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Utah Jazz: Anatomy of a Collapse

Do you remember when the Utah Jazz staged that crazy comeback in Miami? It was a great game wherein they battled from 22 points down to force an unlikely overtime and eventually pull out a win behind 46 from Paul Millsap? Remember when they did it basically again one night later in Orlando?

Remember how the Jazz were sitting atop the Northwest Division in early December? They were 15-5 and looked to be very capable to keep the Thunder and Nuggets at bay. Remember how people were saying that you can’t count out of the Jazz as long as they were armed with their never-say-die coach Jerry Sloan and superstar point guard Deron Williams?

Flash forward to last night, with the Jazz losing in overtime to a lowly Washington Wizards team, possibly their last win of the season. Since December 1st, they’ve lost 34 games, their franchise point guard, their Hall of Fame coach, and their identity.

So… how did that happen?

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Utah Jazz: Anatomy of a Collapse

Do you remember when the Utah Jazz staged that crazy comeback in Miami? It was a great game wherein they battled from 22 points down to force an unlikely overtime and eventually pull out a win behind 46 from Paul Millsap? Remember when they did it basically again one night later in Orlando?

Remember how the Jazz were sitting atop the Northwest Division in early December? They were 15-5 and looked to be very capable to keep the Thunder and Nuggets at bay. Remember how people were saying that you can’t count out of the Jazz as long as they were armed with their never-say-die coach Jerry Sloan and superstar point guard Deron Williams?

Flash forward to last night, with the Jazz losing in overtime to a lowly Washington Wizards team, possibly their last win of the season. Since December 1st, they’ve lost 34 games, their franchise point guard, their Hall of Fame coach, and their identity.

So… how did that happen?

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D-League Report: Cousin, McNeal, Alabi and Temple

Another week of heavy activity for the D-League this week as teams try to grab the assets they need to fill holes due to injury, or attempt to shake things up for the stretch. Here are some highlights:

Marcus Cousin Ready for Jazz, His Uniform… Not So Much

Marcus Cousin signed a ten-day deal to join the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and were excited to get him involved quickly. He joined the team in Toronto as the Jazz began a four game road trip with a number of players (Paul Milsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Price, Francisco Elson, Kyrylo Fesenko and Mehmet Okur) injured.

Unfortunately, things happened so quickly, that the Jazz failed to make up a new uniform for Cousin in time for his first game, so he had to wear a number 0 jersey with no name on the back.

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Jazz lack height to match up with Lakers

Pau Gasol has repeatedly gotten the better of Carlos Boozer in this series.

After Game 1 of the Jazz-Lakers series, Utah played like it had a chance to win the series against the defending champions. After Game 2, I’m more resigned to the fact that Utah is dramatically outmatched.

As I mentioned in my previous post about the series, the Jazz nearly came away with the win in Game 1, but shaky defense down the stretch game the Lakers a decisive win. In the second contest, the Jazz’s flaws were more evident. And it starts and ends with the front-court play.

Los Angeles features two seven-foot front-court players in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The sixth man off the bench, Lamar Odom, is a versatile 6’10″. On the contrary, the two best paint players for Utah — Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap — are both 6’9″. With Mehmet Okur out for the remainder of the season, the Jazz must resort to giving heavy minutes to Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos at center, who are lacking in talent, to be blunt.

So what’s the result when you pit your two 6’9″ quality big men and seven-foot bench warmers against Gasol, Bynum, Odom? Chaos and embarrassment.

In Game 2, the one true offensive bright spot for Utah was Millsap: 26 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 10-17 shooting. Boozer added 20 point and 12 rebounds, but he shot a mediocre 9-21.

Fesenko and Koufos combined to score 4 points on 2-9 shooting and grab 3 rebounds. To say the least, that’s not going to cut it.

These stats don’t tell the whole story. Further accentuating the shortcomings of Utah’s front-court production is the fact that the Lakers mustered 13 blocks in Game 2, and 9 of those came thanks to Gasol, Bynum, and Odom.

Further, still, is Utah’s inability to defend in the paint.

Gasol put up 22 points on 7-11 shooting and secured 5 offensive rebounds. Bynum added 17 points on a very solid 7-9 shooting performance. He also grabbed 14 rebounds (13 of which came in the first half), including 4 on the offensive glass. Finally, Odom put up 11 points on perfect 4-4 shooting and a whopping 15 boards (4 of which came on offense).

Clearly, Boozer and Millsap give up too much height to contend with the Lakers’ bigs near the basket. Fesenko and Koufos just aren’t good enough. Honestly, Utah can kiss this series goodbye if it continues to let the Lakers absolutely own the offensive glass and shoot such high percentages.

Kobe Bryant’s 30 points (10-22 FG, 10-11 FT), 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks are the least of the Jazz’s worries as the series heads to Utah. With Andrei Kirilenko’s return, Kobe’s damage can be mitigated. It will take some creative thinking on Jerry Sloan’s part, however, to quell the onslaught of the Lakers big men for the rest of the series.

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NBA Today: April 18

  • Gregg Popovich isn’t yet sure who will start Game 1 at point guard for the Spurs, as Tony Parker is still recovering from an injury that relegated him to the backup role at the end of the regular season.
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