Jazz is a wonderful music, its free-flowing nature creating beautiful tunes that have permeated across almost every modern musical genre. Tonight, the Utah Jazz didn’t need any improvisation, following Quin Snyder’s masterfully composed sheet music all night as they routinely bullied Milwaukee in the paint and creating easy looks from the corners in a dominating 104-88 win over a sleepy Milwaukee team.
Giannis had his worst non-illness game of the year, looking generally uninterested in attacking the rim and putting up only nine points, six rebounds and four assists. Jabari, for his part, was probably the most aggressive Buck all night with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds, but never managed to score enough to get Milwaukee within screaming distance of Utah. The single bright gleam amid this dark, dismal stretch of Bucks basketball was Thon Maker, who tallied 12 points, five rebounds, three blocks and a steal with some highlight rejections against Gobert and back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth.
Utah obliterated Milwaukee all night, doing whatever they wanted offensively as Gordon Hayward had 27 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals while Rudy Gobert managed 26 points and 15 rebounds. Isolation Joe Johnson was up to some old tricks too, firing away to reach 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Milwaukee shot 43.8% tonight to Utah’s 46.8%, as the Jazz nailed 37.9% from deep (11-29) compared to Milwaukee’s 39.1% (9-23) night. Even with a second half where Milwaukee nearly made up the 15-point free throw line margin the Jazz owned at halftime, they simply failed to dictate even one minute of this game. Utah dominated the tempo, playing even slower than their season average (93.4) with a 91.5 pace tonight. They owned Milwaukee’s defense from beginning to end, and without Giannis or Moose taking on a forceful role offensively, the Bucks went softly into this night.
Milwaukee started their scoring again tonight with a burst from Tony Snell and Matthew Dellavedova, as both hit three-pointers off dishes from Giannis in the opening minutes. The Thon Maker start seemed to pay off initially, tallying two quick blocks on Rudy Gobert and later recovering quickly into the lane to steal a pass intended for Jeff Withey, who had a free line to the hoop. Gordon Hayward starred for the Jazz, getting nine early points as the Bucks trailed 18-17 at the first break after Jabari Parker pawed ineffectively at a Rodney Hood corner three. Milwaukee finished the first quarter at 47.6% shooting, trailing Utah 30-27 as the Bucks’ bench continued Milwaukee’s hot start from deep, ending the period 5-8.
Milwaukee’s second quarter highlights again featured Thon Maker, who got another block and alley-oop finish. However, Rudy Gobert got going at the rim with two relatively uncontested slams, and Joe Johnson hit the Jazz’s fourth three from the corner to provide a 42-35 lead. The Jazz continued crisp passing around the court, hitting backdoor cutters or Gobert with pocket passes as he rolled to the rim and Utah expanded their lead to 53-39. A lifeless Bucks team continued to get skinned, and a George Hill three-pointer capped off a lethargic second quarter as Milwaukee trailed 61-43 at halftime.
It was another quiet half for Giannis (four points, three rebounds, three assists) and Jabari (six points, four rebounds) as Greg Monroe led the team with eight points. For Utah, Gordon Hayward scored 14 points with three rebounds and three assists while Rudy Gobert had 17 points and six rebounds, most of those points coming in the second quarter. Despite nearly identical shooting percentages, Utah went 17-20 from the free throw line while the Bucks only hit 2-7 in the half. A number of poor live ball turnovers from Milwaukee helped the Jazz score 13 points off 10 Bucks’ turnovers. Not great.
Utah looked prepared to keep rolling in the second half, but Jabari Parker showed some meaningful aggression again, forcing his way to the hoop and bounding upwards for two emphatic slam dunks as Milwaukee trailed 68-50.
It proved a very brief elation, as the Jazz played the Bucks defense like a flute, whirling around the court as they found Trey Lyles in the corner for yet another three-pointer, which rattled in as the Jazz led 78-54. Milwaukee trailed 80-61 when the third quarter ended.
In the fourth quarter, Thon Maker hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in a row. It was titillating. The Utah Jazz responded by widening the Bucks’ jaws and placing the basketball squarely down their throat over and over on layups, three-pointers and Gobert gobbling up the paint. Utah prevailed 104-88.
- Thon Maker started again tonight and gave Jason Kidd little reason to send him to the bench. His two early blocks on Gobert prevented the Frenchman from getting on a roll finishing at the hoop and he used his speed to prevent an uncovered Jeff Withey from a wide open slam at the hoop. He didn’t supply as much offensively, but Milwaukee used him plenty as a decoy, putting him in pick and rolls and keeping him around the perimeter to draw Gobert from the hoop. His three-point spree in the fourth was delightful.
Thon Maker OUT OF NOWHERE to reject Rudy Gobert (again)!! pic.twitter.com/O8fOB41Xp5— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 2, 2017
- Turns out there’s a decent difference between having Jeff Withey defending the rim and having Rudy Gobert defending the rim. Giannis euro-stepped by Withey early in the second for an painless layup. He tried an identical move a few minutes later against Gobert to far less success.
- Mirza Teletovic is a fine three-point shooter. His game inside the arc has been rather pitiful all year though, and even though he was hitting some shots tonight, I don’t think I need to see Telly in the post attempting spin cycles against Hayward. Not to mention the fact his spin cycle broke about halfway through. Stick around that arc Mirza, let someone else handle the heavy lifting.
- Normally it wouldn’t be hard to miss someone of Rudy Gobert’s stature at the rim, but Milwaukee seemed incapable of tagging the Frenchman the entire game, as help often rotated over too late. The only center able to recover quickly enough occasionally was Thon Maker, whose length seemed able to disrupt the Jazz from making passes directly through the teeth of the Bucks’ defense a few times.
- Milwaukee’s defense is tailor made to give up cross court looks for three-pointers from the corners (not great tbh), but that was outrageously evident tonight, as the Utah Jazz repeatedly attacked the Bucks’ heavy hedges and overloading scheme to whip passes to wide open shooters in the opposite corner. Utah was constantly either firing passes past Milwaukee’s heads or setting off-ball screens to free up shooters in the corner. Here’s a particularly terrible example, complete with swagger aplenty from the fraying hairline of Joe Ingles.
And today in "The Play That Made Brett Turn Off the Game," we have a wide open corner 3 generated by a heavily-hedged Joe Ingles side PnR. pic.twitter.com/WV9xkCRFzh— Brett Abramczyk (@BrettAbramczyk) February 2, 2017
- Let’s go even deeper on how absurdly good Utah’s offense was against Milwaukee. Their entire game plan centered on finding the scab on Milwaukee’s defense, and picking at it with a sharpened drumstick. This was an annihilation of the highest degree, and as much an indictment of the Bucks’ players as the scheme itself. Perhaps asking them to pick off cross-court passing isn’t the most repeatable practice, but there were multiple times when they just lazily allowed balls to sail over their heads. Other times, they just flat out messed up rotations. The 20 corner three-point attempts that Jazz radio and Locked On Pocast network Godfather David Locke cites below is outrageous given Utah normally averages 6.6 attempts from that area on the season. Even the free-slinging Cleveland Cavaliers, who lead the league in corner three attempts, are “only” averaging 10.2 per game. This was a tear down of the highest degree.
Jazz took 20 corner 3 attempts tonight - 26% of their shots. League average is 7.5% Jazz were 9 of 20 on those shots— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) February 2, 2017
- Rodney Hood went out for the Jazz tonight, hobbling off the court after tweaking his knee. He was diagnosed with hyperextended knee and will receive an MRI to determine if there’s any further damage. Just another injury issue for a Jazz team riddled with them this year.
- In the fourth quarter, Thon Maker hit three three-pointers in a row on pick and pops. On the next possession, Michael Beasley got the ball after trailing in transition and hoisted an above-the-break three. A puzzling decision.
- Later, Beasley inbounded the ball to Giannis with the apathy of a hormonal teenager and “Swagger” Joe Ingles easily grabbed the ball from the air.