Sports / Utah Jazz / 
Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) defends against Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) [Feb-26-2021]

Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

From the comments: Was Utah's biggest perceived weakness finally exploited against the Heat?

By Ryan Miller, | Posted - Feb. 27, 2021 at 12:07 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz lost to the Miami Heat 124-116 on Friday to start off a four-game road trip that will lead them into the All-Star break.

It was a rare close game for the Jazz and a rare loss. Here are the talking points from commenters after the contest.

"Every team is targeting Bogey as our weak link. He's gonna have to defend much better if we wanna win it." — JazzLadySLC

In the third quarter on Friday, the Heat found a matchup they loved. Kelly Olynyk set a screen for Jimmy Butler, which forced Bojan Bogdanovic to switch onto the Heat superstar. Miami went to this on six straight possessions at the start of the third quarter. Here's how they went:

  • Possession 1: Bogdanovic switched onto Butler, who then hit a rolling Olynyk on his way to the basket. That froze Rudy Gobert at the basket, allowing Bam Adebayo to slip out to receive a pass for an open short push shot.
  • Possession 2: Olynyk set a high screen for Butler and then Butler almost casually dribbled inside for a layup.
  • Possession 3: Bogdanovic gets switched onto Butler again, but this time stays in front of him. Butler passed inside to Adebayo, who hit another shot from the side. This one actually wasn't terribly defended — the Jazz will take a non-restricted area jumper — but Adebayo hit the shot.
  • Possession 4: Another high screen from Olynyk, but this time Butler dribbled away from it. Bogdanovic is able to cut off his drive at the free-throw line, but Butler raises and hits the shot.
  • Possession 5: Olynyk's screen gets Butler all the way to the basket where he scores through contact on a helpless Bogdanovic.
  • Possession 6: Olynyk frees up Butler again for a drive on Bogdanovic, who is called for a foul on Butler's shot attempt — and then gets a frustration technical on his way to the bench.

If we include that technical, the Heat scored 14 points on the six possessions attacking Bogdanovic. In all, the Jazz were outscored by 18 when Bogdanovic was on the court. So ... a potential problem?

It's not hard to imagine the likes of Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James or Luka Doncic doing something quite similar to what Butler did in a playoff situation. And that highlights what many perceive as the Jazz's biggest weakness: a lack of an additional wing stopper.

That said, Utah hasn't really struggled to defend with Bogdanovic on the floor this season (more of a credit to the team as a whole than Bogdanovic), so there's probably not much reason to panic. The fact the Jazz were fine when he was out of the game shows that this was either just a bad matchup or he was having an off night. Bogdanovic is certainly not the fastest guy around, but the Jazz have been able to adjust to that in the past.

"Every team has challenges and it's my job to try to help our guys play to their strengths," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said earlier this week when asked about the need for another wing defender.

"That was the most pathetic officiated game I've seen in a long time. Absolutely atrocious!!" — FostDawg

Bogdanovic's technical foul wasn't all because Butler was roasting him, it was because of a foul call that came really late (the classic "wait until the shot misses" call). Was there contact? Yes, Bogdanovic had his arm bent, resisting Butler's drive, but it was borderline and one that probably wouldn't be made if it was Bogdanovic driving on Butler. But that's also a reason Butler is so dangerous: He is really good at drawling fouls.

"He's an artist at it," Donovan Mitchell said when asked about Butler's foul-drawing ability. "I kind of put him in the James Harden category as far as you kind of go into your summers studying film on how guys get it. He's just a guy that understands where the contact is, understands where the ref's gonna be, understanding all the little things. I think that's what makes him unique at that."

But, no, Butler's ability to draw contact (or the Jazz not getting as friendly of a whistle on the other end) wasn't the defining reason Utah lost on Friday. After all, the Heat ended up shooting just two more free throws than the Jazz — and that was only because Utah had to foul at the end to try to extend the game.

Friday was less about Butler drawing fouls and more that he was just really good, shooting 12-of-19 from inside the arc.

"They're just starting too slow, taking too much time feeling out the game." — Boge42

Let's look at Utah's net rating by quarter:

  • 1st quarter: 7.9
  • 2nd: 11.4
  • 3rd: 18.6

The 4th (-0.6) is relatively meaningless considering the Jazz haven't played many meaningful minutes late in games.

If you want to look at it more traditionally, the Jazz are outscoring teams by an average 2.0 points in the first quarter, 2.9 in the second and 4.7 in the third. So, yes, Utah does start slow compared to how it plays the rest of the game.

There are reasons beyond just the cliche quotes like: "We didn't come out ready" or "We didn't punch first." The fact is with the Jazz's success this season, teams are specifically game planning for them. That means altering coverages to try and slow down their offense and think of ways to limit Gobert's impact. The Jazz have needed some time to figure stuff out in games. The Heat just did a lot of things.

"They are a team that switches up the coverages in every situation," Mitchell said. "I think they did a better job at adjusting than we did (from the first game between the clubs this season). ... I think they did a really good job of whether it was hedge or they would change it and back or switching in a certain situation or they would help off."

Utah spent all night adjusting because of it. That's why a 41-point third quarter made way for a 22-point final period. The Jazz were quick to credit the Heat, but ultimately they have seen all the types of coverages before — they just weren't crisp enough to exploit them consistently.

"They switched a lot of our actions and and teams have done that throughout the year and we've adjusted and we've made plays around it," Mike Conley said. "So you give them credit but we also have a huge amount of control to be able to dictate those situations.

"Tonight — whether it was us not running to the corner or just sacrificing for each other, getting to space — we weren't able to create lanes for guys that drive and make those extra plays and extra passes and that kind of got us out of our regular rhythm."

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