DETROIT — The Utah Jazz went into halftime on Monday night with a 13-point lead against a Detroit Pistons team that had only won eight games before the Jazz came to visit.
Over the next 24 minutes, the Jazz let one of the worst teams in the league score 78 points. The leading scorer on the opposing team had a career-best scoring night for the second straight game. On Saturday it was Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, and on Monday it was Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham.
But it wasn’t just Cunningham that the Jazz couldn’t contain, and it wasn’t just one Jazz player that was at fault. It was a complete collapse by the Jazz.
It’s not like the Jazz don’t have the ability to defend — they held the Pistons to 48 points in the first half. But then, on the opening possession of the second half, this happens. Donovan Mitchell is directing traffic, or warning about a drive by Cunningham, but he’s so concerned with what’s going on over on that side that he leaves his own man open in the corner and is too late on the close out.
Why does he sink so deep into the paint? He’s out of position to do anything against Isaiah Stewart and he’s not anywhere near Cunningham. Does he really not trust Hassan Whiteside that much that he needs to help that much? If so, that’s a problem too.
As the second half continued, so did the Jazz’s defensive issues. It was just one bad play after another as the Pistons erased the Jazz’s lead and took over.
What is Royce O’Neale doing here?
It seems like he knows exactly what is going to happen and he points to the spot that Cunningham is going to cut to, so why doesn’t anyone follow him? This is either a complete lack of communication or a misunderstanding and neither of those are acceptable.
We could talk all day long about how the Jazz’s perimeter defense needs some help and thats been true for a long time. But it’s hard to even critique the perimeter defense when there is none.
In the above clip, I can understand two, maybe even three of the Jazz players being in the paint on this, but for a play that is moving relatively slowly, there’s not really a good excuse for five Jazz players to be legitimately inside the paint while two shooters are just sitting wide open on the 3-point line.
Again, I’m not sure what happened here. It could be overhelping, it could be miscommunication, it could be guys not realizing that they’re in the wrong spot, or any combination of those things. Whatever it is, it’s bad.
And the bad stuff just kept happening.
The Jazz failed to communicate and execute switches:
The Jazz didn’t deny entry passes or contest shots:
And the Jazz weren’t patient enough when defending:
There was this thing that Brett Brown used to say when he was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers when I was covering the team — “Don’t be the first one off the floor.”
Basically it means don’t bit on pump-fakes and sometimes don’t even bite on shot attempts. Don’t jump first, because it rarely ends well. Whiteside jumps super early and Saddiq Bey was just patient in the play and scored around him. There’s usually only two ways a play like that goes when you are the first one off the floor; the other guys scores, or you foul them. Whiteside is lucky Bey didn’t allow some contact, or it could have been an easy and-1 situation.
Finally, the Jazz didn’t finish out the few good defensive possession that they had. Below, Jordan Clarkson plays pretty good one-on-one defense against Josh Jackson, but then he and Mitchell are both out of position for the rebound.
Again, there are five Jazz players in the paint, and still the Pistons came up with an offensive board.
In this last video, Whiteside gives so very little effort that I’m not even sure what to think. Whiteside’s lack of effort in finishing out the play leads to a super easy second-chance 3 for Cory Joseph.
The thing is, this wasn’t even Whiteside’s most egregious transgression of the night.
The Jazz weren’t just bad in the second half on Monday night. They made mistakes that are hard to explain and their defensive effort left everyone watching frustrated.