“Our offense affected our defense” and “Our defense affected our offense” are two of Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s favorite phrases, given his affinity for pointing out how frequently execution on side of the ball impacts efficacy on the other.
And in games like Friday night’s 116-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Vivint Arena, it’s easy to see what he means.
Snyder said before the game that while it’s not typically within the Jazz’s defensive scheme to force a lot of turnovers, he still would like to see his primary perimeter defenders — Royce O’Neale, Mike Conley, and Donovan Mitchell — start generating some additional pressure by finding the right balance of aggressiveness and discipline.
After the game, in seeing how the Jazz forced 16 turnovers (including four steals by Conley and three by Mitchell), and how they turned those into 27 points, and how they parlayed that into a whopping 185.7 rating on their transition opportunities … well, the interconnectedness is easy to understand.
“When we’re a little bit more active in creating turnovers and deflections, it gives our offense just a little bit of a boost by getting out and running and getting easy baskets,” said Conley, who finished with 15 points and eight assists. “We want to run and get up and down and get shots up. But I think getting turnovers, live-ball turnovers where we can get down and create easy opportunities, can really do well for our offense.”
Snyder certainly drew up some unique looks for defending Hawks star guard Trae Young, including, at times, full-court pressure, double-teams at the half court line, et cetera.
But nothing else about the way the Jazz defended was predicated on exploiting Atlanta specifically. Rather, they’ve simply made that ratcheted-up perimeter defense a priority, and it showed on this occasion.
“We’ve been emphasizing pushing the pace, playing fast, attacking, getting downhill, kicking the ball, moving it, taking the 3s when we have them. That’s just been emphasis that we’ve been putting on, it’s nothing against Atlanta or anybody else [specifically],” said Jordan Clarkson, who overcame an 0-for-7 start to hit 6 of his final 10 shots in totaling 16 points. “I think we’re just focusing on ourselves and pushing the ball and playing fast and playing smart and getting the right plays.”
It became something of a theme, particularly in the second half, when several lulls with their half-court offense enabled the Hawks to go on some fast-break benders of their own, and Utah was forced to respond.
A 15-point halftime advantage was answered by an 11-0 Atlanta run in the first 2 minutes, 18 seconds of the third. The Jazz’s response? Pushing the pace and answering with a 19-7 run of their own to re-establish control.
That, though, didn’t last long, either. When Mitchell — who led the way with 26 points on 6-for-10 shooting from deep — took a seat late in the period, Utah’s offense cratered again, and another 8-0 Hawks burst put the game at risk.
The Jazz lineup that began the final period then did what was necessary to put the game away, generating a back-breaking 21-0 run that began with shutting Atlanta down and ended with burying a series of open 3s.
“That group that sparked the fourth quarter run — that’s the epitome of who we are, just continuing to get stops and run, get stops and run,” Mitchell said. “Teams like to switch one through five, or blitz, or try and be aggressive, but you can’t do that when we’re running in transition. So we’ve made an emphasis on it.”
And they will continue to.
“Our mindset coming in was to be a little bit more aggressive and kind of take our defense to them and not let them dictate the dance,” said Conley. “And that allowed us to get a lot of deflections and get out in transition, and guys made the easy plays. And that’s what you want in those situations.”
JAZZ 116, HAWKS 92
Key moment • Miye Oni, getting some minutes due to the absence of Joe Ingles, shuts down a drive by Cam Reddish, then Mike Conley locates a streaking Jordan Clarkson for an in-rhythm 3 that put the Jazz up 22 in the fourth.
Big number: 1 • Cam Reddish went 4 of 5 from deep for Atlanta. All the other Hawks players combined for one made 3 (by Tony Snell), on 23 attempts.
Up next • Didn’t the Jazz just get home? They’re hitting the road again, albeit just for one game this time, Sunday in Denver, at 6 p.m. MT