As promised I’m following up my Jazz/Pacers preview for the game Saturday night with this review of the game which I got to see live(check out my other article) . My thoughts turn to the overall atmosphere, why the Jazz won, what flaws were revealed along the way and what they need to continue doing to keep their winning going and make a bid for a playoff seed.
First of all, I was quite impressed with the overall atmosphere in the arena, particularly the service to the fans. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a Jazz game live (some 10 years), and I’m glad to report things have improved a lot in terms of things you see only in the arena. There were plenty of laughs to be had watching the Jazz Bear roam around the arena, putting up signs like “hmmm do I smell bacon?” while standing behind a cop, or following a guest walking down to his seat with a sign “mmmmm Beer.” The Jumbo tron following fans doing whatever it takes to get some screen time also kept time outs interesting.
Another highlight from the arena was a massive slingshot wheeled out onto the court by three men, which the Jazz Bear used to fling plushy basketballs clear up into the nosebleed section up in the rafters. Between that, free umbrellas at the door and parachuted prizes from the ceiling, it was nice to see that upper bowl fans were given just as many if not more opportunities to take home souvenirs from the game without paying extra.
As for the game itself it started out ugly for the Jazz, with them falling 8-15 early. Paul Millsap kept the Jazz in the game though, coming out on fire and scoring 8 points in the first period. Jamal Tinsley started off 0-3 with 2 ill-advised shots and another that wasn’t ideal, especially for someone who’s been ice cold. After that though the Jazz got back in the game and it was a back and forth affair most of the night.
I was especially impressed with the play of Gordon Hayward. His footwork, especially with the ball was quite incredible to watch. He frequently shook off his defender and made some very nice highlight reel shots himself (he did miss a few easy buckets too though, but hit all his free throws, most of which came late in the game.), not to mention the 6 dimes he delivered too.
Demarre Carroll again showed his hustle and energy once again, poking away two steals, breaking up another fast break opportunity for the Pacers with his hustle, and shooting a great 4-5 from the floor. Earl Watson also stepped up when Tinsley was sat with his cold shooting and poor passing (just wasn’t his night, probably due to the back to back), making what was probably a game saving move late in the fourth, jumping into the stands for a loose ball that he managed to bounce off one of the pacers to give the Jazz the ball with less than a minute left.
A couple of things went horridly wrong for the Jazz and allowed Indiana to stay close. Terrible rebounding, first of all, with the Jazz only managing 28 total rebounds while allowing 41. Between that and some soft interior defense (David West shot 9-15 and Tyler Hansbourgh 4-5 and Mahinmi(?!) 3-4. Watching the game it seemed even worse, quite frankly I didn’t remember David West Hansbourgh or Mahinmi missing a shot, almost all of their makes were completely uncontested and close to the rim. On a side note I was very impressed with Mahinmi, he had a couple of what I thought were ticky tack fouls called against him but he always immediately indicated he was at fault, no whining or complaining like we see most players do. Between that and his surprisingly good play, he was definitely my favorite Pacer.
Lastly, what finally sealed the game for the Jazz is in the overtime they worked through Al Jefferson who made 4 easy buckets on the inside making me wonder why they didn’t do more of that throughout the game. If he’d have had as many touches as he did in the regulation periods as he did in the overtime, he could have had closer to 40 points rather than his 25. When Al got low on the block it seemed his footwork just completely made the defense a non-factor.
All in all it was a great win and a needed win for the Jazz, but it sure could have been a lot easier if they’d have rebounded a lot better and not made some late game errors. They had possession with a tied score with 9.5 secs on the clock and didn’t end up even getting a shot up despite using up all but .2 of those seconds. Give credit to the Pacers for some great defense, but when it comes to situations like that you just have to produce. Hopefully the Jazz can take some lessons from this win instead of being forced to learn while losing later.