Recap: Jazz 121, Cavs 99 (Or, maybe it’s karma. Maybe it’s horrible defense.)

January 14th, 2011 by John Krolik

Overview: The Jazz scored 70 points in the first half of a 121-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Deron Williams and Raja Bell scored a combined 41 points on 22 shots, and C.J. Miles added 20 points off the Jazz bench.

That you have to attempt to stop opposing players from scoring is accepted dogma bullets:

Two things stood out to me in this game. First of all, the Hickson/Jamison frontcourt is a crime against defense. We all know that Hickson can’t guard anybody, but it’s amazing how bad Jamison is on that end. I’ve been at home for the last few weeks and haven’t been able to DVR the games, so this was the first time I was able to rewind after Jazz scores and really look at who allowed the basket.

When there was a catastrophic breakdown that led to a wide-open shot, and there were many, Jamison was usually the guy at fault. I am not exaggerating that Jamison made the correct rotation maybe one out of every five times. He doesn’t close out on his man when he has an easy shot, and he over-helps when his man doesn’t have the ball and frees him up. He lives in no-man’s land. It’s horrifying. In fact, I’m naming the area in between Jamison’s man and the man with the ball “Jamisonia.” (“Hickstown” also exists — Jamisonia has been around for longer, and has attained nation status in that time.)

Of course, Jamison had one of his best offensive games of the year, going off for 26 points on 19 shots and 11 boards, but I’m actually convinced he did more harm than good in this game. The Jazz got whatever they wanted whenever they made Jamison have to defend. Really terrifying performance.

The second thing that really stood out to me was how badly the Cavs got outworked. How many times did the Jazz take the ball from the Cavs in their own backcourt? How many times did they beat every single Cav down the floor on a fast-break? How many times did they go into the paint and encounter no resistance? This game was played at the pace Cleveland is supposed to want, and the Jazz destroyed them because they were running hard and the Cavs were cantering. There is no excuse for a team with this little talent to go on the road and not give effort. Really miserable showing. I defy you to show me a Jerry Sloan team playing with as little effort and focus as the Cavaliers did on Friday night once in the last 22 years.

The only other real variables in this game were C.J. Miles catching fire in the second quarter (seriously, where did he come from? He looked like a healthy Michael Redd, only way more pissed), and the Jazz settling for jumpers in the third when they stopped taking the Cavs seriously. Once the Cavs cut the lead to single-digits, the Jazz tightened up and the game was over.

The Cavs did do some things well — the uptempo Cleveland offense did seem to settle into a groove and put a lot of pressure on Utah in full-court situations, but since they were ultimately outplayed in transition, it’s hard to find much solace in that.

J.J. Hickson had one of his games — 21 and 14, some shockingly athletic plays out of the high post and off of cuts, nine turnovers, numerous blown rotations, and five fouls. It would be great to think that J.J. is on his way to keeping the good and cutting out the bad, but it looks like this could be more or less the best J.J. we’re going to get on a given night.

Mo made plays but forced a ton of bad jumpers, and Sessions had a good line by attacking a defense that was already up double-digits and didn’t want to expend the energy necessary to pack the paint. That’s kind of what they do.

My one last random note: The Al Jefferson acquisition may have been my least favorite of the summer, and I’m still not sold on it. Utah was getting whatever it wanted by pushing the pace and running the flex, and Al Jefferson was stopping the ball so that he could toss up a 10-foot hook.

I know it’s a good hook shot, but it’s one of those shots he makes just often enough for it to be dangerous to his efficiency. With 7 seconds left on the shot clock, or to get the Jazz out of an offensive drought? Great. But it’s not something he should be actively looking for when nobody on the Cavs can stop any of the backcourt players. Also, why would you settle for a jumper over Samardo Samuels? Ever? He did use a shot-fake to dunk on J.J. on the next possession, but still. He settled for a jumper over Samardo Samuels.

Anyways, that’s all for tonight. Have a good weekend, everyone.