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Game 55-- Jazz vs. Blazers

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Ahhh...it's good to be back in business again.

A Look at the Jazz

The biggest news of the game is that star forward Carlos Boozer may still not be ready to play.  It would be easy to regret missing the Boozer/Randolph matchup if we didn't have to play the Jazz in approximately 20 of our remaining 28 games.  There will be plenty of time to see them at full strength and tuning up for the playoffs.

The Jazz have the third best record in the league and that's not an accident.  They are a very disciplined, yet prolific offensive team.  Point guard Deron Williams is really getting the hang of floor generalship and it shows.  The Jazz are second only to the Suns in field goal percentage at 47.8%.  They have nice scorers, of course, but it's not like they're all-world talents.  They just play smart which is exactly what you'd expect of a Jerry Sloan team.  Watch them execute and see the difference between their offense and the Blazers.  It'll show how far we have to go.

The other Jazz calling card is rebounding.  These guys are the 400 lb gorilla of the NBA on the boards.  They average six boards more than their opposition on any given night, which is a fantastic differential.  They are in the league's elite on both the offensive and defensive sides of the glass.

Forcing your opponent to miss more than you do is essential in that rebounding equation and the Jazz accomplish that well enough.  They're in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed and ninth overall in terms of percentage allowed.  Again this is attributable to their teamwork and brains as much as anything.

Besides the hobbled Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Williams provide most of the scoring punch.  Williams is a scorer more than a shooter but Okur has range out to everywhere and is legitimately a tough cover.  After that, though, the Jazz offense becomes inconsistent.  Andre Kirilenko is only averaging six shots per game.  Matt Harpring is a solid wall of a man but he's not an offensive dynamo.  Their shooting guards, Derek Fisher and Gordon Giricek, don't put fear into anyone.  Rookie forward Paul Millsap has provided some good games but he's a rookie.  Yet somehow the whole turns out better than the sum of its parts.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  Unless the world tilts funny we're going to get pounded on the boards tonight.  That means we better hit the shots we get, which means working for smart ones.  "One and done" doesn't hurt as much if the "one" goes in for "two".  But if we shoot 38% tonight we're in trouble.  When I was watching Brandon in the rookie/sophomore game the rookie offense looked eerily familiar to me:  pass the ball to somebody, watch him try to score.  That's ain't good and it won't be good enough tonight.
  2.  Pursuant to that, a smart-yet-slightly-angry game from Zach would be just the tonic tonight.  If Boozer is a no-show I would love to see Zach go off for 30 (on something less than 32 shots though).
  3.  Outside of Okur and Harpring they don't have any real threats from distance.  In general you want to push Utah as far outside as you can get them while still keeping a man on those two shooters.  This sounds simple but somehow every time I say this the Blazers manage to let the opponents' excellent shooters roam free.
  4.  The Jazz are all about ball and player movement.  I have wished all year for us to get a chip on our shoulder and start bumping cutters and harassing passers.  Tonight would be a great night to start, but I'm not holding my breath.  Failing that, at least make them go one-on-one against you.  Only Boozer and Williams are really good at it and one of them ain't playing.
  5.  If all else fails, just fill up the hustle board.  That Orlando effort before the break was six kinds of pitiful...the team owes us a make-up game complete with tie-ups, skinned knees, and frantic run-outs.
As good as the Jazz are I don't think we'll lose all three of our remaining games to them, but if we're going to pick one up against them we have to start playing a lot more like a team and hope they don't.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)