Extra observations from an extra, extra long game in which the Raptors ended an extra (times 11) long losing streak against the Jazz with a 111-106 double-OT victory at EnergySolutions Arena:
POINT 1: Linas Kleiza is a Jazz-killer. Right? That’s the common assumption by people with a memory in Jazzland. After all, his 41-point outburst against Utah four years ago (Jan. 17, 2008) with Denver was very memorable. That night, he hit 13 of 21 shots and drilled 4 of 8 3-pointers to lead the Nuggets past the Jazz.
Throw this 25-point showing in the mix, and Kleiza’s reputation is reloaded and refreshed in Jazz fans’ minds.
Curious to see if reality lives up to his rep, I checked up on the lethal Lithuanian’s career outings against the Jazz. The findings from my basketball-reference.com research:Kleiza vs. NBA in six seasons:
Scoring: 8.6 ppg; FGs: 44.5%; 3PTs: 33.4%
Kleiza vs. Jazz in six seasons:
Scoring: 11.1 ppg; FGs: 66-145 (45.5%); 3PTs: 20-55 (36.4%)
His scoring is up quite a bit, but the shooting percentages aren’t that much different. It’s just when he’s on against the Jazz, boy, is he on.
By the way, Kleiza’s record against the Jazz is 6-12 with Denver (5-11) and Toronto (1-1). And he has only hit double digits in eight of those contests. His next-best game vs. Utah came in his last season with the Nuggets in 2008-09, when he scored 18 points on 6-for-18 shooting (3-for-7 from deep).
“Tonight,” Kleiza said in an Andrei Kirilenko accent, “it was a good game. we fought as a team, we came up against some tough moments, but we didn’t come apart. We stuck together.”
Just like you’d expect from a team with five wins to do on the road against a 10-win team. Oh wait.
POINT 2: Gordon Hayward is slumping, no doubt. The second-year small forward fired in a season-high 19 points in that exciting win at Denver, but since then his shot has been off. Very off.
Hayward has only shot 6-for-27 since that Pepsi Center game, and his 1-for-9 shooting and five 3-point misses were part of the reason why Toronto was able to pack in its defense against Utah’s bigs.
Still, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin kept him in for 37 minutes. Hayward responded with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, but he also had four turnovers including a costly charge.
The frustrating part for Hayward is that he’s hitting shots in practice. They just aren’t falling in games lately.
Considering Corbin’s track record this season, don’t expect the second-year coach to make any drastic changes, though. He has allowed his players to work their way out of slumps, and he often lauds Hayward for his ability to impact games positively even when his shots aren’t falling.
POINT 3: This was another game in which the Jazz struggled mightily against the zone, something that was also apparent in their last-second win at Golden State.
Utah’s offense fell off the scoreboard after the first quarter. The Jazz opened with 32 points in the first 12 minutes (2.7 points per minute), but then only managed to score 74 in the ensuing 46 minutes (1.61 ppm).
Coincidentally, the Jazz completely lost an 18-point first quarter lead thanks in part to an 18-point second quarter. And their offense hit rock bottom in a 15-point fourth quarter, which was a season-low.