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SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 102-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Joe Ingles wins the game for the Jazz
Wait, Joe Ingles? He's the guy who won the game?
He was! Two huge 3-point shots in the game's final three minutes, plus some surprisingly stellar defensive work on Lou Williams was the difference in the final stretch. In the end, the man affectionately known as Jingles finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting, adding two assists and two rebounds in his 24 minutes. Ingles having 0 turnovers was also a big deal in a very high turnover game for the Jazz.
He's shooting 44-89 for the year from behind the arc, good for 49.4 percent from there. That leads the NBA, and having the option to find Ingles in the corner has been one of Quin Snyder's best weapons.
Joe Legend 💰#UTAatLALpic.twitter.com/wbNEo9MzUO — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 28, 2016
Honestly, a lot of this play's success is because the Lakers get confused. Ingles sets a screen on Julius Randle before Rudy Gobert sets a screen for Shelvin Mack. The Lakers end up switching, but way too late, and Randle is so lost that he doesn't follow Ingles to the corner. In the end, the best screen for Joe Johnson is on his own man, Luol Deng.
The defense was the most impressive. Look, you hope that at the end of the season, Ingles is not the team's defensive wing stopper. But forced into that role over the last two games, he's been better than I thought he'd be. He was downright fantastic tonight at staying continually attached to Williams, grabbing him subtly to keep the speed advantage to a minimum, and using his height to bother Williams' attempts.
"He may have won this game for us," Gordon Hayward said, "but he's won us countless other games this season." This one was just the most obvious in the clutch.
By the way, Joe Ingles should get invited to the All-Star Game's 3-point contest, but he's already said multiple times that he wouldn't accept the invitation. He'd rather spend the entire All-Star break with his new twins.
2. Gordon Hayward's All-Star worthy game
All-Star voting opened over the weekend, and the Jazz are promoting the candidacies of two of their players with billboards across the Salt Lake Valley: Hayward and Gobert.
Hayward stepped up most on Tuesday night. He was phenomenal throughout the game, scoring 31 points on 10-17 shooting, picking up nine rebounds and three assists next to zero turnovers. That zero turnovers might be the most important. As the Jazz threw the ball all over the floor, keeping the ball in Hayward's hands was the only reliable way to at least keep it and get a shot off.
.@GordonHayward led us to victory tonight with 31 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. #NBAVote#UTAatLALpic.twitter.com/SoDHDvcxHS — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 28, 2016
"He came out aggressive, and if people are going to give him open looks, he's got to take them," Snyder said. He did that with eight points in the game's first 100 seconds, including two quick 3-point shots as defenders trailed or went under on screens.
The play you'll see tomorrow was his late game dunk. This is a simple screen set by Gobert, but the key to this play is the screen set (okay, the player held) by Ingles, allowing Hayward to get all the way to the rim.
Hayward TO THE RACK!! 💪#TakeNote#UTAatLALpic.twitter.com/pGZvi3ju7N — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 28, 2016
Hayward's athleticism is legitimately impressive, though. That he can bounce that high while jumping off of one foot, then twisting in mid air and finishing through a Randle foul? Not a lot of athletes in the world can make that play.
3. Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood not 100 percent in starting roles
Derrick Favors got the start tonight for the first time since Nov. 14, when the team decided to sit him for a while due to his knee issues. He still faced a minutes restriction, but played 22 minutes overall, the most since Nov. 11. That he started made sense given the Lakers' starting look: Julius Randle is a bigger, mostly interior-oriented power forward, and a matchup Favors should have some offensive success with.
Favors finished with eight points, six rebounds, and three fouls in his 22 minutes, but didn't make much of an impact. He's not at 100 percent, clearly, nor has he found a consistent role in the offense that he's comfortable with. Some of that has just changed this season, thanks to Gobert's emergence as a more potent roll threat, screening with Gobert makes just as much sense as screening with Favors used to.
That being said, give Favors credit for battling out there by getting boards and going to the free throw line. You'll hear players and ex-players talk about getting back into a rhythm by "seeking contact," and while I don't know if that's a real thing, Favors has done a nice job doing so since his return.
Rodney Hood says that he's at 100 percent in terms of recovering from his sickness, but he's still not there overall. The biggest issue here is the weight and strength Hood lost while he was sick, reports have it as up to 10 pounds that Hood shed. That means he's struggling finding his shot. Hood still hasn't made a 3-point shot since his game winner against Dallas nearly two weeks ago. He's 0-17 since then from outside of the arc.
Hood can't do the "seeking contact" method of recovery. First of all, he's just too weak right now, thanks to the sickness. And even when he is at full strength, that's just not part of his game: he only goes to the line 2.5 times per game. Compare that to Hayward's 7-plus attempts at the line. He still hasn't made a free throw since Dallas, either.
It's no coincidence that the Jazz have struggled since then. When Hood is on from deep, it makes the Jazz offense very efficient. If teams leave Hood, he nails down easy threes, and if they don't, the rest of the team has so much more room to get things done. Right now, they're being bogged down a little, and will be until either Hood solves his 3-point woes or George Hill returns to action.