The Triple Team: 3 thoughts on Jazz vs. Bucks

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MILWAUKEE — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 109-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks from's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.

1. Dunks on dunks on dunks

After the Jazz had 19 corner 3-point attempts against Milwaukee in their last game, Bucks coach Jason Kidd changed up his team's defensive strategy. Instead of overhelping, the Bucks stayed tight to the Jazz's outside shooters, forcing the Jazz to beat them in the middle.

Well, the Jazz did, easily. Over and over again. The Jazz had 10 dunks through the first three quarters before the Bucks switched up their defensive scheme, including some real highlight-reel finishes from Gordon Hayward.

#AllStarMuscle 💪 — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 25, 2017

See how tight Tony Snell stayed to Rodney Hood here? Even Giannis Antetokounmpo was late helping, trying to stay attached to Derrick Favors on the outside.

GORDON. HAYWARD. 💪 — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 25, 2017

On that one, Antetokounmpo is waiting for Hayward to catch the ball on the perimeter, worried about a common play the Jazz run where they give him a screen above the break. Hayward just slashes to the rim, and Joe Ingles delivers a perfect pass.

Hayward (29 PTS) shines to lead @utahjazz to a 109-95 win over @Bucks. Giannis goes for 33 PTS & 12 REB. — NBA (@NBA) February 25, 2017

This one's less about the positioning trying to take away the three, and more about the quality of the Bucks' defense just swiping or stepping towards Hayward, which isn't enough to dissuade him at all. This one was probably my favorite of the three, even though it illustrates the theme less well: Hayward just dunks all over Thon Maker with left hand power.

Of course, it wasn't all about Hayward: the stat lines of Derrick Favors (19 points on 9-14 shooting) and Rudy Gobert (15 points on 5-7 shooting). The longest shot either player made was from 10 feet. Favors showed a nice little floater and jump shot game, taking and making open looks.

"We did a good job reading" the pick and roll, Quin Snyder said. 52 points in the paint and 27 free throws made are indicative of that success. 109 points in 90 possessions? The Jazz will take that efficiency every time.

2. Defending as a free safety

The Jazz's defense wasn't as good as the offense, but I thought they did some nice things to stop a team that had come into the All-Star break hot. In the four games before the break, the Bucks averaged 115 points per game, so holding them to 95 tonight will definitely suffice.

The Jazz did that best by keeping the Bucks in front of them. There are a couple of ways to do that: probably the most obvious way is by switching when necessary. The Jazz did their share of that, especially early in the game when George Hill ended up guarding Antetokounmpo frequently.

Another way to do it is to cut off the space where a play is designed to go. There were times late in the game where Hill didn't follow the man he's designated to guard, but instead stayed at the "nail" (basketball jargon for the free-throw line) and read the play to prevent both the action at the top and the off-ball action on the side.

It's not that it's a zone, but when Hill's guarding a non-threat, he can play to stop the plays in other ways. That's just smart defensive design from the Jazz's coaching staff, and good execution by Hill.

The other thing that allows Hill to be such a good defender: the length (a 6-foot-9 wingspan) that allows him to guard both the ballhandler and the pocket pass is unique.

The length of George Hill is on full display here. This is a Joe Ingles special on how to get steals. — Nicholas Sciria (@Nick_Sciria) February 25, 2017

Hill spoke about the toe injury after the game, and he's still dealing with the injury even with the week off. For him to have the impact he did on both ends of the floor makes him a special player.

3. Joe Johnson playing the four

When the Jazz play small around Joe Johnson at the four and Rudy Gobert at the five, they're very, very good. With those two on the court without a traditional power forward, the Jazz are outscoring opponents by over 20 points per 100 possessions in 279 minutes on the floor.

That's probably not a surprise if you've watched this Jazz team this season, as many of their big comebacks late have been due to the Jazz spacing the floor around Gobert. But Snyder wanted to see more of it, so he's changed up his rotation.

In particular, Johnson entered the game for Favors, rather than Hayward at the 6:28 mark of the first quarter. That gave the Jazz three minutes of the Johnson/Gobert lineup in the first quarter, and then another three minutes of a Johnson/Favors lineup when Gobert needed to exit the game.

Both lineups worked well tonight, and I'd expect to see more of it in the future.

As a side note, though, that means Trey Lyles is completely out of the rotation. Diaw played nine minutes and was very unimpressive in them, and yet it didn't feel like Lyles could have done much better. That's the extent of Lyles' struggles right now on both sides on the floor, and he'll need to have better showings in practice (or take advantage of a foul trouble or injury situation) in order to earn minutes this season.

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