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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN - Jazz win 50th with veteran leadership

By David Locke, Utah Jazz

Summary: The Jazz win their 50th game of the regular season with a surprising 105-99 victory over the Warriors, despite playing without Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors.

  • The first quarter of basketball was high scoring and exciting. That gave way to a more Jazz-paced game and with both teams’ best players on the bench for the closing quarter (other than Rudy), the Jazz were able to outlast the Warriors.
  • Through three quarters, the Jazz and Warriors were tied. Curry had played 30 minutes and Durant had 28. To this point, both teams had played most of their available guys. The Warriors were resting Klay Thompson and the Jazz were without three primary players, yet the Jazz impressively had played to a draw through three quarters. The Warriors had made surges and the Jazz had found a way to answer back and stay in the game.
  • George Hill returned to the lineup and looked fresh. He had nice bounce in his jumper and hit on 7 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3 for 20 points in 19 minutes.
  • Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson showed how important they are going to be for this team in the playoffs. Diaw was terrific tonight. He just made the right play all the time, not just the obvious things: The defensive slides, the ball movement, the correct spacing. It felt as though he played a very smart game tonight. Joe Johnson was the offensive go-to guy late in the game. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter on 5 of 7 shooting. He has been great in the clutch all season.
  • The Warriors played Durant four minutes of the fourth and didn’t play Curry and Green at all in the final quarter.
  • Rudy Gobert had another fabulous game and has become an elite offensive player. He is averaging over 15 points a game, he is shooting over 70% and he is a significant enough force that teams are having to game plan for his offensive prowess around the rim. The uneducated comment is that all he does is dunk. If teams could get a dunk on every possession, no one would shoot a 3. They would take a shot at the rim every possession. Gobert is able to get you those possessions throughout the game. Monday, he was 7 of 12 for 17 points — 12 shots and 17 points.
  • The Warriors’ off-ball action is awesome. They move and cut and never stop. They run these little ring-around-the-rosy pick actions where the player just runs a circle around the pick until they are free. They are nearly impossible to guard. It takes complete focus and the minute you blink, they will take advantage.
  • Joel Bolomboy got 15 minutes of run tonight and was really solid.
  • Dante had a bad shooting night: 1 for 7 from 3 and 7 of 15 from the field. The Warriors’ defensive scheme was giving Exum and Mack shots all night. Mack took the most shots with 15 and Exum with 14. They combined to hit back-to-back 3s in the key stretch of the game that pushed the Jazz to a lead they would never relinquish. The two of them were a combined 2 of 12 from 3.
  • 50 wins makes the Jazz the 5th team in NBA history to go from 20s to 30s to 40s to 50 wins in a four-season stretch.
  • Steve Kerr had very nice comments about Quin Snyder before the game: “They’ve done an amazing job with all the injuries. I’ve known Quin for a long time and it doesn’t surprise me. He’s rock solid. He’s a really good coach. Watching them on tape they are innovative, they play together and they defend. They are just a smart, tough basketball team. Quin deserves a lot of credit for that and he’ll probably get some votes for Coach of the Year, which he deserves. I’m really happy for him and happy for their franchise. They have done a really good job over the last few years in terms of rebuilding and putting together a good roster and good coaching staff. I guess not surprising given the success that the franchise has had over the long haul.”