Utah's Horrible Defense

by Jeff Fogle 27. January 2011 02:07

Utah's awful 0-4 Eastern swing got some media attention because good Western teams aren't supposed to lose to Washington and New Jersey, or get obliterated by Boston. The slump moved to 0-5 Tuesday Night in Los Angeles, then 0-6 Wednesday Night with a nationally televised loss to San Antonio.

What's going on? The Utah defense can't guard anybody!

I wanted to see this with my own eyes before writing anything up. Tuesday's game in LA was on the NBA Network. ESPN was in Salt Lake Wednesday for the Spurs game. STATISTICAL PROGNOSIS CONFIRMED.

It was amazing to watch possession after possession of smart opposing offenses getting themselves open shots very easily. Credit to the broadcast teams from both networks for telling the story and not sugarcoating it (well, not much). Utah's inside defense is soft. Utah's perimeter defense is slow to get to shooters. Each individual has trouble guarding quality opponents straight up. If a teammate helps, whoever gets left open has plenty of time to shoot.

Possession after possession after possession, the Lakers and Spurs were getting an endless string of open looks just by running their basic offensive motion. Sure, it's the Lakers and the Spurs. But, these issues were obviously in play previously based on the numbers.

UTAH'S DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY THE PRIOR 10 GAMES
123.7 vs. Atlanta (horrendous)
113.4 at Memphis (bad)
98.0 at Houston (good, but Rockets were 3 of 25 on treys)
127.6 vs. New York (horrendous)
103.1 vs. Cleveland (everyone loves playing Cleveland)
116.1 at Washington (bad start to Eastern swing)
114.4 at New Jersey (no bounce back)
119.7 at Boston (awful)
103.2 at Philadelphia (acceptable, but still a loss)
125.0 at the LA Lakers (more spectating)

Tonight's game will be in the neighorhood of 110-ish once the math is done, thanks to a quiet fourth quarter from the Spurs. Even with the quiet fourth quarter, San Antonio shot 57% on two-pointers. Let's run those numbers.

UTAH'S TWO-POINT DEFENSE
48% vs. Atlanta
50% at Memphis
48% at Houston
52% vs. New York
51% vs. Cleveland (even Cleveland broke 50%!)
56% at Washington
49% at New Jersey
61% at Boston
41% at Philadelphia (good showing)
68% at the LA Lakers
57% vs. San Antonio

Versus championship contenders, Utah alllowed 61%, 68%, and 57%. No hope.

I mentioned earlier that perimeter defense was slow. The following teams from the list all reached 43% or better on treys during the recent stretch, which equates to 64.5% or better as a two-point equivalent.

Atlanta 14 of 25
Memphis 5 of 11
New York 14 of 29
Cleveland 9 of 21
Washington 6 of 14 (rounding up from 42.8%)
New Jersey 8 of 16
Boston 9 of 21
LA Lakers 8 of 18

From a distance, it can be tough to know the reasons for a stretch of non-effort like this. Tired legs from a team that lacks depth and is still adjusting to picking up Carlos Boozer's minutes. A lack of chemistry. A temporary rest break in a long grueling season. Everybody owes somebody else from a poker game so nobody has anyone's back. Maybe the real reason will show up in somebody's autobiography in 2020.

Right now, it's very easy to get open shots if you're a Utah opponent. And, it's very difficult for Utah to score enough on their own to keep up with what they're allowing. That's true whether they're playing the best in the league, or somebody like Washington and New Jersey.

Utah's slump has dropped them to #7 in the Western standings. But, they still have a 5-game lead over #9 in the 8-spot playoff chase. Plenty of time to right the ship.

Transition Points

*Denver moved ahead of Utah into 6th place with tonight's 109-100 win over Detroit. Carmelo Anthony spread the ball around more, taking only 16 shots while dishing out 7 assists. That's in stark contrast to the 25/1 and 27/1 ratios he had recently vs. Oklahoma City and Indiana.

Anthony has showed a tendency this year to shoot less on night two of a back-to-back.

Carmelo on night two of b2b's thus far:
20 shots, 4 assists at Houston
17 shots, 4 assists at Dallas
15 shots, 2 assists at Indiana
21 shots, 3 assists at New York
17 shots, 0 assists at Sacramento
16 shots, 7 assists at Detroit

That's an average of 17.7 shots per game in the sextet. His average is 19.5 shots in all other games. (Note: Denver has had a night two at home this year, but Anthony was absent from the team). 

*Another road game, another double digit loss for the LA Clippers. Fatigue definitely seemed to play a role in this back-to-back spot, with the Clips losing the fourth quarter 26-10.

Blake Griffin: 5 of 16 from the field
Baron Davis: 5 of 17 from the field

It's a two-man team without Eric Gordon, making fatigue spots even tougher.

*Milwaukee was trailing Atlanta by 11 points entering the fourth quarter Wednesday Night, so I prepared some "boy, Andrew Bogut sure is struggling" stats. The Bucks won the fourth quarter 34-15 to win the game 98-90! But, Bogut was just 3 of 12 on the night, continuing a recent slump.

Bogut is reportedly still recovering from an undisclosed infection. And, he may not be all the way back from last season's gruesome elbow injury. His offensive output the last seven games in order is 10-10-6-23-14-8-8. Guess who the 23 was against. CLEVELAND!

Bogut only shoots in close to the basket, yet is just 26 of 66, 39% from the field when not playing Cleveland the last two weeks.

*New Orleans won its 10th game in a row Wednesday night, beating Golden State 112-103. Here's the Jeckyll and Hyde sequence for the Hornets

11-1 to start the season
10-15 their next 25 games
10-0 most recently

Hang in there Utah fans...New Orleans is showing the way...

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