The Triple Team: What can Keyonte George and Taylor Hendricks learn from games like this?

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) looks to pass as Utah Jazz forward John Collins (20) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 126-120 loss to the Miami Heat from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. I can live with games like that

The Jazz have lost eight of their last nine games. They’re now six games out of the tenth seed. Basketball Reference guesses that they have a 0.4% chance of making it up there, but even that feels optimistic.

So we’re officially in non-playoff mode, then.

And in that mode, what matters? Playing for the future. Most importantly, you’re looking to give your young players significant development opportunities. That’s exactly what happened tonight: Keyonte George played 43 minutes, Taylor Hendricks played 29 minutes, and Brice Sensabaugh played 13 minutes.

All of them played pretty well and have things they can take away from this game. For George, that’s a 30-point night — the third of his career — and the most minutes he’s every played. He was ultra-aggressive, taking 23 shots; some of those were good looks and some he’ll probably want back. The biggest thing for him, is that he’ll need to raise his defensive level consistently. His defensive mistakes cost the Jazz in the Orlando loss, I thought there were times he shut down a little there tonight as well. Luckily, he agrees.

“It’s just about every possession, every possession, how can I fight each and every time no matter how tired I am, no matter how the game’s going,” George said.

For Sensabaugh, his shot-making ability can keep him on the court. He’s so used to tough shots in his college career and at the G League level that the open catch-and-shoot ones he’s getting now come naturally. But my goodness, he just has to be so much more focused on defense. How does he lose Jaime Jaquez this badly?

And then frankly, there are just things the Jazz can learn from the Heat’s basketball IQ — with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo and a collection of really incisive role-playing talent, they might have the smartest team in the NBA. Butler’s foul drawing, the way Adebayo reads offenses, even how players like Duncan Robinson and Haywood Highsmith play their minor roles to perfection, the Jazz’s youth can take something away from that.

Do we have over a month left of this — the Jazz losing most of their games, with only rookie development to show for it? Probably. But so long as the latter is happening, I can stomach the former.

2. Taylor Hendricks’ defense

Within that, I want to look specifically at Taylor Hendricks’ defense, because I think it’s been the Jazz’s brightest hope over the last week or so.

There have been some mightily impressive plays, real flashes where you see what Hendricks can be. This is exactly the kind of defensive play that he made at UCF that made me start really loving him as a prospect:


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