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.
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.
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 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.