The Utah Jazz are better than you think and even better than their 24-16 record indicates. Last year, the Jazz were the sexy pick to make a splash in the postseason but a handful of variables - mostly injuries - kept that from becoming reality. Once again injuries are a story line, but the Jazz are too talented to be bothered.
Utah’s success stems from a hounding defense that funnels ball handlers to Jazz big man Rudy Gobert (and in some cases Derrick Favors). Having such elite rim protection allows perimeter defenders to take chances they otherwise wouldn’t dream of.
Lets take a look at exactly how they do it.
When: January 13th @ 10:30 p.m. EST
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena; Salt Lake City, UT
The goal of Utah’s defense is simple: run 3-point shooters off the line and force them baseline. This accomplishes two things.
First, in this golden age of shooting, the Jazz negate that strategy. The numbers check out as Jazz foes take (22.7) and make (8.1) fewer 3-point shots per game than any other teams allows.
Second, by dictating where the ball handler is going, it creates an extra defender via the baseline. There is only so much room before you run into that which is The Stifle Tower.
Below, Shelvin Mack accomplishes both Jazz goals as he runs Corey Joseph of the 3-point line, forces him baseline and right into Rudy Gobert:
Gobert won’t block everything, but he’ll alter shots or make you come up with a quick plan B that doesn’t involve anything around the rim.
Check that, he might block everything.
If it’s not Gobert, it’s Favors, but the same scheme applies: keep the ball handler out of the middle of the paint. You can clearly see Rodney Hood’s name and number, this means he’s forcing Iman Shumpert to the baseline:
Favors isn’t on the rim-protection level of Gobert but gets the job done.
Through hours and hours of watching Jazz film, I’ve determined there is a way to consistently foil Utah’s plan:
Make incredibly tough mid-range jumpers.
Good luck, (Marcus Morris).
Defense is certainly Utah’s calling card but, unfortunately for the Pistons’ sake, they can put the ball in the hoop, too.
Gordon Hayward - and his perfect hair - demands your attention on the offensive end. His 22 points per game lead the Jazz but there is still an underrated fun-ness in watching him play:
That’s just the SportsCenter stuff.
Simplicity is often the highest form of sophistication. Read, react, hit the open man:
That’s the real fun stuff.
Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris
George Hill, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward
I predict the Pistons are not good enough to beat Utah. I also predict:
The Pistons’ perimeter defenders will get backdoor’d at least three times for easy Jazz layups/dunks.
Upon conclusion, you’ll wonder why Indiana got rid of George Hill.
And despite being up by double digits late in the fourth quarter, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder wont be satisfied:
Pistons 92, Jazz 106