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Tag: Rudy Gobert

Zach Harper: With Continuity, Jazz Could Become “Best Non-Warriors Lineup in NBA”

The Utah Jazz have persevered through a season full of injuries on their way to 51 regular-season wins and a possible advance into the second round of the postseason (Gordon Hayward/Instagram).

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Before this season, the Utah Jazz had made their last postseason appearance in 2012 and hadn’t won a playoff game since 2010. Since then, they bottomed out at 25 wins in 2013-14, then steadily built themselves back up by developing players, finding diamonds in the rough, and, this season, adding some key veterans to their squad. Now, up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Clippers and heading home to Utah for Friday’s Game 6, they’re on the brink of advancing to the next round to face the Golden State Warriors. Zach Harper, an NBA columnist for Fan Rag Sports, twice-a-week participant on ESPN’s TrueHoop Podcast and co-host of the Salt City Hoops Show, takes us through that journey. He breaks down what we can expect for the rest of the Jazz’s postseason, explains how they’re so dangerous on both sides of the court, looks at some big decisions looming ahead in the offseason and tells excellent stories and more. Not to toot our own horn, but you can sample some mellifluous excerpts below:

7:19-8:07: “You’ve allowed the Jazz to kind of dictate so much of the tempo to be a slow, grind-it-out game, and that’s what they want. They want to play at that slow pace. They want to force you to defend for 24 seconds. They want to force you to attack late in the shot clock against them and have to panic into shots and everything. So that’s the tough thing for the Clippers, and maybe why Game 5 was a little bit of a must-win. Just because you can’t be back against the wall while also not being able to play the brand of basketball you want to play in a series. With that said, the Jazz are looking at Game 6 as a must-win, because they don’t want to go back to LA. I kind of think that’s a mistake. It puts an unnecessary amount of pressure on the home team, especially one with such a young core.”

11:58-12:41: “A lot of people locally will say it [the team MVP] has been Rudy Gobert because [of] the defensive impact. Gordon [Hayward]’s a really good defender. He plays really well defensively within that system, and he’s so vital to them offensively that, to me, it’s just enough to edge out what Gobert’s been able to do, who might be the Defensive Player of the Year and was the second-best pick ‘n roll big man this year in the NBA, but Gordon, his patience…you see so many star wings go into this hero mode and this iso[lation] mode and maybe rush shots and rush possessions, because you have to make sure you get a shot off, right? But Gordon just always plays within the flow of the offense and doesn’t really force anything, doesn’t take bad shots.”

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Jovan Buha: Clippers “Much Closer to (Dominant) Team From Beginning of Season”

This postseason, Blake Griffin and the Clippers are fighting to stay relevant when it comes to discussion of the NBA’s elite (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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On this playoff edition, ESPN’s Jovan Buha joins us to help preview the Los Angeles Clippers-Utah Jazz matchup, an opening-round series that pits the league’s No. 4 offense against the No. 3 defense. The series comes at a pivotal time for the Clippers, who year after year have failed to meet high postseason expectations and will likely see three of their stars enter unrestricted free agency in the offseason. Do the Clippers have a fatal flaw, or have they merely not yet gotten over the hump? Jovan ponders that very question and much, much more. Sample some clip(per)s below:

9:25 – 10:10: Jovan discusses the legitimacy of the Clippers-as-chokers narrative and whether it affects the team: 

“It’s much easier to say a team choked than provide the context of it. With that said, there really is no other way to frame the Thunder series or the Rockets series. Both series, the Clippers should have won, or the Thunder series at least should have gone to seven. I do think the Clippers choked in both instances, but I don’t think that necessarily is their identity, and I don’t think necessarily they should be judged that way…I do think that the media narrative has gotten to them a little bit, and I do know that a lot of these guys pay attention to the media more than they let on, and it does seem to bother them more than they admit.” Continue reading

Dame, C.J. and Nurkic Propel Portland Toward Playoffs (Power Rankings: March 29, 2017 Edition)

With brilliant play since the All-Star break and a little help from his friends, Damian Lillard has led the Trail Blazers into sole possession of the Western Conference’s eighth seed (James Schumacher/Flickr).

With fewer than 10 games remaining on each team’s regular-season schedule, valuable playoff seeding is still up for grabs all over the NBA standings. Some teams, like the Celtics, Blazers and Raptors, look like they’re hitting their stride at just the right moment, building momentum that they hope will continue through the playoffs. Others, like the Hawks and Cavaliers, are just hoping that they can stop the bleeding before it’s too late. As always, the result is much debate and movement in the penultimate regular-season edition of our power rankings.

Biggest Jumps: Portland Trail Blazers (+8), Toronto Raptors (+5), Denver Nuggets (+5), New Orleans Pelicans (+5)

Biggest Falls: Minnesota Timberwolves (-14), Detroit Pistons (-9), Atlanta Hawks (-7)

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Bulls, Grizzlies Slide as Minny’s Momentum Continues (Power Rankings: March 15, 2017 Edition)

Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls halted their five-game losing streak by defeating Charlotte Monday night (Jacob Gaertner/Creative Commons).

A particularly tumultuous period sees the Warriors and Cavaliers dropping to their lowest positions of the season. Meanwhile, every other team has moved up or down at least one spot except for the Clippers and Hawks, who remained at No. 8 and 12, respectively. A handful of sub-.500 squads are recognized for their strong recent play, as the Grizzlies and Bulls are punished for their sluggish performances over the past two weeks. One final fun fact: Last edition, Chicago came in at No. 15, a full 10 spots ahead of the Hornets. This time around, Chicago clings to a single-spot lead over Charlotte after edging the Hornets Monday night.

Biggest Jumps: Milwaukee Bucks (+6), Minnesota Timberwolves (+5), Washington Wizards (+4)

Biggest Falls: Chicago Bulls (-6), Memphis Grizzlies (-5), Dallas Mavericks (-4), Indiana Pacers (-4), Toronto Raptors, (-4) Continue reading

Miami Is Seriously Heating Up (Power Rankings: Feb. 6, 2017 Edition)

In his first season in Miami, Dion Waiters is playing an outsized role in the Heat’s active 10-game winning streak (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

Up is down and down is up in this tumultuous edition of the power rankings, which features the most movement of any edition so far, with mighty teams struggling and lowly teams rising up. The Cleveland Cavaliers, still the consensus pick to come out of the Eastern Conference, went just 7-8 in January, giving LeBron James his first losing month since his rookie year. The Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets, both in last edition‘s top five, have lost eight of 11 and eight of their last 14, respectively. Even the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors, who have occupied the No. 1 spot in our rankings every single edition except for our first, have dropped games since last edition to the Miami Heat and the Sacramento Kings.

On the other side, the Washington Wizards were just 13-16 before Christmas and have since gone 17-4, steadily climbing up the Eastern Conference standings to the third seed, and up our rankings to fourth. The Dallas Mavericks, at one point dead last in our rankings, have won six of their last seven games, their one loss coming to the Miami Heat. And finally, the twice-aforementioned Heat, unquestionably the NBA’s biggest story right now, were 11-30 and 29th in our previous power rankings, before rattling off 10 straight wins, a streak that is still active. These are some exciting times in the NBA.

Biggest Jumps: Miami Heat (+15), Washington Wizards (+8), Dallas Mavericks (+8)

Biggest Falls: Philadelphia 76ers (-8), Milwaukee Bucks (-8), Toronto Raptors (-8) Continue reading

All That Amar: Utah Jazz “Think They Definitely Need to Win Now”

Rudy Gobert has silenced the critics who called his offense an afterthought by leading the league in field-goal percentage and averaging nearly 20 points over his last three games (@rudygobert27/Instagram).

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All That Amar, Managing Editor of SB Nation’s SLC Dunk, stops by to discuss the Utah Jazz, whom he declares are finally in win-now mode. The young Jazz haven’t won a playoff game since 2010 and have finished with between 38 and 43 wins three of the past four seasons, but things appear to be changing for the better. Amar explains how the coach, general manager and players have all come together to generate a much-improved product on the court. Here are some of the highlights of our discussion:

4:18-5:07: Our guest explains how added depth has allowed the Utah Jazz to weather an early storm of injuries: “The main reason is that they’ve had a few seasons with injury before, so they kind of figured out that they need to prepare for that. And what Dennis Lindsey, the GM of the Jazz, did was he went out and… they wanted to get depth, and I think that they accomplished that this season… adding George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw. These guys, they haven’t been healthy for every game of the season, but they have made sure that when Utah is missing 1.5 starters per game, about three rotation guys every single game… they still have enough guys to stay in the game. If this was last year’s roster, the record would probably be maybe eight wins instead of 15.”

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Larsen: For Jazz Future, “So Much Depends on How Good Exum Is”

Derrick Favors is one of the young core players for the Utah Jazz who they hope to lead them to continued improvements in the future. (sixersphotos/flickr)

Derrick Favors is one of the young core players whom the Jazz hope to lead them to continued improvements in the future. (sixersphotos/flickr)

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The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a tight race at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture as the regular season comes to a close. Andy Larsen, a beat reporter for KSL.com and managing editor of Salt City Hoops on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, joins us to explain why making the playoffs this season is especially important for this young, up-and-coming Jazz team. He delves deeper into whether Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors still have room to grow, how sophomore Rodney Hood has exploded onto the scene and the next steps for the Jazz in trying to become a championship contender. Finally, he discusses Jerry Sloan’s legacy in Utah and how one of the all-time great coaches in NBA history might still be underrated. Excerpts below:

2:11-3:10 on the value of making the playoffs for these Jazz:

“Obviously you hope that playoff experience gives them some idea of how much room there is to still to go… you kind of show the young players how much work there is left to still be a championship-caliber team. I think that’s valuable even if you do get swept or lose in five games… I think it’s helpful for free agents to see that they are a playoff team on the rise and can be part of something good… Then you look at Gordon Hayward, who can opt out of his contract next summer. I think you have to start to put together a case of why he should stay on the Utah Jazz, and that starts with multiple playoff appearances.”

4:12-4:52 on the Jazz’s potential first-round matchup against the Golden State Warriors:“

You look at [the two close losses to the Warriors during the regular season in Utah] and really both games they were one shot away. I think what’s really interesting is they didn’t need a bad shooting game from the Warriors in order to get it… They (the Warriors) actually shot 35, 40 percent from 3 in both of those games. It’s just the Jazz were able to lock down the inside shots and play some good switching defense on the outside, and that kind of frustrated the Warriors… I think that would give you hope for maybe being able to steal one at home and maybe play the Warriors better than the other teams at the bottom of the Western Conference would.”

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Elfrid Payton, HinkieBall and the Cheating Fan

(Jose Garcia/Creative Commons)

(Jose Garcia/Creative Commons)

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On the debut of OTNB’s three banter segments (the A-A-Ron Block, LLC Incorporated and the J-Spot), the co-hosts react to the Warriors-Clippers media beef and opine on Jamal Crawford’s fit with the Clippers’ retooled roster. Later, the panel praises Elfrid Payton’s dynamic young game, as it includes Orlando as a potential surprise team this season. The Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert, gets some serious love on the show, and the merits of Sam Hinkie’s radical approach to team-building are debated. Finally, if you were going to cheat on your favorite NBA team, with which squad would it be? Loren and Aaron provide interesting answers.

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod 
Introduction by Jonathan Santiago

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