Jazz Defense Improves In Much Needed Win Over Pistons

Jan 21, 2022, 10:42 PM
Bojan Bogdanovic of the Utah Jazz defends Detroit Pistons wing Cade Cunningham Photo by Alex Goodle...
Bojan Bogdanovic of the Utah Jazz defends Detroit Pistons wing Cade Cunningham Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz temporarily stopped the bleeding as they took down the Detroit Pistons 111-101.

Three Jazz players scored at least 20 points, led by Rudy Gobert who had a season-high 24 points to go with 14 points and four blocks to earn the win.

Donovan Mitchell missed his second consecutive game after suffering a concussion on Monday, but the Jazz made up for his lack of offense with improved defense against Detroit.

Jazz Avoid Second Half Letdown

After building an eight point lead at the half, the Jazz saw it evaporate thanks to a 13-4 run by Detroit in the opening three minutes of the third quarter.

The Jazz have found themselves struggling to maintain double-digit leads during their recent stretch of poor play, specifically blowing a 22 point lead to the Pistons last week, a 10 point lead to the Lakers on Monday, and a 13 point lead to the Rockets on Wednesday.

Having done it three times in the last five games, the Jazz could have easily hit the panic button and allowed themselves to collapse again but were able to avoid that fate thanks to strong performance from a new group of players off the bench, spearheaded by Trent Forrest.

Quin Snyder has consistently pushed Forrest into the Jazz rotation over the first half of the season, but instead of the short two minute stretches Forrest has grown accustomed to, the guard recorded 18 minutes in the win.

Against Detroit the lanky guard offered a steady hand running the offense, playing strong defense, and even showed off his scoring touch.

“Trent [was] defending up the floor, that’s something that we’ve worked on and that we’ve worked on in practice,” Snyder said. “I thought we did as good a job as we have this year, defending small-small pick and roll actions.”

Forrest scored eight points, handed out four assists, and grabbed two rebounds, in 18 minutes as the Jazz outscored Detroit by 19 with the guard on the floor.

Most importantly, Forrest stimied the Pistons’ momentum on offense by communicating on the defensive end and helping the Jazz retake a five point lead into the fourth quarter.

Jazz Defend In The Fourth Quarter

In addition to Forrest’s play in the second half, the Jazz also saw an improved defensive effort in the fourth quarter after Wednesday’s disaster against Houston.

The Jazz limited Detroit to just 49 second half points, largely by limiting the number of easy looks they got from the floor.

Detroit still managed to shoot an efficient 39 percent from the three-point line in the second half, but attempted just 18 threes over the final 24 minutes, 10 fewer than the Jazz allowed to the Rockets on Wednesday.

While the three-point attempts were down, the Jazz also prevented the Pistons from getting straight-line drives to the basket for easy layups. That was an issue for the team in their last loss to Detroit, but was much improved with Gobert back on the floor.

The Pistons outshot the Jazz 40 percent to 32 percent from the perimeter but were outscored 50-34 in the paint which proved to be the difference in the game.

“It’s all about individual responsibility on the defensive end and also communication,” Bojan Bogdanovic said. “I think that we did a great job tonight and we’ve got to keep building on this win and this defense.”

Getting Paschall On The Floor

One of the most common questions I’ve been getting from Jazz fans on Twitter is why Snyder doesn’t find more time for Eric Paschall on the nights when he doesn’t play.

It’s a legitimate question in light of Paschall’s performance in recent weeks when the team has been shorthanded, especially in the frontcourt.

In the games three games when the reserve big man has been asked to play 20 minutes or more this season he’s averaging 20 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the floor and 46 percent from the three-point line.

Fans were particularly frustrated to not see Paschall on the floor after the Jazz loss to Houston when Paschall recorded zero minutes in favor of Udoda Azubuike who was on the floor during the Jazz disastrous third quarter when they gave up an 18-1 run against the Rockets.

Snyder discussed Paschall’s role and why he chose to play Azubuike in the team’s last outing.

“Playing with a rolling big is something that really opens the floor for our guys, and so Dok being able to roll — it felt like that was something that we wanted to see.”

The spacing for the Jazz guards when they don’t have a big man who can roll to the rim has been an obvious problem over the recent stretch especially without Gobert and Whiteside on the floor.

Mike Conley specifically saw his scoring numbers crater without a rolling big in the lineup as the veteran guard averaged 11.0 points while shooting 39 percent from the floor and the three-point line in Gobert’s absence.

Prior to Gobert’s bout with COVID, Conley was averaging 14.3 on 46 percent shooting from the floor and 43 percent from the three-point line with the big man in the rotation.

Paschall is a more experienced NBA player than Azubuike right now, but he doesn’t provide the pressure on the rim the team’s offense depends upon to create space for the team’s guards, specifically Conley.

However, Snyder signaled before the game that he wanted to find more minutes for Paschall in the rotation and did so against Detroit.

The veteran took over for Azubuike as the team’s reserve center playing 15 minutes while scoring three points and grabbing three rebounds. It wasn’t his typical production as of late, but the Jazz were 15 points better than Detroit with Paschall on the floor including a crucial +9 with the third quarter unit.

“What Eric did basically playing the five was rolling and giving us some kind of familiarity, offensively — running,” Snyder said of Paschall’s performance. “But really the thing that group did was defend.”

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