The Miami Heat did many things to take the Utah Jazz out of their comfort zone on Saturday night and outplayed the Jazz in myriad ways.
But what hurt the Jazz maybe more than anything in their 111-105 loss was that the Heat exhausted Utah’s defense and then punctuated it on the offensive glass.
Miami is a team that can absolutely get out and run in transition, but the Heat’s offense is so lethal this season because no matter who is on the floor, they can run through four, five, six actions in a single possession to make sure that they get easy and wide open shots.
Guarding that type of team, which isn’t hunting for early shot clock looks, is tiring, and one mistake from the defense can give them all they need.
“You can guard for 21 or 22 seconds of a shot clock and then a miscommunication, or you relax for a second and they have good cutters, they cut with force, and good passers and they get attempts at the rim,” Mike Conley said after the game.
“That can be a little bit deflating when you’re trying to play and take away so many different options and they find a way to score.”
It would be one thing if it only happened a few times a game, or if the Jazz were contesting the shots at the end of the shot clock, or if they were able to correct their defensive mishaps over the course of the game, but the Jazz didn’t do that.
Too often, the Jazz gave up open looks when the defense broke down at the end of a possession and it happened over and over and over.
“We have to be able to defend through a longer possession with those multiple actions and that requires more concentration, more communication and more determination,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.
“Those are the things that we have to do to play defense on the level that we need to.”
To be clear, the Jazz’s defense is not up to the level it needs to be, they want it to be, or anywhere near where it should be considering how long this team has been together, but their late-clock defense was particularly exploited against the Heat.
With the way that the Jazz play offensively — looking for early shot clock opportunities and pushing the ball — they’re playing defense more often than they are offense, and when the defense isn’t working the way it is supposed to, it becomes tiring.
“The way they play, they exhaust you every possession,” Rudy Gobert said, describing the way Miami uses their time.
“You can be moving defensively and work for like 20 seconds and then we go on offense and we take a quick shot...and we want those shots...but if we rush and we take those shots, then they’re playing defense for three seconds and we’re playing defense for 20 seconds and then we have to run back.
We have to do that, but at the same time, over the course of a game, it’s just more exhausting.”
To make matters worse on Saturday, the Jazz gave up a lot of offensive rebounds to the Heat, especially in the first half.
There’s so many things that happen when a team gets an offensive rebound. Not only does it give the team another offensive opportunity, but it lengthens the possession, forcing the opposing team to play defense even longer and it also deflates the defending team, which can be a confidence killer and lead to even more breakdowns.
If the Jazz had an anomaly of a night not protecting the glass then it might have been a side note in the game against the Heat, but allowing a lot of offensive rebounds is becoming a problem for the Jazz this season.
“We have to not only be more forceful, but we have to be the aggressor in many situations,” Snyder said. “We’ve done that before. It can be done...that just has to be something that we’re more committed to, because it hurts us.”
On top of everything else, the Jazz are still struggling to shoot the ball. With their defensive mistakes, the Heat getting offensive boards and then missing on the other end, it all combined for a game that broke the Jazz’s spirit.
“No matter how locked in you are, if you’re guarding and guarding and guarding and you give up a shot late in the clock, then on top of that not rebounding —,” Donovan Mitchell said shaking his head.
“We’ll continue to guard, continue to fight, but when you give up an offensive rebound then it’s like, damn. It’s deflating. Then you miss a shot and it’s like, damn. It’s a compounding thing. Being able to guard for 24 seconds is one thing, but we’ve got to come up with the rebound.”
On three occasions, the Heat had more than one offensive rebound in a single possession, and in each of those instances, the Jazz failed to make up ground once they got the ball.
The first time the Heat got multiple offensive boards in one possession, they didn’t score, but then Mitchell missed a 3-pointer on the other end. The second time, Hassan Whiteside fouled Bam Adebayo, sending him to the free throw line, and then on the Jazz’s next possession, Joe Ingles missed a floater.
The third time, Mitchell got to the free throw line on the other end, but missed one of two from the charity stripe and then Kyle Lowry hit a 3 on the Heat’s next possession.
The Jazz are going to have to step it up on the defensive end if they want to be a contending team, but the also can’t exacerbate the problem by failing in other areas.
They have to put in more effort on the boards and create good looks on the other end so that they aren’t forced to claw back at the end of every game.