NBA Playoffs, Lakers Jazz Game 3: To beat LA, the Jazz are going to have to improvise

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Williams_Fisher.jpgImprovisation is one of the cornerstones of jazz.

Except in Utah.

The Jazz are one of the most structured teams in the NBA, they execute their flex offense with a precision no team in the Association can match. Crisp passes, plenty of off-the ball movement, flashes into the high post, back door cuts. It tore apart the Denver Nuggets in the first round, because the Jazz are disciplined offense and the Nuggets (especially without George Karl screaming at them) are an undisciplined team.

But the system has not worked on the Lakers. For two straight games the Lakers have held the Jazz under their offensive efficiency numbers for the regular season. Why? Because the Lakers are a team of long arms and bodies — there is a lot less space to slip that pass through to a backdoor cutter. The Lakers are taking away the Jazz’s preferred offensive plays, cutting off passing lanes and contesting shots.

The Jazz need to improvise.

To beat the Lakers they are going to have to break out of the flex offense and let one of the –if not THE — best point guards in the game loose.

Free Deron Williams.

He himself told the Desert News he is going to improvise some this game, back home at Energy Solutions Arena.

D-Will did more of that in the first series against the Nuggets, pushing the ball and getting some transition baskets on the Nuggets (who weren’t good at getting back). The Jazz are going to have to run more on the Lakers and get some baskets before their defense gets set, for one.

Williams also has the single biggest matchup advantage on the Jazz — Derek Fisher can’t stop him one-on-one. What Fisher has done well so far is guide Williams toward the long-armed help of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. (This is where the Jazz miss Mehmet Okur, a big who can hit the long ball and pulls one of those defenders away from the basket.) The Jazz need to run some high pick-and-rolls, some pure isolations, even post Williams up on Fisher. They need to exploit that matchup.

It’s not all offense, defense matters too. The Jazz need, to use coach Jerry Sloan’s words — toughen up on defense. They have let the Lakers basically set up their offense in the spots they want. Can’t do that with Kobe Bryant and Gasol and Bynum — they will score a lot from those spots. The Lakers have matchup advantages inside and they have exploited them. The Jazz need to challenge the Lakers for every spot on the floor, make them start where they are uncomfortable.

Having Andrei Kirilenko back will help with that. The Jazz need more size in this series, and AK-47 provides that. Just his shot blocking threat will change how the Lakers can attack the rim.

The Jazz will also have its big home-court advantage — a loud crowd and some high altitude. The crowd will help; the Jazz could use the energy.

Is all that enough to take two games from the Lakers? That is essentially what the Jazz have to do, they cannot go back to Los Angeles down 3-1, the Lakers are too big and too good for the Jazz to climb out of that hole. All they have to do today is win one.

The Jazz can get that win — but they are going to have to improvise to do it.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.