Utah Jazz: Defense a major concern after blowout loss
By Bill Oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jan 29 2013 12:26PM
The Jazz have a goal for how they will play on defense.
This isn’t it.
Opponents are shooting 46.2 percent against the Jazz, who after a franchise-worst 125-80 loss at home Monday to Houston have seen seven of their last nine opponents shoot better than 50 percent from the field.
"Anytime teams are shooting 45-plus, 50-plus," forward Marvin Williams said, "you’ve got to look at what you’re giving up inside. A lot of times you’re probably giving up a lot of layups, a lot of offensive rebounds. I think the past few games we’ve definitely done that. We’ve got to get back to protecting the paint and make them shoot from outside on us."
The Jazz rank 25th in the NBA in defensive rating, which measures opponents’ points per 100 possessions. The Rockets shot 52.8 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from the 3-point range.
Before Monday, the Jazz had largely hidden their weaknesses. They have still won nine of their last 13 games, and remain tied for seventh place in the Western Conference standings.
But there is now a sense of urgency with figuring out a defensive solution.
"We’ve got to get better," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We want to keep teams down in the 42 percent range for the year, and we’re above that now."
At this point, that is pie-in-the-sky dreaming. The league’s best defensive team, Indiana, holds opponents to 42 percent.
Still, the Jazz maintain they are doing the things in practice that will help them improve.
"We spend a lot of time playing one-on-one, two-on-two and working on our half-court shell on the defensive end," Williams said. "So we spend a great deal of time, I feel, on the defensive end. I think sometimes in the game we have a little bit of slippage."
As for how much of the blame for the defensive lapses falls on Corbin, Williams said, "I feel like he’s a defensive-minded coach. He gives you a lot of freedom on the offensive end within the system, but he really does put an emphasis on defense."
Hayward still absent
Gordon Hayward did not practice with the Jazz on Tuesday and is doubtful to return against the Hornets on Wednesday as he continues to rest a sprained right shoulder.
"We’re going to make sure he’s well," Corbin said, "before we take a chance of getting hurt further."
Hayward injured the shoulder battling through a screen in the final seconds of Saturday’s 114-110 overtime win against Indiana.
Millsap for 3?
In his first six NBA seasons, Jazz forward Paul Millsap attempted just 64 3-pointers. In November alone, he attempted 19. It seemed the once paint-centric power forward had adapted to the Jazz’s wishes that he expand his game to include more perimeter touch.
That month, it was hot outside for Millsap. He made 52.6 of his attempts, including 3 of 4 in a triple-overtime win in Toronto.
Then it just stopped. Since then, Millsap is just 2 of 11 on 3s, with the attempts coming in more desperate situations.
Why the change?
"I haven’t really been confident getting out there shooting it," Millsap said. "Mainly these last few months what my thing has been [is] attacking the basket, getting to the rim, getting to the free-throw line."
Not that the Jazz see this as a bad thing. Millsap’s overall shooting increased in both December and January, and his scoring took a bump, also, to 14.9 per game this month.
Millsap will play to his strengths and, while his 3-pointing is improved, Corbin said it’s not among his best assets.
"He’s a big guy," Corbin said. "Time, opportunity allows you to get those shots. He’s improved it, he’s comfortable shooting them, but that’s not who he is or how he plays."