Game Recap: Jazz 104 – Magic 94

Game Details

7:00 PM ET, November 10th, 2010
Amway Center, Orlando, FL

1 2 3 4 Final
UTA 22 13 30 39 104
ORL 23 22 29 20 94

Top Performers
Utah: D. Williams 30 Pts, 5 Reb, 14 Ast
Orlando: J. Nelson 19 Pts, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl Box Score


Just when I thought I was starting to see some patterns.

In their matches against the Clippers and the Heat, the Jazz started very poorly, falling into deep holes early on. In both games (and really, through the season), the Jazz opened with a miserable shooting percentage and a particularly poor shot selection, which put them in a hole that appeared to be insurmountable.

In last night’s game, the Jazz were actually in through most of the 1st half. Now, to be fair, that probably had a lot to do with the fact that the Magic were not playing well until the final 3:10 of the first half, when they outscored the Jazz 14-4 to close the half and pull out a 10 point lead. Still, at this point, the Magic had turned the ball over 11 times, their perimeter shooting had only just started to warm up, and while Howard indeed looked to have the upper hand over Jefferson and Fesenko, he wasn’t exactly dominating them either.

Still, the fact that was still within three with 2 minutes left in the half spelled trouble.

Both teams came out of the break playing about as well as they had in the first two quarters, but it was the Magic who caught fire first, producing 25 points of offense from the 10:30 mark to the 1:30 mark of the 3rd quarter. The Jazz found themselves in an 18 point hole (56-74), and it looked by all stretches that this would be a deficit they couldn’t recover from.

Now this is when things get weird. The Jazz started playing a zone defense.

For the moment, let’s put aside the fact that the Jazz hardly ever play a zone (Sloan isn’t a fan), and instead let’s talk about the fact that the Jazz put it up against the one team in the NBA that a zone shouldn’t work against, and the fact that they used it to ignite the rally.

The reason a zone shouldn’t work against the Magic is because the Magic has exceptional perimeter shooters, and they have a particularly powerful center in Howard. Conceptually, all the Magic should need to do is give the ball to Howard early in a possession. Howard wait for the double down and then sends it back out to the perimeter, who proceeds to pass it around the perimeter until they find an open shooter (or they can get it back to Howard who likely is facing single coverage again). A lot of people call this a umbrella offense in that you keep 4 guys on the three point line and exploit the zone with perimeter passing until it collapses.

There aren’t a lot of coaches in the NBA who will play a zone, but I bet you there are probably only 2 or 3 coaches in the league who would have the confidence to put one up against the Magic; maybe not even that many.

But here’s the thing; the Jazz were he key to this approach is communication and movement, and the Jazz did both amazingly well. Suddenly the Magic was out of rhythm and not entirely sure why they weren’t able to be productive.

If you look at the play-by-play for that stretch (approx. 6 and a half minutes starting near the end of the 3rd), you can see what happened to the Magic. It was a series of miscues, bad passes, turnovers and just plain bad looks. Meanwhile, the Jazz went on a 24-2 run to gain a 4 point advantage.

At the 1:51 mark, the Magic took a timeout. The ESPN coverage had a camera near the Jazz huddle, and you could see Williams and Sloan working together to figure out what to do next. There’s no way for me to know this for certain, but it seems like they were assuming that Van Gundy was making adjustments in his huddle to beat the zone.

Not to be outflanked, the Jazz came out of the timeout and went back to their man-on-man defense, something that the Magic clearly weren’t ready for, causing them to call another timeout one minute later (:46 left in the game, Jazz up 7).

At that point, the Jazz just held on and hit their free throws for the win.

So, to sum up, the Jazz:

  • Have more wins on the road than they do at home (Thunder, Heat, Magic vs. Raptors and Clippers)
  • Are averaging 114.8 PPG in their wins, and 101.2 PPG on the road.
  • Just beat the Magic (5th in ESPN’s Power Rankings) in Orlando on a huge fourth quarter using a zone
  • and did so a night after a huge fourth quarter rally against the Heat, in Miami (3rd in ESPN’s Power Rankings)

Last night, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was quoted as calling the evening “Ridiculous professional basketball.”

I think he hit that one on the head.

P.S. There’s a really stellar post about the zone used last night, highly recommended.

Game Quotes

Jerry Sloan

“I always say that sometimes you shoot the ball better the second night than you do the first night, so maybe we had an advantage that way.”

Jerry Sloan on Deron Williams

“He’s always been a competitive player. Wants to win. And that’s what’s made him a great player for his whole life. I think he’s proven that, the teams he gets on and has been on, they win. That’s not by accident.”

Al Jefferson

“Every Jerry Sloan team is going to come out playing with heart. There’s just no doubt about it.”

Deron Williams

“We’re just not going to lay down,” said Williams, who finished with a game-high 30 points and 14 assists. “We kept fighting. Kept chipping away. You look up, you’re down six, and your confidence grows.”

Quotes from the Salt Lake Tribune

~ by djepperson on November 11, 2010.

One Response to “Game Recap: Jazz 104 – Magic 94”

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