Final Score: Pacers 95, Jazz 86
Run It Back
Player(s) of the Game: Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Seeing essentially their first action together since the 1st-half in Dallas six games ago, Favors and Kanter showed they can definitely play effectively together. The two combined for 42 points and 23 rebounds on 17-36 shooting and 8-8 from the foul line. In 30 1/2 minutes playing together, the Jazz were +4 over the Pacers. Of course that means in the other 17 1/2 they were -13.
Favors played Hibbert strong and it felt good to see Kanter enjoy success. After battling confidence issues since his demotion, he was back to playing rather than over-thinking. Still has a few little things to clean up, but a major step in the right direction.
Run of the Game: Utah opened the 4th-Qtr with Kanter posting and scoring over Ian Mahinmi to give the Jazz a 69-68 lead. Over the final 11 minutes, the Pacers out-scored the Jazz 27-17 with half-court precision and a stifling defense that led to transition opportunities.
Best Move: 2:51 1st-Qtr – With Roy Hibbert on the ground battling Favors for rebound position, Trey Burke wisely pushed the ball in the open court, using a beautiful hesitation and cross-over to blow past George Hill and finish with a layup with no shot-blocker in the paint. That play sums up the lift Burke gives the Jazz - a point guard who can control the pace but also understands when to attack - and has the ability to be a playmaker in the open-court.
See A Different Game
Trey Burke had another impressive performance with 13 points and a game-high 9 assists (he should’ve had a minimum of 11 with a couple of point-blank looks missed by Favors and Kanter) and just 1 turnover. Burke shot 5-12 from the field and 2-2 from behind the arc.
The interesting thing is that of 4 Burke’s 5 field goals came in transition – 3 layups and a right-wing pull-up three. Burke’s lone half-court basket was a catch&shoot three off a Richard Jefferson penetration&kickout.
The Pacers did a fantastic job taking away the threes and layup attempts Burke was getting via pick&roll the past three games. In high screen-roll last night, Burke shot 0-5 from the floor to go along with 1 turnover and 3 assists. A couple of Burke’s misses were open shots you feel comfortable with him taking while the rest were the types of contested/semi-rushed pull-up jumpers that the Indiana Pacers typically force.
As you can see, on high screen-roll the Pacers (#3 George Hill) goes over the screen which chases the ball-handler off the 3pt-line. Roy Hibbert (#55) always drops back off the screener into the lane, where he is put into position to address his responsibility of defending the paint. As a result, the Pacers bait you into shooting that pull-up mid-range jumper – one that often comes with an open look at the rim but also can be rushed with a defender challenging from behind.
This is what helps make Indiana so good defensively – they keep their rim-protector in the paint to defend and stay at home on the perimeter so they don’t get caught in many 3-on-4 disadvantages that often a accompany a big showing out hard then trying to recover.
On side screen-roll the Pacers normally tried to force baseline into help where they gave up the pick&pop jumper to the screener. Kanter and Favors were able to take advantage by shooting 5-8 in side pick&roll situations. As a team Utah shot 7-13 in side screen-roll to go along with 2 turnovers for 16 points. Even on their empty possessions, they still got excellent looks (such as a turnover the result of a fumbled pass by Kanter who had a wide-open 6-footer, Favors missing a wide-open 12-foot baseline jumper, and Favors not being able to put down a dunk over Mahinmi).
The Pacers are a terrific defensive team, but given the open shots Favors and Kanter were receiving – next time I think the Jazz would like to run a few more side pick&rolls where they got good looks rather than high screen-roll which plays more into the Pacers’ strategy.
I Don’t Get It!
The biggest surprise to me was following the game when Trey Burke said the Pacers’ pick&roll defensive tactics caught him off guard.
Question: “Anything surprise you about what [Pacers] did in the 1st or 2nd half?”
“Yeah I would say the pick&roll coverage, you know they were kinda lulling us into shooting that 5-foot jump shot…there was a couple of times I came off and kinda held it a little bit when I jumped in the air…and I think those are shots that I can definitely hit – they tried to stay in the corners with the shooters so it wasn’t like I could come off and hit Gordon or Alec in the corner cause they stayed…it was just a matter of just executing.” -Burke.
As you can see – that is who the Pacers are defensively (when watching focus on the defender guarding the screener).
When I heard these comments I wanted to shout from the roof-tops:
WHAT HAVE THE COACHES BEEN DOING?!
It’s mind-boggling to me that a professional basketball team can play the Pacers and afterward have a point guard who was unprepared for their screen-roll defense. Considering Burke is a rookie playing just his NBA 8th game and facing Indiana for the first time, you can’t fault him. With an off-day and playing at home (in a game the opponent also chose to play offense in front of their own bench in the 2nd-half), it is entirely on the coaching staff to prepare their team for this.
Even this idiot wrote two days ago that after torching the Rockets’ screen-roll defense, Burke would need to convert from mid-range against Indiana. It’s like playing the Broncos and being surprised afterward that they played 11 personnel (1RB1TE = 3WRs) so often. You might not have success against it – but you shouldn’t be surprised about their tendencies.
(Oh and if any Jazz coaches or players are reading this your next opponent, the 16-3 Portland Trailblazers defend high screen-roll in a similar manner).
Odds and Ends
- Wednesday’s official attendance of 15,519 marks a season-low and (re)sets the mark as the 2nd-lowest figure in the 23-year history of the Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena (that the Jazz have set three times this season). The 2013-14 Jazz now hold 3 of the 4 and 5 of the 11 smallest crowds in DC/ESA history.
- Enes Kanter and Brandon Rush vented frustration at each other (10:16 4th-Qtr) on a play where Burks had a reverse-layup blocked that led to a George dunk in transition. Racing back on defense, Kanter repeatedly motioned for Rush to stop ball while Rush retreated as if he expected Kanter to do so. After the basket Kanter said something to Rush who slammed the ball down in frustration and barked back at Kanter. Heat of the moment play, but not one we’ve seen in live action too often.
- Favors and Kanter became the first pair of Jazz players to post 20-points/10-rebounds in the same game since Favors and Millsap did it March 4, 2013 in Milwaukee.
- Favors has shot 56% in the last 13 games and currently sits at 51% for the season.
The Final Word
The Jazz got out to a quick start and gave good effort overall. Favors and Kanter showed they could play effectively together (like they did last season) and despite a cold-shooting night from Hayward (3-14) and some depleted depth (no Marvin or Evans), Utah still held a 1-point lead early in the 4th-quarter. Richard Jefferson again struggled mightily to the point it may be time for a change at SF with Marvin or Burks (who played another strong game) getting the nod.
The most disconcerting thing was the apparent lack of preparation by the Jazz coaching staff for Indiana’s screen-roll defense. It’s not simply looking at losses and drawing the conclusion that a poor job is being done. It’s little incidents like these that add up over 3 years.
As John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. The Jazz have built a little momentum recently and finally appear to be playing near potential. A fundamental key to coaching is putting your players in the best position to succeed. I’m not sure better preparation would have produced any better results against Indiana, but with youth and not a great deal of experience – preparation is the one thing the Jazz can control. It may not have been great last night, but it needs to be in the future. Trey Burke deserves that.