What happened last night?
Brand mobilized his game. Rather than set himself in the post or take the fifteen-footer (not that there's anything wrong with that...particularly when you're second in the league in FG % for 2-point jump shots), he decided to take Carlos Boozer off the dribble. I can't recall a game this season in which EB appeared more agile, more willing to bob and weave his way through traffic. For whatever reason, Sloan decided neither to double Brand nor to stick Kirilenko on him. Jerry Sloan has nothing to prove to a schmuck like me, but I kept waiting for him to make the adjustment and it never came. It's easy to style these critiques in hindsight; if Corey and Vlad aren't knocking down their shots, then this is an entirely different conversation. But their accuracy from the perimeter was no coincidence - Utah was slow to the ball all night...which makes sense because they're a uniquely slow team.
One of the reasons that Brand had his run of the place was that Dunleavy stole a page from his opponents' playbook last night. When Dunleavy decided to start Vlad at the 3 to match Utah's size on the wings, he figured that he might as well use Vlad's range as a means to spread the floor. Once the Clips established their outside game and set themselves up on the perimeter, that left Kaman and Brand (and Rebraca) with plenty of room to maneuver. Kirilenko had to straddle the key - it was as if the wife, Masha Lopatova, was setting up inside and a...errrrr...."slice of pizza" was hanging out on the arc. [Did I place a moratorium on AK-Masha entries? Whatever. It's my goddam blog]
A word about Shaun Livingston: he looks confident, both in his floor command and in his shot. Last night in 23 minutes, he recorded six assists with only two turnovers. On defense, he's doing a much better job at fighting through screens, which is saying something because he weighs, like, 110 pounds.
In the "needs improvement" column, throw a tag on Chris Kaman for his soft inside D last night. Utah's offensive rebounding numbers speak for themselves (12-1 in favor of the Jazz), but there was more to it. The Jazz were able to set easy low screens throughout the first half. I'll tell you what helped, though: Dunleavy sticking Rebraca at the pivot in the second half for a stint, allowing Kaman to move over to the 4. This took a lot of pressure off Kaman on the defensive end and prompts an interesting question - is Chris Kaman secretly a power forward?