Utah Jazz Instant Analysis: Young core shows improvement in season finale
Ann Heisenfelt, AP
In a season full of struggles and growth, the Utah Jazz finished up the 2013-14 season in dramatic fashion Wednesday night.
After holding the lead for practically the entire game, the Jazz found themselves battling it out with the Minnesota Timberwolves in two extra sessions before Trey Burke’s clutch play lifted Utah to the 136-130 win.
The Jazz pounced on the Timberwolves (40-42) and held an early 39-20 lead. Minnesota then took its turn and rode a big 28-11 run that brought the Timberwolves to within four points at halftime. The second half went back-and-forth with both squads taking turns making big shots down the stretch.
The overtime periods, however, were full of heroics, but none dazzled more than did Burke’s. He backed up his clutch reputation with some stellar play with big passes, steals and baskets. His 3-pointer late in the second overtime proved to be the decider and his free throws sealed the game’s outcome.
When it was all said and done, Utah finished the season with a 25-57 record. The win not only allowed the team to conclude a tough season on a high note, but also helped the Jazz avoid matching the team’s worst record since moving to Utah in 1979.
The win did come at a cost. The Jazz went from being alone with the fourth-worst record to being tied for that spot with the Boston Celtics. The Jazz went from an 11.9 percent chance of nabbing the top pick in the NBA Draft to 10.3 percent. The offseason begins immediately, with this summer being one of the most pivotal in franchise history.
Youthful progress: One of the big objectives for this year was to promote growth in the Jazz’s young core of players. Several of them showed how they have developed as evidenced in Wednesday’s last hurrah.
As mentioned, Burke had one of the best games of his rookie campaign. His numbers were gaudy, but they belied the flair behind them. Burke had 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. While he had an uncharacteristic five turnovers, Utah was plus-19 when he was on the court, which is very impressive given the close score. Burke clearly showed why he is Jazz’s point guard of the now and the future.
Backcourt partner Gordon Hayward’s performance typified his entire season. While he shot was errant (just 8 of 23 from the floor), his all-around game was brilliant. The swingman just missed a triple double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Derrick Favors was consistently strong all evening. He was stout on both ends of the court, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and two steals. Fill-in starter Jeremy Evans may have had the best outing of his Jazz career in putting up 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with three steals and three blocked shots.
Last but not least, Rudy Gobert came off the bench to make impacts defensively and offensively. He had eight points and nine rebounds in a mere 14 minutes. The future is indeed bright. The young guys look to build upon their progress next season.
This and that
- With center Enes Kanter sitting out, not only did Evans step up, but little-used big man Malcolm Thomas had his best game of the season also. He was energetic and vocal as he contributed nine points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
- Eight Minnesota players finished in double-digits, lead by long-time Jazz nemesis Kevin Martin’s 36 points.
- All-Star forward Kevin Love came across as disinterested in the season finale, but still ended with a near triple double of his own (19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists).
- Center Gorgui Dieng, who was actually drafted by the Jazz, had just four points and seven boards. He had been averaging 15.7 points and 15 rebounds the previous three outings.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.
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