San Antonio at Utah (8:00ET on TNT): Spurs lead series 3-0
- Stat: Jazz wings Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks have yet to take the floor together this postseason. Of the 2,015 minutes Hayward played during the regular season, he was only paired with Burks for 339 (16.8%) of them.
- Take: This series – like Miami-New York before and despite yesterday’s Knicks win – is over for all intents and purposes, so focusing on a particular aspect of the matchup between the Spurs and Jazz seems counterproductive. Even if Utah is willed by a sure-to-be raucous crowd to a game 4 win, the inevitable San Antonio close-out victory will still come. So, how can the young Jazz fare better next season? They can start by abandoning allegiance to the aging/unproductive wing triumvirate of Josh Howard, Raja Bell, and DeMarre Carroll and starting the young duo of Hayward and Burks alongside whatever upgrade they hopefully make at point guard in the offseason. For reasons unknown coach Ty Corbin was extremely averse to playing the two recent first rounders alongside one another this season, and despite the dismal play of Howard and Carroll thus far against San Antonio, Hayward/Burks hasn’t been given a chance at all in the playoffs. And, in either case, why not? That’s something only Corbin knows, as whatever deficiencies and/or redundancies created by the Hayward/Burks tandem is equalled or even worsened by the combination of Hayward and Howard/Bell/Carroll. None of the five has been an accurate shooter from deep this season (though Hayward closed the year on a tear) and at this point in their careers all are similarly challenged as defenders. The only tandem with upside, clearly, and the only one Utah has mortgaged its future on is the one that saw the least amount of floor-time together. Again, why? The Jazz perimeter was the team’s weakness all year, and taking a legitimate chance on the green Burks – no matter how lost or ineffective he could have been – and by proxy pushing the calendar forward in all likelihood would not have rendered Utah’s battle for the postseason lost. Even better, maybe it could have propelled them another place or two higher so they could have avoided the West’s top seed. Obviously, none of this matters now. The Jazz will have to find out whether or not Hayward or Burks can coexist next season, and for their and the team’s sake let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers (10:30ET on TNT): Clippers lead series 2-1
- Stat: In Memphis’ 87-86 loss on Saturday, Marc Gasol went 3-5 from the field, 5-5 from the free throw line, and scored 10 points in 35 minutes. He’s averaging 7.9 attempts per 36 minutes in the series thus far, seventh most on the team.
- Take: It’s ridiculous for a player as productive and efficient as Gasol to take only five field goal attempts in any game, and it’s especially bad considering the momentous stakes on Saturday. He’s hardly been given more opportunity in the other games of this series, either, taking just 10 and nine shots in games 1 and 2. While it’s true Gasol didn’t enjoy his usual success against DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers in the regular season, putting the ball in his hands and urging him to be aggressive – either making plays for himself or his teammates – is surely a better option for the Grizzlies than chucking long twos and threes. They took 42 shots from beyond sixteen feet in game 3 and made 15 of them, good for just 35.7%. Of course, it’s hardly as simple as “Give Marc the ball and watch the offense improve.” The newly added presence of Randolph operating on the low block and extended area pushes Gasol to legitimate mid-range, and while he’s a very solid mid-range shooter his array of talents are best utilized in the pinch post within twelve feet of the basket. Additionally, Los Angeles has been defending Gasol aggressively, limiting passing angles and forcing him to put the ball on the floor, the area in his game most lacking. Still, there are adjustments that the Grizzlies can make, most simply and easily making Gasol the focal point of their attack early and often and forcing the Clippers to adjust from there. Don’t be surprised if Lionel Hollins goes that route and reacts accordingly tonight, as he’s likely – and correctly, frankly – fed up with Memphis’ new identity as a band of jump-shooters.