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Analysis: Utah Jazz looked a little too complacent against Pistons


The Utah Jazz welcomed Bojan Bogdanovic back to Vivint Arena on Tuesday night. And then they let Bogdanovic score 23 points to lead the Detroit Pistons to a 125-116 win over the Jazz.

So what happened?

Fighting complacency

The Jazz have been really excellent at home this season. Prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons, the Jazz were 6-1 at home, 6-6 on the road. Their only loss at home had been to the New York Knicks, a game played at home after an East Coast back-to-back against the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers. It was a harsh turn around and not really that bad of a loss.

But the Jazz, after starting the season 10-3 overall, have gone 2-5 in the last seven games. Then, the Jazz dropped the game at home on Tuesday against the Pistons. So what’s been going wrong?

Well, there are some on court things that we’ve addressed a bit over the last few games in the post-game analysis’ but there’s also something that Malik Beasley brought up after Tuesday’s loss that I think is really important.

“I do feel like, with the season that we’ve had so far, we think it’s gonna be a little bit easier,” he said. “And that’s how we can’t play. We’ve got to play with that dog mentality — try to win every game, go for loose balls, things like that. Make it scrappy.”

Yes, Malik. I agree.

This team has had a pretty large number of games where everyone has been impressed by how they’ve fought and how they’ve never given up, no matter the score or game situation. But the last few games they have let their foot off the gas a little bit.

“Credit to the Pistons, they came out hungry, aggressive, physical from the very beginning and we did not,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said, noting that the Jazz did pick things up in the second half of the game. “As a team, we’ve gotten to this point by playing with a chip on our shoulder and I do not think that we had that chip in the first half.”

The Jazz are not a different team than they were when they started 10-3. They still need to fight every night like they are trying to prove everyone wrong because they are not going to win games if they just assume that they are better than everyone else. It’s hard for the best of NBA teams to do that.

Screens

The Jazz’s defense was lacking in a lot of areas on Tuesday night, but one of the things I couldn’t stop watching was how fully some of the Jazz players were just dying on screens.

This is something I’ve noticed happening to a few of the Jazz players this season and it doesn’t really do a lot of good to single any one player out on this because they’ve all been guilty at some point.

This comes down to communication and effort.

If the Jazz are effectively communicating on defense and calling out screens, the direction of those screens and making sure their teammates know when it’s coming, the player should have enough information to then choose to go over or under the screen. But when they turn and just slam right into a screen and become a non-factor on the play they either aren’t receiving the right communication or they aren’t putting in the right effort.

This doesn’t mean that they just need to be better at getting over screens, that’s understandably hard to do in the NBA, and no one is going to do it perfectly every time. But there’s also times when they aren’t putting enough pressure on the ball, making them the perfect kind of bait for a screen.

When I asked Hardy about how he felt the team was performing against screening actions, he agreed with my assessment and then took the blame.

“Very poor,” he said. “I think we’re doing a very poor job in pick-and-roll defense. I’ve got to do a better job of teaching that. We are laying on screens. Our pickup points are bad. We’re not physical with the ball handler.”

It would be one thing if the game against Detroit was an outlier, but this has been a consistent theme. It’ll be one player one night and then a different player the next. This needs to get cleaned up.

Collin Sexton and Talen Horton-Tucker learning

Collin Sexton had a career-high 12 assists on Tuesday and made some really important defensive plays in the second half. Talen Horton-Tucker played a really excellent game against the Portland Trail Blazers the night that Mike Conley got hurt.

Both players are being asked to play in a completely different way than they have so far in their young careers and here we are, just 20 games into the season and they’ve already made huge strides.

I’ll go deeper into this in a later article, but I think it’s worth noting that even when there are growing pains, there is also growth.





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