Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons in Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. It’s really about individual defensive efforts
The Jazz won this game with halfway decent perimeter defense! Good for them.
And, looking at the tape, it was really about individual defenders locking in their man and going the extra distance to make a play, just being able to keep their man in front much better than they had in games previous ones. Mike Conley does it here, using physics to beat Cade Cunningham to the point of attack, then Rudy Gobert shut down nicely too.
Quin Snyder said Bojan Bogdanovic was disappointed with his defense in the Jazz’ loss to Houston and thought he played much better against the Pistons. I agree, he’s doing a really good job staying ahead of Kelly Olynyk here:
Here’s the Jordan Clarkson defensive punching bag doing its best to stay in front – and it works.
Look, the Pistons are the worst offense in the league, so this is the easy level of defensive video game. Success against the Pistons isn’t necessarily going to translate. But it’s better than, say, not playing defense against the Pistons — something we saw last week.
In the end, the Pistons only got 34 points in the paint tonight, because the Jazz walled in that paint and did everything they could to stay ahead. It’s so essential for this Jazz defense to perform regularly; In order to be good enough defensively, the Jazz need their dodgy defensemen to play as well defensively as possible.
2. Trent Forrest was really good tonight
Even without Gobert in the game, the Jazz played well defensively. In fact, the Jazz had a 90 defensive rating while playing with Eric Paschall and Rudy Gay playing all five, one of the best short-ball defensive performances of the season.
I thought a big key to that was Trent Forrest, who for me was the standout defender in the game. Forrest easily did the best job on Cunningham, turning early offensive efficiency into a few missed shots late.
It’s no secret that Cunningham destroyed the Jazz in their last game, as the rookie got a season/career high against the Jazz. And at first it looked like it would be a trend: Cunningham had 11 in the first quarter, just toasting Royce O’Neale a few times. But it will certainly go, Forrest – forcing Cunningham to step back is a major victory.
Here he stays big in the post against the bigger Trey Lyles.
To merge this point and the last, here is an excellent individual defense from Forrest, an excellent closing from Bogdanovic, then a good deflection from Clarkson.
I don’t know if Forrest is an incredible long-term prospect; the shoot is so far away that he doesn’t even try anymore. But he’s good at other parts of the game, and the videos above show how he adds something the Jazz otherwise doesn’t have.
In fact, Forrest’s game is quite telling: even a decent defender looks better than his counterparts in the Jazz scheme. You wonder what a quality and experienced acquisition within commercial deadlines could bring.
3. A revealing stretch ahead
I think it was an important win to get because it gives them a platform to compete in their next four games. The Jazz will next play in Golden State against the Warriors, then go to Phoenix to play against the Suns, then come home to play against the Suns againthen go to Memphis to play the Grizzlies.
It’s going to be interesting. The Warriors are a little hesitant right now, needing a last-second shot from Steph Curry to beat the Rockets. They will miss Draymond Green. Phoenix should get DeAndre Ayton back and be healthy, they’ve also won five in a row. The Grizzlies had won 10 straight before going 2-2 in their last 4 games. All of these teams, however, sit above the Jazz in the Western Conference standings.
During this time, the Jazz, I think, will become healthier. I don’t think Donovan Mitchell will miss many more games because of his concussion – that he was in the arena tonight with all the lights bright was a good sign. And Hassan Whiteside, Snyder tells us, is nearing the end of his fight against COVID and league protocols.
In other words, we can actually find out more about this Jazz team. To be honest, they are yet to have a signature win this season, having played an incredibly easy schedule so far. It gets tough from now on, and several matches against the league’s best will be the most telling test.