20/20 Hindsight: How Utah Could Have Stopped the Spurs' 20-0 Run

So... that was an interesting experience. While, yes, if you take out the Spurs 20-0 run, the Jazz still lose by 11, it was without a doubt the turning point of the game. Let's look at the run, what caused it, and what the Jazz could have done differently. Actual game happenings will be in italics. My commentary in normal font. Score is in bold.

After Paul Millsap pushes Duncan out of the way to get a rebound and easy putback layup, the score is 26-31. Popovich calls timeout.

Score: 31-26. Ty Corbin decides to get his starter, Al Jefferson, back in the game to continue the game. In order to do so, he subs out Favors.

To me, this was the first mistake: this was an excellent opportunity to instead sub Jefferson in for Carroll and use the big lineup. Instead, Corbin doesn't, for whatever reason, and Favors, who had gathered 7 rebounds in 9 minutes, goes out of the game.

Tinsley intercepts the pass neatly from Danny Green, and pushes it to the lead man Carroll. Instead of passing to the running Burks, Carroll advances into the defense, hoping to get a foul. He does, but it's an offensive one, and he turns the ball over.

Carroll should have dumped it to Burks for the easier finish.

After the and-one flip over his shoulder by Leonard is called off, the Spurs get the ball at the sideline out of bounds. Parker drives on Tinsley, passes the ball to Duncan in the post who immediately passes it to a driving Parker. Millsap and Carroll collapse to prevent the layup, and Parker passes it out to Leonard who continues it on tho Green for the easy 3.

This is an example of what the Spurs do so well. I would prefer that Jefferson cover the post himself, and rotate off of Duncan a little bit, but, well, that's not his strong suit. Failing that, only have one defender from the weak-side help, and then at least you have either Millsap or Carroll to prevent the wide open 3 from either.

Score: 34-26. Carroll gets the ball on the wing, and makes a terrible pass to Jefferson, hitting Leonard in his hands 2 feet away. Carroll gets back in time to foul Leonard from behind. Leonard makes both free throws.

DeMarre Carroll again with the mistake. You have to be more careful with that pass, especially as Leonard was hounding him for 5 seconds before.

Score: 36-26. Ball goes into Jefferson for the post up, and is double teamed. He kicks out to Burks, who takes one step inside the 3 point line. He misses, and crashes the boards, and misses a tough followup.

Burks. Make that a 3. It's an easier shot because you're not moving and is worth more points. Just do it. Good job crashing the boards, but then instead of going up for the wild tip in, just take it down and reset. Tips from a long ways away are not efficient basketball shots.

Spurs turn it over trying to push too quickly on the fast break. Howard comes in for Carroll. Jazz run their flex set, showing good ball movement and getting Millsap on a relatively easy layup. Millsap looks to be fouled, it isn't called, and he complains slightly as the Spurs get the ball and push. Danny Green airballs the wide open transition 3. Millsap is fouled off ball as he posts up. On the inbounds play, the ball goes into Jefferson for the post up. Jefferson forces his one handed push shot from about 13 feet. It misses.

Actually fairly well played, other than Jefferson's shot selection. I feel like 13 feet out is too far out to do the weezy. That can't possibly be an efficient offensive shot. Then again, Al Jefferson's repertoire is not super efficient anyway.

Spurs run pick and roll with Parker high. Burks shades to stop Parker, Parker dishes to Burks' man, Green, who makes the three.

Burks shades a little bit too much here, the threat from Parker as Millsap hedged wasn't that great. Also, Harris is completely run out of the play on the pick as he tries to go over the screen, even though it's 35 feet away from the hoop. He should have just hedged under and then rotation wouldn't be necessary.

Score: 39-26. Jazz run Harris/Jefferson pick and roll. Harris is stopped by Spurs rotation, and he finds Burks open on the weak side. Burks takes advantage of the space, drives to the rim baseline, and goes up for the layup. He is probably fouled, but the refs don't call it.

Spurs semi-fast break is stopped by the Jazz, who rotate through the various SAS maneuvers. They kick the ball out to Leonard, who Giricek-travels as he pump fakes and attempts to drive.

Jazz go through their set, find Harris at the top right wing, and he drives to his right then hop steps into the lane. Travel is called.

Obviously, Harris, try not to travel. I think this move would have worked in most years, but this year they've been fairly consistent that if you jump off of one foot and land on the same foot in the hop step move, it will be called a travel.

Spurs run another pick and roll, with the result that Millsap is switched onto Green. Green drives to take advantage, but Millsap is faster than he thinks, and he throws up a contested left-handed layup, it doesn't go in.

Harris takes advantage of the mini-break to get the ball to Millsap at the baseline, about 15 feet out. Millsap shakes, then goes to his left, into the middle, where Duncan stays straight up and does an excellent job of not fouling Millsap. Millsap misses the contested layup.

I do wish that Millsap wouldn't force the ISO plays, he's not very good on them. He's a pretty good finisher and an excellent cutter, decent at postups and the fadeaway. But when he tries to dribble drive, he's usually not very successful.

Parker pushes on the mini-break. He kicks to Leonard, who's standing at the Corner 3 slot. He easily makes the wide open 3. Corbin calls timeout.

Why was he wide open? Leonard is Josh Howard's man. However, it's not Howard's fault. After the missed layup on the other end, Millsap stands there for a moment to complain to the officials. Blair, on the other hand, runs the floor, and Howard must guard Blair to prevent the easy fast break dunk. No one else is on that side of the floor, and so Leonard's 3 is completely open.

Score: 42-26. After the timeout, the Jazz re-run flex. It's a well designed play, and Howard gets an easy jumper from 20 feet. He misses it, badly.

Truthfully, I question the wisdom of running any play for a Josh Howard jumper. He's not a great mid-to-long range shooter, just 32% from 16-23 feet this year.

Tony Parker mini-breaks, and drives to the hole. Luckily, Jefferson is there to sort of tie him up, and Parker travels.

We run a designated Al Jefferson post-up play. Al gets the ball in the post, probably 11 feet out, takes one step, and shoots the push shot. He misses.

Classic Al Jefferson shot. It will go in about half the time. This time it did not.

In transition, Danny Green pushes the ball. He's isolated against Hayward, and makes a somewhat tough 10 foot runner.

Hayward would have had help if either Millsap or Jefferson ran the floor. Unfortunately, both jog, and Hayward's on his own. Transition D is important, yo.

Score: 44-26. Remember the play we just ran to get Howard a 20 foot open jumper? The same play is ran for Hayward this time. He misses it too.

Basically, 20 foot jumpers are dumb shots to take as first options in an offensive scheme. Hayward's better than Howard, but still only 37% from 16-23 feet. Stop drawing these plays up, unless they're for threes or closer shots.

Somehow, Millsap and Harris end up switching on Parker and Diaw as the Spurs bring up the ball. Parker tries to isolate, but Millsap does a good job of defending. He passes to Diaw. As Millsap shades, a little too much, Diaw kicks it out to Parker, who takes advantage of Millsap's momentum to drive past and make a 13 foot runner.

To me, 20 seconds left in the shot clock is too early to switch in a possession. I'm not sure why Millsap and Harris did here.

Score: 46-26. Play is run for Millsap postup. Millsap is fronted, so Al goes high to get the ball at the free throw line. His defender cuts off the option to Millsap, so he takes the wide open free throw jumper. He misses it.

This play is really well done. Al just misses the free throw jumper. Luck hurts, man.

Parker takes advantage of the sort-of screen by Duncan to get into the lane. Literally the entire Jazz defense collapses. Parker passes out to Green for the wide-open three, which he makes.

Okay. First of all, Harris, you need (NEED) to do a better job staying in front of Parker. The screen barely happened. You're fast too. Stay in front, please. Second, the entire defense doesn't need to collapse to Parker. Two is sufficient, maybe three at most. Especially you, Hayward, there was just no need to collapse. You weren't even close to influencing the play, quite frankly. And unfortunately, it was your man who made the three.

Score: 49-26. Howard comes off a screen, decides to isolate, and throws up a wild 15 foot runner. He misses, but gets his own rebound. He misses the putback layup. He gets his rebound again, and misses again. He fights for it again(!) and ends up on the deck in a jump ball with Duncan, which he loses.

Good job on the boards Howard! Now, next time, consider what led to your original missed shot: the fact that you played outside the offense. Also, next time, make layups. If you get the ball for the third time and just are going to wildly throw up something else to the hoop, next time spare us and kick the ball out so we can restart the possession. But, honestly, good effort. Millsap and Jefferson weren't fighting at this point.

Duncan gets the ball in the post after two failed pick and rolls. Jefferson allows him to roll to the paint, but forces him to fade away and make a really weird, forced one handed runner. He does, of course.

Good work on stopping the original pick and rolls. Jefferson allows Duncan to get into the paint a little bit too easily, but does force Duncan to take a wild shot, which unfortunately he makes.

Score: 51-26. Play is run for Millsap in the post. He gets it, and turns and faces on Diaw. He makes a couple jab steps, decides Diaw isn't going to contest too much, and takes the jumper. It goes in.

And our long national nightmare comes to an end.

So, what do we learn in the end? The beginning of the run was characterized by dumb individual plays by players trying to do too much. Sometimes, those are bailed out by fouls, but this time, Carroll, Harris, Burks, Millsap, and Jefferson all turn the ball over or take very contested shots. Near the end, the Jazz get unlucky. They take 4 shots which the offense was designed to get, unfortunately, none of them go in.

On the defensive end, the Jazz were hurt by their approach to pick and roll and their lackadaisical transition defense. Harris, in particular, needed to go under the pick and roll far more often than he did, in order to prevent the defense shattering drives of Parker, which seemingly always lead to wide open 3s.

The efforts of Millsap and Jefferson getting back on defense disappointed as well, leading to opportunities for the Spurs to attack the paint while Millsap and Jefferson weren't there. From there, it was relatively easy to make runners or kick out for open threes.

Of course, the disappointment by many Jazz fans was Corbin's initial move to remove Derrick Favors from the game. Personally, I agree. Not so much due to his play on the offensive end (though Carroll would likely have been checked out, removing the mistakes he made at the beginning of the run), but he significantly addresses these two weaknesses on defense. His shading on the pick and roll mean that defenders don't have to collapse into the paint in order to defend the driver, and his hustle and length makes finishing in transition much harder. While I think it's naive to think that the run wouldn't have happened if Favors was in the game, I believe it would have been a much smaller one, as Favors' impact would have decreased the number of wide-open looks the Spurs would have received.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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