Opening Statements: Wizards vs Jazz, Game 61
When the Wizards faced the Jazz in Utah on January 25, coming off a big win in Phoenix, it was their fifth attempt on the season to pull above the .500 watermark, and ultimately, after losing, their fifth failure. Now the Wizards find themselves two games above .500 (31-29) and looking for ‘revenge’ against Utah. “We owe them,” has been a recently proclaimed theme around Washington’s locker room. They said they “owed” the Cavaliers, and then they beat them at their place on Feb. 23. They said they “owed” the Raptors, and then they took them down in Toronto. They said they “owed” the Grizzlies, and then they lost.
The Jazz previously won 104-101 over the Wizards due to several factors, including: 1) John Wall paid cursory attention to rookie Trey Burke, who paid Wall back with 12 points, eight assists, and most importantly, 4-for-5 3-point shooting, including a key make late in the game; 2) Utah’s bench made TAI writers envious, scoring 52 total points (24 from Enes Kanter and 15 from Alec Burks) to just 18 points from Washington’s Blue Moons; and 3) Trevor Ariza firing the crappiest 3-point attempt of his season (although he played well overall going 6-for-10 from deep).
Tonight, we’ll see just how much the Wizards think they “owe” the Jazz.
Once again stopping by TAI today is Clint Peterson, practiced purveyor of basketball tales for such stalwarts as ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, the Utah Jazz, and many independent establishments (such as Purple & Blues). Clint is a Twitter troublemaker at @Clintonite33, an accredited illustrator, an attentive, single father, and frequent accidental celebrity stalker.
Teams: Wizards vs Jazz
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 8 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: After two nice wins at home against Boston and Phoenix, the Jazz have fallen in the first three games of a six-game road trip, losing by 20 in Cleveland, by three in Indiana, and by 26 in Milwaukee.
So, what’s up with that? (In other words, how the heck do you lose to the championship-contending Pacers by a possession and then get blown-out by the worst team in the NBA?)
@Clintonite33: The Utah Jazz certainly looked like a still wet-behind-the-ears team that had very nearly beaten the best home team in the NBA the night before, in the Pacers, only to be crushed mentally on a missed Gordon Hayward 3 to tie at the buzzer in Indiana (sound like a familiar story for the young Utah wing?).
To be fair to the Milwaukee Bucks, they were 7-7 versus the bottom eight in the league, not named themselves, coming into the game, so it’s not like it was a complete gimme game against similar competition … which was how the Jazz seemed to treat it in giving up 30 first-quarter points, then 40 more in the third. Definitely disappointing for a franchise that had shown recent strides in developing better defensive habits.
Ersan Ilyasova has quietly been playing very well. His explosive night in front of seemingly a handful of attendees spoiled a homecoming for Diante Garrett, whose dad was an NBA player and now works as an usher at Bucks games, as the forgotten Turk could be accounted for the points deficit Utah encountered virtually all night long.
Q #2: Since the All-Star break, the most-used Jazz lineup of Trey Burke, Richard Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, and Derrick Favors (75 minutes) is plus-6.4 points per 48 minutes.
Simply replace Favors with Enes Kanter and you have the second most-used lineup (53 minutes), and it’s minus-19.8 per 48 minutes. Has Favors, who missed the first three games after the break, been that good or has Kanter just been that bad?
@Clintonite33: The short answer is: Derrick Favors absolutely makes that a big difference. It’s taken Favors most of the season to learn to be effective on defense while not getting in foul trouble—something he’d always struggled with before the last few weeks. His progress offensively in his first full season as a starter for Utah has been eye-opening and a pleasant surprise.
Enes Kanter is just really beginning to find his stride when pitted against top-tier talent in preeminent circles. Being a relative latecomer to the game of basketball, with an unexpected hiatus while sitting out for a year at Kentucky, the game may have come too easily to the player that developed an NBA body very early in competition.
Both Favors and Kanter show a devotion to learning and work ethic that even Utah Jazz legends of yore can appreciate. And coupled with a natural aptitude, both players have been negating an early-season ineptitude together that yielded very unsavory on-off-court numbers. Favors, as would be expected at this stage of his career, is ahead of Kanter in development. To put it simply, the numbers bear that out at this juncture.
A short side note: Marvin Williams has been fantastic in the role of stretch 4 that Ty Corbin put him in, replacing Kanter in the starting lineup, and it appears likely at this point that he would be a candidate to return next season to continue an accepted role as a member of the current core. He is at the typical statistic peak of an NBA player, minutes-wise, and only 27 years of age.
Q #3: The numbers tell me that Trey Burke has been shooting better since the All-Star break (43.1 eFG% pre-break, 49.5% post-break). What’s going on below the surface and what else has he been doing well as his rookie season has progressed?
And John Wall seems to struggle with smaller guards, what does he need to watch out for in the 6-foot Burke?
@Clintonite33: Unassisted, Trey Burke is by far most effective on field goals when he’s either in a transition opportunity that ends at the rim or has an open lane to the rim, both areas of the game he’s extremely proficient at. He’s not a very good shot-creator from mid-range out, nor a good pop-a-shot 3-shooter either, only around 18 percent above the arc.
However, he’s an excellent set shooter on kick-outs or swing-arounds, making the 3 around 80 percent when assisted.
Assistant Utah Jazz coach Sidney Lowe said on Tuesday that John Wall was flat out the fastest player with a basketball in his hands that he’s ever seen. And Trey Burke is no slouch, either, in case you happened to have missed out on All-Star Weekend. If this pair isn’t careful, they could create a tear in the space-time continuum tonight.
Gordon Hayward’s next contract will be worth: ____
But he should be getting paid: ____
@Clintonite33: Gordon Hayward’s contract will be worth however much the offer sheet he receives this summer is. The Jazz still hold the cards here, an intelligent move in hindsight since Hayward hasn’t really separated himself into that max contract category this season. I suspect Lance Stephenson will get a higher offer than Hayward this summer, should he decide he values a contract above staying with the Pacers.
Part Two: If I had to say, I’d guess it lands in the $9-10 million per year range. Should be a decent value for a player that’s a near walking trip-dub the last couple of weeks. Hayward’s lack of efficiency shooting the ball this season as a number one option could cause a bit of a hit to his value. He’s a wing player that needs a player like Favors to draw the defensive focus away from him in order to be at his most effective.
What are the two most ridiculous things you’ve seen on #JazzTwitter in the recent week or so?
@Clintonite33: I’m most baffled by the lack of coherency and consistency in a logic that criticizes the Jazz for losing while at the same time cogently recognizing a need to lose in order to gain traction in the draft.
As someone who has covered the Wizards for a long time, I’m sure you’ve experienced this oddly bi-polar phenomenon among your own fanbase with a franchise that hasn’t picked lower than sixth in the last four years, and has had three top three picks in the same span.
But this is whole new territory for Jazzland. And some aren’t taking it so well. At least without additional medication.