Y'see. Didn't I say I had a dream about a win today and then get a win on the road? Dreams come true. Hopefully we come out tomorrow and my dream will be the truth.
- Andray Blatche
The Utah Jazz play a style of basketball that is designed to frustrate a young team like the Washington Wizards. Playing the Jazz, one can expect to receive a knee to the back of the leg, an elbow to the sternum and an extra push to the back to remind you that they are still there. While not "technically" dirty, the Jazz teeter as near the edge of playing "smashmouth" basketball as you can in the NBA. It's as close to a playoff style of basketball that you are likely to see in the regular season and so infuriating that even the unflappable Rashard Lewis drew a technical foul.
For the first half of today's game that style of play was especially effective on Nick Young. On the very first offensive set run for Young, Raja Bell stood Young up and put him on his can. Bell then proceeded to spend the half hounding Young across the floor, slapping at his arm, putting a knee to the stomach and shading Young to his weak side. When Bell was out of the game the Jazz continued the abuse of Young by covering him with a combination of C.J. Miles and Andrei Kirelenko. At the first half buzzer, Young's line read 1-3 with 3 defensive rebounds.
The second half was an entirely different story as Young adjusted his game and took it to the Jazz. Instead of settling for his jumpshot, Young got aggressive and drove to the basket, putting Bell and other in foul trouble in the 3rd quarter. The Jazz responded by attempting to bog the game down through relentlessly fouling, but became visibly frustrated when the Wizards steadfastly refused to slow the game down to suit the speed and pace that the Jazz preferred to play. It was a model example of composure for a young team, which kept its head despite the mind games that were being performed on the court.
Nick Young's Final Line:
7-12 on the night. 8-8 FT. 3 defensive rebounds. 2 assists.
I had a chance to ask both Young and Flip Saunders about Utah's "physicality" after the game and how the Wizards managed to stick with their offensive system despite Utah's best efforts.
Coach Flip Saunders:
On whether Utah got more physical in the second half:
I thought they were physical from the very beginning. That's how they play. I if you asked Nick that he would disagree because that first play Raja stood him right up. But we kept telling them that's how they play...I give Nick a lot of credit. Raja went after him in the first half and this is his maturation process where people come out and they say we're going to stop Nick Young....What did end up with? 25? What did he have at the half? 3? 5? That shows his maturity.
And then the money quote on Nick Young's maturation:
I said when we had Gilbert here, at the time I thought he was playing better than Gilbert how he was coming off the bench. It was just an opportunity for him to get extended minutes and he is going to be able to produce.
Nick Young on Utah's physicality:
Just gotta stick with. Raja is one of the top defenders in the league and his thing is to get in your head. So I know watching him back in the day and watching film that's how he's gonna try to do. So I just stay with it. That's how it's going to be night in, night out. People are gonna come for me.
Young's play and the play of the Wizards overall demonstrated a resilience today that can only help the team grow in the future. The Wizards didn't just play up to their opponent, but instead dictated the course of the game. It is a lesson that they will hopefully build upon when they take the road in search of their first win away from home in Milwaukee.