It's the Clippers' first FG in over ten minutes, since EB's layup tied the score at 72-72 with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter. Maggette's shot brings the Clips to within 20. Prior to that, Utah ran off a 40-13 spurt, over which they absolutely shredded an inert, stupefied Clipper defense incapable of reading a pop-up book much less a sophisticated, fluid, well-coached offense.
Since the Jazz wasn't in the postseason, the last time we saw Deron Williams he was playing out the string of a hellacious season in which he was the-fartknocker-the-Jazz-took-over-Chris-Paul. Williams was competent, but entirely unimpressive and lacked confidence and flair.
What we now realize is that the Jazz chose someone perfectly suited to its system: A physically sturdy PG who can shoot, defend, set back screens for big men to pop out and shoot, and, most important, not feel the need to be overly improvisational.
In short, fulfill his role as a Jerry Sloan Offense Point Guard.
The Jazz's frontline scorers put up sick numbers: Okur (11-16 FG, 27 points), Boozer (7-13 FG, 16 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists), Harpring (7-11 FG, 22 points), shit, even Jaron Collins went 2-2 FG in a single minute. This is what a well-coached motion/flex offense can do when it has bigs who can shoot and pass the ball.
A couple of sets that stood out:
- (6:25, 2nd) The Jazz have Williams on the floor (Shaun) with Fisher (Cat), Harpring (Maggette), Boozer (EB) and Okur (Kaman).
It starts with Harpring leaving the rock with Fisher on the right wing, then cutting down to the right post, Maggette in pursuit. Boozer then comes up to the top of the arc to receive the pass, while Williams moves from left wing to left elbow with the help of an Okur screen that Livingston nimbly gets around. With Boozer holding the ball up top, Williams cuts toward the right corner and Boozer stares ahead as if he's going to guide the ball to Williams on the cut.
This ingenious Hey-Your-Shoelaces-Are-Untied decoy freezes Maggette enough that Harpring gets a free pass out to the left wing where he receives the ball from Boozer. Maggette is just beginning to get around the Okur-Kaman clusterfuck when Harpring sinks a wide-open 18-footer.
I know there's a perception that I nitpick about Corey's defense, but if I dwell it's only because the man cannot read basic halfcourt sets. Don't believe me? The game is on replay at 1130p tonight and again at 12p tomorrow. Look at the set. Look at the second Utah possession of the 4th, only a minute after Maggette first checks in during the second half. This may explain why this freakishly talented athlete of unparalleled ability isn't starting ahead of a guy who looks like he has scurvy and has just begun to develop his professional offensive game.
- (10:45, 4th) The Clippers are taking on water now, down 81-72 with the Jazz bringing in the ball up in the halfcourt. The Clips settle into a matchup zone to stop the bleeding. Mobley is on the ball up top with Livingston-Maggette and Thomas-Kaman behind them. When Williams swings it over to Fisher (Maggette), Haprings cuts from his spot on the top right perimeter to the left block where he is briefly open until TT finally locates him and closes. Utah reloads [they're a remarkably patient unit that doesn't do a lot of stupid shit despite having nobody on the floor who can truly create his own shot] by doing the following: (1) When Fisher deals it off back to Williams, he cuts to the same left post that TT is patrolling. (2) Boozer sets a high screen for Williams on Cat that totally fucks up the Clips because Williams rolls right, away from the natural switch, also...(3) Harpring has returned to his preferred spot on the right wing. But because Williams has rolled right into Maggette's zone, Maggette picks him up...leaving absolutely nobody to cover Harpring.
WIliams dishes it off to Harpring, who drives untouched to the glass for an easy layup. Utah 83, Clippers 72. The gap never narrows from there. For anyone skeptical about Utah's prospects in the Conference, I have two+ hours of game tape -- postage paid by recipient.
The Kaman questions persist, which is disappointing because I thought tonight's half-court game against some clay-footed big men would be a nice opportunity for Chris. At this point, it seems like a sick mindfuck more than anything physical, but who knows?
No matter how many wins they chalk up at Staples, the Clippers are no more than a .500 team, at least until they win a road game. The only record that matters over the course of a bizarrely scheduled season is Road Wins/Home Losses.
The Clippers are 0-0.