SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 110-89 win over the Phoenix Suns from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz dominate the beginning of both halves
The Suns were experimenting with a new starting lineup tonight, moving Brandon Knight and P.J. Tucker to the bench and promoting Devin Booker and Jon Leuer. The experiment failed miserably.
By the time the Suns made their first substitution at the 5:34 mark of the first quarter, the Jazz had already built a 22-9 lead. The Suns didn't try the lineup again for the rest of the half.
But presumably Suns coach Jeff Hornacek felt that the lineup deserved a second chance, as he brought them out for the start of the second half as well. The Jazz then went on a 5-0 run to start that half, and Hornacek quickly subbed in Brandon Knight, his best player tonight. Again, that lineup didn't play for the rest of the game.
In the end, Phoenix's starting lineup ended up a -18 in just 8:18 of playing time, which is, well, pretty nightmarish. Hornacek's job, fairly or unfairly, is in some danger, and this experiment failing didn't work at all.
Hornacek was asked about the lineup change after the game. "We just thought maybe those young guys could get in there and give a little emotion and a little action in the beginning and it didn't happen."
"When you lose, somebody's got to step up and be a part of that group that can carry us to a win. Whether it's one guy or two guys, we'll mix it around. Obviously tonight, that way didn't work."
I asked Quin Snyder about the lineup imbalance, and he shook his head, enough that I apologized for asking the question before I finished asking the question. "We are going to play good sometimes, we are going to play bad sometimes, and hopefully we play good more than we play bad." Oops.
2. Jazz take advantage of Suns overhelping on the perimeter
The Jazz did a really good job tonight on the offensive end of taking advantage of what the Suns gave them. Oftentimes, the Suns helped when they didn't really need to, forcing the team into perilous rotations, then the Jazz found the open man. Take this play from the first quarter, for example:
Good Jazz ball movement + Suns over helping pic.twitter.com/OpeK9EPCbt — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 22, 2015
Neto starts driving the baseline, and Leuer comes all the way from the corner, leaving Trey Lyles wide open for a corner 3. That's unnecessary, Neto's just not that much of a threat to shoot on his drives. But then, after Lyles doesn't take the 3 but instead drives, Eric Bledsoe then helps way too much on Lyles' drive, himself a non-threat, leaving Rodney Hood wide open for his three.
Those are pretty basic mistakes by the Suns, but the Jazz did a good job of making the right play repeatedly in order to get an open shot from one of their shooters. They did that time and time again tonight, and it's shown in how many players picked up assists: eight players got at least one dime tonight, and two other players picked up secondary (or "hockey") assists. It was nice to see, and fit perfectly with Quin Snyder's philosophy of "playing with the pass".
3. Alec Burks' dunk steals the show
Alec Burks' dunk was the highlight moment of the game. My analysis: it was neat. Here's the highlight:
By the way, I've heard some say that this wasn't a dunk, because Burks didn't touch the rim. Not so fast! According to Merriam-Webster, here's the definition of a dunk:
Note that it doesn't say anything about the player's hands touching the rim, only that they're above the rim on the shot. Alec's shot definitely qualifies as a dunk. And the Jazz players we asked, from Gordon Hayward to Rodney Hood to Trevor Booker, all agreed.
The best part, though, were some of Alec's teammates' reactions to the dunk. Here's Trevor Booker's (Vine courtesy Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox!):
Trevor Booker's reaction to the Burks' dunk was priceless! 😂😂😂 #PHXatUTApic.twitter.com/cwVBeX1plu — Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) December 22, 2015
And the bench basically all got up and relocated themselves from the sideline to the baseline in excitement.
And who can blame them? Here's another angle.
Take a bow, AB.