Final Score: Spurs 91, Jazz 82
Run It Back
Play of the Game: 10:06 4th-Qtr – Off a Jazz turnover, Tony Parker pushed the ball to the basket where he then veered along the baseline and found Danny Green running to the corner for a three that gave San Antonio their first lead at 72-69 since 6:08 1st-Qtr. The Spurs would never trail again.
Player of the Game: Derrick Favors – 20pts/18reb/3blk/3stl. Favors was the best bigman on the floor last night, owning the boards, defending the paint and showing a lot more offense.
Here’s a rundown of Favors’ 10 FG’s:
1. 12-foot jumper in lane off high screen-roll.
2. Two-hand dunk on offensive rebound.
3. Layup off baseline seal vs Jeff Ayres’ ¾ front post-position.
4. Baseline drive and push-shot over Duncan.
5. Right-block up&under vs Duncan.
6. Right-block pivot, spin and left-hand jumphook over Duncan (off re-post).
7. Driving layup off high screen-roll with Richard Jefferson.
8. 15-foot Duncan-like angle banker off a Hayward penetration and kick.
9. Driving layup off Hayward side-screen roll.
10. Two-hand dunk off Jefferson penetration and kick.
Favors in the post was a mixed bag – as he shot 2-6 but also netted a defensive 3-seconds and an open Kanter jumper (missed) drawing a double-team. (By comparison Duncan shot 3-7 in the post). Favors’ repertoire is improving but he’s not yet a go-to low-post scorer and should probably get between 3-5 post touches per game depending on matchups. He’s still at his best as a screen-roll player, where he not only gets opportunities but creates ones for his teammates through their ball-handling and his own improved ability to pass on the move.
Best Shot: 3:25 1st-Qtr – The Spurs started the game going under on screen-roll, so Alec Burks pulled-up and shot a three from the left-wing to put the Jazz ahead 19-10 early.
Best Move: 1:40 2nd-Qtr – On the right-block Favors backed down Duncan, pump-faked middle then made a gorgeous step-through up&under finishing around Duncan with his long extension.
Best Play: 11:48 4th-Qtr – The Spurs opened the 4th-qtr with a double down-screen for Boris Diaw (guarded by Marvin). Ginobili and Duncan picked off Marvin and neither Kanter or Burks switched, resulting in a wide-open top-of-the key three for Diaw to bring the Spurs within 4 and spark a 16-4 run.
Best Block: 10:07 3rd-Qtr – Driving middle from the left-block Duncan attempted to send it in strong but was emphatically rejected by Favors. Favors rejected Duncan twice and in his last two games has recorded 5 blocks and 8 steals.
Best Drive: 10:57 2nd-Qtr – Alec Burks came off a Kanter screen (Parker actually went over) and drove right up Tiago Splitter’s chest, drew contact to neutralize Splitter, hung in the air and kissed it off the glass.
Run of the Game: Not only did the Spurs outscore the Jazz 31-15 in the 4th-qtr, they started the final period on a 12-2 run to go from down 7 to up 3 in less than 2-minutes.
Let’s review the sequence:
Spurs #1: Opened with the well-executed Diaw three described above. 3-0.
Utah #1: Utah responded with a side-screen roll but Burks went away from the screen and shot an air-ball taking a contested jumper.
Spurs #2: Jazz defended a Manu 1-on-1 drive very well to force miss.
Utah #2: Off Ginobili’s miss, Kanter threw a wild outlet that Burks tipped to himself and then went all the way for a layup over Parker and Green. 3-2.
Spurs #3: San Antonio came back with a weakside down-screen for Green, where Burks shot gap and Green faded resulting in a switch with Marvin. Marvin (a natural SF) stuck with Green who backed up and drilled a corner-three. 6-2.
Utah #3: Side screen-roll where Burks hit Kanter diving to the rim but shot blocked by Diaw.
Spurs #4: In transition Parker drove hard on Garrett and hit a ridiculous reverse layup and RJ fouled him too. 9-2.
Utah #4: Another Burks/Kaner side screen-roll Burks/Kanter but Kanter dove to deep and didn’t give Burks an angle to pass, resulting in another turnover.
Spurs #5: Off the TO, Parker pushed and hit Green in the corner for the go-ahead three. 12-2.
Utah’s halfcourt defense was pretty solid all night, what burned them were turnovers and ill-advised shots where Parker pushed it ahead in transition.
Jazz Screen-Roll Defense
In Utah’s road loss to Boston, I explained how Ty Corbin adjusting the Jazz’s pick&roll defense was the catalyst in allowing them to slice a 25-point deficit to 8.
Against the Celtics, Utah was getting burned having their bigs show out and then recover – which was giving Boston a 4-on-3 advantage that they were fully exploiting. It was effective when the screener wasn’t an offensive threat but with 4 other players who can pass and score – it was a defensive sieve.
Here’s what I wrote 11/7/13 on the adjustment:
Ty’s adjustment was 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.
In the 1st-half, that was exactly how the Jazz played the Spurs and it worked to phenomenally. Prime example:
-0:00.3 2nd-Qtr – Spurs ended the half with a Parker/Duncan high-screen roll with Favors guarding Duncan. If Favors showed out hard then tried to recover to Duncan, Parker would’ve either been uncontested at the rim or drawing and kicking to open shooter in the corner. Instead the Jazz went over the screen and Favors sat back in the lane and was able to use his freak athletic ability to stuff Parker at the basket.
In the 2nd-half, Utah’s bigs showed out more which gave the Spurs weakside advantages against Utah’s rotations.
-3:35 3rd-Qtr – Favors guarding Splitter, showed out hard on the ball setting off Jazz rotations that gave Diaw an open-three and also allowed Splitter to establish position beneath basket before Favors could recover. Splitter got the offensive rebound and then drew Favors’ 4th foul on the putback – sending him to the bench.
-8:41 4th-Qtr – Spurs side-screen roll, Favors showed out allowing Duncan to set up beneath basket. Spurs swung ball from the wing to the top-of-the-key and then fired it inside to Duncan who had angle to seal Favors on his back for an easy left-hand layup.
I’m not really sure why the Jazz altered their defense – unless they were in fact trying to tank. (Only explanation I can imagine is they were trying to protect Favors/Kanter from fouling in vulnerable side screen-roll – 1:25 1st-Qtr Spurs ran side screen roll and Ayers was fouled by Favors on a dunk attempt.)
Spurs’ Screen-Roll Defense
The ironic thing about Utah’s bizarre strategy is Gregg Popovich made virtually the exact opposite adjustment on San Antonio’s pick&roll defense.
The Spurs began the game going under on screens and daring the Jazz to beat them from long range. In the 1st-qtr, that hurt them as both Jefferson and Burks hit threes where the Spurs went under. It paid off as over the next three-quarters Utah’s long-range shooting went cold (2-12), such as at 1:05 3rd-Qtr where Hayward missed a wide-open top-of-key three off screen-roll.
Mid-way through the 4th-quarter, Popovich again changed his screen-roll defense – to how Utah opened the game: Going over and stopping the drive. This worked brilliantly.
Remember I wrote “it isn’t effective against side screen-roll” – because with the spacing/angles the big playing the driver going middle leaves the screener wide-open rolling to the basket.
After the adjustment:
-6:07 4th-Qtr – Utah came out of a timeout with a Hayward/Favors side pick&roll with Favors rolling free for the layup. After that Utah ran high screen-roll with Hayward which played right into the Spurs’ hands. Hayward’s defender (Danny Green) would go over the screen and chase from behind, and the screener’s man (Duncan) would sit back in the lane taking away the drive.
-5:26 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll and Hayward pulled up and missed a 20-footer.
-4:58 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll and Hayward tried to drive the whole way but Duncan easily blocked his layup attempt.
-4:24 4th-Qtr – Side pick&roll and Kanter was open going to the rim but he fumbled the pass resulting in a jumpball.
-3:39 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll where Favors tried to dribble-weave around Duncan but again missed a pull-up 14-footer.
Perhaps on a different night more of Hayward’s mid-range shots fall, but late in the game the Spurs altered their defense to take away Hayward’s 3pt-threat as well as his drive-game. They forced him to take mid-range jumpers or shoot into the teeth of Tim Duncan’s interior defense – and it worked.
If the mid-range game isn’t working (Hayward shot 0-9 on two-point shots outside the paint), the Jazz need to adjust by running more side screen-roll which is the anecdote.
Spurs’ Low-Post Defense
Enes Kanter had two left-block post-ups in the first 13 minutes. Like they did against Al Jefferson, the Spurs over-played Kanter’s left-shoulder forcing him to spin baseline (something Al couldn’t do effectively). Both times Kanter did, taking 8-foot baseline turnarounds where he made the first (5:00 1st-Qtr) while the second one just rimmed-out (10:45 2nd-Qtr). After seeing more offensive diversity than they perhaps anticipated, the Spurs began fronting Kanter in the post (including Duncan who normally plays behind). Once in the 4th-qtr the Jazz tried to flash Favors to the FT line looking for the quick high-low but Kanter was unable to keep Diaw sealed on his back. When the Jazz play the Spurs again, (12/14) they need to clean up their high-low execution because that should be an automatic layup every time.
Odds and Ends
- Marvin Williams injured his nose on a inadvertent blow from Favors where Diaw back-screened Favors – resulting in Duncan springing free for a layup while Marvin was doubled-over.
- The Jazz bigs had 3 offensive fouls on moving screens. The first two weren’t their fault.
#1.) 3:46 2nd-Qtr – At the top-of-key Kanter tried to swing ball weakside and run a dribble-handoff, but RJ was too late coming up from the corner. As a result, Kahwi Leonard was able to stay on RJ’s hip and force an extremely tight dribble-handoff where Kanter had to pivot to protect the ball, resulting in movement/contact.
#2.) 4:22 3rd-Qtr – Favors picked up his 3rd foul setting a screen where Garrett didn’t wait for him to setup. Shooting 1-7 with 3 turnovers, Garrett came back down to earth but hopefully a lot of that was from unfamiliarity with the offense and his teammates.
#3.) 3:18 3rd-Qtr – Gobert called for a moving screen where he was set and then moved – totally on him.
- In the 2nd-half Kanter struggled in side screen-roll. The Spurs pushed baseline and rotated, forcing Kanter to dive to the rim, three times he had his shot blocked and two other times Utah turned it over on the pass.
The Final Word
Overall it was a loss you can be satisfied with if you’re a Jazz fan. The Jazz held the lead on the Western Conference’s best team for three quarters. Favors had a monster game. Burks played well considering he was making his first career start – at point guard no less. Hayward had an off-night and the Jazz were still in prime position entering the 4th-quarter.
In the 4th, the Spurs’ brilliance shown through where they reminded us they still have that extra gear that Utah simply can’t match. The difference in on-court experience as well as coaching acumen was quite evident.
It’s also clear that the Jazz were woefully underachieving during the awful basketball they played – particularly in the 5-game stretch from Nov 5-11. All along many felt the Jazz were better than their listless double-digit defeats, and the effort and intensity the past two games is indicative of that.
There were good things but also a lot of lessons the Jazz can learn from a defeat to a team representing the class of the NBA, by both the players and coaches.