SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz's 100-89 win over the San Antonio Spurs from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. All good in the Hood in important Jazz win
Coming into Thursday night, I was very skeptical about the Jazz's chances to win. After all, it was a back-to-back game after a six-game road trip for the Jazz against the third best team in the Western Conference.
But what I underestimated was the Jazz's ability to win their matchups against a Spurs defense that's very different than Oklahoma City's. Number one on that list was Rodney Hood, who scored 29 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter to take the Jazz from a three-point lead to a 10-point lead very quickly.
Why was Hood so successful? Some of it is just talent. In his jump shot form, he rises above the defense like a salmon, giving him a clear line of sight to the basket even if a defender is within just a foot of him. Look at some of these tough shots!
But those kinds of shots are much more successful if the Spurs' primary defender on Hood is Patty Mills or Bryn Forbes, at 6-foot and 6-foot-3 respectively. Those players did their best against Hood, but they didn't really have a chance the way Andre Roberson or Paul George would. Kawhi Leonard not being on a 20-minute restriction may also have changed the game.
Hood took a lot of shots to get 29 points: 24 in all, and only got to the line for three free-throw attempts. But when the Jazz needed a scorer most with Donovan Mitchell out, Hood stepped up and gave them exactly what they needed.
"You noticed he was pretty good, huh?," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sarcastically noted after the game. Indeed, he was.
2. Derrick Favors steps up, gives Jazz second-chance points
Another player who had a vastly improved game was Derrick Favors, who ended up with 14 points and nine rebounds, four of them offensive. That's a sharp contrast to his game in Oklahoma City, where he scored nine and only had two rebounds all game.
Again, some of that is matchup-dependent. Steven Adams is one of the biggest men in the NBA, and he may be its most physical. It's much tougher for Favors to do his thing against Adams. (I keep bringing up the Oklahoma City matchup because it was recent and it's also who the Jazz play next on Saturday.)
Joffrey Lauvergne is a finesse big, so is LaMarcus Aldridge. That gives Favors more of a chance to make plays, and did he ever, especially in the first half of the game.
This is just a tough rebound. But Favors gets in good position, keeps the ball high, and even ends up with a free run to the basket as a result of his hustle.
Derrick Favors' offensive rebounding was really important early: pic.twitter.com/b0mQMVzqyF— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 22, 2017
I'll also give fellow big man Ekpe Udoh a shout-out for what I thought was some tremendous defense on Aldridge. Aldridge loves that "two bumps and a jump shot" move. As soon as I saw the first bump, I could guess what was coming. So could Udoh, who mirrors Aldridge perfectly, surprised him with his length and forced missed shots.
The energy that the Jazz brought in this game despite the circumstances really has to be commended.
3. Jonas Jerebko, Joe Johnson make big plays after starting lineup switch
After Wednesday night's game, when the starters looked cooked from the get-go, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder thought a lineup change was necessary to get out to a better start. So after three games of Joe Johnson starting at the four, Jonas Jerebko got the nod Thursday night.
That switch just makes a lot of sense. While you want Johnson's scoring in the lineup without Mitchell, he's probably too slow on the defensive end to keep up with the majority of starting power forwards in the NBA. That's especially true when the Jazz switch, which they do frequently.
Inserting Jerebko into the starting lineup allows for much more defensive strength while still keeping an ability to space the floor on offense. That puts a lot of pressure on the primary scorer in the starting lineup, but when Hood plays the way he did Thursday night, it's all good.
After the swap, both players played great games. Johnson hit both of his 3-point attempts on Thursday, for his first threes since Oct. 21. You get the sense that he's more comfortable abusing backups in the post.
Meanwhile, Jerebko only scored nine points but had one of the biggest plays of the game, this great block in the second quarter that ended up being, legitimately, a six-point turnaround after the four-point play by Hood.
That was the consistent theme Thursday night: the Jazz making really big plays for all 48 minutes. Whether it was Jerebko's block, Udoh ending Parker's run, Favors getting second-chance points, or Hood just hitting tough shots, every Jazzman who played Thursday contributed to the win.
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