May 8, 2010, 1:00 PM EDT
Improvisation is one of the cornerstones of jazz.
Except in Utah.
The Jazz are one of the most structured teams in the NBA, they execute their flex offense with a precision no team in the Association can match. Crisp passes, plenty of off-the ball movement, flashes into the high post, back door cuts. It tore apart the Denver Nuggets in the first round, because the Jazz are disciplined offense and the Nuggets (especially without George Karl screaming at them) are an undisciplined team.
But the system has not worked on the Lakers. For two straight games the Lakers have held the Jazz under their offensive efficiency numbers for the regular season. Why? Because the Lakers are a team of long arms and bodies — there is a lot less space to slip that pass through to a backdoor cutter. The Lakers are taking away the Jazz’s preferred offensive plays, cutting off passing lanes and contesting shots.
The Jazz need to improvise.
To beat the Lakers they are going to have to break out of the flex offense and let one of the –if not THE — best point guards in the game loose.
Free Deron Williams.
He himself told the Desert News he is going to improvise some this game, back home at Energy Solutions Arena.
D-Will did more of that in the first series against the Nuggets, pushing the ball and getting some transition baskets on the Nuggets (who weren’t good at getting back). The Jazz are going to have to run more on the Lakers and get some baskets before their defense gets set, for one.
Williams also has the single biggest matchup advantage on the Jazz — Derek Fisher can’t stop him one-on-one. What Fisher has done well so far is guide Williams toward the long-armed help of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. (This is where the Jazz miss Mehmet Okur, a big who can hit the long ball and pulls one of those defenders away from the basket.) The Jazz need to run some high pick-and-rolls, some pure isolations, even post Williams up on Fisher. They need to exploit that matchup.
It’s not all offense, defense matters too. The Jazz need, to use coach Jerry Sloan’s words — toughen up on defense. They have let the Lakers basically set up their offense in the spots they want. Can’t do that with Kobe Bryant and Gasol and Bynum — they will score a lot from those spots. The Lakers have matchup advantages inside and they have exploited them. The Jazz need to challenge the Lakers for every spot on the floor, make them start where they are uncomfortable.
Having Andrei Kirilenko back will help with that. The Jazz need more size in this series, and AK-47 provides that. Just his shot blocking threat will change how the Lakers can attack the rim.
The Jazz will also have its big home-court advantage — a loud crowd and some high altitude. The crowd will help; the Jazz could use the energy.
Is all that enough to take two games from the Lakers? That is essentially what the Jazz have to do, they cannot go back to Los Angeles down 3-1, the Lakers are too big and too good for the Jazz to climb out of that hole. All they have to do today is win one.
The Jazz can get that win — but they are going to have to improvise to do it.
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