It’s been a few years now since the Utah Jazz gave up a 2-0 lead to the Los Angeles Clippers and were promptly swept out of the playoffs, but that embarrassment resonated with the franchise to the point they tore down the roster and hit reset this last offseason. It likely had more effect than their pathetic showing against the Mavericks last year. And that might have been one of the best things that has ever happened to them in hindsight.
So how could something so painful be good? There are a lot of reasons, actually. That series against the Clippers was the wake-up call they needed to see all the flaws that were being ignored. The Jazz were a devastating offensive machine, but it turned out in the playoffs that machine had cogs in it that, once taken out, gummed things up to the point everything crashed. Teams found they could create defensive issues for the Jazz with lineups that spread them out on defense because Utah couldn’t take advantage of them on the offensive end. For example, because Rudy Gobert could not take advantage of mismatches in the post against smaller players like Terrance Man, it meant that the Clippers could get away with smaller, more spread offenses that took advantage of the Jazz’s weak perimeter defenders. Everyone arguing that it wasn’t Rudy’s fault, that the Jazz needed better defenders, were kind of right. Although, people arguing that if the Jazz just had better perimeter defenders, Rudy Gobert wasn’t the issue on the defensive end, were also kind of right. The fact is, the Jazz went all in on offense on weak defenders who could shoot on the perimeter. On defense, they went all in on an all-world rim protector who was weak at taking advantage of mismatches near the basket. On top of that, Quin Snyder, refused to adjust his systems or lineups, to try to make up for it. Whether during the season or the playoffs, nothing changed making it easy for other coaches to game plan against the Jazz. Lineups could be tracked to the second, and changes in rotation happened as quickly as shifts in the lunar cycle.
The Clippers saw that flaw and pounded it like a UFC fighter seeing a hole in their opponent's stance.
With Quin Snyder, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Royce O’Neale all gone, the Jazz are a completely different team, a better one, actually.
Under Will Hardy, the Jazz have had more lineups in 10 games than we ever saw under Quin Snyder. The word for this Jazz team is versatility ...... unselfishness ..... and intelligence. Okay, that’s three words, but they all work, and I’m going with it.
Each player on this Jazz team is smart, they know the right play to make at any given time and Will Hardy is empowering them with a read-and-react offense that plays to all their strengths. That goes for both ends of the floor. Each player is reacting quickly, switching when needed on defense, and it’s working. This level of versatility never happened before under the strict, rigid rules of the past and has to be so freeing for the players.
They’re also playing completely unselfish basketball. Gone are the days of feeding a certain someone with the ball so they can get their numbers. Every player on this team is passing the ball and making the right play. As a team, the Jazz are averaging 28.5 assists per game. Last season? 22.4. The Jazz went from the 4th worst team in assists per game to the 5th best.
It’s a very fun brand of basketball and has looked sustainable every night. Yes, they’ve had some breakout player from Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk but it feels so fluid while you watch. It may change with time, but a game like tonight can prove that the Jazz have put the demons of the past behind them by taking out the Los Angles Clippers.
When: 8:00 PM MT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 97.5/1280 The Zone