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After a rough start, Carlos Boozer (right) and the Jazz may be starting to hit their stride.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Jazz find their defensive groove by getting offensive


Posted Nov 17 2009 12:07PM

After last Wednesday's loss in Boston, Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams posted the following to his twitter account: "We got to change something bc what we doing ain't working right now! Don't know what but something?????"

Williams is not used to seeing more Ls than Ws next to his team's name in the standings. The Jazz haven't had a losing season since he entered the league.

But after their 19-point loss to the Celtics, the Jazz were 3-5. And after splitting their final two games of a four-game trip, they stand at 4-6, their worst 10-game start since Williams' rookie season, when they finished at 41-41 and missed the playoffs.

"It's been up and down," Carlos Boozer said on Friday of his team's defense, "and more down than up this season."

A quick look at look at their numbers makes it easy to figure out what the problem is. Utah's offense hasn't been very efficient, but the defense is really struggling.

The biggest dropoff has been the Jazz's ability to force turnovers. Last season, they ranked third by forcing 16.7 turnovers per 100 possessions. This season, they rank 23rd, forcing just 14.3. Coach Jerry Sloan is concerned with his team's transition defense. They rank 27th there, allowing 17.8 fast break points per 100 possessions.

All That Jazz
Offensive and defensive efficiency for the Jazz, last four seasons
Season W Pace Rank ORat. Rank DRat. Rank
'06-07 51 94.1 15 107.2 3 104.2 18
'07-08 54 95.6 11 111.0 1 103.8 12
'08-09 48 95.6 10 107.3 8 104.5 10
'09-10 ? 94.5 18 106.4 9 107.9 25
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
ORat. = Points scored per 100 possessions
DRat. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Sloan believes that the Jazz's defensive issues can be traced back to their offense.

"Our shot selection has not been good enough to help us keep balance on the floor enough to be able to defend the other end of the floor," he said.

Utah's offense is at its best when both the ball and their players are moving. Assists should be high and scoring should be somewhat balanced.

A day after the Boston game, Williams clarified his desperate-sounding tweet to Jazz beat writers and noted how the Celtics didn't care who scored the points, as long as they were winning.

"They don't care who the hell gets the glory, they just want to win," he said. "Until we figure that out, we're not going to be a good team."

On Friday, with Williams back in Salt Lake City tending to personal issues, the Jazz played maybe their best game of the season, racking up a season-high 32 assists in a 112-90 win in Philadelphia.

"We had guys who got the ball up the floor for us and executed the offense," Sloan said after the game. "All we did is set screens and try to pass the ball to the open guy, and we got easy baskets."

The game in Philadelphia showed that the Jazz's offense, as long as somebody can get the ball down the floor and initiate it, can withstand the absence of its best player. "In previous games, we held the ball," Boozer said. "We get the ball to D-Will, he holds it waiting for the play to break down and we end up going to a pick-and-roll. [Friday], we just moved the ball. If somebody was open, we swung it to him, ran the play and kept moving."

Seven players scored in double-figures on Friday, another season high. Not coincidentally, as Sloan talked to the media after the game, the noise in the Jazz locker room was louder than it's been in a long time.

"It was fun to play offense," Boozer said. "And at the same time, we got back and played great help defense. We got steals and deflections.

"When we take a bad jump shot, they break and get dunks. If we take good shots, we can get back and set up our defense."

The Jazz have had efficient games in which they didn't play as well defensively. But it was the sharing of the ball on offense Friday that kept everyone's energy up on the defense. The Philly game wasn't the Jazz's best defensive performance, but it was the first time they put together a complete game.

The Jazz still need Williams to be at their best. And the eventual return of Kyle Korver, who will help spread the floor, is critical as well. A night after the big win in Philly, they finished their road trip with a loss in Cleveland. Still, Boozer was encouraged by what took place on Friday.

"It gives you a glimpse," he said, "of what we can do down the road if we continue to build on this."

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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