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Length and athleticism continue to challenge the Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz continue to struggle against lengthy teams, which might bite them in the playoffs

Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

On Friday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Utah Jazz were absolutely throttled. Off the tip, the Pelicans had total control over the game and cruised to a 90-124 victory, giving Utah their largest deficit this season.

In all honesty, this wasn’t a big deal to me.

This game marked the fourth different arena they’ve played at in the last seven days. Against the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets, the Jazz worked hard to play with energy and rally themselves back into games. It was an impressive stretch for a team that has consistently played against themselves all season. So, to see them throw out a stinker game in the middle of a road trip neither surprises me nor worries me.

Still, their loss wasn’t a “lets burn the film and move past this” type of game. One thing in particular stood out to me: the Jazz still have a difficult time handling opposing length and athleticism. Take a look at a few of these clips:

There were two other plays throughout the game that were nearly identical to this one. Here, Bojan Bogdanovic had no chance 1:1 vs Brandon Ingram. The moment he puts the ball on the floor, Ingram uses his length to poke the ball loose, leading to the turnover. This has repeatedly happened all season. Bogdanovic has shown that he can create off the dribble, but only against less athletic defenders. In the playoffs, I think these top of the key iso’s should be eliminated as much as possible for Bogdanovic.

On this clip, Herb Jones just plays fantastic defense against Donovan Mitchell. Although Mitchell has great strength, athleticism, and length himself, he isn’t very tall and bigger defenders like Jones can give him trouble. On the drive, Jones’ length blocks Mitchell’s view of the passing lane and leads to the turnover. We’ve seen this throughout the season as well.

This final clip encapsulates what kind of night Jordan Clarkson was having. Over and over again, Clarkson forced shots that had next to no chance of falling. On this play, he drives hard, but Tony Snell cuts him off well. Then, Snell simply keeps his hands straight up and contests Clarkson’s shot perfectly.

Keep in mind, these three clips are only a few snippets where the Pelican’s length obviously disrupted a shot or forced a turnover. Throughout the game, there were countless moments where Utah’s ball handlers looked for a pass, drive, or shot, but decided against them because they couldn’t navigate around the Pelican defenders.

This has been Utah’s achilles heel for a while and I’m surprised that it’s still an issue with the playoffs a month away.