Itís a combination that is dangerous and we are going to have to be on the lookout for it all year long. Teams know who we are; we are getting their best shot each time we step on the floor. That combined with our sometimes utterly perplexing offensive sets leads to games that are probably closer than they should be.
The altitude in Utah also does play a factor as you could see early on that Paul George wasnít getting a lot of lift when he jumped. Also mix that in with him not having a particularly good shooting night (West also had a bad shooting night but was saved by hitting some jumpers in the 4th) and for about half of this game it really looked like that trap game might actually have sprung and trapped away. But the sign of a really good team is that it can plow through rough spells and come away with a win.
Utah has some decent talent on their team and ultimately I think that Trey Burke is going to be one hell of a player and their big men have real potential. I donít know what their ceiling is but I do think they can be a decent team in a few years.
Now having said all of that, and remember I have already said that there were reasons why the Pacers did not play as well as they could/should, if we would have played this way against a better team or a team that could hit the mid range with more success than they did in the second half then the end result might look very different.
First and foremost Viva Scola. This guy has had a couple of games where he wasnít an impact player but Iím telling you far more nights he is right there giving you a lot of what you need. Sure I would like for him to spread out the points by half a little more but just the fact that the guy usually single handily ensures that your starters donít come back into a double digit deficit every half is nothing short of outstanding. Think back to last season and then remind yourself how bad that bench was about scoring any points and now think that on a night like tonight how valuable getting 28 points from your was with Luis getting half of those. He also is always in there on the glass as well and was called for one of the most bogus calls Iíve seen this year.
For those who didnít view the game Iíll give you a quick recap. The Jazz started off with a ball of energy, hitting shots and getting into the paint. We looked like we had just received anesthesia and was walking in a daze. They took a decent lead. Paul was apparently affected by the altitude so his answer was to shoot and miss a lot of threeís. Luis came in with the second unit and dropped 10 points on them and generally kept the team in the game. Second half looked a little like the first to start off with but then the switch flipped and our defense went from ordinary NBA defense to ďyou shall not passĒ defense and once again the python continued to squeeze tighter and tighter all the while the Jazz kept struggling and struggling thinking they were making progress only to have C.J. Watson drop Fat Man & Little Boy three point shots on them and then they just accepted their fate and were swallowed to provide nourishment to the Pacers Python.
Letís drop some grades
Paul George: B The grade is probably a little harsh but there were times I felt like he was settling. I guess in the post game he said he was really struggling with the altitude so weíll believe him and move on. Had a huge, soul crushing steal for an easy basket in the 4th that if you looked closely enough you could actually see the souls of the Utah fan base going out of their bodyís. Now I am interrupting this normal grading period to bring you a message from the Peck Broadcasting System (PBS). STOP SHOOTING SO MANY DAMNED THREE POINT SHOTS. We now return you to your normal grading period.
David West: B I guess his game in L.A. took more out of him than we thought it did. Second game in a row that he has zero free throw attempts, to me that is a sign (not always a true sign but a sign nonetheless) that you are just not playing down low in the paint. Now some of this is by design but some of it is not. Obviously both he and Roy canít be in the post at the same time so David being out top makes sense seeing as how he can hit that shot but also he is a very under rated passer. But there were a few times that he could have put the ball on the floor and gotten in the paint and IMO gotten some contact and drew a foul. But thatís just me. He played decent defense and almost had a double/double himself but in the more rare points and assists for a power forward.
Roy Hibbert: B+ We really need to make more of an effort to let him get some shots out west as his % is high and it slows the game down which is by far to our advantage. He was 6-9 from the floor tonight and Iím wondering why he only got up 9 shots. Hell Paul George almost took that many three point shots. Did a decent job on the boards but I would like to have seen him get a few more. I am concerned a little that teams now have had time to scout us that they are starting to draw Roy away from his man and work the PnR leaving Roy scrambling on defense, hence fouling out. We will certainly need him in tip top shape if we have any hope at all this weekend.
Lance Stephenson: A- Very balanced game and a very mature game from him. Other lesser mentally stable playerís coughartestcough would have continued to pursue triple doubles because of all the attention that it garnered both locally and the national media. However to Lanceís credit he came right out went to work and still played very solid defense. However due to his on court antics and frankly his trash talking to opponents he is now the beneficiary of official scrutiny. It could be a combination of things first Lance being Lance but it could also be that this was the Scot Foster crew that gave Lance his last technical. But what he did IMO did not merit a technical, that was a ďwe are going to control you TĒ the irony is that Lance actually never usually needs to be controlled other than sometimes he has to be controlled by our own coach. But no Scott Foster just likes doing his Boris Badenov imitation whenever we play them. Heís nowhere near as bad as Crawford but I dislike him in his own unique way.
George Hill: B I hate saying this but there were times I forgot he was playing. Iím not sure what it was he did or didnít do that made me overlook him all night but honestly I just donít remember much of anything he did. He shot no foul shots so that makes me upset that he wasnít driving, actually I do remember his two drives to the rim after hard cuts (those were nice) but with ball in hand I donít remember him driving making the defense ever react to him. Like it much better when we attack the rim.
Luis Scola: A Exactly what you want out of your backup power forward. He is even better at defense than what I even thought he was. Him hitting that face up jumper is just money in the bank a lot of time and it has saved our bacon on more than once occasion this year. When C.J. is going with him our bench can be an asset. Ian has been disappointing on this west coast trip as he has not allowed Roy much of a break at all and when he has been in it usually is the weak spot on the floor. But thankfully Luis has been there to pick up the slack.
C.J. Watson: B Hit big shots when it counted. In fact he really put a world of hurt on the Jazz with those two big threeís because I am pretty sure he helped stop a run both times by them. Decent defense and I like the fact that he actually has made a point the last couple of games of driving to the rim.
Orlando Johnson: C I know that he probably deserves more than this but honestly to me this was just a ďmehĒ game from him. I think he is capable of much more particularly when he gets this many min. in a game.
Ian Mahinmi: C- Hit the gym. I donít remember him being muscled around as much as he has been the past three games. Again another game in which he has as many fouls as he does points or rebounds. We really need him to step up a little as Roy needs some solid rest as the season goes on.
Now comes the hell part of our schedule. We havenít won in San Antonio since before Facebook was invented and our overall winning % against them since 99 is beyond abysmal. Sadly they exploit the one giant weakness we have. They can hit that pull up 15-18í jumper off of the pick and roll and they have an ultra fast point guard who can burn our interior. All hands will have to be on deck and nobody is going to be able to have a down night.
In honor of our vanquished foe let us pay tribute by giving them some JazzÖJeff that it.