KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Utah Jazz were served up a reality check by the Oklahoma City Thunder at The Arena in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex on Saturday, and the chef who cooked up the dish was Chris Paul.
Paul, ever the Jazz villain, has a decent chance of turning out a solid performance even if the Jazz are on their A-game. Unfortunately for Utah head coach Quin Snyder, whatever game plan he gave to his team for Saturday’s contest, the players must have thrown out as they ran through the tunnel toward the court.
“He makes it hard enough on you anyway,” Snyder said of Paul. “Our ability to execute on both ends of the floor, if you don’t do that against him, he’s able to find the weaknesses in your defense and exploit them. ...He’s a great player and a great leader.”
The trouble in the bubble didn’t stop for the Jazz at Paul, who paced the Thunder with 27 points in the 110-94 blowout win. The athleticism of Luguentz Dort, the springy length of Nerlens Noel and Hamidou Diallo, the quick decision-making of Danillo Gallinari and the overall intensity of OKC’s defense was too much for Utah to handle.
“There’s a long list of things,” Snyder said of what went wrong. “More than anything, credit to Oklahoma City and the way they defended. They took us out of almost everything we were trying to do. There were some windows where we had some success but then we weren’t able to finish, missed some shots, but this isn’t about missing shots.”
Though, making some more shots certainly would have helped, as the Jazz went 8-of-31 from deep and shot just 39.1 percent overall.
Snyder is right though. There is a laundry list of things that the Jazz did wrong on Saturday, and while he didn’t name them all off, I will. The Jazz barely looked like they knew how to play cohesive defense and over-helped to the extent that it was head scratching. They looked like they didn’t have an answer for any of the Thunder’s ball handlers, and even when they crowded the paint, Oklahoma City players were getting to the rim with ease or kicking out for wide open 3-pointers.
It’s really hard to get anything done on offense when you don’t have an answer for anything on defense, and it’s even harder when the offense is as stagnant as the Jazz’s was on against the Thunder. They did not swing the ball around, look for early shot-clock opportunities or make any quick decisions. Instead, they fell into a pattern of hesitation and playing iso-ball against a defense that was too big and more prepared.
“I think that when you’re playing a physical team like that, who is overly aggressive, you have to be able to make quick decisions,” Mike Conley said after the game. “That means when the ball is in your hands, as soon as you take two dribbles, get off of it, make a play for somebody else, allow them to drive their man and start the blender up.”
Snyder echoed those sentiments.
“There’s a moment where you can make a read and there’s a shot or a drive, but if you’re hesitant in that decision, their quickness and their athleticism play a part,” Snyder said. “We’ve got guys who are capable of doing those things, but we didn’t do them tonight. We need to take a step back and take a look at the things we need to do better. Some of those things we know right now, but it’s an opportunity to really drive it home and put ourselves in a better position.”
In addition to everything that was wrong on the court for the Jazz, it was the player who was not on the court that made the problem areas more glaring. Without Bojan Bogdanovic to space the floor for the Jazz and the lack of depth the team has, the Thunder’s speed and physicality was amplified.
It’s not like the blame for the Jazz’s performance can be laid at any one player’s feet. Everyone was guilty the same bad decisions, and little glimpses of improvement were fleeting. But glimpses of good basketball are not going to be enough.
There are only six more games between now and the playoffs, and the Jazz will have to drastically turn things around if they want to be successful in their next matchup, which comes on Monday against the LeBron James led, Western Conference leading Los Angeles Lakers.
Full Story from the Deseret News...