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Utah Jazz

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Defense is elite again and a bench combination?

David Locke

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SUMMARY: Jazz couple a great defensive performance with hot shooting and blow out the Portland Trailblazers.
• Jazz won their 10th road game of the season and I am writing this on our halfway flight of the year. Incredible to be done with half the road games and half the flights by Dec 21st.

• The Jazz defense has clicked in. They have put together 5 straight games with a defensive rating over under 100. Holding teams to 7 points below the league average and for the last three opponents all top 10 offensive teams to 10 points below their average is remarkable. The Jazz only had one stretch last season where they held opponents defensive rating under 100 for more than 5 games when they did it for 9 straight in March.

• I was not a big believer in the Kyle Korver effect. The idea that Kyle Korver was making everyone else a better shooter. I am still not sure I buy it, but I do think some guys are getting better looks. Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver have been playing together almost exclusively recently and there is no question Jae is getting better looks.

• Tonight Quin played a line-up of Exum, Korver, Ingles, Crowder and Favors. Before tonight Korver, Ingles and Crowder had only played 48 possessions together. Korver and Ingles had only played 67 possessions. Interestingly, before tonight these combination hadn’t worked. However, when you put Dante and the point guard and Favors at the center it looked really interesting. Before tonight this group had only played 6 possessions.

• Here is why it looked interesting. Exum and Favors are currently our best pick and roll combination by pts per possession. This is our best pick and roll combination with our best three shooters on the floor. You can’t leave Ingles or Korver for an open three and when Crowder is wide open he is a good shooter. Crowder is 8 of 53 when a defender is within 4 feet of him on a three over the last two seasons. When he is open he is a 35% from three. That is a great option. This group will have to be able to defend, but on the offensive end it sure is interesting.

• This is a huge find if it works. What jumped out to me recently was the bench unit was completely different from last years when Mitchell and Neto were the point guards. O’Neale was the 2 with Crowder at the 3, Jerebko the 4 and Favors the 5. This year it has been struggling and maybe Quin has found a new combination.

• The Jazz ability to execute the defensive game plan that last three games against top 10 defenses is really incredible. Tonight they took the ball out of Lillard’s hands with traps and blitzs on the pick and roll and the then on the backside were fabulous. CJ McCollulm couldn’t get anything going tonight, he was 5 of 15. This is the second straight night an opposing shooting guard who is very explosive had a non impact on the game. Nice work Donovan.

• Damian Lillard was 7 of 16 with 4 threes. 2 of the threes came when he re-located to the corner off a miss. He only got two threes in the half court offense in its natural flow.

• Ricky Rubio had a poor shooting first half and then in the second half went bananas. He made 9 straight shots. It all started with a layup. The layup seems to be the key for Rubio. In the first half he missed a reverse layup and then wouldn’t take it again. In the third quarter on the second play he came of a UCLA cut for a easy layup and it started him.

• Dante Exum was fabulous tonight. As I mentioned the combination with Crowder, Korver and Ingles seemed to give him space to work and he made super reads on his passes. His defense was long and tough on Lilard. Dante has dealt with the hard moments this year really well and kept working. Recently he has been working with Jeff Watkinson and has really been grinding.

• The biggest play of the game came out of a timeout in the 4th quarter. Lillard had just hit a three it was a 12 point game and it felt like the Blazers were coming. Out of the timeout Quin Snyder went to the Kyle Korver package and got Kyle a three and he nailed to make it 15. Blazers missed and then Korver hit a pull up 18 footer plus a foul and with the free throw Jazz were up 18.

• Jazz lead 7 after 1. Stretched it to 12 then it got down to 6 at the half. Jazz jumped out early in the third and took it to 15 going to the 4th before blowing the doors off.

• The jazz hit 16 three pointers.

• Feels like Jae Crowder has turned a shot selection corner.

• Jazz are playing a 4 game stretch against the top 4 teams in the West last year and it took 47 from Harden and 4 steps to beat them in Houston and they just beat the Warriors and blew out the Blazers. Thunder are next. Maybe the toughest team in the league to play on a back to back.

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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Utah Jazz

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David Locke

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Utah Jazz

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David Locke

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