Thinking about the game last night, I had a few thoughts on the Jazz and their future.
1. That slow start last night might be one of the better things to happen to the Jazz
I sat in disbelief as I watched the Jazz just play abysmal basketball for a quarter, and wondered if I might be better off braving the cold and shopping than taking my night to be at home instead.
Then I watched our bench come in and provide a lift and was glad Jerry stuck with them. Not only that, but he benched CJ Miles and Ronnie Brewer to start the second half, and neither young player saw the floor again.
I couldn't be happier. Part of the problem we've been having early on were Brewer and/or Miles taking shots outside the offense and Jerry seems to have sent a very clear message. Play within the scheme or don't play.
Those shots outside the Jazz's offense were leading to many fast break opportunities in the first quarter. Both Miles and Brewere were taking long outside jumpers that created long rebounds. As David Locke has said before, "You need to score early (read good inside opportunities early on) or you score late in the shot clock."
Also, Deron Williams never saw the floor in the second quarter. And this sends a message to the team. It says, "I don't care who you are. If someone else has come to play and you don't, you ride the pine."
If Williams hadn't played well early in the third, I think Jerry might have yanked him for Ronnie Price or Brevin Knight early on, and he'd have sat the majority of the second half too. That's a luxury Jerry Sloan has when this team is healthy as he has players who can play multiple positions.
But, it also can show that the team the stars aren't getting going to get preferential treatment. Sloan also did so to Carlos Boozer before his injury, leaving in a hot Paul Millsap when he was outplaying a team down the stretch. Jerry is more willing and able to ride the hot hand than any other time in his tenure in Utah.
All in all, I believe that Brewer will get this message as he is more mature and shows a propensity for hard work. I doubt that Miles will though and it may cost him a roster spot. He just doesn't seem to be on the same wavelength with Sloan about what it means to play hard.
2. The Jazz finally won the rebounding battle
I don't think it's a coincidence here. Miles acted like he's allergic to rebounding. Before tonight, in two of the last four games, Miles had no rebounds. And they certainly weren't going to other big men. We got crushed on the boards by Boston 50-30. Paul had one-third of those.
But I was impressed not only with the Jazz winning the rebounding battle, but by who was getting those rebounds.
Kyle Korver, who brought energy all over the court last night, had nine rebounds. He also played 32 minutes because he was being rewarded for his hustle. Now look at the rebound totals of people who had lesser minutes.
Kosta Koufos played 17 minutes and had seven boards. Price played 14 minutes and had four. Knight played 14 minutes and had three. The players who brought energy to the team were also crashing the glass.
This is how they should be playing every night, not whatever it is that they thought they were doing in quarter one.
And this is why I don't think Miles gets it. He keeps insisting that he's playing "hard," but his definition and Sloan's don't mesh. Miles is trying hard, on the offensive end, to get his shots. C.J.'s defense is not up to par yet and you don't see him showing much energy on the defensive end. Playing hard does not just mean trying to get open for your shot.
3. This is what we need from Mehmet Okur
Millsap is a beast, everybody seems to know what he'll give you. However, I'd rather see what I saw from Okur tonight on a consistent basis. Once again, Okur had a decent, but not great, shooting performance at 6-for-15, though I think most of his shots weren't falling in the first quarter. However, what sets this night apart as what I want to see are the following stats:
He was one for one from three-point range. Not one for four, two for six, or one for five; one for one. I want to see Memo making a higher percentage of his threes if he's going to take them. I'd rather he drive more as he seems aware of when to pull up and shoot, thus not getting silly charging fouls, and he makes a higher percentage of those.
He was ten for ten from the free-throw line. Okur knows how to make free throws for a big man. He should be shooting at approximately 80 percent a night. I don't want to see a 50 percent night unless he's sick or only one for two. Not only that, but this shows he was getting to the line, and usually that means playing inside out, which only helps his game.
He had nine rebounds. I've been calling all year for Okur to go get the boards and he didn't disappoint. That's the other thing we need from him every night; crashing the glass. It just goes back to point two.
4. The team didn't quit
After that dismal showing in the first quarter, the Jazz didn't hang their head and didn't come out lackluster.
Most times on the road last year, if they got down early, they didn't fight, especially early in the season. They came out swinging tonight and showed their tenacity that I wanted to see from them all season. They didn't let up at all for the remaining three quarters, and it's easy to when you are pushing for so long uphill.
They scrapped and clawed their way to a win. It was not as impressive as the comeback from 34 down against Denver with Stockton and Malone (as that came in a half and was one I got to be there for in person), but in a way, it might have been harder.
Here, you were on the road, in someone else's building, overcoming their fans and you still pulled it off. There was no intimidation, no fear and no let up. If this can keep up, the Jazz just might turn around their road woes and play like we, the fans, expect from them.
To play like a championship contender.