Game of the Night: Utah outlasts Toronto in triple-overtime thriller

1 Comment

Ask a Schoolhouse Rock aficionado or a Utah Jazz fan tonight, and they’ll let you in on a little secret: 3 really is the magic number. The Utah Jazz traveled to Toronto to take on the Raptors, and the triple-overtime battle that ensued was not only the game of the night, but probably the game of the young season. Let’s take a look at how the Jazz outlasted the Raptors, 140-133, with (you guessed it) three things to consider:

The “three bigs” lineup

The nice thing about a triple-overtime game for the Jazz? More minutes for everyone — especially Derrick Favors. It can be tricky for Jazz head coach Ty Corbin to find time for his young frontcourt stud, but with the Raptors not having anyone remotely threatening at the small forward position, it gave Corbin the green light to play Paul Millsap (34 points, 9 rebounds) at small forward. That meant plenty of time for Utah’s jumbo package, as Millsap, Favors and Al Jefferson played a great deal of the game on the floor together. The three-headed monster was huge offensively (we’ll get to that), but defensively Favors erased Andrea Bargnani almost entirely. After Bargnani started the first quarter hot with 10 points in roughly 10 minutes, he would go on to score just nine points in the next 39 minutes of floor time he received. Most of that was due to Favors, who contested shots (like Millsap couldn’t) and stayed in front of Bargnani off the dribble (like Jefferson couldn’t). Utah’s big 3 may be, well, big, but they’re capable of filling entirely different roles on the court. Which leads us to…

Jefferson and Millsap…for 3?

As if he wasn’t frightening enough as an offensive rebounder and strong finisher at the rim, it appears Paul Millsap has extended his shooting range out to 3-point land, where is he now 8-for-12 (no, really) on the season. Millsap’s long-range shooting has been so infectious, apparently, that even Al Jefferson (24 points, 17 rebounds) had to give it a shot. With the clock against them and the Jazz down three in regulation, Jefferson popped behind the 3-point line and received a pass from a double-teamed Randy Foye…and had the game-tying bucket rattle around and drop after hitting every inch of the rim. Not to be outdone, Millsap stroked a huge 3-pointer in the third overtime that essentially put the Raptors away after a long night (DeMar DeRozan played 60 minutes, somehow) of going back and forth with a resilient, shorthanded squad.

Three things: Past, Present and Future

Last year, the Utah Jazz were 26h in the league in 3-point percentage, shooting an abysmal 32.3 percent from deep. But tonight, thanks in large part to Lob City castaways Mo Williams and Randy Foye, the Utah Jazz shot 14-for-26 (53.8 percent) from behind the arc. That hot perimeter shooting ultimately led the Jazz to an exhausting victory, and as long as this game was, it’s tough to read too much into small sample sizes. However, if Millsap’s early season 3-point shooting isn’t just a fluke, Ty Corbin is going to have a tough time turning down the potential and production that Derrick Favors brings to the court.

And then there’s this — no Utah lineup featuring Millsap-Favors-Jefferson has a negative plus/minus rating so far this season, and last year, that frontcourt pairing was Utah’s best lineup — a whopping +38.81 in adjusted plus/minus and +40.48 in overall rating (the positive difference between offensive rating and defensive rating). The idea behing the jumbo lineup has legs (very tall, muscular legs) and as exciting as tonight was, it’s time to see it in more than just triple-overtime marathons.

Pat Riley: Friend talked me out of going Dan Gilbert when LeBron James left

Omar Vega/Invision/AP
2 Comments

When LeBron James left Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert released his infamous letter.

When LeBron left Miami, Heat president Pat Riley issued a classy statement.

The difference was nearly not as stark following Riley’s final meeting with LeBron in 2014 in Las Vegas.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

Riley told his lieutenant, Andy Elisburg, to get the two championship trophies LeBron had won and pack them in their hard-shell carrying cases. Elisburg also brought charts and an easel for a presentation about the free agents the Heat would pursue. The day of the meeting, a hotel bellhop followed them with a luggage cart carrying the presentation and the two trophies. Riley brought wine from a Napa vineyard named Promise. It was the same label Maverick Carter had presented Riley with when they did the deal four years earlier. Riley respects Carter, and when he walked into the suite and saw James with agent Rich Paul and friend Randy Mims but no Maverick, part of him knew the meeting wasn’t sincere. He told Elisburg to keep the trophies and easel in the hall. James and his associates were watching a World Cup game, which they kept glancing at during the presentation. At one point, Riley asked if they’d mute the TV.

Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and Paul was on the other end. The agent handed the phone to LeBron, who started by saying, “I want to thank you for four years …”

“I was silent,” Riley says. “I didn’t say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.”

The most shocking element of Gilbert’s letter wasn’t that he wrote it. People say dumb things, especially in the heat of the moment. But it was surprising nobody stopped Gilbert from publishing it. Of course, he runs the franchise. But nobody felt empowered to tell him it was a bad idea?

Riley was obviously fortunate to get that message and wise to heed it. But even he has let his disdain for LeBron leaving slip out a couple times.

John Wall doesn’t sound super enthused about Dennis Schroder’s summer-workout request

AP Photo/John Bazemore
Leave a comment

The Wizards and Hawks are knotted in a 2-2 first-round series.

A subplot: John Wall vs. Dennis Schroder. They have a history – Schroder starting random trash talk and then telling a teammate to hack Wall’s recently injured wrist, according to Wall – and Wall stared down Schroder after a dunk in Game 2.

A sub-subplot: Wall’s and Schroder’s summer plans.

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Wall, via Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

“I’ve never heard of that going on in the middle of a series,” Wall said Monday after shootaround for Game 4 later tonight at Phillips Arena. “I’m not talking about it right now. I’m locked into a series competing with a guy that’s playing well for his team, competing for his team. That’s probably a conversation I’ll have later on, but I’m locked into Wizards versus Hawks.”

Aside from that, Wall tends to be a loner during the summer when he’s getting ready. He was supposed to work out with Damian Lillard a few seasons ago, but even that didn’t come to fruition. Teammate Brandon Jennings sensed that about Wall.

“I really don’t work out with anybody, to be honest,” Wall said. “Brandon said the same thing, ‘You’re the type of guy that don’t like to work out with people.’ I just always worked out by myself a lot.”

Maybe Schroder thinks Wall will see himself in the Atlanta point guard – a fearless young player trying to prove himself by standing up to established players. And maybe Wall does.

But I suspect Wall just sees Schroder as a pest.

If that’s the case, it certainly won’t change until this series ends.

Marcus Smart responds to Jimmy Butler: ‘It ain’t hard to find me’ (video)

2 Comments

Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”

Smart, via MassLive:

Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.

That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:

Are you about that life?

Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.

Has anyone accused you not being tough before?

Never.

What was your reaction to that?

Haha.

Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.

But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.

The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.