Thoughts on The Jazz

Kurt —  May 2, 2008

Just a couple of notes after the Jazz earned the right to come out to LA Sunday.

• While many think of the Jazz as a grind-it-out team, Jerry Sloan opened up the offense some this year, and the Jazz can run — so the Lakers need to get back in transition. Utah ran against the Rockets in spurts, and what is dangerous is their shooters trail the play and spot up at the arc (including Okur). It’s not the same as Denver, but the Jazz are too good for the Lakers to give up any easy buckets like that. (Thanks to Exodus for a correction in that paragraph).

• You can run on the Jazz, they can get sloppy in transition defense. The Lakers should push the pace on offense.

• The lesson the Rockets taught us — Kobe will get his (in the McGrady role) but if the other Lakers don’t step up and add points it will be a very tough series. The crisp Lakers passing can get good looks, Utah didn’t see that from the Rockets.

• Pick and roll defense, particularly stopping the penetration off it, will be key for LA. The Jazz offense clicks when D-Will draws attention on those drives and he can dish.

• It’s been said a lot, but how the refs call things and if some Lakers get in foul trouble will be a key to the series.

• The benches could decide this.

Kurt

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36 responses to Thoughts on The Jazz

  1. The Jazz didn’t play at the slowest pace this season. They were 11th in the league in pace in the regular season. They’re a bit more uptempo than people think.

  2. Actually, the Jazz averaged 83.5 possessions per game, 11 fewer than the Lakers and 30th in the NBA.

    http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/2008/o_pace.htm

  3. Hmm…According to Hollinger’s stats the Jazz averaged 96.9 possessions per game and were 11th in the league.

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/teamstats?sort=pac&seasonType=2&league=nba

    I’m not saying those stats are wrong, but I’m inclined to believe ESPN’s. Especially since I’ve watched Utah enough to know that they don’t generally play that slow-paced, though they’re successful when they do. And I find it hard to believe that they play at a slower pace than the Spurs, Pistons, etc.

  4. And according to Hollinger, the Lakers averaged 98.0 possessions per game, which was 6th.

    Sorry to post twice in a row!

  5. Kurt,Utah had 5th highest team scoring ave,2ppg behind LA. Either they were incredibly effecient(and their FG% suggests they were/are)or they played faster than you think. I suggest it’s both,and there are a couple of factors that mislead observers about Utah’s pace. One,they commit alot of fouls which stops the clock and second they are incredibly disciplined when they get an offensive rebound-if they don’t have a gimme,they kick it out and restart their offense so many of their possesions end up using 30-40 seconds of game time.(In Game 7 against Rockets last yr they had one possesion at end of game where they missed twice,got both rebounds and used 1:04 of game time!) They remind me of an elite 80’s team that would run every chance it could,but if there’s nothing there,they pull it out and set up the O. And Sloan encourages the Jazz to run.

  6. Xodus, it’s interesting because while the possession numbers are different, the order of the teams tracks very closely between Hollinger and Mike, for example the top six teams including the Lakers are identical (Mike, I know, is using an older Hollinger system, actually, Mike and John know each other a little and talk). Utah is an outlier jumping way up the board, which is odd. When I’m not so tired I need to look at what they are doing differently and what would account for that change in position relative to other teams.

    The number of possessions is always a little odd because the NBA does not keep that as an official stat so estimations are used. I think the best may be at basketballvalue.com, they have the Lakers at 95 per game.

  7. Maybe it’s the difference between major and minor possessions?

  8. Xodus, Stephen, I think I figured out what was throwing me off (and I’ll edit the post to reflect this).

    As I poke around Mike’s (knickerblogger’s) site, I think the Utah postseason numbers are in with other team’s regular season stats. His numbers have a very weak Utah offense and good defense, which was not the case all year (last time LA played Utah the Jazz had a better offensive rating than the Lakers, now it is way down). While those numbers don’t match the regular season they do (just by my eye) match that topsy-turvy first-round series with the Rockets. This happened at Mike’s site another year and I had forgotten about it.

    Thanks for pointing out the errors of my ways.

  9. Congrats to Kobe, bad break for Bynum. I anticipate this being a tough series, particularly the games in Utah. I think a key to the series is effective handling of the DWill/Boozer SR without overcommitting, because Utah has a bunch of shooters that will really hurt the Lakers. I don’t think scoring will be too big of a problem as I don’t think they have good matchups for Kobe, Pau, or Lamar, but I can easily see the Lakers bigs being killed by foul trouble.

    I hope Fisher’s experience in Utah helps him a bit in covering DWill, because I really don’t think Gasol on Boozer is a good matchup for the Lakers. In crunch time I might want to see a Derek-Kobe-Lamar-Pau-Ronny lineup unless Walton continues playing out of his mind.

  10. Over the past few weeks the Jazz and Rockets have played 7 games(last weekend reg season and Playoffs).
    If you don’t mind i’d like to offer a long post of thoughts on the Jazz.

    First,the Jazz are Deron Williams team. He is their go-to guy and he can take over a game. He may have the bad luck to have Paul come into the League w/him,but he is a stud. He is stronger and better defensively than Paul,but doesn’t have Paul’s ability to create shots.

    The Jazz ARE extremely physical. They get in your face and stay there for 48 minutes. They will constantly elbow,shove,jab and clutch and grab jerseys. They do it all game long and no amount of whistles will make them stop. However,they are not trying to hurt you and they don’t try to throw you thru the floor. They do just enough to get you out of position for a rebound,to stop your cuts,to make you miss your shot and above all to get you so tired of trying to drive thru the teeth of their D that you’ll settle for jump shots. They get a ton of offensive rebounds thru subtle shoves(a Boozer specialty) and heavy forearms to move you out,or they just lay their body on you and go for every shot. Boozer and Okur have strong hands and will rip rebounds away from you.
    On offense they try to space the floor,let Williams and Boozer pick and roll you to death and the other Jazz-esp Harpring-are quite good at moving w/out the ball. The team as a whole are passes very well so the motion in their offense-esp second cuts-is rewarded. They can get into trouble on offense when they get impatient and jack up quick shots. Generally,in an offensive set,the quicker they shoot,the worse the results.

    Kobe is going to have to walk a very tight line in this series between getting his and mooving the ball. LA has significantly more weapons than Houston so the Jazz will prob defend LA a little bit different. That said,Kobe can expect Brewer,Kirilenko,Harpring and Korver to take turns defending him They will body him all game long as they don’t care about foul trouble-they’ve got 24 to use. The Jazz will often drop whoevers’ defending the top of key for a quick double and rapid passing to opposite side will often result in very good looks as the Jazz hug the lane as much as possible on weak side. However the Jazz will try to close out,so a nice tactic would be subtle hint of shot and drive into abandoned area. This causes the Jazz to scramble and they often leave a big wide open near the basket.Quick ball movement from Kobe,followed by penetration should result in numerous Gasol/Lamar baskets. The Jazz have several players who will contest shots in the lane so you have to go strong. Boozer likes to try to rip ball away down low and can pick up fouls doing so.
    I would suggest Kobe be very aggressive at beginning of games,taking it strong for first 6-8 minutes,trying to get Jazz bigs in foul trouble. After that he should switch to “plays nice w/others” mode and use his drives to set up others,getting his own scoring in flow of game. Kobe should be able to get his shot off at any time,the catch is they will be contested and what will his % be. And if he falls in love w/his jumper-or trying to score all the time-the Lakers will be in trouble.
    The Lakers will be tempted by open 3 looks,esp if they are successful early inside as Jazz will surround the lane. They’re almost a trap as Jazz pressure will tire out a team and tired legs really show up on long Js.

    Some quick thoughts on some Jazz role players.
    Brewer is a guy you cannot go to sleep on as he will quickly go backdoor or knock down a 3.
    Korver is a better athlete-and taller-than I thought. He had several frontal blocks and showed a very nice passing touch. He can’t dribble worth squat.
    Price-the backup PG-hurt the Rockets at ends of 2,3Q with 3s,penetration and pull-ups. Farmar better be ready.

  11. the other Stephen May 3, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Kurt, you have been shown the error of your ways, and you have responded most gracefully and with great dignity. You are welcome. Just kidding. I wanted to say that…damn it, I forgot what I was going to say by this point. I was going to say that the Lakers have shown amazing mental concentration, commitment, devotion, and any other synonym I’m missing out on this season, and it especially showed when they swept the Nuggets. Some sort of wiring is awry in Boston, though. I’m not going to put any stakes on game seven in that series, but I will say that if the Celtics fall to Atlanta, not only will it be a disappointment of tremendous and poetic magnitude, but also it will be a great showing of a lack of mettle and professionalism. This mental lapse in Beantown could prove fatal, and this series will be the DAL/GSW of 2008. I live in Atlanta now, and without a doubt I support the Hawks, but they were never supposed to win this series. They’re great, young, and exciting to watch, and I think that they can be even greater if the front office gets its shit together, but they are not a better team than Boston.

  12. An interesting question on possessions. Does an offensive rebound count as a second possesion,or a continuation of the initial possesion? As Kurt pointed out,possesions are not an official stat. A team that gets a igh amount of offensive rebounds-like Utah-could end up w/completely different pace rates depending on which way you use.
    Not to mention offensive effectiveness is also usually a ratio between scoring and possesions. If you had 30 possesions that ended in a made basket,30 that ended in a missed basket,10 that ended in a turnover and 10 misses that you rebounded and went on to score,you either went on to score in 40 of 80 possesions,or 40 of 90.

  13. Renato Afonso May 3, 2008 at 6:02 am

    A possession always ends with a shot in my book, therefore, after an offensive rebound you have a second possession. However, I’m really not aware of how Hollinger makes his calculations…

  14. Renato Afonso May 3, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Correction: A shot always ends a possession… Sometimes there are TO’s…

  15. Gasol is too soft for Boozer. I like Turiaf’s chances better.

    All we really need to do is defend homecourt and try to steal one in Utah. I like or chances if we win the 1st 2 games and game 4 (i doubt we can win game 3). I f we are up 3-1 comming back to LA, we can close them out and wait for the winner of the Hornets and Spurs series, which I expect to go to at least 6 games.

    In all, I like our chances against Utah. Boozer and Williams will get theirs but if we can stop the others, we are good. The Jazz have no answer for Kobe or Lamar so both should have a big series.

    Speaking about role players, I don’t want Korver or Okur any where near the 3 point line. make them earn their points inside the ark.

    The Jazz are good on the offensive glass so Odom, Gasol, Turaif, and everybody else needs to limit them to one shot. Unlike Denver, this team will not fall apart and quit on each other.

    I hope that Trever can come back in this series 100%. He might need to help Fisher and Farmar on Williams.

    Speacking of Trever, what on earth is wrong with our medical staff? I bet that if Mihm, Bynum, and Trever played for the Suns, they would have been healthy a month ago.

    Sorry if I bored you guys but I had to let it out.

    GO LAKERS!!!

  16. 13. The way it is done universally in hoops statistics is that an offensive possession ends when the other team gets the ball. Meaning, a turnover ends a possession. However, an offensive rebound keeps a possession alive, it is a different play within the same possession.

  17. About our medical staff. This is a tired discussion. Ariza had a broken foot – a BROKEN foot – and this is a very athletic game, played forward and backward and sideways. Andrew is seeing his own doctors and the Lakers are not in charge of his medical decisions.

  18. Thanks for clearing that up Craig

  19. A few random observations from the first round series:
    – Boozer was limited to midrange shots because of mutumbo’s intimidation. sloan tried to free him up by sending korver or brewer into the lane to set a pick. hopefully kobe and sasha will be aware of it if it is run on them.
    – looking at shot charts, it seem like the jazz (okur, korver, williams) shoot almost no corner 3pters. odd, because the lakers shoot so many. i heard this was to limit opponent fast breaks. i wonder if sloan has a different philosophy than phil?
    – lakers offensive rebounds were down vs the nuggets because we were paranoid about the outlet pass. if jazz start running, hopefully we can pressure okur/boozer to limit their outlet passes.

  20. Renato Afonso May 3, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Thanks Kurt for clarifying it. I don’t totally agree, but it kinda makes sense also…

  21. I’m finally ready to speculate about the Jazz/Lakers.

    One factor that we’ve already seen with the Lakers is the ability to shift to a new gear in the playoffs with experienced players-a gear not possessed at all by the Jazz now that Fisher is gone. When Walton is on the floor, the Lakers have 3 of 5 players who remember all the way back to the Shaq playoff era. If we add in Gasol, we have playoff experience at international as well as national levels. So far, Pau has responded well in the clutch.

    Even though Lamar is a veteran, he has not been to the rarefied playoff levels and rounds of his teammates–he’s the x factor. So far, predictably, he’s feeling some pressure.

    Against the Jazz, Lamar will have at least some defensive responsibility for Boozer, and some offensive responsibility inside. He will be battling for rebounds at both ends. Lamar is the Laker player most likely to have foul problems–the kind of foul problems that made him disappear for one playoff game against the Nuggs.

    If one goes position by position, considering only the starting five, the lineups clash. Brewer clearly is at a disadvantage against Kobe. Okur has no chance against Gasol. One way or anotrher, the help needs to come from AK47. If AK47 and other Jazz players compensate defensively, the Jazz are vulnerable to the kind of passing that the Lakers used effectively against the Nuggs.

    Nonetheless, AK47 is the X factor for the Jazz. He can make plays on offense and defense that are outside of the general strategy of the Jazz.

    Fisher is at a disadvantage against Deron Williams, and Lamar can’t stop Boozer. As other Lakers help, the Jazz also can pass and score in diverse ways.

    But we haven’t considered another dynamic yet. Both the Lakers and Jazz will rely on players from the bench. For the Jazz, Brewer only plays about 20 minutes even though he starts. We will see Millsap, Harpring, and Korver play about 20 minutes each. Each of them give the Jazz a slightly different look. The Lakers are likely to go deeper, with VladRad, the Machine, Farmar, and Ronny getting some minutes.

    If we compare the game to a boxing match, the Lakers are likely to be the puncher and the Jazz the counter puncher. If the Jazz get the Lakers to settle for threes and jump shots, or if the Jazz force turnovers, they will get transition opportunities, and their entire offence will come to life. If the Lakers execute on offense, the Jazz will have great difficulty keeping up.

  22. Ask and you shall receive….

    So we get the Jazz.

    Kurt, you brought up some great points about the Jazz. Here are some things I’ll be looking for as well:

    *We have to be extremely crisp in our movement on offense. We need to execute the offense and all it’s motions and make hard cuts. Understand Sloan and Phil have faced each other on several occasions in the playoffs and are very familiar with what each team wants to do. That means execution is king. In order to be efficient against a physical team like Utah, you must make every movement meaningful. By making hard cuts and good, quick decisions, we can make the Jazz reactive rather than proactive on defense. They will pick up fouls off the ball if we are making hard cuts…they will hold and grab off the ball if they are beat to a spot.

    *I’d also like to see us give the Jazz a taste of their own medicine. Okur and Boozer are not the best defenders and I’d like to see us put them in P&R situations with Kobe and Gasol. The Jazz will already be extremely focussed on stopping Kobe, so I think putting him in that high P&R with Pau will really open up the offense and get the Jazz in scramble mode on defense. If we can get 3 defenders to occupy Kobe and Pau (2 on Kobe at the top and 1 rotating to Pau on the roll or pop out) we will get open jumpers by Fish and Vlad (and Sasha and Farmar and Luke) and Lamar will get ample *dive* opportunities against a rotating defense especially when Pau *slips* the screen and catches the ball at the FT line from Kobe.

    *It’s been said before, but rebounding will be key. We need at least 4 to the glass (and usually all 5). We need to secure the ball before we can get out and push pace. One think I’ll be looking for specifically is keeping AK contained on the offensive glass. Vlad is going to have to be a better rebounder this series because he will be guarding a more active player (in terms of overall movement around the court) than last series. Sure Melo was a much better offensive player (and overall), but you know where to find Melo on any given possession. Whereas AK is a roamer on the offensive end and likes to cut hard off the ball and always finds himself around the bucket. So Vlad’s awareness is going to be key…and Phil has not called him a space cadet for nothing…so that is something to look out for.

    *Please, Please, Please keep a level head against this team…and it all starts with Kobe. In the last Utah game, we did a tremendous job of taking our anger and aggression (due to the Fisher booing) and channeling that into a focused attack. We can’t get frustrated by Utah’s physicality or any unevenness from the refs. We need to adjust to how any particular game is called and just move on. Kobe was king of the *t* during the regular season and some of it at the end of the season was due to a lack of the whistle on his drives to the hoop. Based off Utah’s style, every foul will not be called (I actually credit them for there style) and we need to just understand that and play the game. I’m not really worried about Kobe, he knows the drill and is our General in this battle, but it’s just something that we need to be under control.

  23. A possession ends three ways: a made basket (or making the second of two free throws), a missed shot w/o a rebound (including a free throw), and a turnover.

    An offensive rebound keeps a possession alive. A defensive rebound ends it.

  24. The Jazz have all been to the WCF, except Korver and he has experience in the East. They are an experienced playoff club – and they are coached by Sloan.

    I expect Luke to get more run in this series because 1) he has finals experience and 2) he probably will stick with AK’s constant movement. With this in mind we will have 4 players on the court with serious playoff experience (see drrayeye above) – Fish, Kobe, Walton, Gasol. Actually I think Lamar will not be as effective this series because he will get into foul trouble. Therefore I think Turiaf’s style will be needed. I also think Mbenga will get some run – while he isn’t Mutombo, he is that type of player and I think Phil will try to use him in a similar capacity.

  25. Some folks keep track of major and minor possessions. A major possession ends with a change of possession (or end of quarter). A minor possession ends whenever a major one does, but it also ends on a shot (made or missed). So any rebound starts a new minor possession.

    Major possessions are used more often than minors, but they’re both used.

  26. i for one think that the kobe mvp is added pressure on him. and i don’t mean it in a bad way. kobe has tremendous mental ability to focus and i think that winning the mvp will cause him to hyper focus on the task at hand….a CHAMPIONSHIP RUN. he knows how he earned the mvp and will not stray too far from a recipe of success……..his heroic tangents will be limited to a team need basis. he has achieved one accolade, now he needs to raise everyone to the prize and he has plenty of help in ALL his teammates…….

  27. Bynum doubts himself if a return is possible this season:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3379418

  28. This post seems to be a little more reasonable than some of the other delusional fans. I agree that it is definitely an uphill battle for the Jazz, but the biggest mistake the Lakers can make is thinking that this series will be a pushover. My own (biased) opinion is Jazz in 6, only because they have a decent shot at game 1 (rusty vs not) and have the best home court in the league.

    Looking forward to a real battle!

  29. http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-spw-lakersked4-2008may04,0,3446965.story?track=mostviewed-storylevel

    so do you think the team flys home after the game on Sunday? or stays until the game on Wed?

  30. Warren Wee Lim May 3, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    As projected, this series will be physical, offense-oriented and tough. But if I have to make a bold prediction, I’m changing the usual Lakers in six to a more dramatic Lakers in 5.

    Kobe getting the Maurice Podoloff is another motivation. Besides, this game is personal for Fish.

  31. laughing hard May 3, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    31: I actually second the Lakers in 5. Outside of Deron Williams, I really don’t see this team matching up that well with us. AK47 is extremely streaky, and has not played that well of late. I think that Boozer will definitely be a problem, but combining LO’s length and quickness and Turiaf’s interior presence on him should slow him down quite a bit on that 15 footer that is his bread and butter. I really don’t understand the argument that Okur matches up with Gasol. Neither rebound all that well, but Gasol is vastly the superior interior player. The Lakers will likely need to make switches to match up with him when he spots up for three, but even letting Lamar dog him on the perimeter seems like it should be good enough.

    The Lakers’ bench is what seals the deal for me, though, I just don’t think that the Jazz will be able to hang with the length of the bench mob, and I trust Phil Jackson to exploit those advantages to the fullest.

  32. I don’t think we can sell the Utah bench short. They are very good and my actually equal ours. What we have is fantastic flexibility, which allows us to play many different types of games – plus Kobe to initiate all the options. Utah has to choose a way to play and this leaves some things open. We are able to exploit pretty much anything. That is what is so terribly scary about this team.

    Speaking of scary, NO was just that tonight against SA.

  33. (29) Hi Scrum–You’ve got Hollinger on your side and good logic. If the Jazz can win (stay close and steal) the first game, prospects for the series might well support your hope to win in six.

    I’m expecting a rested Laker team to fully exploit their home court advantage from the gitgo. The first quarter should go to the Lakers. That’s their tendency. The Jazz will have their best chance in the second quarter. Utah then needs to close out the first half ahead of the Lakers if they can. They may have a further chance in the third quarter, but the fourth quarter will belong to LA. The Lakers are good at sustaining a lead if they have one, but have had difficulties in a really close game.

    For the Lakers to truly be in a strong position, they must not only win the first, they must win the first two. That will give them a good chance. Like Houston, the Lakers have already won in Salt Lake City–but they wouldn’t need to if they could maintain their home court advantage.

    If the Lakers lose two? We saw the Houston series. That’s their (and probably your) dream.

    I don’t have a prediction beyond game 1. I predict a Laker win.

  34. game day post up

  35. certainly we’d like to win 2 in LA, but NOBODY but the most delusional fans predicted winning the first 2 games on the road. It is much less likely that we could do the same against the Lakers if only because, in my opinion, we “used up” our quality road win in game 2.

    You’re probably right in your game one analysis, having seen many more Laker games than I have. I haven’t done the research, but I would be willing to bet that the majority of playoffs games thus far were decided by one lopsided quarter (outscored by 8 or more). Truthfully I’m just hoping that the Jazz fight hard and don’t wilt in the CA sun.