Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
This article wasn't meant to be sour. There were a number of bright spots in Utah and it appeared our team was poised to turn some corner. Alas, Monty William's defensive scheme just had to take it all away. The return of the competent and dynamic NBA player known as Tyreke Evans. The good minutes turned in by Austin Rivers, Jeff Withey and Lou Amundson. The superstar-like stat line of Anthony Davis. All vanquished by a team that lead the league in ineptitude, until tonight.
As stated in Brian's preview, this was our opponent:
Let's review how they stand as a team: last in winning percentage, last in offensive rating, 5th-worst in defensive rating, last in both effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage on offense, second worst in defensive rebounding percentage, and third worst in letting opposing teams get to the free throw line.
Yep, it sounds much like a cellar dweller. So why did we give up 111 points? A field goal percentage of 51.4%? 22 shots from three point territory? 39 freethrows?
Monty's wonderful defensive strategy, more succinctly, our pick-and-roll doomsday plan. Whether it was from 10 feet from the basket or 25, it didn't matter. The Jazz were easily able to draw two (at a minimum) defenders towards the ball handler. Whether he posed a threat or not.
Instead of going on and recreating the wheel, let's read what David posted in the gamethread:
Jason Smith showing 35+ feet from the basket has to go. I don’t believe "hey if the rotations were better" crap. That is garbage. A seven footer hedging 35 feet from the basket against some D-League call up is certifiably insane. Even if the rotations are perfect the Pelicans are deliberately playing 4-on-5. Why would you ever do that? Why, schematically, would you position your slowest player (and one of the most effective at defending the basket) the furthest away from the basket? That’s like the Saints lining John Jenkins (350+ lbs John Jenkins, not Malcolm Jenkins) at FS instead of NT. Has anyone watched what good teams do? Show me all the times Roy Hibbert ventures beyond 18 feet on defense.
This is a scheme thing. And Monty himself can fix it. Rather than ask the impossible (defend 4-on-5 in all PnR situations) he can change the strategy and hang his bigs back. The Pelicans allow shots at the rim and open threes not because "the rotations are bad". They do because they are playing 4-on-5 and SOMEONE IS GOING TO BE OPEN WHEN JASON SMITH IS 35+ feet FROM THE BASKET! It is not just "Fire the Coach". Although that could be a potential solution. Coaches can also adjust. The Pelicans have two whole days to get their minds right. Two days to try to fix what is going wrong.
Rotate better just isn’t a plan. 4 players cannot effectively cover 5. A seven footer running back from 35 feet from the basket is worse than useless, it is a foul waiting to happen. The offense was better, but the Jazz are awful. The defense was worse, and primarily because the Pelicans ran into a team committed to running the pick and roll down their throats. The Suns had similar success in the 3rd quarter of game one and the stretch runs of both games with a similar strategy.
The defense plan is inefficient. It seems rather logical that playing 4-on-5 would be a negative for the defense. The offensive game plan remains inefficient, but the creativity of Tyreke and the aggressiveness of Gordon found ways tonight to make it passable against a terrible team. These are things that can be fixed. They are not player issues. They are not roster creation issues. They are poor strategic decisions which allow for high value shots for the opposition while settling for low value shots on offense. And coaching, either in a change in philosophy by Monty Williams or by a new direction on the bench entirely can fix them.
Yep, pretty much most of us see the issue with our own eyes -- there lies an inherent flaw in our team's gameplan. Upcoming opponents need not spend but a few minutes preparing for the Pelicans. As long as they avoid the opportunistic defense, the athletic arms and legs stealing or blocking the ball away, they will be able to get any shot on the floor by running a patient pick-and-roll: an open three point shot or a layup. And, if by chance, a player actually rotates over before an open shot can be released, two freebies at the line.
Just ask Richard Jefferson, the player who hasn't been relevant since 2008. He'd positively love to play us repeatedly, as it would potentially net him yet another ridiculous contract.
Now, before we go any further, let's all understand this rant isn't calling for the coach's head. Monty has done enough good things in his tenure that he's earned the right to fix the water main break. Our season isn't a lost cause, yet...