Elite players are having a heyday against the Utah Jazz this season.
The Utah Jazz have had their ups and downs so far during the 2023-24 NBA season. One thing that has been consistent is their inability to prevent opposing players from big scoring nights.
From Kevin Durant to Nikola Jokic, Paul George to Desmond Bane, the Jazz have allowed a LOT of 25-point scorers (12 in 12 games, to be precise).
By comparison, the league-leading teams don’t allow as many players to score 25 or more in a game (thanks to Basketball-Reference for stats):
Denver Nuggets (9-3, 5 occurrences of a 25-point scorer)
Boston Celtics (10-2, 8 occurrences)
Dallas Mavericks (9-3, 10 occurrences)
Philadelphia 76ers (9-3, 9 occurrences)
Even at the other end of the spectrum, the worst teams by record still haven’t allowed as many 25-point scorers as the Jazz:
Memphis (2-9, 8 occurrences)
Washington (2-10, 11 occurrences)
Detroit (2-11, 11 occurrences)
San Antonio (3-9, 11 occurrences)
With stats, there are usually outliers that don’t always make sense. Two that stand out – Milwaukee, who is 8-4, has allowed 14 occurrences of a 25-point scorer so far; and Charlotte (3-8) has only allowed 4 such instances.
So it stands that the Utah Jazz need to improve on defense. How?
Playing the lineups and players that are better defensively would be a start.
Collectively making a stronger effort to contest 3-point shots would help, as it has been an issue all season.
Intimidating shots inside, which has been an issue with Walker Kessler out due to injury, could help in this regard as well.
Mostly, preventing teams from putting the weaker Jazz defenders on premier scorers through screening would go a long way to slowing those players down.
In tonight’s game against Phoenix, for example, Collin Sexton and Keyonte George ended up on Kevin Durant frequently, which is an absolute mismatch owing to Durant’s size (6’11”) and he responded by shooting over them with ease, on the way to 38 points on 68%/75%/100% shooting splits (2PT/3PT/FT).
Allowing a player to shoot those kinds of percentages is a recipe for disaster. The Utah Jazz simply cannot afford to make the game that easy for elite players, especially ones like Kevin Durant. Something will need to be done by Will Hardy and the Jazz players to address this moving forward, or we will have a lot of results like tonight where elite players go off on the Utah Jazz this season.