Archive for November, 2013

Jeff Hornacek vs Tyrone Corbin November 29 2013

Final Score: Suns 112, Jazz 101

Last night Jeff Hornacek returned to Utah to host his own pick&roll-athon, raising awareness for the chronic ailment of awful screen-roll defense sponsored by the Corbin-Lowe foundation.

Run It Back

Best Play: 5:18 3rd-Qtr – This play perfectly illustrates the difference between a brilliant offensive mind and one that hasn’t distinguished itself in multiple seasons as a head coach. As you have probably noticed, the Jazz often run early-offense pick&roll where they pass to their big at the top of the key (often Favors) who takes one dribble toward the wing and hands-off to the SG/SF for a quick side pick&roll.

Well the Suns open up with this same motion with Miles Plumlee handing off to Goran Dragic on the right-wing but following the handoff/screen Plumlee rolls to the basket while Markief Morris then comes up to the top of the key to set a second ball-screen for Dragic. After Plumlee rolls down the lane he circulates over to the left-block receiving a cross-screen from P.J. Tucker along the baseline. Morris sets the second ball-screen for Dragic and as he rolls to the rim, P.J. Tucker (after cross-screening for Plumlee) comes up and sets a back-screen for Morris on the second roll. Dragic swings the ball to Bledsoe on the weakside, giving the passing angle to hit Morris for a layup.

Rested and ready with a fully healthy roster and comparable talent – Utah had every reason to play their best game of the season, but Ty Corbin was playing checkers while Jeff Hornacek played chess.

Best Execution: 2:05 2nd-Qtr –The Suns run Dragic/Frye pick&pop up top with Dragic dribbling left – while simultaneously running cross-screen action with P.J. Tucker backscreening Favors to set up Plumlee on the block. With everyone focused on the screen-roll, Plumlee springs wide open and Dragic hits him for an uncontested 5-foot hook.
Matt Harpring’s reaction: “Too many wide open looks for the Phoenix Suns.”

Best JazzBasketball Play: 6:45 2nd-Qtr – Tied at 42-42, the Suns swung the ball to Markieff Morris on the left wing, then ran a baseline cross-screen with Dragic screening for Plumlee coming to the left-block, which gave Dragic an advantage as his man (Burks) had to help front Plumlee on the cross-screen – and allowed Dragic to pop out off a pindown for an open catch&shoot 16-footer. The Jazz ran this for years with Stockton cross-screening for Malone and popping out to the foul line.

I know some people love the “moneyball” concept – but what many fail to understand is “a 16-footer” is not the same as “an open rhythm catch&shoot 16-footer.” Jazzbasketball has produced top-10 offenses by putting players in these positions for layups, threes and open mid-range jumpers.

While Hornacek’s Suns do play heavily into the 3pt/layup shot selection, if you watched last night’s game you would see they ran several set plays to get open 15-foot jumpers (i.e. open foul line jumper for P.J. Tucker in early 3rd-Qtr).

You don’t think Hayward would to come off a screen for an open catch&shoot 15-footer instead of running a bazillion miles to take a contested long two?
On the other hand, you can shoot 20 threes and make 5 like the Jazz did last night. Silly me, silly Jerry Sloan and silly Phil Johnson. How can you not love the bastardization modernization of “Jazzbasketball?”

The Jazz just aren’t a three-point shooting team, you gotta know who you are – and the Jazz are dead-last in the NBA in three-point shooting – 30% – they’re not that team. Phoenix is that team they (Suns) shoot the ball well and they only allow 33% shooting from other teams…right now the Jazz are playing Phoenix’s style…everything that Phoenix wants to do – they’re doing. The Jazz have taken nothing away from the Phoenix Suns and credit Jeff Hornacek and the way he coaches.” -Matt Harpring during 3rd-qtr.

Jazz Pick&Roll/Suns Defense – 1st-Half

The Jazz started out with a 33-point 1st-quarter and the Suns opened the game having their bigs show out on the pick&roll:
11:41 1st-Qtr – Hayward/Favors high screen-roll, Tucker and Frye both jump out on Hayward who hits Favors rolling down the lane for a dunk.

10:03 1st-Qtr – Burke/Marvin side pick&roll – Suns forced baseline and because Marvin has 3pt-range, Phoenix can’t cover the ground in time and Marvin strokes a three to put Utah up 9-0 and force a Suns timeout.

4:39 1st-Qtr – Hayward/Favors high screen-roll with Favors rolling down lane, drawing the help-defense and kicking out to Marvin for an open corner-three to pull Utah within 22-20.

Jazz Pick&roll/Suns Defense – 2nd-Half

In the 3rd-quarter the Suns’ had some great stretches of screen-roll defense by defending the way alot of great teams do, by pushing the ball-handler away from the screen and funneling him into their length (bigman).

4:20 3rd-Qtr – Hayward/Favors high screen-roll guarded by Tucker/Plumlee. Tucker forces Hayward away from the screen and into a drive funneling him into Plumlee sitting back in the lane. They push Hayward baseline behind the basket and then pick-off his attempted pass out to Marvin for a three – which Markieff Morris turns into a fastbreak layup.

3:54 3rd-Qtr – Burke/Favors high screen-roll guarded by Bledsoe/Plumlee. Again they force Burke to drive away from the screen into Plumlee where they push him underneath the basket. Burke passes out to Marvin for a corner-three but Bledsoe races out to contest. Marvin misses, Dragic rebounds. Because the Jazz are trying so hard to space the floor by playing 4 3pt-shooters, only Favors is positioned beneath the basket to get an offensive rebound.

3:18 3rd-Qtr – Hayward/Favors side pick&roll guarded by Tucker/Plumlee. The Suns force baseline, with Tucker funneling Hayward into Plumlee, and Bledsoe on the weakside drops down to take away Favors diving down the lane. Hayward tries to dribble through Tucker and Plumlee who strip him and force a jumpball.

On all three of these possessions, Suns assistant Mike Longabardi (defensive coordinator and former Boston assistant under Rivers/Thibadeau) was up on his feet shouting instructions.

The Jazz then enjoyed some success clearing out the left side of the floor and running side pick&roll, where Burke was able to use his speed to get wide around Plumlee and drive to the baseline for either a pull-up jumper (1:54 3rd-Qtr) or get to the rim for a layup (1:07 3rd-Qtr).

The Suns and Longabardi adjusted:
0:51 3rd-Qtr – On Phoenix’s next possession following the Burke layup, Markieff Morris went to the line. Between FT’s, Bledsoe walked up and whispered something to him.

0:38 3rd-Qtr – On the next possession Utah runs a Burke/Kanter side pick&roll guarded by Bledsoe/Morris. The Suns “blitz,” aggressively trapping Burke – actually pushing him all the way back to about 40-feet from the basket, where he tries a pass to Kanter who himself is 23-feet from the basket that was deflected out-of-bounds.

0:07 3rd-Qtr – On Utah’s final possession of the quarter, they ran a Burke/Kanter high screen-roll guarded by Goodwin/Morris. On the Root Sports broadcast, you can hear Mike Longabardi on the sideline shouting “Switch it! Switch it!” – which makes sense because with less than 7-seconds left – there’s not enough time to get burned with a guard stuck on a big in the post. Sound concept but in this case, Morris was late switching out and Burke pulled up and stuck a three as a bewildered Longabardi turned his back to the court following the basket.

Nevertheless, the Suns’ coaching staff adjusted, communicated, made sound tactical decsions and continued to adjust.

During the 4th-quarter the Phoenix bench was fun to watch as the Suns lost some aggression. Hornacek and Longabardi looked like they were living and dying on many defensive possessions. After quick shots, Hornacek was urging his players to pass and move the ball while Longabardi was shouting instructions defensively. When they got stops Longabardi was applauding, when they allowed an easy basket both Hornacek and Longabardi would swing their fist in frustration. It reminded me of how Jerry Sloan in the 90’s and early 2000’s would slide up and down the sideline trying to urge his team to D-up and where to help from, then tell his team to push-it in transition with a sideways circular motion (not always to fastbreak but to set the tempo by getting into their offense early).

Jazz Pick&Roll Defense – 1st-Half

The Jazz again started the game having their bigs show out on the pick&roll. On the first pass they had some success but the Suns would re-screen which completely annihilated Utah’s defense, and before long it was business as usual on the initial screen.

8:10 1st-Qtr – Dragic/Frye high screen-roll, Marvin steps out and Burke goes under, but Phoenix re-screens the opposite direction so Marvin (stepping out) and Burke (going under) are both caught top-side and Frye pins both of them for Dragic to drive to the basket for a layup and a foul.

5:37 2nd-Qtr – The Suns came out of a timeout leading 44-43 and cleared the right-side of the court for a Bledsoe/Plumlee pick&roll. Bledsoe drove the lane, forcing Favors to help before lofting a pass to Plumlee rolling in on the right side for a layup.

4:41 2nd-Qtr – Richard Jefferson missed a contested corner-three and Phoenix pushed it hard in transition, resulting in several mismatches including Jeremy Evans guarding Eric Bledsoe. With a big guy on him, the Suns ran high screen-roll where Evans got caught up on the screen and Bledsoe pulled up for a wide-open three to put Phoenix ahead 51-43.

3:25 2nd-Qtr – Suns ran a Dragic/Plumlee screen-roll with Favors showing out hard, forcing Evans to rotate to Plumlee which left Channing Frye wide open for a three to put Phoenix up 54-45.

Jazz Pick&Roll Defense – 2nd-Half

At halftime, Sidney Lowe was asked how the Jazz are supposed to defend the high pick&roll:

Well if it’s a shooter, supposed-we’re supposed to uh-jump out, one-out – the guard goes over and then under and then get in front of him so he can’t get into the paint, and then the uh-the big guy that’s on the screener’s supposed to get back to his man quickly so they don’t get a chance to swing it and get a shot.”

We just have to fire through quicker, uh, our aggression and our speed – I think their speed is bothering us a lot right now.”

Here’s how Utah’s screen-roll defense started the second-half:
11:37 3rd-Qtr – Dragic/Plumlee high screen-roll guarded by Burke/Favors. Burke goes over, Favors shows out, Dragic immediately fires a bounce pass to Plumlee rolling to the basket where he catches and finishes a 6-foot jump hook over Richard Jefferson. 64-51 Suns.

9:07 3rd-Qtr – Dragic/Plumlee high screen-roll guarded by Burke/Favors. Burke goes over, Favors shows out – Plumlee rolls and Marvin drops down to pick him up – leaving Frye wide-open for a top-of-the-key three. Splash.

7:07 3rd-Qtr – A double high-screen roll that the I detailed the Pelicans used to torch Utah 11/20/13, starting with Dragic handling, Plumlee rolling and Frye popping. Favors has to show out to the left-wing and then race back 18-feet to Frye at the top-of-the-circle for a catch&shoot three that puts Phoenix up 76-62.

6:30 3rd-Qtr – Suns run same exact play – this time Favors shows out and Marvin follows Fry to 3pt-line – so Dragic hits Plumlee rolling open to the rim where Hayward fouls him on a layup attempt at the rim.

3:34 3rd-Qtr – Bledsoe/Morris high screen-roll guarded by Hayward and Marvin. The Jazz instantly  switch – so Hayward is left guarding the 6-10 245-pound Morris, who goes down and punishes him on the left-block – shooting a turn-around over Hayward for a 84-69 Suns lead.

Andris Biedrins
David Locke is funny. The irrelevant Andris Biedrins absurdly saw playing time over Rudy Gobert, so Locke tweets out: “First defensive possession and Andris Biedrins may have had the best big man rotation of the night. It was noticeable.”

Now in the real world we all live in, here were Biedrins’ first three possessions:
3:46 4th-Qtr – Biedrins, guarding Frye on the perimeter, is called for a kicked-ball violation with Frye trying to hit Dragic on a backcut. No rotation involved whatsoever.

3:35 4th-Qtr – Dragic/Frye screen-roll guarded by Burks/Biedrins. Biedrins steps out on Dragic impeding his dribble while Frye rolls down the lane – which forces Jeremy Evans’ defensive rotation. As a result, Bledsoe was left open for a wide-open catch&shoot three that he missed.

3:01 4th-Qtr –Dragic/Frye high screen-roll again guarded by Burks/Biedrins. Biedrins shows out leaving Frye open on the right wing for a wide-open pick&pop three – that again missed.

Biedrins did nothing better than Favors or Marvin had the entire night – the only difference is the Suns happened to miss open-threes while he was on the court. Either Locke isn’t aware that the bigs’ responsibility is to show and recover (very possible but also inexcusable considering he was the one who interviewed Sidney Lowe at halftime) or he’s just embellishing the play in an effort to support the credibility of Tyrone Corbin’s decision-making. Either scenario is plausible, but both are wrong. Don’t believe me go back and watch – the tape doesn’t lie.

Also important to note – Biedrins (or Favors and Marvin) aren’t doing anything blatantly wrong – it just speaks to the big-picture problems with Utah’s screen-roll strategy that Sidney Lowe outlined. They truly expect their bigs to show out hard 20-feet from the basket and then race back and recover on the screener before he has a chance to score or pass. Unless you have a frontcourt of a Scottie Pippen, LeBron James and Dennis Rodman, you’re going to encounter problems doing this consistently.

As a result, the Jazz are still ending up in a ton of 4-on-3 disadvantages where not only are they scrambling in confusion to find the open man, but their bigman is now no longer protecting the rim but rather trying to get back into the play 20-feet from the basket. The Heat might have the most success defending this way, but last I checked the Jazz didn’t have a defensive personnel crew matching LeBron, Wade, Battier, Haslem and Birdman.

The Final Word

The Jazz should have beaten the Suns last night, after 3 days off, fully healthy, with a decent-sized crowd (even though the “GreenOut” fizzled) and a Suns team with comparable 1-12 talent and depth. The difference is the Suns have a style and system that they are using to maximize their ability with a bunch of players now filling it up who (with the exception of Bledsoe) nobody else really wanted.

You can argue Utah’s problems rest entirely on the inability of their young players to make plays, but consider this: Utah again started Marvin Williams in place of Enes Kanter – who has been much-maligned for his defensive ineffectiveness. Against Phoenix, Marvin had a D-Rating of 132, while Kanter and Favors both posted D-Ratings of 133. Logically, shouldn’t Marvin Williams’ mobility and athleticism advantage over Kanter result in better rotations and “jump-outs” defending the pick&roll.

Utah may not have many stalwarts defensively, but their problems all start with the coaching staff. And when you consider that, how can you properly evaluate anyone’s performance this season? How can you judge Favors’ 1.4 blocks per game when he’s jumping out on point guards then racing 20-feet back to find his own man? Conversely, the Suns start both Goran Dragic and Channing Frye – yet are 12th in the NBA in Defensive Rating. You don’t think coaching plays a role in that?

The Jazz have some things working in their favor. Burke played one of his better games offensively, Marvin Williams continues to produce in a leading role, Burks had a productive game, Evans continues to play well and Utah still possesses more frontcourt talent than Phoenix. In a rematch 24 hours later, the Jazz should be able to compete with the Suns. Unfortunately, “should” doesn’t mean much this season. After all Jeff Hornacek should be coaching the Jazz, but he’s not.

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Jeremy Evans 2013-14 Utah Jazz Highlights

“Evans is very athletic, but he’s a 190-pound power forward. He’s the second draft pick who didn’t make our Top 100. As we can see, late second-round picks can be pretty random.” -ESPN’s Chad Ford, June 25, 2010.

The above account is all ESPN’s top draft expert could come up with on Utah’s 55th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.. Three years later, Jeremy Evans is still a “very athletic,” and still pretty close to “a 190-pound power forward” – listed at 197 (up from 194 last season). He’s since become a Sprite Slam Dunk champion and a runner-up, but even entering this year was still viewed by many as more athlete than basketball player.

That’s clearly changed this season. In his first 4 regular season games, Evans is averaging 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1 block in 17 minutes per game (equivalent to 17.0/7.7/2.1 Per-36). He’s done it while shooting a remarkable 16-20 (80%) from the floor and he’s done it in a variety of ways all over the court.

While Evans’ screen-roll ability and confidence in his mid-range jumper has certainly improved by leaps and bounds, it’s debatable how much his accuracy actually has. Going back to his rookie season, Evans has always shot a good percentage away from the basket on extremely limited attempts.

Jeremy Evans Shooting Accuracy Distribution

0-8 Feet   8-16 Feet   16-24 Feet
Season FG Att FG%   FG Att FG%   FG Att FG%
2010-11 67 92 73% 4 14 29% 5 8 63%
2011-12 27 34 79% 0 4 0% 0 3 0%
2012-13 21 32 66% 2 2 100% 4 9 44%
2013-14 11 12 92% 2 3 67% 3 5 60%

When it comes to lower profile prospects, I’ve always felt you learn a lot more about them from the fans who watched them play for 3-4 seasons than from the draft “experts” who watch maybe 15% of their games (or in David Locke’s case 1 game of their career) and then come to conclusions about a player’s ability and potential. Following the 2010 draft, there were several Western Kentucky fans who offered their insights on Evans on Jazzfanz.com.
Here are some samplings:

adamleroi22: I’m a student from WKU that has been watching Evan’s game for the last 3 years…Jeremy can knock down the 3, in fact he knocked down a couple last season.*  That really isn’t his game, but if he can shake his nervousness behind the 3 point line then he will be a good asset from deep.  But I wouldn’t rely on it”

*Note: Evans shot 9-21 (43%) behind the arc in 3 seasons at Western Kentucky.

“...he has MAJOR hops, blocking ability, and he can dunk a basketball down a players throat. lol The only foreseeable problem is what most people has already stated, and that is his weight. One thing he has done is improve his reflexes, you even saw it in summer league.  He gets pushed back defending but his lightning quick reflexes were able to regain composure and jump and block the shot.”

hilltopper06: I’d say his ceiling at SF is a taller, more athletic, better shooting, better teammate version of Trevor Ariza.  Even that is a stretch.  I think he is better suited to add some bulk (if at all possible, I think it is) and play PF.  At PF his best case scenario is Tyrus Thomas with a better head on his shoulders.  I think that is totally reachable.”

pstradio: I host an ESPN Radio Show in Bowling Green, KY and have watched Jeremy Evans the last 4 years.  For starters should he make the squad you are getting an unreal kid in terms of character.  Extremely humble, polite, and hard worker!  I really can’t say enough good things about Jeremy.”

WeakSauce: I am a from WKU and actually a friend of his…Jeremy’s stats are misleading…Jeremy could have easily averaged 13,10, and 3 in a different system…His biggest presence for us was on the defensive end and his shot blocking ability….
He can shoot from the outside but rarely ever did. I have seen him in practice and pre-game warm ups stroking college range 3’s. He does have kind of a slow release on his long range jump shots though. His athleticism always made up the difference in that area, but I know it will need a little tweaking for the NBA. But he has a quick release closer to the basket.

I wouldnt count on him putting on too much weight. He might be able to push to get up to 220. But that is gonna take a lot of work. He has the fastest metabolism ever. The coaches and trainers here tried to get weight on him ever since he was a freshman. He put on about 10 lbs during his for years here. That is with the coaches making him eat everything in sight too lol….He has the same athletic build as Durant ( no i am not comparing him to Durant other then the body type). But I also think if he can get up to 220-225 lbs then he could be a decent PF. He is alot stronger then he looks, and his athleticism can make up for the lack of bulk against other PF…You really got a great player and a great guy. Hope you all come to love him as much as all of us at WKU have.”

Obviously when you have a vested interest in someone you tend to be more optimistic, but these evaluations appear to be fairly accurate with Evans now in the midst of his fourth NBA season. As a rookie, Evans played short stints as a backup PF where Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson designed what became known as “The Early-Oop” – in which Utah would start Evans at the high-post like they normally would in their flex, have him fake like he was coming up to set a ball-screen then spin back toward the rim for an alley-oop pass (almost always from backup PG Earl Watson).

Evans playing time actually declined over the next two seasons, although in the few opportunities he received in 2012-13, he produced while demonstrating that had a reliable mid-range jumper but needed to be perhaps coaxed into letting it fly. After another offseason of work – Evans showed up at the 2013 Orlando Summer League showing no hesitation in pulling the trigger.

Evans is far from a infallible player. He’ll always struggle to battle stronger NBA post players in the paint and on the boards, has committed a few too many turnovers this season and long-term you wonder about his durability – but the positives clearly stand out when watching him play. There’s maybe a dozen players in the world who are 6-9 and can do some of the things Evans does above the rim, but most importantly – he’s now incorporated a skillset into his athleticism to the point he can do a lot of good things in the pick&roll or pick&pop in addition to all the freaky athletic plays.

In July of 2012, Evans re-signed with the Jazz on a 3 year deal worth approximately $5.3 million. With a salary of $1.7 million this season and $1.8 million next, he could turn into a major bargain if he can continue to find (and receive) a consistent role off-the-bench.

Beginning with Scott Layden and Jerry Sloan and continuing under Kevin O’Connor, the Jazz had enjoyed a terrific stretch of finding and developing 2nd-round draft picks (Bryon Russell, Shandon Anderson, Mo Williams, Jarron Collins, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap). Utah’s good fortune in the 2nd-round began run dry over the past 5-6 years, but the 190-pound power forward from the Sun Belt conference has turned into a bona fide draft night steal.

Evans may not have been on Chad Ford’s Top-100 draft list, but if he stays healthy and continues to knockdown 20-footers – in a year and a half his name will definitely show up on some free agent ones.

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Bulls at Jazz November 25, 2013

Final Score: Jazz 89, Bulls 83 (OT)

Run It Back

Play of the Game:  3:11 OT – Off side pick&roll with Marvin Williams, Trey Burke pulled up and hit a top-of-the-key three over the outstretched arm of Taj Gibson to put Utah ahead 83-78 in OT – in what ultimately proved to be the decisive basket to put the offensively challenged and road-weary Bulls away.

Key Moment: 4:43 4th-Qtr – On high screen-roll, Gordon Hayward drove left and hit Marvin Williams camped in the left-corner for a three to tie the game at 71-71. The shot ended a 13-0 Bulls’ run in which they had gained complete control over the Jazz who looked tired and confused.
Most importantly, it re-energized the ESA crowd that had gone silent for much of the game. For the next 10 minutes of basketball, the Jazz appeared revitalized and fed off the energy from the crowd. Conversely, massive fatigue began to show for a Bulls team playing the second of a back-to-back in the middle of a 6-game road trip and still reeling from the devastating season-ending injury to Derrick Rose.

Player of the Game: Carlos Boozer was clearly the best player on the court last night. With 26 points and 16 rebounds on 12-23 shooting – Boozer scored on the pick&roll, the pick&pop, over powering Marvin Williams and finessing Derrick Favors in the post. He remains the most talented bigman to ever wear a Jazz uniform since Karl Malone.

Best Shot: 7:24 3rd-Qtr – Off a Chicago turnover, Trey Burke pushed the ball, veered in front of Hinrich and converted a hanging layup in which he used his body to shield 6-7 Tony Snell and create space to finish on the double-clutch. At 6-0, those are the types of ways Burke can learn to score at the rim against length that other diminutive guards have mastered.

Best Pass: 2:00 2nd-Qtr – In transition, Burke dished an over-the-shoulder no-look pass to a trailing Favors for a two-hand dunk. The break was started by Utah forcing the Bulls’ side screen-roll baseline, where Favors used his long arms to deflect the pocket bounce pass by Mike James intended for Carlos Boozer.

Best Move: 1:45 4th Qtr – On high pick&roll, Trey Burke penetrated and pulled up for a floater with Hinrich on his hip and Boozer between him and the rim to put Utah ahead 75-74. Another way for “little guards” to score near the basket.

Best Reaction: 4:51 2nd-Qtr – Joakim Noah was called for his 3rd foul which bailed out an out-of-control Hayward who was in the process of committing a turnover passing in mid-air. It was a questionable call at best – and Noah’s reaction was to clap his hands emphatically and yell “Wake the *bleep* up” three times to referee J.T. Orr, also earning him a technical foul.

Stat of the Game:  Hayward’s 12 assists give him 3 double-digit assist games for the season and his career. Other double-digit assist games by Jazz non-point guards since Stockton&Malone left in 2003: Andrei Kirilenko (8), Ronnie Brewer (1), Carlos Boozer (1).

Gordon Hayward – Playmaker

Hayward has become a bonafide playmaker as he so often has the ball in his hands with the opportunity to create.
Here are how he racked up 12 assists:
1. Side screen-roll forced baseline, Hayward hits Favors rolling to rim and Favors powers over Hinrich (who was a half-step late in his weakside rotation) for the layup and the foul.
2. Off a high-post dribble hand-off, Hayward drove into the lane and kicked to Marvin for a 18-footer on the baseline.
3. Off a nother high screen-roll with Favors – Favors’ roll down the lane collapsed the defense and Hayward swung the ball to Jefferson for a left-wing 3pt.
4. Off high screen-roll – Hayward found Burks in left corner who took one dribble then drilled a quick 19-foot baseline jumper.
5. Side pick&roll – Hayward hits Evans rolling to the rim for an and1 layup.
6. & 7. To penetrate and kickouts to Marvin Williams for three.
8. Hayward runs hard in transition, Burke hit him in stride leading to a draw and kick to Jefferson for a right-corner three.
9. Hayward throws ahead to Lucas on a run-out for a layup.
10. Hayward feeds Evans off a side pick&roll who rolled down the lane and hit a floater
11. High screen-roll, Hayward drives left away from screen and kicked out to Marvin for left corner three over Noah.
12. Side screen-roll forced baseline – hits Evans alley-oop to rim and no weakside rotation from Bulls.

Hayward was clearly at his best as a playmaker off screen-roll. Where Utah struggled most was late in the 4th-qtr when Hayward went 1-on-1 either by his own volition (vs Deng) or when Chicago switched a mobile big (Gibson or Noah) onto him. He did get some good looks driving to the rim but was unable to finish. Nevertheless, he made plays when he had to and after totaling 11 turnovers in the last 2 games, Hayward only committed 1 against the Bulls. Another terrific all-around game by Gordon.

Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans saw his FG% drop from 92% to 80% with a 4-7 shooting performance – but it was impressive how he scored his 4 field goals.

1. Side pick&roll – roll to rim and converted a hanging layup while drawing the foul.
2. Right elbow 17-foot face-up jab-step jumper over Dunleavy.
3. Side pick&roll – 6-foot floater diving down lane and pulling up over weakside helper Taj Gibson.
4. Side pick&roll – another dive to rim and an alley-oop from Hayward.

Evans has improved his skillset and now finally receiving meaningful minutes under Ty Corbin – it’s nice to see him utilizing his athleticism in screen-roll situations. It’s also telling that all three of his screen-roll baskets came off of Gordon Hayward assists.

Epic Duel

In the ’97 and ’98 NBA Finals, John Stockton and Karl Malone went down to the wire against Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. In February 2011, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose dueled for the title of best PG in the league that ended with Rose picking DWill’s pocket in the final minute to seal a Chicago win.

Last night, John Lucas and Mike Dunleavy engaged in a battle for the worst player on the court.

Lucas started the game missing his first two jumpers. Next, he made a shot-fake at the 3pt-line, drove and shot an off-balance floater that missed badly – causing Craig Bolerjack to remark: “Another player for the Jazz that has been struggling, Lucas 36% from the floor.” As Moni pointed out, that’s not really much of a struggle for him.

After Lucas then missed another pull-up jumper in lane, Matt Harpring said “I just feel when John Lucas comes into the game he needs to start looking for his own teammates.” Lucas’ 5th miss was a long catch&shoot two-pointer in transition. Harpring’s reaction: “Not a great shot selection from Lucas.” That didn’t stop Lucas from ending the 3rd-quarter missing another floater in the lane, and then an 18-foot fall-away from the baseline.

Lucas finished out his night early in the 4th-quarter with an out-of-control drive where he stumbled into Noah then fired a pass to Evans as the shotclock expired. Harpring’s reaction: “John Lucas is just struggling out there. Just-just…lost-lost the time…and dribbling around. Coach Corbin says ‘John what are you doing (Harpring laughing) pass pass pass.’”

Dunleavy was just as bad, seeing Lucas’ 1-8 and raising him 2 turnovers (including one with 14-seconds left in OT and the Bulls down just 5). It was basically the Bird vs Dominique shootout in ’88 – only the exact opposite.

Odds and Ends

  • Utah’s victory ended a 6-game losing streak to Chicago. The last time the Jazz beat the Bulls was March 9, 2010 in a game the Jazz scored 132 points and shot 12-20 behind the arc in Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson’s old outdated system.
  • Marvin Williams played 43:55 – 3 seconds more than he played in the 2012 Hawks/Jazz 4OT game and the most he’s played in a game since March 21, 2010.
  • Gordon Hayward played a season-high 46:59 – including 26:50 of 29 2nd-half/OT minutes.
  • With a 15 point, 12 assist and 6 rebound performance, Hayward’s season averages through 16 games now stands at 16.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

The Final Word

Riding a 6-game losing streak that included 4 losses by double-digits, the Jazz desperately needed last night’s victory to boost morale and rebuild as much confidence as possible. For at least 3 more days, they can maintain some belief that they’re still improving, learning and developing.

Was last night’s loss more Utah winning or Chicago losing? Well the Bulls’ schedule and depleted roster certainly played a factor. With Rose out, it’s clear they really miss Nate Robinson’s ability to score off-the-dribble as Hinrich and Mike James were terrible last night.

With Enes Kanter out the Jazz again resorted to a 4-out 1-in screen-roll half-court offense. They looked sharper early on but overall their offense against the Bulls wasn’t any more efficient or productive than it was on their recent road trip.

In regulation the Utah Jazz:
-shot 38% from the field (42% for the season),
-eFG% of 42.3% (45.2% for the season)
-Shot just 15 FT’s (average 23 for the season)
-Committed 16 turnovers (average 17.2 for the season)
-Scored 78 points (average 88.5 for the season)

There were encouraging signs, but as a whole there was virtually no offensive improvement. The Jazz won because they defended with energy and intensity and capitalized on Chicago’s lack of guard-play and inability to burn Utah in pick&roll the way most teams have.

It was fun watching Trey Burke assume more of the playmaking and ball-handling duties. It was fun seeing Gordon Hayward look to set up teammates in the screen-roll. It was fun seeing Jeremy Evans is find a niche. Favors had an outstanding first-half before being saddled with foul problems. Jefferson played tough defense down the stretch and Marvin is really shooting the basketball well in a contract year. I’m not sure how often the Jazz will face a team with worse point guard play than they have – but even with the lack of overall progress came a lot of fun plays and moments to take away from last night’s game. Most importantly – Utah’s embattled coaching staff will take the win.

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2013-14 Utah Jazz Face PalmFinal Score: Thunder 95, Jazz 73

The Jazz dropped to 1-14 with a listless 95-73 loss in Oklahoma City that was once against worse than the final score indicates, as Utah trailed 75-43 entering the 4th-quarter before a garbage time run (that included some positive play by Rudy Gobert) inflated their scoring totals.

Utah played somewhat decent defensively, although much of that could be attributed to OKC’s surprise decision to rest Russell Westbrook. Conversely the Jazz offense was a complete train wreck as Utah would shoot 31.5%, commit 15 turnovers and score an embarrassingly low 43 points in the game’s first 36 minutes.

Jazz Offense

The “system” of Jazzbasketball that originated with Dick Motta and was perfected by Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson is no longer visible even in passing moments. Last night, Utah’s offense was basically a 4-out 1-in high screen-roll set with poor spacing and no consistency. Overall, the Jazz resembled little more than a group of guys playing pick-up basketball – with a high screen-roll leading to either a swing-pass for a contested jumper or into a draw-and-kick leading to another contest jumper.

Taking each shot attempt by itself – you could make a decent argument that the Jazz missed some makeable looks at the basket. Overall – they got nothing in the halfcourt, and here’s why:
Athletes are creatures of habit and routine. Not only in preparation but in participation. Skill development through good habits and repetition breeds success. That’s why all players develop a foul line routine and consistent shooting motions.

Not only is that true individually – but also collectively. For Utah’s young players, it’s vital to develop confidence and awareness by putting them into positions where they can play off habitual instinct and improve through repetition.

On far too many Jazz screen-roll possessions, players are in different locations making different plays and attempting different shots. There’s no discipline or consistency – with no (apparent) set landmarks for players to get to and screeners to screen at.

There are countless options and adjustments needed to run an effective pick&roll, but like anything – establishing ground rules to facilitate chemistry is both possible and necessary.

Stockton always knew on side pick&roll set at the left-elbow he had his 5 diving to the rim from the baseline, his 3 fading from top-of-the-key to the right wing and his 2 camped in the corner. He knew on high screen-roll at the top-of-the-key he had Horny rolling up on the weakside from the left corner. Deron knew he had Ronnie Brewer working the baseline, Korver fading to the corner, Memo rolling up on the weakside and could read&react to the defense with Boozer.

This season the Jazz run their side pick&roll at varying depths with no pre-screen action that allows defenses to easily push them baseline rather than middle. This season the Jazz run high screen-roll from any location on the court, which offers up a different set of parameters each time.

Deron had certain spots he would wear out shooting from if teams went under on the screen. Stock did too. Heck, even Howard Eisley and Carlos Arroyo had their spots to pull-up from on the right baseline and left-elbow area. What are Hayward’s spots coming off high screen-roll?

For a head coach with a young team – you put in your offense during training camp with the hope that as the season progresses – growth and progress will occur as players receive more reps, learn more of the nuances and iron out details. For the Jazz – quite the opposite is occurring. Save for a few 2nd-half runs that make the score respectable, Utah’s offense is digressing right before our eyes.

John Wooden is often regarded as the finest coach and teacher of the game that has ever lived. His philosophy on learning was quite simple.

The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation and repetition. The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure.  To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning; namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition,  repetition, repetition, repetition, and  repetition.” -Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off The Court

Does anyone see something in Utah’s offense that with habitual repetition “can be produced instinctively under great pressure?” Utah never had a good offensive philosophy from Day 1, and a lack of consistency and attention to detail is preventing them from improving on it.

Odds and Ends

  • The Jazz are now 1-14 for just the second time in franchise history. The only other time they started 1-14 (1974-75), they fired their head coach – Scotty Robertson – the very next day.
  • The Jazz play the Chicago Bulls Monday night, and then have three days off before Phoenix comes to town on Friday. It’s the only time the Jazz have multiple days off between games until after Christmas. If they are looking for a time to make a large-scale change where they can then get some significant practice time in – this week seems like the best time.
  • Ty Corbin is 0-5 in his head coaching career versus the Bulls. The other teams he is winless against are the Celtics, Hawks, and Knicks.
  • Only 2 Jazz players scored in double-figures – Gobert and Kanter who each finished with exactly 10. That happened 3 times last season, 2 times in 2011-12, and zero times in 2010-11.

The Final Word

The Jazz rank 29th in offensive rating and 30th in defensive rating (points scored and allowed per 100 possessions). We knew entering the season they didn’t possess that one top-10 individual talent to carry a team to wins – but it’s still a team game and they are not functioning together at all as a 5-man unit.

In video games a young player’s ratings almost always improve simply by playing a full-season. In real life it takes more than just minutes – it takes a half-decent strategy and situation to get to the point where game reps are actually doing some good. So far, the only habit the Jazz appear to be improving on through repetition is how to lose.

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Jazz at Mavericks 11-22-13

Final Score: Mavericks 103, Jazz 93

In what has become a tradition under Ty Corbin, the Jazz came out on the road completely flat and were blown-out early before battling back in the second-half but ultimately losing by double-figures.

Three Stretches:
1. 28 minutes: Mavericks 66, Jazz 41
2. 15 minutes: Jazz 44, Mavericks 24
3. 5 minutes: Mavericks 13, Jazz 8

First-Half: Mavs 58, Jazz 34

The Jazz came out defending high screen-roll in a manner I wished they would have utilized from Day 1 of training camp, where they consistently fight over the screen and drop the big back in the lane – turning it into more of a 2-2 situation instead of opening themselves up to a 3-on-4 disadvantage. On side screen-roll, they looked to force baseline and rotated their defense from a well-defined weakside to strongside.

Believe it or not – it worked well early. On Dallas’ first possession, this completely neutralized Dallas’ high screen-roll, where they reset and tried to run side screen-roll ultimately resulting in Dalembert chasing down a pass along the endline for a shot-clock violation. On Dallas’ next high screen-roll the Jazz again stoned them, resulting in another 5-on-5 halfcourt possession with Dallas looking for something else.

9:57 1st-Qtr – the Jazz again forced baseline and rotated, but Dallas scored on a 12-foot Samuel Dalembert contested jumpshot that he banked in. That’s something you’ll live with.
9:30 1st-Qtr – The next side screen-roll, Utah tried to force baseline but Hayward didn’t properly re-direct Marion and fouled him going middle – resulting in 2 FT’s. If you’re going to force baseline, you can’t let them go middle because your big is positioned out of the play and can’t help. Next Dallas screen-roll Utah kept their defensive integrity and Calderon missed a contested 3.

Dallas did score 20 points in the first 7 minutes, but 12 of those points came off transition opportunities (6 points), offensive rebounds (10:52 1st-Qtr – Ellis 3pt)  and lackadaisical defense (such as Nowitzki shooting an open early-offense top-of-the-key three at 10:26 1st-Qtr).

Those plays, combined with an abysmal offensive showing resulted in a 20-6 deficit and Ty Corbin going to his bench. That’s when things got strange – particularly Utah’s pick&roll defense.

The Jazz began switching a lot more liberally.
1:49 1st-Qtr – The Mavs’ double high screen-roll ended up with Evans switching onto Monta Ellis. Dallas than ran another screen-roll and capitalized on the mismatch with Ellis burning Evans by going away from the screen for a layup. In both cases, you could hear Ty Corbin yelling “switch” from the sideline on the Root Sports broadcast, so it’s clear this was part of their strategy.
1:01 1st-Qtr – Utah switched on the next two screen-rolls, and Dallas scored on a Dejuan Blair putback where the switch resulted in Blair overpowering Hayward on the offensive glass
10:12 2nd-Qtr – Switched Burks onto Nowitzki – Dirk backed him down and shot a turn-around over him.

Why the bizarre switching? My only guess is Corbin feels the athleticism Marvin and Evans bring to the 4-spot gives him a team quick and versatile enough to switch – but that’s wrong. Unless you have two Lebron James, two Scottie Pippens and a Dennis Rodman – you can’t switch everything. There’s simply too much of a size differential between a SG and a PF. Perhaps he doesn’t feel an undersized Evans can be an “anchor” in the lane but (as evident in the 4th-qtr) Evans can definitely play back off the screener and defend the paint.

When Favors returned, Utah had moments where they tried to return to their most effective screen-roll defense but failed at executing it.
8:06 2nd-Qtr – High screen-roll – Larkin/Blair guarded by Burks/Favors – Burks fought over, Favors dropped off, Larkin hit Blair rolling down lane but RJ overhelped from wing when Favors was still in position to defend. Result was a wide-open three-pointer by Crowder.

Again, Burks and Favors played this perfectly and kept it a 2-on-2 scenario where they 6-7 Blair should have been forced to go 1-on-1 against the 6-11 Favors – but  Jefferson unwisely helped and gave up a three. After predominantly playing, teaching and coaching one technique for so long, these sort of mental breakdowns are understandable with a shift in philosophy but easily correctable in time.

Utah’s defense was also a victim of bad luck.
1:07 2nd-Qtr – The Jazz forced the pick&roll baseline where the only pass they could make was to Blair in the lane. Utah’s help defense then smothered Blair – with a double-block involving Hayward from behind and Favors from the front, only Evans and Burks knocked the ball away from each other trying to secure it – which bounced directly back to Blair who hit a floater.

On Utah’s next possession Trey Burke drove baseline and dished to Evans flying in but was stripped on the way up – with the loose-ball starting a 3-on-1 Mavs fastbreak resulting in a Nowitzki layup.
That’s a 4-0 Mavs stretch that should’ve been 0-0 at-worst for Utah.

Second-Half: Jazz 59, Mavericks 45

The Jazz opened the second-half – with both Burke and Marvin Williams starting, Favors playing center, and Kanter on the bench. Little changed in the first 4 minutes but gradually Utah found an offensive rhythm. Their best moments came when they spaced the floor with 3 three-point shooters and ran high screen-roll down the middle. Favors often looked like a magnet, drawing the Mavs’ help defense every time he rolled down the lane which created a lot of open looks from the wing.

Defensively, Utah also had a lot of success defending screen-roll.
9:59 4th-Qtr – Ellis/Dirk high screen-roll vs Burks/Evans – Burks goes over, Evans drops off – chasing Ellis into driving to rim whereEvans was in position to use his athleticism to make a spectacular block above the rim. If Evans is showing and recovering (as Utah has for most of the season) he’s racing back to Dirk at the 3pt line instead of blocking Ellis

6:52 4th-Qtr – Perfect execution with Ellis driving this time on Kanter who is in perfect position squarely between Ellis and the basket, but Kanter goes for the strip rather than relying on his height giving Ellis a layup. A mental breakdown that’s much more correctable than a scramble drill where your help-defense is all over the place.

After pulling within 90-85 with 4 minutes remaining, Utah again went through some screen-roll breakdowns – this time from when they stuck tight to the screener and turned the ball-handler loose.

4:22 4th-Qtr – Marvin – defending Ellis/Nowitzki screen-roll – stuck to Dirk at the 3pt-line and allowed the Ellis to come free off the screen – where he penetrated, collapsed Utah’s defense and kicked to a wide-open Calderon for a three to put Dallas up 8.

2:03 4th-Qtr – Once again, Utah hugged the screener and let Monta Ellis drive right down the lane for a layup to put Dallas up 102-89 and officially thwart any Jazz comeback hopes.

While the Jazz were victims of bad luck early on, they also had the odds more on their side in the second-half.

Utah got some open looks from three throughout, but shot 4-9 in their 30-point 3rd-quarter and 3-11 in the other 36 minutes.

Diante Garrett – who passed the ball very well and made his only three – was 2-2 for 4 points on 1-on-1 drives in the 2nd-half that he finished with floaters. Terrific plays on his part – but overall probably a 50/50 shot at-best over the long-haul. Garrett’s also got a nice feel for running the pick&roll and I would like to ultimately see him settle into the backup PG role behind Trey Burke.

Dallas also looked very tired in the second-half. Credit Utah for being more aggressive, but after playing an overtime game Wednesday with veteran legs in Nowitzki at age 35, Marion 35, Vince Carter 36, Calderon 32, and Dalembert at 32 – Dallas looked worn out particularly on the defensive end. Where Hayward would come off a screen with a man on his hip in the first-half, he came off with a clear advantage where he could drive, collapse the defense and kick out to an open shooter.

Jeremy Evans

In just his second game back from an injured rotator-cuff, Jeremy Evans continued to shine scoring 14 points on 7-7 shooting to go along with 2 blocks.

Evans’ 7 FG’s:
1. A 5-foot floater on side pick&roll with Alec Burks.
2. A 1-hand tip-dunk soaring over everybody.
3. Alley-oop dunk off baseline cut from John Lucas’ lane penetration.
4. Transition layup off feed from Alec Burks.
5. Pick&pop – 1 dribble right-to-left 15-foot jumper over Dirk from right wing.
6. Baseline screen where both defenders jumped out on Hayward and Garrett hit Evans for an easy dunk diving to the rim.
7. Off a Garrett/Favors high screen roll – Garrett penetrated and found Evans floating along the baseline for another lob dunk.

Evans is now 11-11 for the season, with his 11 field goals coming off of 6 dunks/layups, 2 short-range jumpers and 3 mid-range jumpshots.

Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter really struggled in the beginning. He appeared totally non-aggressiveness – in my opinion brought on by a combination of lack of confidence and over-thinking. He played just 8 minutes in the 2nd-half, but he was much more effective. In the 2nd-half he had three post-up opportunities – resulting in a turn-around jumper over Blair, a double-team that he passed out of to Marvin Williams crosscourt for a floater, and another double-team where his quick kick-out resulted in Marvin swinging the ball to an open Garrett for three.

A couple weeks ago it was Favors who appeared lost and severely lacking confidence. Last week it was Burks. Last night it looked to be Kanter’s turn early, but he showed some good signs in the second half. There might be rumblings that he and Favors simply cannot play together, but I don’t buy those yet. Some lineups may cause that pairing problems, but overall it appears to me to be more conceptual and mental than physical. Nevertheless, something to keep an eye on.

The Final Word

It speaks volumes about how truly awful the Jazz have played that a 10-point loss involving a 28-point deficit is reason for encouragement, but I did find some. For the first time in a long time, I feel like the Jazz played about a half’s worth of pretty good screen-roll defense. Hopefully they get rid of the switch everything part of tonight’s gameplan, but if they can use this concept (high: go over & drop big back into lane; side: force baseline) more consistently, that’s something they with fixable mistakes they can work on honing over the course of the season and play more into the strengths of their starting frontline size.

Offensively, spreading the floor with three 3-point shooters and running high screen-roll with Favors or spreading with four shooters and running post-ups with Kanter could be something too – but we might need to see it against a team not running out of gas the way it appeared Dallas was before we seriously consider splitting Favors and Kanter up for an entire 48-minutes. In stretches though – I think it could be a good way to simplify the game and limit turnovers.

It may not seem like much, but those little things all feel like some substantial positives after a 13-game start (and 3-year stretch) where there has been very little collective progress evident, no matter what the Jazz-owned media has said.

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Jazz at Pelicans 11-20-13

Final Score: Pelicans 105, Jazz 98

Run It Back

Best Shot: 5:50 4th-Qtr – On high screen roll, Trey Burke faked Jrue Holiday like he was utilizing the screen going right, crossed behind-his-back and came back middle where he hit a pull-up 3 to pull Utah within 90-82. More on Burke later.

Best Move(s): 10:14 3rd-Qtr – Enes Kanter hit a Jack Sikma reverse-pivot face-up jumper over Jason Smith stepping off the right block.
9:02 3rd-Qtr – 3 possessions later Kanter found himself in the same position. This time Smith had to crowd him to takeaway the jumper so Kanter put the ball on the floor, drove baseline and finished with a reverse dunk similar to the hammer he put on Cole Aldrich in the 2012 preseason. This is the basic move/counter-move setup that great bigmen utilize. Good offensive game for Kanter with 19 points on 8-13 shooting. Appeared to struggle defensively but not all of that was his fault (will elaborate later).

Best Drive: 1:39 1st-Qtr – Alec Burks drove baseline around Evans and converted a hanging up-and-under reverse layup under the outstretched arms of Ryan Anderson.

Best Execution: 7:07 3rd-Qtr – With 2.7 left on the shotclock and inbounding from the baseline, Utah wrapped Lucas off a 4-man picket fence for a wide-open layup. Lucas started the 3rd-quarter on fire, with 11 points in the first 5-minutes. He cooled down with two misses and a turnover that led to two Pelican fastbreak layups, but raised his 3pt% from 24% to 31%. 14 points shooting 4-5 behind the arc – I’ll take that like it’s already Christmas.

Best Block: 9:23 3rd-Qtr – Anthony Davis was jogging back on defense when he got to midcourt and saw an open Hayward on the right wing where he sprinted 15-feet like a Cheetah pouncing on his prey to emphatically block Hayward’s three out-of-bounds. What a player Davis is already, he’s going to be a nightmare to face 4x/season for the next decade.

 Stat of the Game: Gordon Hayward shot 1-17, dropping his FG% from 43% to 40%.

Gordon Hayward’s Misses

1. 19-foot baseline jumper fading to his left with the 7-footer Smith lunging out at him (off Jazz’s standard screen-the-screener baseline out-of-bounds play).
2. Step-back three behind Favors’ hand-off with Anthony Davis challenging.
3. Missed layup off curl with Smith challenging.
4. 20-footer from top-of-the-key off pin-down with Eric Gordon’s hand in his face.
5. Screen-roll yielded a switch with Davis on him, going 1-on-1 Hayward’s step-back three was partially blocked.
6. Pull-up 18-footer in-and-out. Wide-open look but bizarre timing, Jazz ran after a Pelicans’ make and Hayward shot with 20-seconds left in 1st-Qtr – too late for a 2-for-1.
7. Catch-and-shoot three from top-of-the-key, pretty clean look with a late challenge by Davis.
8. Left-wing transition catch-and-shoot three with Davis flying out but another good look.
9. Open baseline jumper fading to right off baseline-out-of-bounds play.
10. Wide-open pull-up 15-footer off high screen-roll.
11. Wide-open transition three that Davis blocked from the backside.
12. Wide-open left corner three against New Orleans zone.
13. Open top-of-the-key three vs New Orleans zone.
14. Side screen-roll, drive down lane emphatically rejected by Tyreke Evans.
15. Must-shoot contested three from right wing with shotclock winding down.
16. Left-corner three off kickout from Burke.

Hayward started the game taking some difficult low-percentage shots, then spent the rest of the game missing a lot of makeable looks. Maybe the early misses caused him to start pressing or maybe it just wasn’t his night at all, but while a few misses rimmed out a good portion weren’t even close. I’m no shooting expert but when you take a lot of tough shots on the move or have them altered by length, sometimes that’s enough to break your mechanics down. This is the same guy who scored 27 on 12 shots in the win last Wednesday so I expect a strong bounceback game from Gordon Friday night.

Trey Burke’s Debut

Trey Burke began his NBA career in impressive fashion, with 11 points, 1 assist, and no turnovers in 12-minutes of play.

A few noteworthy plays:
1. 3:43 1st-Qtr – Drove left on Brian Roberts down lane and converted finger-roll with Anthony Davis challenging for first career points.
2. 0:45 st-Qtr – Drove left off high screen-roll for another layup. Love how Burke was strong with the ball and used veteran-like patience and hesitation to let Amundson (guarding the screener) show out, where he then used Amundson’s recovery path as interference to start his drive.
3. 11:07 2nd-Qtr – High screen-roll, Pelicans show out and Burks comes off the screen wide enough to fire a laser right-hand pass off-the-bounce to rolling Favors for a layup.
4. 11:22 4th-Qtr – On Utah’s first possession of the quarter, Favors drew a double in the post and kicked out to a wide-open Burke who missed a three. Burke didn’t hang his head and on next possession dogged Austin Rivers to disrupt a dribble-handoff leading to runout lay-in.
5. 9:16 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll between Burke/Favors netted no advantage initially so they re-screened and this time Burke made an outstanding bounce pass to Favors down the lane. Favors missed but got the rebound and scored.
6. 7:22 4th-Qtr – High-screen roll Burksecame off really hard and wide, forcing Anderson (showing out) to switch onto him where he then hit a step-back 20-footer from the left wing.
7. 5:50 4th-Qtr – High screen roll where Burke faked using the screen and crossed back middle and hit pull-up 3.

Burke was the best screen-roll point guard in college basketball and that was evident last night. He knew when to come off hard and wide to stretch the defense and force a switch, how to use the lumbering bigman defender to create interference and most importantly was able to make shots.

Quickness is often attributed to his game, but I love how Burke is “strong with the ball.” He’s able to take contact while getting to his spots, and he’s able to use his off-arm to create just enough separation on his drives to the basket. There are a lot of quick guards in the NBA who can’t get into the lane consistently because they need a clean path. Burke can use screen-roll to his advantage and then turn that half-step into a full-one because of his craftiness and “point guard strength.” Only 12 minutes, but he showed everything we hoped from him in his brief appearance.

Screen-roll Defense

Sorry to beat this like a drum but it’s the primary reason the Jazz rank 25th in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions. As is often the case, Utah’s screen-roll defense involved having their big (guarding the screener) show out while the guard fights over the screen, then recover back.

The Good
7:07 1st-Qtr – A Jrue Holiday/Jason Smith high screen-roll (guarded by Hayward/Kanter), where Kanter showed out and Smith rolled free down lane, caught the pass but Richard Jefferson (who left non-shooter Al-Farouq Aminu in corner) rotated to make a spectacular block at the rim.

This is probably how Corbin and Lowe envision their pick&roll defense working.
The problem is not only are you relying on your 6-7 SF to block a 7-footer at the rim, you leave atleast one wing wide-open and as I wrote in last weekend’s Jazz/Warriors Breakdown, even if you do rotate properly, you’re still left with mismatch disadvantages if the offense choses to back the ball out.

The Bad
2:36 1st-Qtr – A Brian Roberts/Anthony Davis screen-roll with Favors showing out, forcing Evans to rotate to Davis rolling down lane leaving Evans’ man – sharpshooter Ryan Anderson – wide-open for three.

6:50 2nd-Qtr – High-screen roll where you’re asking Favors to show out on Holiday and then recover and beat a rolling Anthony Davis to the rim after Davis has a 5-foot head start. Layup for Davis in an unfair footrace for Favors.

1:01 2nd-Qtr – Jason Smith pick&pop with Kanter not able to show and recover to him in time. The only strongside help capable of rotating in time was Favors who’s guarding Davis on the baseline. If Kanter can’t teleport from the foul line area to the right win in half-a-second, this play is virtually impossible to defend with this sort of strategy.

6:11 3rd-Qtr – More show and recover screen-roll defense gives Holiday a wide-open 5-footer where Kanter briefly shows then runs back to the screener (Anderson camping out at the 3pt-line) and Lucas (trailing Holiday by about 8-feet) was unable to catch up.

0:24 3rd-Qtr – High-screen roll where the Jazz made a good recovery and chased Anderson off the 3pt-line, but he drove and kicked to Jason Smith who Evans raced out to but fouled on the close-out. Again – the constant scramble to recover just puts you in bad situations and your opponent in advantageous ones.

How Did Ryan Anderson Get Free?

New Orleans took advantage of Utah’s screen-roll defense with a clever wrinkle. The Pelicans ran a pick&roll with 7-footer Jason Smith setting the screen, but instead of rolling to the rim Smith screened then ran and set a pindown screen for Ryan Anderson stepping back to the 3-point line.

Considering the Jazz have problems guarding basic pick&roll – this caused mass confusion that they never could decipher.

11:47 2nd-Qtr – Pelicans ran a Brian Roberts/Luois Amundson side screen-roll, where Amundson ball-screens for Roberts then off-ball screens for Ryan Anderson stepping back behind the arc. With Favors showing on the ball-handler Roberts, there was no one to help Harris (matched up on Anderson) being screened by Amundson. Harris oddly decided to run through the screen and picked up a foul that was tacked onto Anderson’s three.

10:11 2nd-Qtr – Another wrinkle. Double side screen-roll with both Amundson (vs Favors) and Anderson (vs Harris) ball-screening for Roberts. Anderson pops and Amundson rolls, Favors shows out and there was a miscommunication with Favors expecting a switch but Harris stayed with Anderson while Favors initially recovered toward Anderson also – and Amundson broke open for a layup

9:39 2nd-Qtr – Pelicans ran the exact same thing on the very next possession, this time Favors recovered straight to Amundson but still fouled him at the rim. Basically Favors had to jump out almost to the 3pt-line and then race the pass 20-feet to Amundson at the rim. Favors covered a lot of ground quickly but nobody is faster than the basketball. It’s like a human racing a speeding bullet. And people wonder why Favors doesn’t have more blocks…

1:21 3rd-Qtr – Pelicans showed high screen roll with Austin Rivers and Anderson, but instead they slipped Anderson and ran him off a (big-on-big) flare screen. Evans was out of position ready to show out when Anderson slipped, and was then picked off trailing. Kanter (guarding Smith) didn’t show out fast enough and Anderson hit his second three.

8:52 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll with Roberts/Smith, Jeremy Evans (guarding Smith) shows out on Roberts, Smith rolls and sets a pindown screen for Anderson. Favors – guarding Anderson – again had no one to help him on the screen and Anderson’s open three put New Orleans up 84-73 forcing a Jazz timeout.

8:14 4th-Qtr – On the Pelicans’ very next possession they run the same play –  a Roberts/Smith screen-roll. Kanter (in for Evans) shows out on Roberts, Smith rolls and sets a pindown screen for Anderson, no help available for Favors, Anderson three – splash. 87-73 Pelicans.

Not sure what the Jazz discussed in their timeout, but it apparently didn’t involve adjustments to counter this which had now resulted in three Anderson 3-pointers.

1:39 4th-Qtr – For good measure, Pelicans close out with a basic Holiday/Davis high screen-roll – Kanter shows out, Davis rolls free for dunk (no way Kanter can race back in time). Unlike RJ’s 1st-Qtr block, the only potential strongside help could come from Favors who was guarding the red-hot Anderson. Leave Anderson open or pick up Davis? The nightmares of a 4-on-3 dilemma.

Odds and Ends

  • Utah’s point guards combined for 29 points, 9 assists and 4 turnovers on 12-22 shooting
  • Root Sports mentioned Karl Malone had a 1-16 game. It should be noted that performance came when Malone was 39 years old, playing in the second night of a back-to-back, and facing the eventual NBA Champions. Not all 1-16 (or 1-17) games are created equal.

The Final Word

Plenty of encouraging signs last night. Trey Burke looked really good in limited action. Enes Kanter played very well offensively. Jeremy Evans is healthy and again showcasing the mid-range jumper he unveiled in summer league. The Jazz limited their turnovers to 14 after committing just 10 Monday night.

Utah’s pick&roll defense is awful – but I feel that as long as the current coaching staff is in place that will be the case. Hopefully as Trey Burke’s role increases, Utah’s offensive production will as well which could allow them to stay in more games since relying on defense doesn’t appear to be a viable option. Trey Burke is back, and that alone marks another new and exciting chapter for the development of this team.

Finally, if anyone was going to torch Utah’s abhorrent screen-roll defense, I’m glad it was Ryan Anderson. After all he’s been though, it’s nice to see him playing well in his first couple games back.

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Bill Simmons on the Jazz Tanking

In Tuesday’s B.S. Report (click here to listen), Grantland’s Bill Simmons and TNT’s Steve Kerr discussed the first few weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season as well as college basketball.

At around the 17:00-minute mark, Simmons touched on the Utah Jazz “tanking” which led into a discussion about Jabari Parker.

Simmons: “I think the one team that has definitely played it the right way, and maybe ‘right’ isn’t the right word but umm…if the goal was to get one of those three guys they’ve done the best job at getting toward that goal was Utah.

Kerr: *laughs*

Simmons: “Everything they’ve done has just been…you know from that terrible trade they made that – and it was a very smart trade on paper but just cripples your team, they don’t sign Jefferson and Millsap umm…just they-they don’t sign Hayward to an extension, and they keep their coach who’s obviously in over his head and just…you know that’s a team that’s going to win 15 games and if they don’t get one of those top three guys I think it will be devastating for them. Umm…especially Parker.”

Kerr: “Yeah Parker would be an unbelievable fit there, I mean he’s so good and the fact that he’s Mormon he would be such a star in Utah and he’s…I mean just having watch that game last week – last Tuesday uhh…he’s the guy I like. I mean I haven’t seen enough over you know a number of games to really get a feel for Wiggins but, Parker…you can just see the skill and the feel, I mean he just…that guy has it – he’s-he’s bigtime.”

Simmons: “So Parker is number one on the Steve Kerr power rankings right now?”

Kerr: “Right now yeah in week 2. In week 2 of the college season he’s number one on my board.”

Simmons: “Have you seen him in person yet?”

Kerr: “No.”

Simmons: “I was shocked, I had awesome seats too – cause it was an ESPN event which enabled us to have really good seats but umm…I couldn’t believe how big he was. I mean, the best way I would describe it was if you breeded Carmelo Anthony’s body and Rudy Gay’s body…and that was the body that…that’s basically Jabari Parker. He looks like he’s about 6-9 so he’s got the Rudy Gay size but he’s also thick like Carmelo is, but moves like both of them and I described it afterwards it was like watching Carmelo if Carmelo was fun to play with.”

Kerr: “Yeah, yeah I think that’s a great call. I saw Grant Hill a month ago, uhh we had a TNT event I think we were filming ‘Open Court’ or something and I asked him I said ‘How’s Jabari Parker’ and – said he was down at Duke and they were all playing pickup and he said he couldn’t believe how strong he was. He said you just don’t expect a freshman to have that kind of strength but he was like bullying people – and you know NBA guys – in these pickup games at Duke so, yeah I’m with you and when you combine that with the skill and he’s…you saw the athleticism when he went up and caught that lob in transition…so now he can jump too – it’s like what can’t he do. He’s special.”

Simmons: “Yeah people are wondering like if he’s a 3 or a 4, to me he’s – in this day and age he’s unquestionably a 4. Like he’s almost like the perfect 4 for-for this 21st century basketball that we’re watching now that tends toward a little bit small-ball. Umm, they have him playing center which I think is really interesting…umm I don’t think by choice I think for whatever reason Duke doesn’t have that uh…that one 6-11 white guy they always have who can play 30 minutes a game at center. Coach K forgot to recruit that guy this year.”

Kerr: “Wait isn’t there another Plumlee on that team.”

Simmons: “Yeah I think he was counting on the third Plumlee to be that guy.”

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There’s a ton of basketball left to be played and I have no intention of declaring Parker, Wiggins or anyone else the best option for the #1 overall pick in November, but Parker’s build is definitely intriguing. Having both the skillset, frame, and strength to play multiple positions and develop an effective NBA post-game is extremely valuable – and that’s something that can even vault a good athlete past a great one when a lot of things are close. Just one of many things to keep an eye on as the season progresses.


Sidney Lowe on Scoring

Yesterday in a radio interview on Jazz PR station 1280 The Zone, lead-assistant Sidney Lowe made an interesting statement about the makeup of the current 2013-14 team

Question: “How can the Jazz, with their current cast of characters, score more points because scoring has been a problem with this team?”

We don’t have that one guy, you know we don’t have that guy you go and you just put it in his hands and he scores. There’s several teams that have that – we don’t have that we have to do it collectively and I think when you watch us play if you see the ball change sides two or three times we’re going to get a pretty good shot.  If you see the ball change sides two or three times then we’re going to get a pretty good shot. Meaning if we start on one side and swing it to the other side which we call playing weakside basketball and then maybe even get it back to the strongside again then what we’ve done is we’ve made the defense shift, we’ve made the defense move and we can get a good shot at it.” -Sidney Lowe.

Lowe finished the question by saying,

We have to move the ball, we have to draw and kick, get to the paint and kick for shots or kick fo r alayup that’s how we have to play we’re not a 1-on-1 team and we certainly can’t come down and run the pick&roll and take the first shot right off the pass we just can’t do that.” -Sidney Lowe.

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I fully agree with Lowe that the Jazz need to score as a collective unit – but they are far from the only team in that situation. Last night the 5-5 Suns took the Kings down to the final buzzer despite playing without Eric Bledsoe. Do they have “that guy?” Everyone understands the Jazz do not have elite talent or experience, but that doesn’t excuse an offense nearing record-breaking franchise lows for futility or a defense that’s also regressed and suffered innumerable breakdowns.

Not only have the Jazz struggled to make shots, too often disorganization, flawed design and failed execution have sabotaged offensive possessions. Coming out of a timeout not knowing how to attack a zone resulting in a shotclock violation in front of your own bench is not scoring collectively. Running pick&rolls where you settle for contested off-the-dribble jumpers one step inside the three-point line is not scoring collectively. Abandoning sets (such as the UCLA set they now run only 1-2 times per game at the most) that get you high-percentage looks in the paint is not scoring collectively.

Hayward is a gifted player who can make plays off the dribble, and has also shown the ability to score in the post on favorable matchups. While he can score 1-on-1 in certain situations, overall he and the Jazz should be at their best when he’s getting the ball on the move and making plays coming off screens both with and without the ball. In 2003-04 the Jazz switched to more of a two-guard front where they created a ton of open looks running variations of floppy along with elements of their UCLA and flex sets that they executed to perfection.

Simplistically, give a good coach 10 dimes and he’ll give you more than $1. Give an average coach 10 dimes and he’ll give you exactly $1. Give a bad coach 10 dimes and he’ll give you less than $1. The Utah Jazz coaching staff may not have a full complement of dimes to work with, but their exchange rate and resulting on-court product is not matching the initial value.

Sidney Lowe is right when he says the Jazz need to score collectively – but it’s the coaching staff’s responsibility to get everyone playing cohesively in a system where they can best succeed. That isn’t happening now and it hasn’t happened often in the past three seasons.

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