With five players averaging double-figures in scoring and a perfect balance of inside-out play by Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, and Mehmet Okur, the Jazz offense has found another gear.
The Utah Jazz has the No. 1 offense in the league, over the last ten ball games. In reaching this pinnacle, Utah has scored over 100 points in eight of its last 10 games, winning seven of those contests.
Over the team’s current four-game winning streak, Utah is averaging 117 points per game.
Now here comes the challenge Utah.
Tonight in Milwaukee, the Jazz will be tested by the No. 1 defensive team in the league. That’s right, the Milwaukee Bucks have given up an average of just 89.5 points per game over its last ten contests, and they too are riding a four-game winning streak.
Leading the way for the Bucks is former University of Utah All-American, Andrew Bogut.
The fourth-year pro had a very impressive double-double against the Celtics last Tuesday night, scoring 25 points and hauling down 17 rebounds in the Bucks’ 86-84 win over the Celtics at the Bradley Center.
Expect Bogut and John Salmons to provide most of the fireworks in this matchup against the Jazz.
It’s really been a tale of two seasons for Milwaukee. With shooting guard Michael Redd in the lineup—the Bucks went 12-16. With Redd out of the rotation, Milwaukee has played dramatically better, posting a record of 22-13. Now the team has shot-up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings and is poised for more.
As for Redd, he’s out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and one could argue that the 6’6” scoring machine is approaching Tracy McGrady status. He could be a cancer in the locker room and a burden for the team down the road.
Redd’s being paid max-money, which means, nobody wants that type of outrageous contract for a player that’s a liability on defense—but that’s an argument for another day.
Right now, Bucks coach Scott Skiles has to figure out a way to stop the red-hot Jazz.
A team that’s been scoring points in bunches, from a variety of players. The Jazz put up 132 and 115 points, in back-to-back road victories at Chicago and Detroit. They seem to not only enjoy spreading the ball around, but thrive on it. Utah averages 26 assists per game, that's among the best in the NBA.
Part of the reason Utah is so effective on the offensive side of the ball is the return of Kyle Korver. His ability to draw the attention of defenses, has allowed swingmen C.J. Miles and Wes Matthews to be free for open looks at the hoop—and both are cashing in. Matthews had 14 points in Detroit and Andrei Kirilenko chipped in with 11 points, as the Jazz dominated the Pistons 115-104.
In Chicago, Miles scored a season-high 26 points and connected on six three-pointers. If the Bucks take Miles away, and leave Korver, then the Jazz sharp-shooter could go off like he did against Detroit—scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
But as solid as the Jazz have been in recent weeks, they aren’t perfect—losing to bottom feeders like Sacramento and the Clippers still must sit in the back of their minds and makes fans wonder about this team as a title contender.
However, when Utah executes their offensive sets effectively and play just a little defense, the Jazz have a way of wearing down their opponents—like they did on March 4 at Phoenix. Williams had 27, and Mehmet Okur threw in 24 points to rally the Jazz to a 41-point fourth quarter and down the Suns 116 to 108.
But in two inexplicable road losses (Kings and Clippers), the Jazz either played poor defense or got out rebounded and lost these crucial games.
On March 6 at Staples Center, the Clippers won the battle of the boards, grabbing 41 rebounds to the Jazz’ 40, as Utah was unable to come back from a 17 point deficit.
Then at Sacramento, Utah’s defense gave up 103 points to a Kings team without Kevin Martin. Rookie guard Tyreke Evens lit up Deron Williams for 24 points and journeyman point-guard Beno Udrih went 11-for-16 from the field for a team-high 25 points, as the Kings beat Utah 103-99.
Jazz fans your team is playing great basketball offensively, but it does have a soft-underbelly, its called defense and rebounding.