SALT LAKE CITY — During training camp, the Utah Jazz emphasized the importance of defense.
Over. And over. And over again.
The coaching staff introduced a new defensive style to force opponents out of the middle, hopefully turning foes into jump-shooting teams.
Then the season opened up, the Lakers cruised to an easy win and Denver dropped 117 points on Utah's new "D."
The Spurs surpassed the scoring century mark (104-89), but Utah has since held opponents to an average of 83.8 points in its four-game winning streak.
"You get that first win and you get a little taste (and say), 'OK, if we put (and) focus a little bit more effort on this and that, it can work,' " Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "And we've grown from there."
The defensive effort is necessary while the Jazz work on offensive chemistry.
Utah has allowed opponents to score 93.9 points per game, while only putting 90.4 points on the scoreboard per night.
The Jazz have hit the 100-point mark just twice.
"As long as the defense stays up, our shooting will get better," Corbin said. "But our defense has to continue to get better also. =85 We have to be able stop people in order to win."
Jazz power forward Paul Millsap, for one, is happy about the renewed effort and emphasis on defense.
"We're a hard-nosed team," Millsap said. "You look at the teams in the past, that's what the Utah Jazz has been about, hard-nosed."
That's been evident in the statistics, too. The Jazz are second in blocks (7.5 bpg) and 10th in steals (8.9 apg).
"Guys have got the attitude of wanting to play defense," Millsap said. "You've got to want to play defense yourself before you can go out there and play team defense, and everybody has taken it up on themselves to play defense."
GOOD FIT: Starter Raja Bell credited assistant Sidney Lowe for giving good advice on defending Monta Ellis at the end of Saturday's 88-87 win over Golden State.
Not surprisingly, Lowe, a former NBA coach and point guard, credited Bell for doing the work.
Just one example of why Corbin feels great about adding his former Minnesota teammate to his coaching staff last summer. Corbin lauded Lowe's experience and personality as being "huge" assets.
"He has a pretty good feel for personality," Corbin said. "So he knows how to approach guys to get the most out of what he's trying to get them to do."
Lowe, who's been an NBA head coach with the T-Wolves and Grizzlies, is just happy guys value his input.
"The great thing about these guys is they listen," Lowe said. "Sometimes you run into players and they don't want to hear too much because they can't handle it, but these guys, they're very good."
Added Lowe: "I can tell you, when we talk to them and we say things to them, they really try to go out and do it. That case right there (with Bell), he focused in on what he was trying to do and it worked out for us."2 comments on this story
TEAM FIRST: An improved team-first attitude is reflective of the Jazz's quick turnaround and early season success, Millsap believes.
"Everybody's pretty unselfish on this team, one of the better teams we have from that aspect," the sixth-year Jazzman said. "That's what we're going to need throughout the course of the season, unselfish play, guys not caring who gets all the points, who gets all the glory. That's what we're going to need to be successful."