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The Triple Team: Jazz break losing streak via forcing turnovers, though Victor Wembanyama’s future looms

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 128-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) blocks Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) as the Utah Jazz host the San Antonio Spurs, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.

1. Jazz forcing turnovers

The story of tonight’s game was a pretty familiar one if you’ve watched Jazz games this season: one team had too many turnovers to have a chance to win.

This time, though, it was the Jazz’s opponent that fumbled the ball everywhere: the Spurs had 20 turnovers that led to 34 Jazz points. The Spurs’ offensive rating was 100 — dismal in today’s era.

But the Jazz are usually bad at forcing turnovers: they rank 27th in the NBA at doing so. So what was the difference tonight?

“We’re trying to give the weak side of the defense a little bit more license right now to be aggressive,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “It’s not a trapping defense, we’re just trying to show a little bit more help on the ball a little bit higher up the floor than we have for the majority of the season.”

For example, watch this pick and roll defense. Lauri Markkanen plays pretty high on Jones coming off the pick and roll here, even though the play’s biggest threat by far is Victor Wembanyama rolling to the rim.

Markkanen gets a steal here, but also look at just how aggressive both John Collins and Jordan Clarkson are at trying to stop Wemby’s path to the rim. When the pick and roll is being run, there’s no one on the close side of the floor at all.

Is that something the Jazz can do more often? Hardy thinks so, thanks to the speed they have on the perimeter.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) leaps to defend San Antonio Spurs forward Zach Collins (23) as the Utah Jazz host the San Antonio Spurs, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.

“We don’t want to turn the game into shooting the gap, trying to steal every pass. I think that it becomes an all or nothing situation,” Hardy said. “But out perimeter defenders they do have speed. Collin, in the second half, you saw him get his hand on a few balls because he’s such a good athlete when he’s in that shift position.”

If they could replicate this in games to come, it would go a long way towards fixing the league’s worst defense over the last 15 games.

2. Victor Wembanyama impressions

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