Preview and Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  November 24, 2006

How is Utah 11-1? The answer is offense. Right now the Jazz are the best offense in the NBA, racking up 115.2 points per 100 possessions, much better than second place Detroit (111.9) and far ahead of the 10th-ranked Lakers (107.2).

The Jazz are shooting a very nice 52.6% (eFG%) as a team, but more importantly they are grabbing a league-leading 33.6% of their missed shots — they are beasts on the offensive boards. Think about it, one out of three missed shots they get another crack at.

Driving that is the healthy and resurgent Carlos Boozer, who is grabbing 21.6% of available rebounds and combine that with his 78.6% shooting percentage inside and you see why the Lakers need to box out and crash the boards, or they get to watch some easy putbacks. By the way, Boozer is still shooting a decent 43.9% on jumpers.

Bet the over. While the Jazz have been an offensive force, they are 20th in the NBA in defensive efficiency right now, actually worse than the Lakers. Other teams are shooting a pretty average 49.3% against the Jazz, but they are creating few turnovers, and the result is giving up 107.8 points per 100 possessions.

For the record, after a couple games of good defense the Lakers defensive efficiency is at 105.6, 14th in the NBA.

You know who can play defense? UCLA. Have you watched much of them this season? Very aggressive trapping defense that is fun to watch, and is slowing other teams way down and forcing them to use up most of the shot clock every possession. You can see the frustration creep into opponents as the game wears on, leading to unnecessary risks. The Bruins are going to be very good this year.

Maybe he wasn’t a bad pick. The Jazz got laughed at by the mainstream media last year after they passed on Chris Paul to take Deron Williams. Now, Utah is laughing. The guys is running the offense well, shooting 55.4% (eFG%) on jumpers and playing good defense.

Kevin from ClipperBlog, after his team fell to the Jazz, said he was very impressed with how well Williams fits into what coach Jerry Sloan wants to do, much better than Paul would have. For what it’s worth, he also said that you can’t sleep on just how good a coach Sloan is.

Who is this Paul Millsap? What, you didn’t watch a lot of Louisiana Tech hoops last season? Millsap led the NCAA in rebounding last season, grabbing 24.5% of the available defensive boards and 18.1% of his offensive chances. But that was the college level, the WAC no less, you say? So far this season he is grabbing 17.1% of the rebounds when he is on the floor (only Bynum and Kwame have better percentages on the Lakers, and they both have at least 5 inches on the guy). As he should, Millsap has been shooting 70% inside, which means easy putbacks if the Lakers don’t box out (see a theme here?).

Best Name Since Enron Field. This past summer the Jazz made the switch from The Delta Center to the EnergySolutions Arena. The building is now named after a company that disposes nuclear waste.

Things to look for. Can the Lakers keep Deron Williams shooting from deep? He is shooting just 26.7% on threes but fills it up from the mid-range. Good on him, by the way, last year he jacked up a lot of threes but this season he’s stepping inside the line to take a shot he can hit (ahem, Jordan Farmar). Can’t let Williams get open looks in the midrange.

Crash the defensive glass or you are toast, Lakers.

Turnovers by the Lakers will be key — the Jazz are creating turnovers on just 15.7% of opponent possessions, but the Lakers have been coughing it up at a 20.2% clip. If the Lakers give that potent Utah offense a lot of extra shots with turnovers — or by giving up a bunch of offensive rebounds — the Jazz will win handily. Don’t and this should be a close, entertaining game.

I’m out of town until next Tuesday, but you are in the capable hands of Gatinho and Rob until then. Oh, and