Final Score: Celtics 97, Jazz 87
In Zach Lowe’s Tuesday encounter with Ty Corbin, Lowe mentioned “it seemed like Derrick Favors and Kanter were coming out pretty far [defending] pick-and-rolls” in Utah’s loss to Houston last Saturday. That observation was evident in Utah’s screen-roll defense against Boston last night.
Utah’s strategy early on was clearly to have their bigs show out – in other words they’re responsible to take 2-3 steps out on the ball-handler (ideally widening his trajectory coming off the screen) until the guard has a chance to recover going over/under on the screen. They then need to recover back to their original man (the screener who likely either rolls/pops). Keep that in mind.
The Jazz’s 10-point road loss to the 0-4 Celtics was a game that took on three different lives of its own. The Jazz started strong, the Celtics then pummeled them to the point of no return, but the Jazz finished strong to make things interesting late. While the Jazz are 0-5, losing to the Celtics after trailing by 25 in the 3rd-quarter is simply unacceptable, and I’ll explain why Utah’s disastrous middle stretch of play was also easily avoidable.
Here are the 3 stretches which will be broken down individually:
1. 16-3 Jazz in the first 5 minutes.
2. 67-29 Celtics in next 25 minutes.
3. 42-27 Jazz in final 18 minutes.
1. Jazz: 16 Celtics: 3
Jazz Offense: The Jazz began the game with good precision and ball/player movement.
-10:25 1st-Qtr – Utah’s first basket via their halfcourt offense came when reversing ball and running Hayward off a curl (w/Favors screening) where he caught the ball on the move, drew 3 defenders and dished to an open Favors for a layup. Hayward got a step on his man by the quick ball-reversal and subsequent screen which allowed him to catch the ball at the left-elbow 17-feet from the basket.
-9:45 1st-Qtr – Celtics forced side-screen roll between Tinsley&Kanter baseline, resulting in Kanter stepping back for an 18-foot jumper.
-7:37 1st-Qtr – Hayward made a similar curl, this time off a stagger-screen where he caught the ball at 18-feet on the left-wing, drove middle to collapse the defense then dished to the screener (Kanter) for an open layup.
-6:48 1st-Qtr – With smaller guards defending him, Hayward was able to post out of horns, with Favors feeding him from the high-post and Hayward turning deep post-position into a 12-foot stepback jumper.
Jazz Defense: Utah’s halfcourt defense also had early success.
-9:31 1st-Qtr – Favors showed out on screen-roll and then deflected the pass while recovering to his man (Bass – who had an open jumpshot).
-9:18 1st-Qtr – Jeff Green drove baseline on Richard Jefferson, but Kanter rotated from the weakside to force Green to take a pull-up floater. Even battling 1-on-2, Favors pulled down the rebound and with 3 Celtics in the paint, Utah was able to fastbreak that Hayward finished with a dunk.
-Three times Vitor Faverani screwed up the Celtics’ high screen-roll in the 1st-qtr. Twice he rolled, got the ball and missed challenged but point-blank shots at the rim and the third time he was blocked by Favors (on a play the Celtics had a wide-open shooter on the weakside).
-Favors had 7 defensive rebs in the 1st-Qtr and on his boards he looked to outlet quickly which got the Jazz some early offense.
2. Celtics: 67 Jazz: 29
Jazz Offense: Utah’s offense completely fell apart in the 2nd-qtr, shooting just 4-17 with 7 turnovers.
-5:48 1st-Qtr – Celtics again forced screen-roll baseline this time with Tinsley&Gobert. Gobert (not a shooter) dove to the basket but Celtics collapsed down. Utah needed a strongside shooter to space the floor and with no one there Tinsley was forced to drive into help and had his shot blocked from behind.
-11:39 2nd-Qtr – Side screen-roll where Burks was able to drive middle but Jazz were a mess on the weakside and poor floor-spacing resulted in Burks getting knocked off balance on penetration and throwing the ball out-of-bounds.
Missing Makeable Shots:
-10:04 2nd-Qtr – Another side screen-roll got Lucas open 10-footer in the lane but he missed.
-7:46 2nd-Qtr – Favors drew help on a post-up but Mike Harris missed a open foul line jumper.
-10:48 3rd-Qtr – Utah executed a high screen-roll with Favors sucking in defense on roll and Tinsley hitting Jefferson at top of key for an open three but RJ missed.
Not enough execution and when Utah did – they couldn’t convert, and off Utah’s misses the Celtics were able to push the tempo and got some great looks in transition before Utah’s defense could set up.
-0:56 1st-Qtr – On a fastbreak Lucas veered off and tried to run up Olynyk’s back where Phil Pressey came from behind and picked him clean.
-7:24 2nd-Qtr – In transition Burks passed between two Jazz players out of bounds.
-3:34 2nd-Qtr – Utah was called for an in-bound turnover where Favors bobbled the ball before passing in to Tinsley.
Jazz Defense: The game began to change when both coaches went to their bench. At 5:56 1st-Qtr Brad Stevens subbed out Vitor Faverani – who’s in ability to convert was killing Boston’s screen-roll.
-5:56 1st-Qtr – Jeff Green and1 layup. Side screen-roll, where Richard Jefferson gave Green the baseline drive like he thought he was funneling Green into a big but Favors was playing up on the screener. Gobert arrived too late and fouled Green who scored anyway. Jefferson and Favors both talked to one another after the play.
-2:15 1st-Qtr – The Celtics vaunted high screen-roll between Phil Pressey and Jared Sullinger began to pick apart Utah’s defense. Kanter (guarding Sullinger the screener) aggressively showed out, forcing Favors to pick up Sully rolling to rim. Pressey swung the ball to Favors’ man (Olynyk on the weakside) which forced Hayward to rotate – and Olynyk simply swung the ball to Hayward’s man in the corner (Wallace) for a wide-open three to pull Boston within 6.
-1:12 1st-Qtr – Kanter again showed out hard on Pressey 25-feet from the basket – giving Sullinger a wide-open jumpshot that he missed this time. This became a pattern, and at 0:23 1st-Qtr Gobert showing out resulted in another 3pt that Wallace knocked down.
Again, Kanter and Gobert aren’t players with the lateral quickness or footspeed to show out and then race back 20 feet. All the Jazz were doing was taking them out of the play and putting the rest of the team in a 4-on-3 disadvantage.
-5:25 2nd-Qtr – Undersized PF Mike Harris showed he could defend the screen-roll effectively in this manner – with a near-steal showing out hard on Avery Bradley.
-2:36 2nd-Qtr – Kanter was back in defending screen-roll, and more of the norm with Boston swining the ball to Avery Bradley for an open 20-footer off Utah’s scramble rotation.
-11:12 3rd-Qtr – Favors showed out on Jordan Crawford (Jordan freakin Crawford!) 24-feet from the rim, then had to race back to the basket but arrived too late to prevent Olynyk from simply rolling down the lane for a layup.
Utah’s play deteriorated to the point that conversations like this by Jazz announcers Craig Bolerjack and Matt Harpring became welcomed distractions for viewers:
Boler: “Courtney Lee comes in and Green comes out. (4 seconds of silence). What a name to have in Boston…Green.”
Harpring: “That was deep Boler. Please tell me you didn’t sit in your hotel room and think about that one.”
Boler: “That one just came to me.”
3. Jazz: 42 Celtics: 27
Jazz Defense: 2:58 & 2:30 3rd-Qtr – Boston scored on 2 consecutive screen-roll possessions where they picked apart their 4-on-3 numbers advantage with a Sullinger layup and a Courtney Lee corner-three.
Trailing 79-55 with 2:24 left in the quarter, the Jazz took a timeout.
On their very next defensive possession Utah changed their pick&roll defense. This time, they opted to stop the drive and go over. Here, the big defending the screener sags off and defends the paint while the guard/wing goes over the screen and trails the ball-handler from behind.
In this situation, the big is back in the lane and still in position to play the drive as well as pick up the screener rolling to the rim. Instead of 4-on-3, it became more of a 2-on-2 game with Utah daring the ball-handler to take a quick mid-range shot off the bounce. A John Stockton, Chris Paul or even a James Harden can counter this and it isn’t effective against side screen-roll. Against Boston’s mediocre playmakers in the middle of the floor? This worked very well to Utah’s advantage.
Jazz Offense: The Jazz got back to their own screen-roll with Hayward looking to attack. Utah’s offensive production increased but I’m not sure their execution did. Of Utah’s 12 4th-qtr baskets, 4 were low percentage long-2’s that were contested, 3 were offensive rebound putbacks and 1 was off a fastbreak. A few brilliant plays – like Hayward’s baseline drive and feed to Kanter for a hammer dunk but the Celtics did some very foolish things to allow Utah points (for example at 7:48 4th-Qtr they overhelped on Mike Harris in pick&roll leaving Kanter open underneath the basket for a layup).
Regardless, in the 4th-qtr the Jazz shot 12-24 with 16 of their 25 points coming in the paint. That’s closer to a winning formula for this team.
The Final Word
Overall it was a dreadful performance by the Jazz but Utah’s start and finish partially demonstrate the effect of competent pick&roll defense. While I wish Ty would have adjusted Utah’s screen-roll defense sooner (like at halftime), fortunately he did and that helped Utah get back in the game.
That also answered some of Zach Lowe’s questions: Yes the Jazz do often have their bigs defend the pick&roll far away from the rim and yes they are capable of making adjustments when facing circumstances such as a 25-point deficit to an 0-4 team.
The Celtics’ roster is dreadful, yet they beat the Jazz by double-figures. Furthermore, looking at the talent-level of the Magic (who beat the Clippers) and Suns (who last night took the Spurs down to the wire in San Antonio) makes one thing clear. You can be competitive and win games with mediocre talent – but you must have sound strategy and execution.
Ty Corbin has been fairly decent at handling in-game adjustments and lineups this season, but for the Jazz to win games he needs to be good. Waiting 10-minutes too long to make adjustments will lose this team games, even against opponents who have less talent than the Jazz. Whether that’s completely fair to Utah’s 4th-year coach or not – it’s the nature of the business. As Corbin says quite often, it is what it is and nobody’s going to feel sorry for him.