Utah Jazz becoming known for shot-blocking skills

Published: Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 8:03 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Eaton is not on the Utah Jazz anymore.

The Jazz are just blocking shots like big ole No. 53 used to do when he patrolled the paint back in the day.

Boosted by Tuesday's 12-block outing against Milwaukee, the Jazz have vaulted into the NBA's top spot for blocked shots.

"Heeey!" Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said with a smile when that stat was brought up. "It's one of the things we wanted to address from last year — that we had to get better at blocking some shots."

So far, so … get that weak stuff outta here!

After six games, the Jazz average 7.5 denials a night — up considerably from last year's 5.9 blocks per game.

"I think the rotations are putting guys in positions to be there," Corbin said. "They understand where to be, and we'll continue to get better at that."

Center Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors each have eight blocks to lead the team.

"It is contagious," Favors said. "It just means that everybody's playing defense."

Being active and more athletic — something aided by good offseason training — have helped the Jazz get up and rejecting.

"That's something that Coach just kept saying from Day 1 (and) the end of last year. He just kept saying, 'Defense, defense,'" Jefferson said. "We've just got to keep doing it, blocking shots … (being in the) right position on help defense to take charges and get the blocks. I think it's all about the defensive mind."

Swats get into opponents' heads, he pointed out. This gives the Jazz defenders all the more incentive.

Added Big Al: "When those guys drive and (they) see another big right there able to take the charge or block their shot, that'll make their team think twice about going into the paint."

MIDWEEKBREAK: After a grueling beginning to the lockout-shortened season, the Jazz found themselves in a weird position. They didn't play Wednesday or Thursday.

Two days between games seemed like an eternity considering they played six games in eight nights to begin their 2011-12 schedule.

"It's been refreshing," Corbin admitted. "It gave us a day yesterday to get off our feet, look at some film and talk and have some good discussion."

The Jazz had their annual signing day Wednesday. They signed thousands of items — basketballs, pictures, books, jerseys, etc. — for the community relations team to distribute to charities and promotions. Those piles of paraphernalia were gone by Thursday when the team hit the practice court again.

The Jazz begin another back-to-back set Friday night against Memphis and Saturday at Golden State.

TEMPOCHANGE: The Jazz are 11th in scoring defense (96.5 ppg), but Utah is only 26th in the NBA in scoring (90.2 ppg).

Corbin wants to see the pace picked up on the offensive end. Getting the ball up court sooner will allow more time to run half-court sets.

"I think we're doing a good job once we get into the plays," Corbin said. "We've got to get into them quicker."

INJURYUPDATE: Starting point guard DevinHarris (left calf) and backup small forward JoshHoward (left quad) suffered muscle strains in Tuesday's win, but they both went through a full practice Thursday. Both are considered day-to-day.

Starting power forward PaulMillsap also practiced after hyperextending his knee against Milwaukee.

Email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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