“How many defenders have you played with who can stop on a quick two-way break while standing in the paint and looking at people?” “
Response from Forrest: “Not a lot at all. “
If there was one game that summed up Utah’s early defensive dominance in their 110-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs at Vivint Arena, it was Rudy Gobert’s transition that stopped the presence in the middle of the first. quarter time.
A rare attempt at a quick San Antonio break in the first half turned into a Gobert reel for Defensive Player of the Year.
DeMar DeRozan drove to the rim, saw Gobert, thought better, and passed the ball. Devin Vassell also considered challenging Gobert for about a second before returning the ball. Dejounte Murray took a step and then dribbled to the 3-point line as Gobert nodded as if to say ‘good choice’.
The funny thing about the play: It ended with Murray hitting a contested midrange shot. No one will remember this part. Heck, Spurs probably didn’t.
“When some guys are pushing the ball and they think they’re going to have an open layup and all of a sudden they’re stuck or they see me and they think it would be better if they don’t shoot it, I think it’s demoralizing, ”said Gobert, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds Monday night. “And for us, it does the opposite. I think we feed off of it, and anytime there’s a piece like that, whether it’s me or someone else, it’s a dynamic piece. “
This set the stage for what was a dominant team defensive effort in the first half on Monday.
There is probably no real equivalent in the basketball world, but Jazz may have come close.
I’ll explain: the Jazz defense is designed to stop shots at the rim and shots from the 3-point line. Utah’s whole goal is to force opponents into ineffective (but contested) midrange shots.
This is what the San Antonio half-hits table looked like:
San Antonio finished 0 for 7 on the 3-point line and 1 for 6 at the rim. Yes, the Spurs (31-33) love affair with 20-foot jumpers helped the Jazz limit their shots to the rim and from 3; but even with that, you’d expect some sort of break after a quick break, a spike after an offensive rebound, a random 3 – anything that wasn’t in the midrange – to come in a bit more frequently. At the start of the last minute of half-time, the Spurs had not yet managed to shoot in areas that the Jazz wanted to take.
The Jazz were one possession away from achieving the feat of limiting San Antonio to any point on the rim or behind the arc (a feat they probably had no idea about – they don’t spill over to the shooting boards. off the bench after all) when Keldon Johnson grabbed an offensive rebound and handed it to Murray for a layup with just 23 seconds left in the half.
It broke the hearts of basketball nerds everywhere. OK, that’s probably a little hyperbolic, but it ruined what would have been one of the strangest graphics in the modern NBA. Alas, the historical footnote was gone.
“It’s a delicate question,” said jazz coach Quin Snyder, when asked about the Spurs’ stroke board. “Because when you have really good midrange shooters, we don’t want to just give up on midrange shots, we want to make them tough. I think they broke an NBA record last year in the midrange. “
He credited Gobert and Derrick Favors for going out and challenging shots, and for the Utah Wings for crashing down and grabbing the defensive boards when they did. San Antonio had just two offensive rebounds in the first period.
And while Spurs, as usual, made a lot of midrange shots on Monday, there’s a reason the Jazz choose to force teams into it: Math favors that approach. The Jazz were leading 60-43 at halftime despite Spurs making more than half of their shots in the midrange. And while the Jazz kept San Antonio from getting to the edge, Utah was full of them.
– utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 4, 2021
The two teams will face off again on Wednesday at Vivint Arena.
Playoff update: With this victory, the Jazz (47-18) once again rise to first place in the Western Conference – but enjoy it while it lasts. Utah is half a game ahead of Phoenix (46-18), having played one more game. The Suns, who own the tiebreaker against the Jazz, will face the humble Cavs on Tuesday.
Other stories that might interest you