center at 3:30 PM ET. Will the Jazz continue their problems on the road?

Timing might benefit the Jazz, as this is the Clip show’s third game in four days. The Jazz have been off since Friday. The Clipper’s fatigue is a benefit for the Jazz. But then again, Utah does like to blow games on the road.

Regardless, the Jazz have to get over their funk. If they did the three things they did last time: execute their offense, defend and force turnovers, they just might be able to pull this out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jazz Update 1/18/8: Jazz get rocked by Nuggets, 120-109

The Utah Jazz’s road game nightmare continued last night, as they lost to the Denver Nuggets, 110-109.

Usually the Jazz give up the game in the fourth quarter, but last night they seemed to be more than happy to seal the game in the third. At the half, they were barely trailing, as the Nuggets was up 61-59. They came out of half time, allowing Denver to outscore them 37-29.

While Carmelo Anthony (23 points) and Allen Iverson (28 points) had their usual high scoring game, it was Linas Kleiza who scored a career high 41 points thanks to an awful Jazz defense. He was 11-14 from the free throw line and 4-8 from the three point line.

Kleiza also earns a spot on the poor sportsmanship list. During a play halfway through the third, he was fouled by Kyle Korver (16 points), who made collided with him after making a clean play for the ball. Instead of getting himself up and walking away, he got up, kneed Korver in the back intentionally and stood over him, talking trash. That’s unacceptable behavior, even for Philadelphia Flyers standards.

What’s even worse is that no one on the floor from the Jazz got up to defend Korver. Not Carlos Boozer. Not Deron Williams. No one.

That says a lot of this team. They don’t stand up for themselves, and lack some leadership as well as toughness.

While the Jazz were on offense, Marcus Camby shut down the lane and kept them out of the paint. Camby was collecting stats like this was a video game, pulling down 24 rebounds an 11 blocks.

This caused the Jazz to settle for jumpers the whole thing, which doesn’t help guys like Boozer (18 points), Ronnie Brewer or Andrei Kirilenko, who operate primarily in the paint.

In my preview, I also mentioned that the team that shoots better from the freethrow line and doesn’t turn over the ball will win. Denver lead in both categories; 12 turnovers to the Jazz’s 18, and 33-40 from the charity stripe to the Jazz’s 15-25.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jazz Update 1/17/8: Jazz make first trip to Denver tonight!

Tonight the Utah Jazz look to take one on the road against the Denver Nuggets. Currently, the Jazz are a game behind the Nuggets, who are second in the Northwest Division. With a chance to overtake a team that is somewhat a division rival, the Jazz players are taking this game very seriously.

"Every game is big for us right now, just because we dug ourselves in such a hole," said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, referring to the team’s awful December.

"We're trying to catch back up to where we'd like to be at in our division, and the playoff hunt in general. So every game is a big game. As it's been for about a month. But this game we have an opportunity to actually gain an entire game on one of the teams in our division, and that's huge for us because we'd like to repeat as division champion if we can. So it is a big game," added Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer.

Small forward Andrei Kirilenko tried to downplay tonight’s game. “You media like those words ‘rivalry’ and ‘special’ games. It is a special game.”

The Jazz are coming off a four game home win streak. Unfortunately, they’ve been awful on the road, winning only 6 of 20 away games. They will be playing at the hostile Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets are 15-5 this season.

Even though the Nuggets clearly have a home court advantage, an undermanned roster is going to be detrimental, especially in their front court. Nene is on a medical leave due to having a testicular tumor removed. His website has announced that his tumor was benign, and on behalf of Utah Jazz fans everywhere, I wish him a healthy recovery. Kenyon Martin is battling a staph infection in his buttocks. I’m not making that one up.

Taking their playing time is Eduardo Najera, who has been scoreless in his last two games. His condition is suspect as well; he was recently inactive due to a hyperextended elbow.

The Denver guards’ situation isn’t much better either. Chucky Atkins is out with a hernia, and J.R. Smith might be suspended due to a verbal argument with NBA referee Marc Davis during Tuesday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

On the other side, the Jazz lineup is fairly healthy and has no combustible incidents. This will be the first these teams will play each other. That said, there is not much to go on but prior encounters. So how is the Jazz going to win tonight?

The Jazz must keep Allen Iverson out of the paint. When he’s driving to the bucket he’s at his best; he can score, he is a very accurate passer in traffic and he can draw fouls. The latter is a huge problem because he’s great from the free throw line. Fortunately, Iverson isn’t the best outside shooter. The Jazz really need to keep him as far away from the basket as possible.

Denver’s other high scorer, Carmelo Anthony poses other problems, as he can score with great versatility. In previous Jazz/Nuggets games, I’ve noticed that Matt Harpring does a great job guarding him. Harpring’s physical defense seems to really irritate Carmelo, which forces him into taking really bad shots and turning the ball over. When Carmelo gets frustrated he really shuts down.

Offensively, the Jazz really need to get Mehmet Okur involved. With him being a good shooter from the outside, that causes Denver center Marcus Camby out of the paint. Camby is undeniably great (he’s a former Defensive Player of the Year), but around the three point line he is not nearly effective.

Getting Camby away from the paint allows Boozer to be a beast from the block, and allows guys like Williams and Kirilenko to cut from the basket. If they keep Camby down low, the smaller Nuggets guards will have a difficult time guarding the seven footer.

Either way, it should be a great game to watch. Both teams can score, and the team that does a better job controlling the ball and shoots better at the free throw line will win the game.

Tonight’s game starts at 9 PM Eastern Time and is available on NBA League Pass.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jazz Update 1/15/8: Jazz buck Milwaukee

The Utah Jazz have been on a tear since the New Year, and last night they beat the Milwaukee Bucks 98-87 to sweep a four game homestand at the Energy Solutions Arena.

The Jazz pretty much were in control of the Bucks from early on. The only lead that Milwaukee had was during the opening of the game, where they went up by 5 on the lead. From then on, the Jazz had complete control, and they flirted with a thirteen point lead in the fourth quarter.

The Jazz were lead by Deron Williams (33 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals), who flirted with the ever elusive 4 x 5. Carlos Boozer had a quiet night with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Mehmet Okur, who has had some great games recently, seemed to have took the night off with 9 points. That allowed Bucks center Andrew Bogut to come up big for his team with 23 points and 10 boards. Maurice Williams (21), Michael Redd (16) and Charlie Bell (11) all scored in double figures for Milwaukee.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Jazz this season is how they’ve been unable to close out teams in the fourth quarter, sometimes giving up a substantial lead and the game to their opponents. Last night, the Jazz showed that they can defend and execute down the stretch. They outscored the Bucks in the final quarter 27-15, not so much because the Bucks were having an awful offensive game but more so because they were playing some tough defense.

In fact, the Jazz’s defense was looking pretty good last night. They didn’t foul the Bucks too often (18 to Milwaukee’s 33), which severely limited their free throw attempts. Milwaukee only had 18 attempts on the night.

Compare that to Deron Williams, who made a killing from the line (16-20). He outshot the Bucks from the charity stripe!

The Jazz are 6-1 since Kyle Korver joined the team. He had 7 points in last night’s game. Somehow, he also wound up with 2 blocks.

Last night’s game sold out the Energy Solutions arena. Their next game is on Thursday, as they go on the road to take on the Denver Nuggets.