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Defending the outside isn't top Jazz priority

Published: Friday, May 4 2012 4:59 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY – Seeing how the San Antonio Spurs made seven 3-point shots in the first half on Wednesday, and because the Jazz are currently shooting like Joe the Plumber from outside the arc, I decided to consult Utah's 3-point Answer Man, Jeff Hornacek.

Darrell Griffith could make them; so could Kyle Korver and Deron Williams. But only Hornacek did it every night. I wanted to know why the Jazz so often get killed from the outside, and are killing themselves from out there, too.

His answer, in part: The open range isn't really their territory.

As the Jazz await Saturday's Game 3 at ESA, they have made just 5-of-19 3-pointers (.263) in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Spurs are connecting at a fine 41 percent rate. But the Jazz don't think that is as significant as I.

They think the 3-point dilemma — both on offense and defense — is just one component they must address. I think it's up there with arriving for the game on time.

There have been periods when the Jazz shot well from the 3-point line, mostly when Hornacek was playing. He's a career 40 percent shooter from there. Yet even then, he wasn't the Jazz's first option. His chances often came when Karl Malone couldn't get a basket inside and the shot clock was running down.

Then there's defending the 3, an area where the Jazz have mostly been terrible. It's a familiar sight to see an opposing team rotate the ball on the perimeter or kick it out, while Jazz players windmill their arms, trying to catch up. That was the early problem in Wednesday's blowout loss.

At the same time, Jazz coach Ty Corbin notes that Tony Parker killed the Jazz from the inside in Game 1.

"You've got to do a better job, first of all, keeping him out of the paint," Corbin said on Friday, "and then once he makes the pass, getting out to the 3-point shooters. We need both."

Too bad they've never been able to do both.

Hornacek said he used to like playing against the Jazz when he was in Philadelphia and Phoenix. Because the Jazz relied on help defense and preventing layups, he said, it was easier to get open 3s.

The grand rule of treynomics is that if you make better than one-third of your attempts, it's worth the risk of going long. The logic is that a team needs only shoot better than 33 percent from outside to equal 50 percent shooting from inside the arc.

Easy for them to say; the Jazz don't have anyone as good as Hornacek to do it, anymore.

There are reasons for that. First, it hasn't been a huge priority. The Jazz have long coveted athletic, versatile players, and they finally have some. Now they need someone who can fill up the hoop from outside.

This dilemma really isn't new for the Jazz. Of the last eight playoff years, they shot a better percentage than their opponent from Three Land just three times (2002, 2008, 2010). But seldom do they take more 3s than the opposition. So far in the playoffs, the Jazz have tried 19 3-point attempts, compared to San Antonio's 39.

Meanwhile, there's the problem of defending the 3. But Corbin is more worried about allowing layups.

"You want to stop layups before 3-point shots," he said. "You figure teams will make them in a streak, but for the most part they level off. You make layups with high frequency. So you want to cut the paint off and then get out to the 3-point line, instead of covering the 3-point line and letting them have layups."

Translation: Things are always more immediate when the enemy is at the door.

So 3-point shots are an issue for the Jazz, but not an obsession on either end of the floor.

Hornacek added that another component for the Spurs is passing.

"If they have one guy who can pass it, you don't really give up a whole lot," he said. "But if they have two, three, four, five guys that can pass it, and know exactly where, they can make other teams look silly."

I noticed that on Wednesday when the Jazz were down by 38.

email: rock@desnews.com Twitter: therockmonster Facebook: rockmonsterunplugged

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