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Where did the Utah Jazz defense go?

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The past 15 games shows an unfortunate trend

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Defense. That’s become the Utah Jazz identity every since Quin Snyder and his DPOY center Rudy Gobert took over. As the NBA has moved towards more and more scoring, Utah has doubled down in preventing that very thing. I’ll never forget the following quote from GM Dennis Lindsey about how he wants other teams to feel when playing the Jazz.

That wish has been true more often than not. Here is how they have performed at defensive rating over the last several years:

  • 104.1 (14th)
  • 103.2 (7th)
  • 104.6 (3rd)
  • 102.9 (1st)
  • 105.8 (4th)

I have no idea what it would be like to go to the world’s worst dentist. I also have no idea what it would be like to try and score a basketball on Rudy Gobert and this Utah Jazz defense. Neither of them sound very pleasant to me.

But that last number, 105.8 (4th), has me a little thrown off. Now it’s not much to fall from 1st to 4th, but that could be the difference in a couple games. Utah has been fairly healthy this year minus the Dante Exum injury, so I wouldn’t have expected much of a falloff. In fact, one might think that the roster continuity would lend to improvement rather than a digression. For the most part, that was true this year.

Up until about 15 games ago. (Note: this was written prior to the OKC game last night)

Only once in the last 18 games have the Jazz held their opponent below 100 points. And that was against the lowly Suns without Devin Booker. Utah had done that 17 times in their first 47 games.

Over their last 15 games, the Jazz have a defensive rating of just 109.5. That’s 14th best in the league during that timespan. Instead of being elite like we’re used to, they’ve just been average. Here’s a graphical view to show you what I mean if that makes it easier:

Teams have a TS% of 57.9 over that stretch, which is 6th worst in the league. They've given up the 8th most 3s, 7th most free throws, and 10th most offensive rebounds. 15.3 turnovers per game (2nd most) certainly isn’t helping either.

Fortunately the offense has been a top 10 offense in that timespan, so the Jazz have still been winning ball games (9-6). But if the Jazz and to experience as much playoff success as, and hopefully more than the last couple years then they will need to fine-tune their defensive efforts.

Is this meant to be doom and gloom? Of course not. Quin Snyder is too good, and frankly so are the players, to let this trend carry on for too long. Hopefully they use this home stretch to get back to their usual defensive ways of weeping and gnashing of teeth. I’m confident they’ll make that climb back up to the top tier defensive team where they belong.

Poll

Are you concerned about the defense over the last 15 games?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Yes, I’m a little worried
    (151 votes)
  • 19%
    Meh. I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
    (45 votes)
  • 14%
    No. #WeWillBeFine. #OntoTheNextOne
    (33 votes)
229 votes total Vote Now