SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 104-88 win over the Milwaukee Bucks from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Bucks give Jazz so, so many open shots
Coming into tonight, the Bucks had allowed their opponents to score over 100 points in their last 14 games, and over 110 points in their last eight games. Before the game, I wondered how they were allowing so many points. The Bucks have some defensive assets, after all: Giannis Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in blocks per game, Matthew Dellavedova is a tenacious, feisty defender despite his size, and Tony Snell has real length and quickness. This team was fourth in the league defensively just two years ago, now they're 20th.
Well, it turns out that they're also very young, and so they make many dumb defensive mistakes. The Jazz got 19 corner threes tonight, most of them were wide open. How did they get them? Let's break down a few examples.
The first biggest problem was that the Bucks' bigs, Thon Maker and Greg Monroe, couldn't get back to Rudy Gobert in the paint on pick and rolls. That mean he was getting easy dunks early in the game. So what did the Bucks do? They sent everyone on their roster to help on pick and roll:
The whole Milwaukee Bucks roster is in the paint here guarding a Joe Johnson/Rudy Gobert pick and roll. This is too easy. pic.twitter.com/iu2cDhQp5j— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 2, 2017
There are five Bucks in the paint here. That's too many to defend two players. Joe Johnson just has to find one of the options, and then that player can take a warmup jumper.
And then you can take advantage even without getting success in the pick and roll. Here, Joe Johnson sets a screen for Joe Ingles because Parker is so deep into the paint just anticipating that he'll need to help.
Ingles gets open thanks to a Joe Johnson screen: pic.twitter.com/uoitCNkEmM— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 2, 2017
"We spent a lot of time talking about having our eyes out," Quin Snyder said. "I thought our wings and our guards did a better job of making decisions, holding the defense, and finding the open man." Left unsaid: the Bucks made that job pretty easy.
2. Is it bad in the Hood?
I'm so sorry for the above non-joke. Once again, Rodney Hood hyperextended his right knee, the same injury that cost him five games when he injured it on Jan. 14. He'll be getting an MRI tomorrow that will diagnose the extent of the injury, though I'd be somewhat surprised if it's anything beyond the hyperextension.
Video of Rodney Hood's injury and exit stage left: pic.twitter.com/m0xySu4w7V— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 2, 2017
Hood was dressed and walking after the game, definitely slowly, but didn't have too much of a noticeable limp. After tonight, the Jazz are now 5-5 in games Hood doesn't play.
If Hood can't play, who will get his minutes? Joe Ingles started the second half in Hood's place tonight, and I think that's a likely scenario moving forward. But Joe Johnson, Alec Burks, and Dante Exum also should be beneficiaries of Hood's absence. Exum played 7:49 tonight, including some time next to George Hill playing the shooting guard spot. Exum hit a three early, but was pulled late thanks to some bad switching mistakes that let Thon Maker get two consecutive wide open threes.
3. On Gobert and Hayward
I can't let this game recap slide without talking about the performance of Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, who led the Jazz to victory on both ends of the floor.
Defensively, Hayward did a fantastic job on Antetokounmpo, holding him to just nine points (2-10 shooting), six rebounds, and four assists in 39 minutes of action. Those totals are 14 points, three rebounds, and two assists below his season averages, even though he played four more minutes than he usually does.
"I think Gordon was smart and disciplined. We talk a lot about Gordon's offense and his playmaking, but one of the areas where I feel like there's been improvement is defensively. He was engaged tonight," Snyder said. "He's a huge key, because a lot of times his activity, his rebounding, those things have a huge impact on our team defensively."
Hayward deflected credit after the game, talking about the Jazz's gameplan as the key factor that limited Giannis' production. I think that's right, but misses the point that Hayward was the most important part of that gameplan. Hayward was solid and crafty in defending Antetokounmpo all night.
And then offensively, he set the tone for the Jazz early, getting to the line over and over again in the first quarter. Then, once things loosened up for the Jazz, he started hitting shots from inside and out. Overall, Hayward finished with an easy 27 points, and added five assists.
Gobert was basically as good defensively as he always is. Although he only picked up one block, he clearly dissuaded the paint-heavy Bucks from getting to their favorite spots on the floor.
On offense, though Gobert finished with 26 points, one off of his career high of 27. It's weird to say that Gobert bullied around anyone (after all, teams sometimes bully him around), but Thon Maker especially is so skinny right now that he was able to do it. Against bigger defenders like Greg Monroe, Gobert was just patient: he kept his pivot foot and waited for his opportunity to finish a dunk. That's a skill that he didn't use to have, but has added to his game because he's more comfortable taking contact and going to the free-throw line, where he was 8-10 tonight.
One other nice thing I saw from Gobert tonight was his passing out of the short roll. When teams get help defenders low on Gobert, trying to draw charges or otherwise stop Gobert's path to the basket, he needs to keep his head up and find the offensive player where that help came from. He was great at that tonight, and it helped the Jazz get good looks.
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