23 April 2010
Jazz must take advantage of the homecourt advantage shift
In an article about the NHL playoffs, E.J. Hradek wrote that since 1998 each Stanley Cup-winning starting goalie had a save percentage of at least 90%. "You don't build a percentage like that just by making all the routine stops," Hradek wrote. "You build it by also coming through with the spectacular save at the critical moment."
The Utah Jazz did the spectacular by stealing homecourt advantage away from the Denver Nuggets on Monday. Really, it was spectacular. First, the Jazz won in Denver, which has been a struggle for them. Second, they didn't wait until the series was out of hand to start fighting back, like they have in the last few playoff rounds.
Now, they head back home to what might seem like the routine: Win two games at home. But it isn't routine, and if Utah considers it that way, they will probably find themselves on the business end of the Nuggets pulling off "the spectacular". That is, retaking the favorable homecourt circumstance.
Winning Game 2 in Denver was an impressive feat, and it was indeed spectacular, but it gets canceled out if Denver gets all spectacular in Game 3 or 4.
The Jazz need to realize a few things. One, the ESA (I abbreviate because Energy Solutions hates it) hasn't been the Impenetrable Fortress that Larry Built like it has been the last few seasons. Two, Denver won in ESA without Carmelo Anthony and without Chauncey Billups. It was one of the two biggest WTF losses the Jazz had this season. The other was to the Bryant-less Lakers on 10 February.
Utah must protect Larry's house. (I use that phase in mockery. Under Armor has yet to become anything other than Douchebagwear. Click, clack.) Here are three factors to doing so, and thereby adding a capital 's' to the spectacular they have already done.
A lot about Okur won't be replaced. Namely, his shooting and the gumption to mock Kobe Bryant.
But without him, the Jazz can clog the middle a little bit with Fesenko and sometimes Koufos, or they can put Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap on the floor at the same time for large chunks of time. These two can be an effective tandem the more Boozer's injury heals and if Millsap starts making free throws.
By the way, I hate that NBA teams can go from Monday to Friday without playing, but it has to be a good thing for the Jazz this year on account of Mr. Boozer and other dinged Jazz having three days to take it a little easier.
CJ Miles and Kyle Korver need to continue to make huge plays on offense, and Miles needs to continue to irritate Carmelo Anthony.
Breaking the press
I was going to make what I felt was an astute observation, but I caught part of 1320 KFAN's Locked on Sports Rewind yesterday wherein David Locke made the same point, only he also had statistics to back it up. Anyway, the press by Denver on Monday was genius. A few days later, I remembered that George Karl did the same thing to John Stockton when Karl was the Seattle Supersonics coach.
There was really only one point guard who was in Stockton's league in the 1990s, Gary Payton. He and Stockton had some good head-to-head playoff and regular season matchups. What made playing Seattle even more difficult for the Jazz (along with Detlef Schrempf out-classing Bryon Russell), was an incredible 3/4-court press. It almost always killed the momentum of the Utah's offense. Stockton would have to attack the press to make two player commit to defending him, then dribble backwards to reset the offense and find someone to pass the ball to or an open spot to penetrate in order to get the ball across halfcourt. A lot of time it was fun to watch Stockton break the press down, but it was also a difficult watch because there were times where the press was impossible to break. The only team against whom Stockton didn't control the pace of play was the Supersonics.
I'm getting kind of confident that my Nuggets-in-six prediction is going to be incorrect.