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Jazz getting picked apart

Published February 7, 2011 11:38 pm

Utah defenseless • Opponents scorching team with pick-and-roll.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Deron Williams acknowledged that he is not in a position to call a private team meeting, despite being Utah's captain and undisputed leader. But the Jazz guard was absolutely direct when discussing Utah's seasonlong struggles defending the pick-and-roll.

"We've got to do something," Williams said after the Jazz's 121-105 home loss Saturday to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder torched Utah all night, and Oklahoma City ignited via the pick-and-roll — one of the most traditional and well-documented plays in the basketball playbook.

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was the biggest beneficiary. He shot 10 of 15 from the field, knocked down all four of his 3-point attempts, dished out 10 assists and finished with 33 well-executed points.

Everyone from Westbrook and Durant to Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic exploited the Jazz's weak pick-and-roll defense, and Oklahoma City's numbers swelled as a result. The Thunder shot 56.6 percent (43 of 76) from the field, made 61.9 percent (13 of 21) beyond the arc and distributed 30 assists.

"We tried everything. We switched every other play, man," Williams said. "We've just got to go over it. … As far as watching film, looking at plays — seeing what we're doing wrong."

The All-Star guard said that Utah normally discusses how the team will defend the play at shootarounds, but acknowledged that is "not the best idea."

"I don't know what to do," Williams said.

Unfortunately for the Jazz, standout defensive guard Raja Bell said the same exact thing.

Bell has highlighted Utah's inability to defend the pick-and-roll all season, lumping it in with one of the key "fundamental" things that the Jazz constantly struggle to accomplish.

After watching the Thunder knock down shots at will — offsetting a solid offensive night from the Jazz, who shot 51.3 percent (41 of 80) from the field, including 14 of 19 during the first quarter — Bell perfectly echoed Williams. The revered shutdown guard was at a complete loss, acknowledging that it's getting too late in the year for his team to still lack a definitive answer.

Bell believes that Utah's defense can hold its own in isolation sets and one-on-one, on-ball situations.

But when two opposing offensive players team up, using everything from a simple screen to deceptive sleight of hand to create a split-second advantage, the Jazz's defense crumbles.

"[It] was a bad matchup," Bell said. "[The Thunder are] a team that loves to go in the pick-and-roll. And once they had a little success with it, they beat us to death with it."

Bell is widely regarded as one of the premier defenders in the NBA during the last decade. Yet when the 11-year veteran was asked what Utah can do to tweak its approach as the stretch run of the season approaches, he was as troubled and uncertain as Williams.

"Bro, at this point, I don't really have a great answer for you," Bell said. "If we're not a good pick-and-roll team at this point, then maybe we're just destined to not be a very good pick-and-roll team."

Even Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was left to wonder.

Sloan said that his team went through every play in the book on the defensive end of the floor to quiet the Thunder's pick-and-roll attack.

Little made a difference and nothing worked.

"We couldn't handle it," Sloan said. "We weren't able to handle any of it. They killed us with that."

bsmith@sltrib.com

Twitter: tribjazz -Hot

Hot start

R Oklahoma City had six players score at least 10 points Saturday in the Thunder's 121-105 victory against the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.

• The Thunder shot 56.6 percent from the field and 61.9 percent behind the 3-point line. —

Jazz at Kings

P At Arco Arena; Sacramento, Calif.

Tipoff • Monday, 8 p.m.

TV • FSN Utah

Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM,98.7 FM

Records • Jazz 30-22, Kings 12-35

Last meeting • Jazz 94-83 (Nov. 22)

About the Jazz • Forward Andrei Kirilenko (sprained left ankle) is a game-time decision. … Center Mehmet Okur (strained lower back) is out and did not travel with the team.

About the Kings • Sacramento is 2-2 in its last four games. … Guard Tyreke Evans leads the Kings in average points (18) and assists (5.5), while center DeMarcus Cousins tops the team in rebounds (7.7).