Tonight will be the first time Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek will see the brand new Utah Jazz. They met once earlier, in the preseason. And in that game Jeff's team won the match against rookie coach Quin Snyder; however, let's not forget that Quin sat out Derrick Favors for the entire game. Utah would fall to Phoenix 105-100, and in the game both teams would combine for 158 FGA and 53 three pointers shot. This isn't the same type of basketball game that some of the older ones out there grew up watching (and reporting on). But progress is inherently brought on by change. You can bet your butt that if Red Auerbach had a three point line to use, and players who could shoot 35% from there, he would have worked it into his playbook back in the 1950s and 60s.
And just as these are not the old Suns of Cotton Fitzsimmons, and these are not the old Jazz of Jerry Sloan it's important to embrace change . . . or be run over by it.
Phoenix is doing a bit of running right now, with an 2-0 record with convincing wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. They can score (putting up 119 against LAL), and they can defend (giving up only 89 against SAS). They are dangerous, and currently boast having the 6th best offense (ppg), 6th best defense (opp. ppg), 6th best offense (Off RTG), and 7th best defense (Def RTG) --all at the same time. This was a lotto team last year.
If you look at the nuts and bolts of their squad their offense is predicated on working the glass. They are 6th best in the NBA in total defensive rebounds and 5th best DRB%, and gobble up 34.5 caroms on that side of the ball. They are not that impressive with stealing the ball, blocking shots, or causing turn overs. They play solid defense, and get the rebound. And then they are off.
They are great at finding the open man, and that guy is in the right spot to just take the shot. Usually it's by design, and the team works really well together. This is the opposite of those "individual star player driven teams" that have wrecked our defense the last two games. Phoenix has a lot of guards so expect a lot of dribble penetration, and good looks They rarely turn the ball over (4th best in the NBA in Offensive TOV%), and the guard heavy - pass happy team has an eFG% of .527 right now (9th best in the league).
Threes? Oh, there are going to be threes. Marcus Morris (13 3PTA), Isaiah Thomas (10), Gerald Green (7), Eric Bledsoe (6), Markieff Morris (5), Goran Dragic (4), and Anthony Tolliver (4) all take threes. It's nice not to see Channing Frye there, he's now in Orlando; but Tolliver will easily fill that role as spoiler if he's not defended.
The Jazz gave up threes the last few games because those players were open because of the offensive ball movement, those guys were not open because of bad individual defense, or a breakdown of the game plan. The Suns kill teams that do not have the discipline to stay home on their man outside the three point line. Through all the challenges the Jazz have shown on defense, so far one of them hasn't been this aspect of discipline. Phoenix is going to take threes, and they'll get them through their offense. But they shouldn't be getting easy looks because of confused defenders. Not tonight. If Utah can retain this one thing they're doing right on defense, it may mean a greater emphasis on penetrating guards having to create for themselves, and not find an easy guy to kick the ball back out to.
The last time I respect the Suns front line sure as sugar wasn't when they were winning games by starting Boris Diaw at center. I think it had to have been back when they had guys like Charles Barkley, Tom Chambers, and Mark West in the paint. Sure, they have a lot of tweener guys who don't bang. Alex Len is dating a very beautiful giraffe, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be somewhere between Steve Novak and Jeremy Evans in our depth chart.
The point here is that Utah needs to go inside. There's no Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler in the paint tonight. And there's no one they need to really guard inside either. Go inside. Destroy their pathetic bigmen. Hear the lamentations of their women.
It doesn't need to be simple tonight.
Oh, and the Suns are GREAT on offense BECAUSE they get stops and defensive rebounds. That's the spark plug to the unstoppable engine that is their offense. Utah, for all their faults so far, are the 5th best offensive rebounding team in the league by both total rebounds and ORB%. There are two things this Jazz team does well, it's not send guys to the FT line (I'm as scared as you are), and it's make sure the other team has to work to get defensive boards.
Rudy Gobert, by himself, is getting over 20% of the available offensive rebounds when he's out there on the court. Let's make this simple, it means that when Quin has Rudy in the game Rudy gets the offensive rebound once every five Jazz misses.
This is actually going to be a gang-fight between Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green vs. Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Dante Exum. All four of those guys are fast, can dribble, pass, shoot the three, and get to the FT line.
The road to Utah's victory is on the backs of their bigmen, but the battles will be won between the PG, SG groups here. Their side has proven it so far this season, our guys need to get on track. But I believe in them. When things are running smoothly our top four PG/SGs are just as good as any other non-contenders.
We're going to win. That was my preseason prediction, and I am sticking by it. It's the 3rd game in four nights for us, and the second of a back to back for them. Let's Go Jazz!
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