Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 120-105 win over the Portland Trail Blazers from the Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Small ball penalty
By necessity, the Blazers played small on Wednesday, starting with Larry Nance at center. That means they tried to move 1-5 – but the Jazz just punished it over and over, right from the opening opening.
We should note that this is very different from the Clippers’ small-ball attack that worked so well in the knockout stages last year. First, the Clippers’ small-ball lineup is actually pretty big: with Paul George, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Nic Batum, sometimes Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers can really transform and not just get overturned.
But this? Anfernee Simons is too young to protect Hassan Whiteside.
Damian Lillard is too young to be on guard against Bojan Bogdanovic.
So what could change against a better defense, like the ones the Jazz will see in the knockout stages? Move the ball quickly to get the ball low to take advantage of the moments in between.
Is this a beautiful defense from Tony Snell? It’s not great, but, really, what does Batum do better? I’m not sure a defender actually blocked Ingles’ pass when it was passed so quickly, and while Gobert was holding him back. I think Gobert has improved on that: he keeps his defenders flying, his body is balanced and he understands the angles when he has to turn to prevent Snell from getting to where he is. would like.
Jazz outperforms Blazer in paint color with a margin of 74-30. That will help you win a lot of games.
Now, I don’t think destroying a short-distance defense, when it’s really healthy, finishing 28th in the league is enough to guarantee play-off success. But I think the comfort level in the way the Jazz has done it is a good sign. It’s like the Jazz were playing a video game on Rookie difficulty – big wins don’t necessarily mean wins come and hard wins go All-Star, but they did. dominate.
2. Joe Ingles . Transition Guard
I wrote about the Ingles defense just two games ago. Writing it back feels a bit like beating a horse to death.
But oh my gosh, things are starting to get really shiny – and moving him into the starting lineup in Donovan Mitchell’s absence didn’t help either. There’s no resistance to letting Simons pass him here:
Now, at least he didn’t make a mistake! And at least Rudy Gobert left Reggie Perry, a friend you’ve never heard of, open the door for three, not one of the Blazers’ more capable shooters. But the level of competition is appalling.
Statistically, the bigger problem is in the defense during the transition. Jazz adds 19.6 points per play when Ingles is in the middle of a game transition, according to Cleaning The Glass. And it’s easy to see why: Ingles just doesn’t try to defend when he plays forward defensively.
He’s good at Eurofouling in transitions to break stops, and good at not making fouls for giving up and those, but… I think it’s a skill that basically anyone can have. That’s basically how I will play forward defense, and there’s a reason I’m a writer.
Take a look at this play: Ingles is really in a very good position here! He is in the paint, outside the penalty area, against a guy who is also 6-8 and has yet to score an NBA point this season. If he moves his foot, he has a good chance, but instead he misses a two-handed swipe down for some reason?
This is after a missed free throw, believe it or not. I think he misidentified who he should be defending in the play, but as a result, he tries to get back on the field – and then gives up. “Huh?” reacts with his hand matching mine.
These moments are just really fizzled out. I will never forget this play in game 5 against the Clippers last year, when Ingles didn’t go after a loose ball in the knockout round.
Like, this is what happens as people age, right? They get slower and they care less. In the end, Ingles is still very useful: he can shoot, he can run and roll, and he can be the hooker on offense, making plays like he did in point one. . But there are moments on the other end of the ring when he stops them from being the best they can be.
3. Talk to the Blazers
With 4:59 left and down 20 points, Damian Lillard had a technique, and immediately went to Blazers right coach Scott Brooks and asked to leave the game.
He had a very good game: 32 points in a 10-23 shoot. But in the end, it still wasn’t enough for a win. And it’s fair to say he’s frustrated by that; disappointed with their team’s 13-21 record, disappointed by their 12th place in the NBA’s Western Conference.
The Blazers have been through a lot this season. Their GM was fired, in part due to allegations of harassment. They have a new coach who has had COVID. They have five players in COVID protocols right now; CJ McCollum had a collapsed lung out of kindness.
Even if they are healthy, are they good?
Eh, no. That they can’t protect anyone is the biggest problem. Lillard and McCollum are responsible for the defense. Robert Covington and Larry Nance are good at some things defensively but not at everything. Jusuf Nurkic was never a great defensive center, but it looks like injury has robbed him of his good enough mobility.
But honestly, their offense is pretty boring too. The teams know that Nance, RoCo, Snell, etc aren’t really a threat to beat them, so why not just rally Lillard and make life difficult for him?
It’s just a messy situation and it’s hard to figure out what to do next. Improving all around isn’t a step in the right direction: it’s not like they’re a single player in order to stay out of the competition. It was a star level reconfiguration they needed.
The obvious move would be to trade McCollum, but he still has $100 million left on his contract. The Ben Simmons/Lillard partnership might make sense in offensive/defensive behavior, but Simmons’ lack of accurate firing gives Lillard more space, but less space.
The Lillard deal sucks. The guy really loved Portland, loved the idea of playing for a team his entire career. His entire brand as a player is based on loyalty. And who can give up enough trading assets and options to make a worthwhile trade? It would have to be a good team to get Lillard, but that means those picks will be low-legs. (And, no, I can’t even imagine what a package for Jazz means for the Blazers that doesn’t involve Donovan Mitchell. Why would the Blazers want Bojan Bogdanovic and for the first time in late 2026?)
Portland deserves better. It’s a really ferocious fan base that the Blazers have, which probably reminds me of Jazz fans more than any other team in the league. They show up, they make noise, they love their small-market franchise, it’s the only big game in town. After visiting the town twice in the past few months, I think Portland’s decline as a city has been greatly exaggerated – it’s still a great place to be.
But the atmosphere tonight at the Moda Center is the worst I’ve ever felt… it makes me sad, to be honest.
They need a jump. But I don’t know when or how they will get it.
https://www.sltrib.com/sports/jazz/2021/12/30/triple-team-jazz-outscore/ Jazz overtakes Blazers 74-30 for another easy win on the road