Chances are you clicked on the title of this article expecting to see some spiel about Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson, but this particular "Big 3" are the three biggest deficiencies on the ball club so far this season and how they pertain to the game tonight versus the Miami Heat.
I urge you to check out Clark's post on the second most troubling aspect, and Yucca's on the third, both are chock full of excellent research presented in a more-than-readable manner, but we will start with the most glaring one, the one that will hurt the most in the marathon that is 82-plus games.
Most of the starters have already suffered dingers, so Sloan having to depend on 'em so much this early will only create more problems later.
1- The Bench
There's a good reason this gets top billing. While the offense has at least shown up in one-third of the games, the bench has yet to do so at all, aside from C.J. Miles' occasional flashes of bench brilliance.
Miami was supposed to have one of the worst benches among the contenders for the playoffs. Instead they currently have the 10th-best bench, far better than folks assumed.
The Heat are among the top 5 in the NBA in a number of categories, one of those being 3-pointers. They're shooting an unreal .417% from the 3-line as a team, thanks in large part to James Jones (.512) and Eddie House (.400). What makes this something you want to watch for is the Jazz's 3-point defense, holding opponents to .274%, tops in the NBA.
Go ahead. Read that last line again. We'll wait for you.
Crazy huh? So much for the myth that the Jazz don't defend the three.
Udonis Haslem and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been big contributors off of the Heat
palm pine as well. We'll delve into where they've helped make Miami a top defensive rebounding team in section 3, and who the Jazz could counter with.
Together these guys have led Miami's bench to a +3.7 differential efficiency. The Jazz's bench is at -5.8. I know no one told you there would be math. Believe me, you don't even want to add that up anyway. Put down the calculator. Seriously. It's bad.
Utah's 7th-worst bench in the league has got to step up if they want to have any shot at staying in the game.
The Jazz have fared decently on defense thus far this season with effort for at least most of the time out there. By making a quasi-consistent effort on the defensive end Utah has been able to keep the opposition from putting the proverbial biscuit in the basket.
It's a shame that simply making more effort on the offensive end couldn't just magically lead to more points --unlike on defense where effort generally leads to less points from the other guys-- but it's not nearly so simple on the offensive end of things.
Miami has the overall stingiest defense through seven games, giving up only 86 points-per-game. The Heat are also near tops in:
Free Throw Attempts
Turnovers (in the good way, as in they take care of the rock)
Utah has given up the 5th-most free throws. Expect to see plenty of stoppage time at the line tonight. LeBron and Dwyane love to drive the rim. To have any chance the Jazz are going to have to lock-down the paint better than they have this season.
What do blocks have to do with offense you ask? I 'splain...
The Heat block the 5th-most shots in The Association. Couple that with their league-leading average of getting blocked only 2.4 times-per-game and that spells big trouble for little Utah. The Jazz have to own the paint while hitting their perimeter tries as well.
That means running the offense far more efficiently than they have been, providing a nice segue-way into the next area where the South Beachers excel.
The Jazz are one of the worst in the league at taking care of the ball, coughing it up 17 times-a-game. On the flip-side Miami is one of the best at it, fumbling only 13.6 times-per-contest. Miami may be putting up less than 100 PPG, but they're very efficient about doing so.
Utah, on the other hand, is uncharacteristically one of the worst offensive efficiency teams in the league so far this young season. Against a defensive juggernaut like the Heat the Jazz will have to be on their best behavior with the ball, taking advantage of what the defense gives them rather than trying to force it through and throwing up a poor shot.
There is one bright spot in this matchup; Utah has the highest differential in assists to assisted baskets given up. The Jazz are currently 4th in dimes-per-game, while holding opponents to a league-low 16.8 per. They will have to take full advantage of this by keeping passes crisp, continuing to move (no more standing and watching Big Al, guys, I beg you), and making better shot selections. Look for the easy buckets. No settling for jumpers.
Utah gave up an alarming amount of offensive rebounds in the loss to Golden State. Give your opponent that many chances and they're going to make you pay for it. Gotta go get that ball by boxing out and putting extra energy into it, fighting for the right to have the next possession, the next chance to score.
That's something the Heat also do well. A top 5 defensive rebounding team, Miami doesn't allow for many second-chance points.
The Jazz are 11th in total rebounding, the Heat 17th, but the numbers lie. Miami is a better rebounding team than Utah. While Utah is -2.0 in rebound differential, Miami is +1.1.
They corral boards as a team.
61% of Utah's total rebounding is being done by three players, and three players only. The Jazz pull down 42.5 boards-per-game. Big Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are accounting for nearly half of those on their own (20.7 to be exact), with Williams nabbing a new career high 5.2.
And there's a perfect storm of a breakout game brewing for one Chris Bosh here. His rebs are down, waaay down, and he's taking, pardon the unintentional pun, heat for it. A lot of heat. He'll be putting in extra effort on that tonight, count on it.
Aside from the decent numbers on the glass that LeWade always put up, there's also Joel Anthony's 4.1, Big Z's 4.6, and Haslem's stout 8.1, which he's bringing in only 24 minutes-per-game.
After "Jeffer-Sap" (is that trademarked yet, Amar?) and Williams no one else on the Jazz is pulling down more than 2.8 per-game.
Save for one (potential) savior.
Francisco Elson should get some burn tonight. Not only was he a big contributor in the Jazz's second-half shutdown of the Clippers, but he's also netting a career high 10.1 rebounds-per-36 minutes. There will be times tonight that he could be a big difference-maker in the flow of the game, in Utah's favor.
But he'll need help. Other players have got to step it up on the glass.
It's a five-man game. Too many times already the Jazz have made it less than that. It will take a total team effort, for four quarters, to down the Miami Heat. But it can be done.
If I'm Deron Williams, I'm insisting the team watch what his (perceived) nemesis Chris Paul did in dismantling Miami.