Behind the Boxscore: Utah won't blink


Utah 101, San Antonio 99

Donovan Mitchell is wonderful, the Jazz have a budding mini-star, but the young man has gear to play with.

Rudy Gobert remains an astonishing presence, Joe Ingles frittered with something in his windup in the autumn and it shows, Derrick Favors has developed into what was asked of him. Mitchell shot 28 times but his group badly needed that ability – runs from Raul Neto aren’t as potent, Alec Burks doesn’t thrash the way he used to.

The Jazz, even at home, probably had no right to win this game. The club worked its seventh contest in a dozen days on Monday, all wins, the team has marked off 10 conquests in a row and topping the Spurs fewer than 24 hours after downing the Blazers in Portland was something else. Utah was down 10 points in the fourth quarter and still managed to extend the streak, a remarkable achievement for a Jazz team that would work with a 35-second shot clock if it could.

Donovan the Rookie turned it over just once in 38 minutes, he pulled in seven defensive rebounds and handed out five assists alongside 25 points. The Jazz’s lineup lusts for his presence.

Utah: 29-28, San Antonio: 35-23

New Orleans 118, Detroit 103

Emeka Okafor jumped center. I’ve traveled for far too long.

The Pelicans are confident right now, the team sees easy streaks toward the basket before the sets actually line up, good Gentry-led habits are starting to take hold, and this has nothing to do with the damn point guard.

Anthony Davis had another monster night, he’s a natural scorer that is still learning different speeds, 38 points and 10 rebounds. The superstar’s presence wasn’t the sole reason NOLA shot over 40 percent from outside, though, and neither was the calamitous communication from the Pistons’ side. Despite Detroit’s shyte defense, NOLA’s looks were earned through movement and interest.

In associated news, Nikola Mirotic (21 and 12, four-fer-eight from long range) works for the Pelicans, now. Jrue Holiday looks strong, and sturdy. A week off in February could really deliver a monster in March.

(Detroit, we will talk about later.)

Okafor finished his night hitting 4-10 shots from the floor, landing eight points. Six of his seven offensive rebounds were on the offensive end but he will move players on the other side of the court: Davis and Mirotic had double-figure nights on the glass, Andre Drummond had to begin his evening annoyed.

Remember, Okafor hasn’t played since 2013. He’s only got the legs of a 44-year old at this point.  

New Orleans: 30-26, Detroit: 27-29

Clippers 114, Brooklyn 101

Brooklyn looked a step slow because the team is a step slow. Cleveland is going to get another top overall pick and they’re going to blow it on a guy who believes that fluoride is the reason all the oranges are small now.

The Clippers looked great, freed from intrigue, the club has found a willing participant to play for in Tobias Harris (16.4 points and 6.6 boards as a Clipper so far, down to 28 percent from long range but he’s picked off eight steals in five games) and Doc Rivers has emboldened Lou Williams (20 on 16 shots) and Austin Rivers (17 on 13) to act as the ball-swallowers that they want to be.

Whether or not this stands as sound long-term reasoning is up for anyone to guess – what will the mood return to once another high-usage stud drops in? – but it was enough for a win over the Nets in February.

Clippers: 29-26, Brooklyn: 19-39

Philadelphia 108, New York 92

T.J. McConnell must have been taught a new position on Sunday, hotel rooms do encourage experimentation, because he looked like twice the T.J. we remembered by Monday evening. The Sixer reserve blasted off the bench for a triple-double with six steals, 37 minutes of devoted all-out play that was clearly pitched between previous engagements.

This was the Knicks’ second loss in as many days and the club’s seventh in a row, so Michael Beasley really had to devote his attention to scoring, you see, gotta streamline that effort when the winds knock the hoodie off your top. Beasley managed 22 points on 17 shots a day after hitting for 16 and 13 rebounds against Indiana.

The Knicks let Emmanuel Mudiay do whatever he wants, off the bench, something we’re set to discuss soon.

Dario Saric and J.J. Redick combined to hit seven of 12 three-pointers, a break in their sights, though Joel Embiid (17 points and six boards in 23 minutes) looks like he could use a blow.

Philadelphia: 29-25, New York: 23-35


Steve Cropper would have done well running carnivals. The goodly kind, no funny stuff. That guitar just leads the wheel.

James Carr’s hurt was ferocious, someone or something put a lot of holes in him.

Golden State 123, Phoenix 89

Steve Kerr decided to let his players run a timeout in full during this blowout win, prior to reminding the media that his players should be allowed unending “ownership” in the minute-to-minute interplay, because “this is their team.”

He’s correct, but this is not Steve Kerr’s game. This is not the Golden State Warriors’ league, and the Phoenix Suns are not a row of folding chairs to peer over.

The size of the lead doesn’t matter, but Kerr made it worse on himself in declaring an eventual 46-point blowout as the appropriate space to consider ennui.  This is not a precedent to set, a future 44-point advantage against the 19-win Brooklyn Nets should not leave Kenny Atkinson wondering if he’ll be matching wits with a man in shorts down the stretch of a game.

The Warriors are built with the biggest brains in the NBA, the roster is laden with individuals that, like Steve Kerr, should probably associate an NBA head-coaching gig as a form of slumming.

This is a noble profession, a job to be proud of, but players like Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and David West should consider life outside the league before deigning to, I don’t know man, help out the front office in Orlando before taking the first available head coaching gig.

Players own timeouts as it is, the coaches don’t even enter until the second half of the huddle and even by then voices from the other side are encouraged. Kerr has worked under coaches who have gone entire timeouts without discussing anything with players, he has worked with coaches that clipped fingernails on the sideline in both losses and wins, and he worked on the 2001-02 Portland Trail Blazers.Kerr knows better, this idea got away from him.

Coaching in 2018 charges a person with trying to make whatever impact they can away from the screens, the job is harder than ever. The Golden State Warriors’ head coach works through daily hassles that Jackson and Gregg Popovich never had to untangle, his role requires attention to details we’ll never hear about even with all those MVPs dotting the roster, and Kerr has earned the right to force us into questioning our value judgments as we consider a sport that is supposed to evolve beyond all of us.

This was a miscalculation. If you want to push some proprietorship, pull that shit against the Spurs.

Golden State: 44-13, Phoenix: 18-40

Chicago 105, Orlando 101

Not an excellent basketball game, but it does encourage to see consistent movement from Chicago in the dead week between the trade deadline and an All-Star Game that they’ll have to drive to.

It was still a boring show, super-slow and the Magic play Bismack Biyombo and D.J. Augustin these days just to be able to fall asleep at night. Toss in Fred Hoiberg’s offense and you’ve got a college game. Both coaches probably chided the players for scanning the stands during timeouts.

Lauri Markkanen was the beneficiary of some of that early Chicago attention, 21 and eight rebounds for the rookie, ohfer six from long range. Zach LaVine isn’t thinking twice, David Nwaba came off the bench and earned six free throws, and the Bulls saw it out.

Orlando is salted right now.

Chicago: 20-36, Orlando: 18-38

I’m heading West, updates will be more frequent as I find more time to put what I have together. None of this is for a book, I’m not being sponsored by a car company (though I really should send someone an email), and I don’t have an outside gig.

Every hour, all the driving and the writing, is for The Second Arrangement. The publishing will take a little longer, this month, because I don’t take my laptop into games and also because my handwriting is very, very poor. Once the break ends, Behind the Boxscores will become more frequent.

In the meantime, my favorite thing to read at night is what’s up at TSA CHAT, if you haven’t joined in on the game-to-game wowsers, here is the INVITE LINK.

(Photo courtesy Jon Glaser’s IG.)

(More to come.)

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