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The Downbeat #2011 - Defending the three?

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Sometimes it’s not a fundamental breakdown, but a strategic one

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The first game is in the books for the Utah Jazz season. Let’s dig a little deeper into why we saw what we saw last night. Also, other topics besides that.

Last night the Utah Jazz dropped their first game of the season, a 113-104 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. (Game Preview | Overtone | Five Things to watch | Triad | Game Thread | Halftime Show | Recap) There are a number of reasons WHY the team lost.

  • There was a star disparity for sure as Damian Lillard did star things out there, and outside of Joe Johnson, few people really can claim star status on our club when Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are out. Lillard played like a star, and was consistently winning the battle of strength vs. strength, scoring almost at will off the high screen or on his drives to the basket against our best rim protector Rudy Gobert.
  • Their bench was more effective than the Jazz bench (Allen Crabbe and Noah Novleh Noah Vonleh outplayed Shelvin Mack and Trey Lyles).
  • Perhaps Utah did not get the benefit of some 50/50 calls or even non-calls as the road team.
  • Boris Diaw was highly noneffective as a starting power forward playing 32 minutes, and achieving 2 points (off 8 shots, 0/3 from downtown), 3 rebounds, and 5 fouls for his efforts.
  • It was a road game
  • It was a game against the Portland Trail Blazers

Those are all fine reasons. Together they contributed to the loss, but I really have to look at ONE thing, the three point defense. Portland shot 13 for 19 from deep, making 68.4% of their attempts. Lillard went 4/6, making even a crazy “trying to draw the foul” three from about 26 feet. Crabbe went 4/5 off the bench. C.J. McCollum went 2/2, Al-Farouq Aminu went 2/3, and Noah Vonleh went 1/1.

The Jazz announcers were happy saying “hey, they have only taken 19 threes,” I guess a victory as Portland takes a lot more on average. But they didn’t need to take more. Mo Harkless and Meyers Leonard missed their threes. And Evan Turner didn’t take any. But they didn’t need to assert themselves as the Jazz couldn’t stop the previously mentioned five guys who essentially beat Utah by themselves.

What were the threes like? Hardly any were a product of dribble penetration into the paint and/or post ups where the ball is reversed after drawing in defense and finding its’ way to a spot up shooter. The majority of these made shots were off the bounce. I would say that most of the attempts by Lillard, McCollum, et al. were off of high screens where the Jazz defender went under the screen. Another large portion came from switches where the big man (usually Gobert) didn’t step up to close out well.

In terms of Xs and Os, that’s a huge advantage for Portland if they can get Gobert in “no man’s land” on defense. They did that last night almost at will. Fundamental problems, like bad close outs on spot up shooters rarely happened (only Shelvin Mack did a bad job at this). So this seems like a strategic thing.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Do you give up the three, while defending the paint? Or do you play aggressive defense on switches, and risk getting beat off the bounce?

Or, something Quin Snyder didn’t do last night, go small — no Rudy Gobert or Jeff Withey out there. And maybe going with four point guards and a small forward? Man, really hope we don’t do that.

It wasn’t just threes though. Let’s be real. Utah really is built for slow pace halfcourt ball, where Utah will win not because their offense is good -- but because they will eventually get more chances to score. That is not just defense and turn overs, but also offensive rebounds. The Jazz shot 40 / 82 last night. And they had only 6 offensive rebounds. That’s getting only 15% of their offensive rebound chances. Basketball-reference.com puts that at a 17.1 ORB%. What does the last decade of Jazz basketball look like?

  • 2015-2016: 25.9 ORB%
  • 2014-2015: 29.1 ORB%
  • 2013-2014: 25.5 ORB%
  • 2012-2013: 28.8 ORB%
  • 2011-2012: 30.2 ORB%
  • 2010-2011: 27.0 ORB%
  • 2009-2010: 26.8 ORB%
  • 2008-2009: 28.2 ORB%
  • 2007-2008: 29.5 ORB%
  • 2006-2007: 31.7 ORB%

So, yeah. Against the larger sample size of a decade, last night the Jazz didn’t have a good night on the offensive glass. Portland is GREAT at taking care of their glass. Gobert usually had to fight two guys to get to touch the ball after a Jazz miss. So, no Derrick Favors . . . but no Joel Bolomboy on the court either. It’s only Game 1. I don’t need to over analyze this too much. I’ve already watched the game a second time. I won’t watch it a third time.

The Utah Jazz season has started. The Salt Lake City Stars season is about to in a bit.

I’ve long been a supporter of the NBA D-League, but been a detractor of how the Jazz have used it since their Utah Flash days, which carried over to their Idaho Stampede Days. (Seriously? How the heck is Toure’ Murry going to learn to play guard in the NBA if Coach Dean Cooper is playing him at PF in the D-League?) I HOPE the third time is the charm with some level of integration and oversight.

It looks like Marcus Paige, Tyrone Wallace, and others, could be part of our farm team. I like those guys. I really want the SLCS to be useful to the UTJZ. Joel Bolomboy may be shuttled through both teams in the same week (or even days) with both clubs. I think Bolomboy has a chance to be a solid rotation player on an NBA club. I see flashes of so many players in his game. He just needs to get out there on the court.

This is still so savage.

Let’s end on a good note. Today marks the day John Stockton played his first game.

George Hill is no John Stockton, but he’s no ancient Jamaal Tinsley either. We’ll be fine. Even if we let Portland steal this game.