NBA Scores And More: Making Sense Of Wild Utah Jazz Win Over Miami Heat

We try to make sense of a wild night in the NBA. Did the Utah Jazz discover a formula to beat the Miami Heat? Is Miami in trouble? Was it hot shooting by the Pacers, or bad defense by the Nuggets?

Utah Jazz 116, Miami Heat 114

It's only early November, but it's very hard to imagine any game topping this one. The Jazz looked dead in the water several times -- first when they were down 22 in the third quarter, then when they were down eight with 37 seconds. They looked dead in the water when Deron Williams fouled out just before regulation ended on a silly foul before the ball was inbounded. Somehow, they rallied, thanks to Paul Millsap, who had 46 points, including three threes and the game-tying putback in the final 37 seconds of regulation. In overtime, Utah took the lead when Andrei Kirilenko hit a three in the corner with 1:42 left, and ended up getting the game-winning bucket on a pick and roll between Ronnie Price and Francisco Elson.

That's what happened. Now, let's digest it. First, let's dispel some things right here and now:

  • The Heat don't have an alpha dog problem. From the looks of it, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were able to trade off late-game responsibility fairly well. Sure, it's a little awkward to see one of those two guys on the weakside, but that's going to happen. Wade hit a dagger three to tie the game, and LeBron looked fine setting him up. I don't see any lingering concerns there. The offensive sets they ran down the stretch were simple, but coherent. It looked like both guys stayed out of each other's way on those plays - they just didn't hit all the shots.
  • Chris Bosh didn't cost the Heat the game down the stretch. We'll get to Bosh in a second, because he clearly hurt the Heat at times, but he can't be blamed for Millsap's production down the stretch specifically. On Millsap's game-tying shot, it was Udonis Haslem's responsibly to box Millsap out, not Bosh's. Bosh was on Andrei Kirilenko. In overtime, Bosh was guarding Kyrylo Fesenko, not Millsap. That may be an entirely separate issue, but the point is that Bosh wasn't the difference in the final six minutes.
  • The Jazz won because they stuck to their system: The answer here is ... sort of. Certainly, when down 22 in the third quarter, they did, and in that respect, they deserve props. But during key moments, the Jazz succeeded because they did some different things, deviating from their standard flex cuts. During regulation, they gave Deron Williams more freedom to run high pick and roll and set people up from there, and during overtime, the Jazz succeeded on the secondary fast break. The final play was a classic side pick and roll between Price and Elson. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's still worth pointing out, because the whole "JERRY SLOAN DISCIPLINED COACH" meme is going to take off.
  • The Heat are in big trouble: No, they're not. J.E. Skeets said it best:

Hate to pop the "FUCK THE HEAT" party balloons, but Millsap hit some STUPID shots there late. That'll happen, um, never again. CRAZY loss.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck


Seriously, let's have perspective here. The Heat lost because they missed a couple free throws and because Paul Millsap made more three-pointers in 37 seconds than he's hit in his entire NBA career. If those things don't happen, we'd be talking about an underwhelming win rather than worrying about whether the sky is falling.

That said, there are some worrying signs. The Jazz are now the third team with an elite point guard and strong inside play to beat Miami. The Heat couldn't stop Williams when Williams asserted himself (which was far less often than he should have), and they struggled in overtime after he fouled out. Miami still doesn't get out in the open floor enough given their amazing athleticism, which is one reason the Jazz were able to rally. Bosh gets pushed around too much inside, and he did a very poor job guarding Millsap off the ball. These are things that were problems from Day 1, and they remain problems today.

But let's also give credit to Utah for this one. Millsap was simply outstanding, even if he only truly earned 37 of his 46 points. The Jazz's system is good to players like Millsap and departed Carlos Boozer, because it keeps them close to the basket and makes it easy for them to receive the ball after making cuts, but many of those 46 points came because Millsap willed his way towards the hoop. The Jazz also never panicked in overtime, playing good fundamental defense and pushing the ball off those misses. That's fundamental basketball at it's best. It's natural, because it's the Heat, but this win was as much about the Jazz as it was about Miami.

A couple other things worth noting:

  • Al Jefferson played just 28 minutes, none of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. When the Jazz came back, they did it without him on the floor. That's really significant. Jefferson is very clearly uncomfortable in the Jazz's system, and his struggles are messing up the Jazz's spacing. The big question the Jazz may soon need to answer is what they should do once Mehmet Okur comes back from injury. Do you sit Jefferson? Okur? You can't sit Millsap, right?
  • Udonis Haslem was the worst Miami player in plus/minus, at -13. He struggled guarding Millsap in key spots, an he didn't really contribute much offensively. These are the kinds of games that Haslem is suppose to star in, and he struggled.
Play of the Game: You're going to want to relive Millsap's last 37 seconds, because he'll never do this again.


From the blogs: SLC Dunk gives Millsap some love and notes the Jazz's inconsistency quarter-by-quarter, while Peninsula is Mightier needed to sleep on this game.


Indiana Pacers 144, Denver Nuggets 113

By now, you probably know what happened. The Pacers hit their first 20 shots of the third quarter, and they would have been perfect for the third quarter if Josh McRoberts doesn't front-rim a three in the closing seconds. They scored 54 points in the quarter, on their way to a blowout win. 

It would be tempting to make a bunch of jokes about the Nuggets' awful defense. But really, the Pacers just made a bunch of shots they won't make normally. I tracked all 20 of the Pacers' field goals in the quarter, and here's a brief description of what happened on all of them.
  • First possession: Danny Granger hits a long jumper inside the arc, contested fairly well. 
  • Nuggets score, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Roy Hibbert hits an awkward runner in the lane.
  • Nuggets score, Pacers wall ball up the floor, Mike Dunleavy hits an open three.
  • Nuggets score, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Darren Collison hits a reverse layup.
  • Nuggets hit two free throws, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Danny Granger cuts off a screen and hits a three.
  • Nuggets score, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Hibbert scores over Nene in the post.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers work the secondary break, Dunleavy hits a 20-footer from the top of the key
  • Nuggets score, Pacers walk the ball up the floor, Granger scores a layup in the post on Chauncey Billups, who goes for the steal.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers push, but a foul is called. Pacers take the ball out of bounds, and Dunleavy hits a three with a man in his face.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers walk the ball up the floor, Collison hits a contested long two-pointer on the baseline after someone else's penetration.
  • Nuggets commit a turnover, Pacers push, Granger hits a transition three-pointer, well contested.
  • Nuggets score, get called for a technical foul, then Pacers run their halfcourt offense and get a fadeaway hook shot from Hibbert.
  • Nuggets commit a turnover, Pacers push, Collison gets an open baby jumper from 10 feet.
  • Nuggets hit two free throws, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Collison draws a foul, then Indiana beats Denver on a backdoor lob play.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers push, Al Harrington called for flagrant foul, Pacers run halfcourt offense, Dunleavy hits a contested three late in the shot clock.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Dunleavy hits a three late in the shot clock.
  • Nuggets score, Pacers walk ball up the floor, Dunleavy hits a three when a defender closes out poorly.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers push, Tyler Hansbrough gets a layup.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers push, Dunleavy hits a jumper on the secondary break.
  • Nuggets miss, Pacers push, Brandon Rush hits an open corner three on the secondary break.
That's six possessions out of 20 where there are clear Denver defensive breakdowns, just two clear fast-break buckets and three other times when the Pacers got on the secondary break. Otherwise, Denver defended OK. The Pacers were just on fire. Marvel at it if you wish, and you should, but let's not indict Denver's defense unnecessarily. Sometimes, your opponent just has it going.

Play of the game: Here are all those shots, in video form.

From the blogs: Indy Cornrows notes the balance of Indiana's run and the fact that it wasn't all layups, while Denver Stiffs turns to college football to make sense of the blowout.

Cleveland Cavaliers 93, New Jersey Nets 91

The Cavaliers have a clear identity down the stretch -- run pick and roll with one of their three small guards (Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, Ramon Sessions) and spread the floor with shooters. For now, that's why they are winning close games against bad teams. New Jersey, on the other hand, has more talent, but lacks the cohesion down the stretch. They aren't sure whether to go to Devin Harris, Brook Lopez or Travis Outlaw, and that confusion hurts them on key possessions.

Play of the game: Check out how high Anthony Parker's shot flies at the 1:41 mark of this clip. Sums up Cleveland's fortunes in close games perfectly.

From the blogs: Fear the Sword writes that the Cavaliers are winning despite not playing a full 48 minutes, while Nets Daily rounds up all the links about last night's game here.

Milwaukee Bucks 107, New York Knicks 80

The Knicks resemble Mike D'Antoni's teams in one key way: they will let you shoot jumpers to keep the pace up. If you drive on them, they do a fairly nice job of contesting without fouling, but if you are open, you can rain jumpers on them. Last night, Milwaukee, specifically Brandon Jennings, was hitting their open shots. Throw in the return of the Bucks' stifling half-court defense, and you get a blowout. 

Also, I enjoy when Jennings gets hot, because we get to see faces like this:

Play of the game: Tough call here, so I'll say it's a tie between Bill Walker's flush and Jennings' between-the-legs pass to Andrew Bogut.

From the blogs: Brew Hoop writes that the Bucks' offense finally looked cohesive, while Posting and Toasting writes that the Knicks still haven't woken up since daylight savings time. 

New Orleans Hornets 101, Los Angeles Clippers 82

I missed this one, so I'll only marvel at how odd it is that New Orleans is 7-0 playing Willie Green 25 minutes and giving Marcus Thornton a DNP-CD. This league is funny sometimes.

Play of the game: You get full highlights instead.

From the blogs: At the Hive notes that the Hornets did a lot of things wrong despite winning.

Portland Trail Blazers 100, Detroit Pistons 78

These are two teams way down in my Watchability rankings, so I skipped this one.

Play of the game: Portland evidently only runs fast breaks when their center leads them.

From the blogs: Blazers Edge notes that the Blazers keep beating teams with their depth 

Los Angeles Lakers 99, Minnesota Timberwolves 94

Hey, Kurt Rambis, see what happens when you give Kevin Love his minutes? He responds with 23 points and 24 rebounds against the league's best frontcourt. Hopefully you won't bench him again. I'm sure you will, though.

As for the Lakers, don't panic. They play down to bad teams at home a lot. They'll be fine.

At one point in the late third quarter, the Timberwolves rolled out a lineup of Maurice Ager, Corey Brewer, Lazar Hayward, Anthony Tolliver and Kosta Koufus. That's four swingmen and a big. David Kahn's vision has finally been realized.

Play of the game: Michael Beasley is fun to watch when he actually drives to the basket.

From the blogs: Silver Screen and Roll writes that the Lakers will not play a worse game this season, while Canis Hoopus writes that games like this test one's faith as a fan.

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