Opening Statements: Wizards at Jazz, Game 68 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Jazz, Game 68

Updated: March 18, 2015


Washington Wizards vs Utah Jazz - Nov. 17, 2012

At this point in the season, we have a good idea of who these Wizards are. Take it away, Chris ‘Thompson.’

It’s not that they play 48 minutes of high-level NBA basketball so much as it is that they start out on the front foot and put themselves in position to benefit from a huge John Wall play, or a timely Bradley Beal 3-pointer, or a bruising Nene layup in traffic, or Paul Pierce, you know, playing to the refs.

Their starting five is legit. Their defensive identity … well, that’s become muddled, but the Wizards, thanks to Randy Wittman, have remained resolute to not allow buckets in the paint. The second unit, much like the half-court offense, should not be talked about.

The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, have had something of a renaissance. They’re playing débutante ball, owning the NBA’s best record since the All-Star break (11-2). Coach Quin Snyder’s Jazz, despite being the youngest roster in the NBA, are the best defensive team since February 1, as voice of Salt Lake City hoops, David Locke, pointed out. What does that fun fact translate to in the beautiful language of ANALYTICS? Simply: The Jazz allow just 89.7 points per 100 possessions.

That’s some sort of tour de force to kick-off the New Year (to throw another French expression at you).

What does this all mean for a Wizards team, one of the oldest in the NBA, that’s riding a four-game winning streak? It means they’re going to be seriously tested by a bunch of confident and capable young’uns out West. Also: you know Trevor Booker wants to win this one.

For a sneak preview from the other side, we reached out to Purple & Blues editor and Twitter troublemaker, Clint Peterson (@Clintonite33). He offers a riff on the Utah Jazz. A-one, a-two, a-one, two, three, four!

Teams: Wizards at Jazz
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Television: CSN/ROOT
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 3.5 points.

#1) The Jazz have won 13 of their last 16, demonstrating form fans haven’t seen in half a decade. What’s going on in Salt Lake City?

@Clintonite33: Well, the cherry trees are blooming. Oh, you mean the Utah Jazz? Also blooming, and equally beautiful to see.

The trade of Enes Kanter has become addition by subtraction. Since the All-Star break the Utah Jazz have skyrocketed from the cellar of the NBA’s defensive ratings, which they occupied for two years, from 26th to 15th—an unbelievable 11 spots in only 13 games. Every five or so quarters the Jazz are moving up one spot in the DRtgs, unheard of this late in a season with sample sizes nearing completion.

The Utah Jazz are doing it with defense first, the most crucial element of an elite team (Hear that, Wizards fans?). Coupled with the emergence of Gordon Hayward as a top-tier player and Derrick Favors moving to a more efficient power forward spot, Utah has a recipe for a legitimate Big 3.

#2) Gordon Hayward. Super legit. Has his development surprised you? (The answer is yes: There’s no way you could have imagined he’d be *this* good.)

@Clintonite33: When Gordon Hayward got paid a max contract last summer, Jazz fans nearly rioted. In truth, I was on the bandwagon before he even laid pen to paper, giving him some $16 million a year. Sadly, Jazz fans were not convinced by my pleas last July, titled “Get Behind Gordon Hayward: Poised To Join The Elite.”

Jazz fans didn’t buy it until they saw it with their own eyes: Hayward backing up his contract by joining only three other players statistically this season:

“Still don’t think Gordon Hayward is a star? He’s one of four players in the NBA this season averaging 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting at least 45% from the field.

Hayward’s company?

LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.”

#3) OK, whoa: Sophomore sensation Rudy Gobert has averaged 17 rebounds in his last nine games. How lucky was Utah to snag him with the 27th pick in 2013?

@Clintonite33: After the Jazz destroyed the Charlotte Hornets with a crazy Pop-a-Shot performance the other night, this interesting nugget was offered: “Rudy Gobert has the most rebounds in ten games in NBA history.” That would be an astounding 159, with The Stifle Tower averaging 20.3 RPG over his last three games, pulling down 19 or more in half of his games in March thus far.

More than Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell or Moses Malone in a ten-game span. That’s otherworldly stuff. Rudy Gobert is a franchise-changer.

Although it might seem like Jazz brass just got lucky, let’s not forget they also discovered Wesley Matthews, who went undrafted and is now a star for the Portland Trail Blazers. (Albeit injured, for now.) And there’s yet another steal lurking on this Jazz roster as well:

“Since being moved into the starting lineup three games ago, Rodney Hood is averaging 19 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.7 steals per game, knocking down 59% of 17 tries from behind the arc.”

Over the last 13 games, Rodney Hood is averaging 51 percent shooting from behind the arc. This opens up everything in the paint for Gobert and Derrick Favors to eat like big dawgs.

#4) Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder loves mental toughness, grit, hard work (work). Has he helped change the “sporting culture” in Utah? And what separates him from other blue collar guys like Randy Wittman?

@Clintonite33: The Miller family ownership group and management have always prided themselves on possessing a winning culture. The recent, necessary rebuild was incredibly hard for Jazz fans that had been accustomed to winning for two decades. Under Snyder, it’s more of a return to winning ways with a changing of the guard.

Aside from his obvious intensity, Quin Snyder’s attention to detail is on par with guys like Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich. He’ll pull a guy from a game for the smallest of errors, teach them—sometimes loudly, other times softly—then send ’em back out to correct their mistakes.

#5) Gimme your 2014-15 MVP, LVP and X-factor so far.

@Clintonite33: I’ve had Stephen Curry as MVP since a week into the 2014-15 NBA seas— Oh, on the Jazz?

It’s hard to not pick Rudy Gobert for MVP, but what Gordon Hayward has done makes him the anchor. Hayward went from having a basketball thrown at his head in a game by Deron Williams when the Jazz wingman was a rookie, to bearing a difficult season where he took all the blame for losses last year, to now being the unquestioned leader of a Jazz team that has a younger starting five than the college team down the road, The BYU Cougars, do.

Despite be thrown into the starting lineup by Quin Snyder on January 22, Dante Exum has shown a consistent allergy to entering the paint on offense, citing a lack of strength and experience—odd, since he has no problem bodying up on seven-footers on defense. This unusual mental block on offense has to be my Least Valuable Player of the season, rather than the player himself.

“X,” as Exum is called by teammates, is also my X-Factor, fittingly. His ceiling could be the rafters one day, and Quin Snyder has clearly shown an ability to back up his reputation as a developmental coach.

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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.