The Indiana Pacers are arguably the best team in the NBA right now. The Utah Jazz, until the last week or so, were the worst team. Even at home, this should have been a bloodbath, right?
I scored a lower-bowl ticket from a friend of mine, and here were some things I was able to observe up close:
– Roy Hibbert is an impressive specimen. Even if his stats looked average for the game, he alters everything his opponent tried to do. I was shocked to see that Favors and Kanter were both able to get double-doubles against him.
– The benching looked like it did the trick for Enes Kanter. He was active, he was energetic, and he had only a few boneheaded plays. The fact that he contributed 20 and 10 against the best defense in the NBA says something. Shouts something, actually. When Marvin returns, it should be Jefferson who goes to the bench.
– Everything in the Jazz offense looks so much better with Trey Burke on the floor. He knows how to find the open man, he’s quick dribbling through lanes, and he has the confidence of a second-year player, not a second-week player. Just about every game he sets a new “career high” and last night he did it with nine assists. More impressive? Only one turnover.
– Gordon Hayward shot 2-6 in the first half and 1-8 in the second half. Not all of them were long-2 contested shots either. Sometimes it seems like the pressure of being the #1 guy messes with his head. I got the feeling he really wanted to outplay Paul George last night, with the same fire that got Deron Williams to dominate Chris Paul their first few years. But if Hayward’s not hitting his shots, it’s not going to happen. He’s now 28.9% from 3 and 42.8% from 2 so far this year.
– The Pacers are an impressive ball-movement team. I would marvel at how everyone got to their spots and how many open looks they could find. David West was money from the 12-foot shot, and they got him that same shot three times in a row.
– Lance Stephenson has to be one of the quickest jumpers in the NBA. He’ll be dribbling, and suddenly he’s already in the air with his shot off.
– Whatever his “old self” is, Brandon Rush isn’t there yet. In fact, I’d say the Jazz would’ve won this game if they’d had the services of Marvin Williams and Jeremy Evans. But as is, Ty had no choice but to give minutes to Rush, Andris Biedrins and Mike Harris. I am rooting for 2011 Rush to show up. (2008 Biedrins and 2007 Jefferson would be nice too.)
– Why is it, during most timeouts, the coaches walk all the way to the painted area and have their own mini-conference, leaving one or none of the assistant coaches to talk to the players?
– Derrick Favors had 22 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes. I think Ty would’ve played him 42 minutes if he didn’t get five fouls.
– The refs bit on two bad flops by the Pacers in the fourth quarter, to the point that I wonder if we’ll be hearing about fines or warnings of fines later today.
This was an ideal game in the Jazz’s quest for a high draft pick while still developing their players. They were right there in it until the last few minutes of the game, they have five guys score in double-figures, and they had a lot of things they could hang their hat on while at the same time, have some things clarified they still need to work on.