The Utah Jazz finished off their best week of the season Saturday night. Utah’s 2-2 record for the week represents a tremendous success considering the team had only won a single game going into the week. The Jazz are now 3-7 in their last 10 games, but still have the worst record in the league. Utah will hope to continue some of the improvement seen this week, which was representative of the volatile path ahead for Jazz fans.
Sunday 11/24 – Oklahoma City Thunder 95 – 73 Utah Jazz
This is about what you’d expect when these two teams meet this season. Especially in OKC. Though after Utah put up a good fight in the first game of the season against the Thunder, Jazz fans may have hoped for a better showing. In two of the four quarters, Utah only scored 13 points and in one of the remaining quarters only scored 17. Even a 30 point fourth quarter was only enough to score 73 points. None of Utah’s starters scored more than eight points and nobody on the team recorded double digit rebounds. Utah’s consensus best players entering the season, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, had a +/- of -28 and -27 respectively. Just an incredibly ugly game for Jazz fans. There weren’t many gold stars to go around for the Jazz, but Rudy Gobert played well in only 10 minutes, dropping in 10 points on 3-of-3 shooting. He also added an assist, a steal, and two blocked shots.
Monday 11/25 – Utah Jazz 89 – 83 Chicago Bulls
Utah wanted to get the terrible taste of the OKC beatdown out of their mouths as quickly as possible and, luckily, had the chance to do so the following day against the Bulls. Chicago may have still been mourning the loss of Derrick Rose to another knee injury, as they played miserable basketball. Utah held Chicago to 83 points on 39 percent shooting. The Jazz actually shot a worse percentage from the floor, but hit six more 3-pointers and took advantage of their free throws (hitting 16-of-19). Gordon Hayward had 15 points and 12 assists, but missed 10 shots, while Marvin Williams continued his good play with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Friday 11/29 – Phoenix Suns 112 – 101 Utah Jazz
Utah’s up and (mostly) down season continued on Friday with another loss to the overachieving Suns. Every game against the Suns has added significance this season for a couple of different reasons. First, Phoenix was supposed to be one of Utah’s tank-mates this year, each team in direct competition with one another for a better draft pick. Most predicted Phoenix to be the poorer team, but obviously that has not played out. Also, the head coach of the Suns, Jeff Hornacek, is in his first year in the role having come from the Jazz bench. Many Jazz fans feel a sort of regret that “Horny” is not the coach of the Jazz, and worse that he has been quite successful thus far with Phoenix. Friday’s game did nothing to ease the pain for Jazz fans, as Hornacek led his team right over the Jazz. Jazz fans who attended the game in Salt Lake City received green T-Shirts, and the team wore their green jerseys for energy awareness, which was fitting as Jazz fans were both green with envy of Hornacek and possibly a little sick after watching the Suns score over 30 points in each of the first three quarters. Utah finished the game scoring over 100 points for only the second time this season (wow), but never really kept it close as the Suns enjoyed a 20 point lead at times. Favors’ numbers looked OK in this one, with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, but his +/- was -20, by far the team’s worst. This is becoming an alarming trend for one of Utah’s most important long term pieces. Again Marvin Williams was Utah’s best performer, with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, adding two assists and seven rebounds.
Saturday 11/30 – Utah Jazz 112 – 104 Phoenix Suns
Directly after the Suns dismantled the Jazz in Salt Lake, both teams traveled to Phoenix to play again. The game was nearly the mirror image of itself as Utah collected it’s third win of the season. Saturday’s game wasn’t nearly as one-sided as Friday’s however, as the game was kept relatively close all the way through. As you might imagine in a win, much of the Jazz roster had a good game. In fact, Enes Kanter was the only player who registered a negative +/- for the Jazz, but even his line looks good scoring eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and adding 4 rebounds in only 14 minutes. The game ball has to go to Trey Burke who hit a late 3-point shot that essentially put the game out of reach. Burke finished with 20 points, two steals, three assists, and six rebounds. Though Trey only shot 6-of-15, he was 4-of-6 from downtown. If he can be effective from 3-point range, he will be a very good NBA point guard. It’s also reasonable to expect Trey’s assist numbers to increase going forward, as he looks increasingly comfortable understanding where his teammates like to be on the court.
Marvin Williams – The Masked Marv is becoming a regular in this spot every week, and it’s undeniable he has made the Jazz a better team. Back in August, I wrote about the possibility of Marvin having the best year of his career. We may be seeing the early stages of this. Going into Saturday’s game, Marvin was taking four three pointers per game, and converting on over 40 percent of those. This has helped to bring his true shooting percentage (TS%) and effective field goal percentage (eFG%) well above 56 percent, which is very efficient. This week, Williams was also pitching in with several assists, steals, and rebounds. Since he is playing a lot of stretch 4, Marvin will need to rebound more than his average of five per game going forward. If he can do this, he will certainly be helping his cause as a free agent come summertime.
Singin’ the Blues
John Lucas III – It seems as though Lucas is being slowly phased out of the rotation as Trey Burke returns to full strength. Lucas went a combined 3-for-15 for the week, with only three assists. Tyrone Corbin (rightly) opted to play Diante Garrett and Alec Burks at backup PG instead of Lucas in Saturday night’s win. This has been a decision that has seemed obvious since Trey’s return, as Lucas is still shooting less than 35 percent from the field and his assist percentage is just too low for a point guard (lower than anyone who has played point for Utah this year, including Jamaal Tinsley, who was waived).