Updated: November 29, 2010, 7:48 AM ET

1. Take A Big Lead On Jazz? What A Bad Idea

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- Less than a minute into the third quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin made the worst mistake you can make against the Utah Jazz. It was more costly than any of the Clippers' 18 turnovers on the afternoon, the worst part of the Clippers' 14-point third quarter.

He banked in a jumper that put the Clippers ahead, 62-52. Griffin should know by now that you don't take a double-digit lead against the Jazz. It's like feeding a mogwai after midnight.

The Jazz are at their most dangerous when they're down big. They've secured eight of their 13 victories after falling behind by at least 10 points, the latest over the Clippers by a 109-97 score. They dropped into a zone defense, ran off 13 unanswered points and produced another set of stunned, solemn faces in the Clippers' locker room.

If it's any consolation to the Clippers, the Jazz have done this to some of the league's best, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic. It's how they do.

It's made Utah one of the must-watch stops for NBA League Pass viewers, the group equivalent to the nightly individual displays put on by Griffin. He had another showcase game with 35 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, but the majority of his story was told in the first half. The second half belonged to the Jazz, as the second halves usually do.

Coming into this one they had been outscored by an average of 48.5-45.5 in the first half, and won the second half 53.4-47.9. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has a theory that the Jazz do so well in the second half because they're the only team in the league that chooses to have the offense play in front of its bench in the second half (the visiting team gets to pick which side it wants to shoot on).

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said the peculiar preference dates back to the days John Stockton ran the point and preferred easier communication with Sloan when it was time to choose a play.

"It seems to be easier to try to get their attention when they're coming at you then when they're going away from you," Sloan said, with typical Sloan common-sense logic.

There are two problems with Jackson's theory: the Jazz have made big comebacks at home (such as the time they came from 16 down at halftime to beat the Clippers) when they play offense away from their bench; and Deron Williams likes to run his own plays no matter which side of the court he's on.

So if that theory's out, how to explain it?

"I'm not sure," Williams said.

Here are three reasons:

• System

Sloan's been running the same offense for 20 years, and it's comforting to have a base to return to when things aren't going well.

"The system has something to do with it," Raja Bell said. "Obviously you have to have guys that all want to help each other within that system. The combination of having really good guys who are conscientious and want to do the right thing and having the right system helps. We all trust what we're doing."

• Camaraderie

Bell hinted at it in his comment, and it's evident in the locker room. Take the way Williams felt comfortable enough to ridicule newcomer Al Jefferson about his oversized shirt and to make a point of telling a reporter that he didn't want the Jazz to acquire Jefferson from Minnesota, claiming Kevin Love was his first choice. That's the equivalent of a love tap in the NBA, a sign this group has come together (a lot faster than the squad in South Beach, it must be noted).

"We're having fun," Williams said. "It's a great group of guys to play with. We're resilient out there. We've gotten down, we don't hang our head. We keep fighting. That says a lot about this team."

• Support

Sloan keeps praising the play of the bench. It's worth noting that the only Jazz among the league's top 50 in plus/minus are reserves C.J. Miles ( seventh at plus-127, and the only one of the top eight with less than 400 minutes played) and Earl Watson (49th at plus-53).

"We're more fast-breaking and more defensively aggressive," Watson said.

They even outscored the vaunted Lakers bench, 20-13, in a victory Friday. They got the Clippers 31-15 Sunday.

The reserves are sustaining comebacks and allowing the starters to return fresh and ready to execute with the precision that Sloan-coached teams are known for.

Just think, the Jazz have pulled off their 13-5 record with little contribution from first-round pick Gordon Hayward (whom Sloan didn't use Sunday) and injured center Mehmet Okur. You can't consider them a threat to the Lakers until they prove they can win a playoff game in Staples Center (where they've lost eight straight in the postseason), but they have a great chance to remain among the high seeds in the Western Conference.

"We'll continue to get better," Williams said. "That's the good thing about this team. We have a long way to go. We're not playing our best basketball yet."

Based on what we've seen so far, you have to figure they'll dominate in the second half of the season.


Dimes past: Nov. 12-13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19-21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26-28

2. Blazers Hit New Low With Loss To Nets

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

Roy
Roy

NEWARK, N.J. -- The sad thing that crossed your mind as you watched Brandon Roy hobble to the scorer's table late in the fourth quarter, then promptly dribbling the ball out of bounds off his own foot, was that this is what we're going to be seeing from Roy -- not necessarily the unforced turnover, but certainly the gimpy gait -- for the foreseeable future.

Doctors have told Roy that his sore left knee, which has almost no cartilage remaining, cannot be fixed surgically. A microfracture procedure is not a viable option, which means Roy really has just two choices: play through the discomfort, or hang up his sneakers.

"It was not really pain tonight. More just tightness and swelling," Roy said after the Portland Trail Blazers suffered from poor execution down the stretch and dropped a 98-96 decision to the New Jersey Nets to kick off a four-game Eastern road swing, losing their third in a row.

Portland's record dropped to 8-8, and a players-only meeting was called in the locker room afterward. Asked if this loss to the 6-11 Nets represented the low point of the season, coach Nate McMillan said it did.

The Blazers now move on to play a back-to-back set against Philadelphia and Boston, which will provide a new measure of how well Roy's knee will hold up when he tries to play on consecutive nights.

Roy played 35 minutes against New Jersey, scoring 15 of his 21 points in the first half, after playing 34 minutes two nights earlier in a lopsided home loss to New Orleans.

"We really have to monitor his minutes. We're trying to keep them between 30-35 minutes," McMillan said. "It's tough because he's a big part of what we do, he is the one guy that can create offense for you. So having to make some adjustments, how to use him and minutes played, all of that certainly has an impact, and what it forces is that other guys must play better and be able to step into that role and take on some of that load that he has been carrying for this team."

The player performing that role best Sunday night was Wes Matthews, who started the three games last week that Roy missed because of his knee soreness  and then started the second half of this one in place of the ineffective Nicolas Batum.

Matthews scored a team-high 25 points, while Roy had 21 -- only four of which came in the pivotal fourth quarter when he shot 2-for-5 with a pair of Portland's five turnovers.

Portland's breakdown in execution -- aside from Roy's unforced error when he lost the ball out of bounds with 1:03 left and the Blazers trailing by three -- was best typified by what happened when they came out of a 20-second timeout with 39 seconds remaining and got caught off-guard when the Nets switched up their defense. Andre Miller launched a 3-point attempt that missed everything, and so ended the Blazers' last chance to tie the game.

"We wanted a quick 2. We wanted something going to the basket, there was enough time to get something going to the basket. They switched and tried to trap Brandon, which put the ball in Miller's hands," McMillan said. "And in that situation, plenty of time on the clock, put your head down and get to the basket."

3. Celtics Seek More From Bench

By Chris Forsberg
ESPN Boston
Rivers
Rivers

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics' bench players have been outscored by opposing reserves in eight of the team's past nine games and 11-of-16 tilts overall. On Friday, the Celtics' bench was outscored by a whopping 63-29 margin, and Boston's four chief reserves (Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson and Semih Erden) were a combined minus-52 in plus/minus on a night Boston's starting five was a combined plus-96.

A bunch of statistics aren't needed to tell why this is happening. The Celtics have been playing shorthanded essentially since the start of the season, and the bench hasn't been able to develop any consistency or rhythm.

Coach Doc Rivers admitted it's unfair to judge based solely on the point differential, but the numbers are impossible to ignore.

"It's unfair, but let's be unfair for a second," Rivers said after Friday's game. "The first and third quarters, [the Raptors] scored 35 points on our starters. And you can make that case, especially in the third quarter because [Boston's starters] played the whole quarter. The other two quarters were 32 [points allowed] and 34, and that's our second unit. So that was the only thing I talked about after the game."

Expanding the first and third quarters versus the second and fourth quarters over the last eight games shows that the Celtics are plus-70 in the first and third periods (outscoring opponents 462-392) and a minus-6 in the second and fourth quarters (being outscored 437-431).

But we wanted to be more precise. So we reached out to the folks at Elias Sports Bureau and asked them to crunch the numbers based on whether the Celtics' starters or reserves were on the floor.

There's no exact science to this, but typically Boston's starters are on the court for the first nine minutes of the odd quarters and the final six minutes of the even quarters. Of course, there are variances. Shaquille O'Neal -- or whomever the starting center is on any given night -- generally checks out earlier than, say, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen has logged a lot of time with the second unit. But this seemed like a fair split for our purposes. Overtime points were ignored.

To read more from Forsberg, click here.

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