Just a reminder that this will be the game thread for tonight's installment of the always
popular entertaining Open Source Live Blog, starting at 9 PM eastern, 8 central. Get it right, get it now, get it right now (in an hour). -- Jon
This one's a little less wacky, sorry to disappoint everyone. Blame Sonny Vaccaro. At any rate, what have we learned about these two teams? Colorado likes to run. They can fill it up. They have a lot of guys who can score. Utah has some depth issues in the middle. Ronald Dupree is very good. All of which we knew on Tuesday. So forthwith, some keys to game two for each team:
Brian Jackson has to stay out of foul trouble. It's really that simple. I know he's not used to starting at center, and his skills aren't really geared towards an up-tempo game, but he has to stay on the court longer than he did Monday night. Carlos Wheeler played decently, but Bennet Davis just isn't that great of an option at center and James Lang apparently did poorly enough in his three minutes to probably not see much of the floor for the rest of the series. Jackson's own game one wasn't spectacular, but he can draw Joe Dabbert or Kentrell Gransberry or Jamar(h) Brown outside of the paint and likely draw fouls. This leads me to the next step:
Create mismatches. Colorado often has a minimum of three guards on the floor at once (Billy Thomas is a guard), and the Flash has the size to take advantage of it. JR Giddens and Ronald Dupree were able to score inside quite a bit in game one, partly I think due to being matched up against players several inches shorter. The 14ers didn't have Davis as their center quite as much as I expected, but when he plays in the middle that means the guy playing PF probably isn't much taller than 6'6". Utah should turn that into their advantage.
Keep the ball moving. I haven't seen a whole lot of Kevin Kruger this season, but based on game one I'd say he dribbles too damn much. I don't know if that's his personal inclination or whether that's coming from coach Brad Jones, but Kruger can't dominate the ball as much as he did, particularly toward the end of the game. Getting the ball to one of the wings before there are six seconds on the shot clock and keeping it moving around will create better shots and let the Flash take advantage of their offensive efficiency.
No one can disappear. Despite playing the entire second quarter, JR Giddens didn't score until four minutes left. In the second half, Giddens didn't have a point from 8:42 left in the third until there were second minutes left in the fourth. That's over an entire quarter of no scoring from one of their best scorers. Mo Almond gets somewhat of a pass because of his recent back troubles, but those free throws he hit with 9:16 left in the third quarter? Those were the last points he scored all game. Dupree was the only Flash player to consistently put points on the board. He's going to need more help if Utah is going to have a shot at the championship.
Colorado's side after the jump.
Don't stop believin' running. I know I keep hammering home the point that the 14ers are an up-tempo team, but it's not like I can say the opposite is true. Certainly players like Dupree, Giddens and probably even Almond wouldn't mind a faster pace, but top to bottom the Flash just aren't structured for it. Their big men are decent, but a key piece of Colorado's offense is rebounding the ball and starting the break, and forcing quick shots feeds into that.
Billy Thomas needs to keep performing at a high level. Scott's off nominating me for a Pulitzer for calling Thomas a key player, but it's true. Probably no one is more boom and bust on this team than Thomas. As I mentioned in the series preview, Thomas is capable of shooting 8-11 or 1-11. Last game they got the former (not literally, he shot 9-18), though Thomas also came up with some key defensive plays and more rebounds than he's accustomed to. At this point you know what you're getting from all the other 14ers, but Thomas remains a night in, night out mystery. They need him to keep up his Game One productivity.
Focus. Utah deserves all the credit in the world for playing their way back into the game from being down 25 points, but Colorado also let it happen. The 14ers got sloppy on both sides of the ball, likely thinking they had the game in the bag. Now they know they can't do that, and there's a reason Utah is the #2 seed. If Colorado really wants the championship - and it certainly looked like they did in the second half - they can't let up and need to maintain their offensive and defensive focus.
Play Trey Gilder more? This is phrased as a question because I honestly don't know the reason why Gilder didn't see the court in the second half. Was he hurt? Did he anger coach Bob MacKinnon in some way? Assuming he's healthy, the 14ers definitely could have used him once the rest of the team stopped hitting shots and players started getting tired. Gilder's a key part of Colorado's depth, and getting more than seven minutes from him will make everyone else's jobs easier.