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LAS VEGAS — Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz's 75-70 win over the Orlando Magic from KSL.com's Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. To be honest, that was a horrific basketball game
Thursday night's contest was among some of the most unwatchable basketball I've had the privilege of witnessing. The Orlando Magic didn't play lottery picks Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac due to "general soreness," and Isaiah Briscoe sat out with a shin contusion. For the Jazz, Tony Bradley has been sent home back to Salt Lake City with a left wrist contusion, and Grayson Allen just rested again. Head coach Alex Jensen left, as he headed to work out with Rudy Gobert.
In other words, neither team really wanted to win this game. A loss meant the privilege of playing Friday and getting out of town, while a win means that the team has to wait until Saturday night to play next. The players that did play wanted to do well, to be sure, though that means something different to each player. Some guys want to win, others just want to score a lot of points and stand out.
The result was a game in which both teams shot a combined 34 percent from the field and 10-51 from the 3-point line (19 percent). Both teams had a 10-point quarter.
"It was kind of scrappy from the tip to the final buzzer," Naz Mitrou-Long said. "We were really bad with our shot selection tonight. Everybody had a couple segments where they were doing that." But when players are most interested in showing what they can do rather than win, that's not a huge surprise.
In the end, the Jazz won mostly because they played solid defense throughout, made two more threes, and hit their free throws. But it wasn't a pretty win, and I'm not sure it said much about either team.
2. Jairus Lyles has a shot
The Jazz signed Jairus Lyles to an Exhibit 10 contract before the game. Basically, what that means is that Lyles will get a shot in training camp with the Jazz, albeit likely on a full roster. The overwhelming likelihood is that he's waived, and then the Salt Lake City Stars would have his G-League rights.
The former UMBC guard is small, listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, but that listed height is probably a little generous. But he does some nice things. Lyles is a quick guard with a scorer's mentality, able to shoot 39 percent from 3-point range last year. He's not a great playmaker at this point, which is obviously pretty discouraging at his height.
Lyles didn't play well offensively on Friday, hitting only two of his eight shots and even missing both free throws. But he was a game-high +15 and I think there's a good reason why: He consistently nailed his defensive rotations and made smart moves to defend the Magic guards.
The hope is that Lyles can improve himself as much as Mitrou-Long has in his time with the Jazz and the G-League, and approach the level of the NBA. By all accounts, he has the right attitude and work ethic to give himself a chance.
"I’m just someone who’s going to work hard every single day in practice, in the games and do whatever the coaches ask of me,” Lyles said. “I’m someone who’s not going to get in trouble off the court, and I'm just a gym rat. I’m working on getting better every single day to develop an NBA game."
3. Karl Malone visits the game
While most of the Jazz's roster players have gone home (only Royce O'Neale remained of the eight-man contingent that was here earlier in the week), perhaps the biggest Jazz star in history came through Cox Pavilion: 14-time All-Star Karl Malone.
LEGEND.@utahjazz | #NBASummerpic.twitter.com/YJCLHwN1bT — NBA Summer League (@NBASummerLeague) July 13, 2018
Malone still looks just as strong as he did when he left the league ("I'm a hunter, a fisherman, so I gotta stay in shape," Malone told ESPN), and he's just as outsized a personality as when he left, too. Malone spent much of the third quarter with the game's broadcast crew and still had some pretty strong feelings about the current state of the NBA game.
In his interview, Malone came out against:
- Small power forwards ("When is somebody going to lift some weights around this place?")
- The way the game is officiated now ("I'd foul out every game.")
- The game he was watching ("Tell me when they run a play.")
- What players wear now ("It's not a fashion show.")
- AAU traveling basketball ("It does not help the NBA, I don't care what anybody says.")
- The current state of basketball fundamentals ("They're telling you now, just go dunk. Whatever happened to the jab step?")
- Players resting ("I don't agree with just about none of that. You rest when you die.")