SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have been spending extra time fine-tuning the pick-and-roll.
Not like they used to do, though.
Perhaps it's bad karma for all those years John Stockton and Karl Malone gave opposing defenses fits while taking the screen-and-score execution to a Hall of Fame level, but the Jazz are now trying their darndest to figure out how to better defend the offensive option.
"Our pick-and-roll defense has been kind of sloppy lately," Jazz big man Derrick Favors admitted at Monday morning's shootaround. "But we've been working on it in practice and watching film on it, so we should come out with improved defense on the pick-and-roll."
The Jazz are running into a combination of problems while being picked-and-rolled apart, according to Utah coach Tyrone Corbin.
For starters, Favors has to do a better job of staying between the ballhandling opponent and the basket before the screen is set.
The big, he added, then has to quickly point out where the screen is coming on. That communication doesn't stop there, either. Both sides need to be aware of what defensive set the Jazz are using. Depending on situations, Utah defenders are supposed to either show, fall back or track.
"We have to get better at communicating at all fronts," Corbin added.
The Jazz liked their effort against pick-and-roll-loving Houston in Monday's 102-91 win at EnergySolutions Arena.
"Going against Jeremy (Lin) and (James) Harden and them guys, they demand the ball in the pick-and-roll. They hold it," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "So we knew we had to be more aggressive on the pick-and-roll instead of our normal pick-and-roll coverage. It worked out for us."
GOING BIG: Paul Millsap said the Jazz have to "be patient" with their Big Three lineup, but he believes Utah will benefit from having the lineup that allows him to play small forward, Favors to do his disruptive stuff from the power forward spot along with Al Jefferson's offensive explosiveness at center.
"The good outweighs the bad. We've just got to stay with it," Millsap said. "Offensively, we've got mismatches. We're a better rebounding team with that. We could be a pretty good defensive team with that lineup. We just have to get the rotations down. … Well, I have to get the rotations down from the three (position)."
After watching another slow start, Corbin said he isn't sold on using the big lineup to begin games. He even made that point before Monday's tipoff.
"We'll look at it for a little bit here, and see how it goes," Corbin said an hour prior to the start of the Jazz's win over Houston. "Some nights if we go with it, the next night we may not because of matchups."
NEW NAME?: Big Al acted surprised when talking about how the Jazz fell behind 7-0 to the Rockets.
"We fell behind seven to nothing? I didn't really think about it," he said. "I knew we were going to get it together."
Jefferson said the Jazz took good shots, but they just missed. That turned quickly as Utah went ahead by 23 points in the first half of its 102-91 win.3 comments on this story
"We are in 'The Solutions,'" he said. "We don't panic when we are in 'The Solutions.' "
HAIRY SITUATION: Gordon Hayward's scruff became a locker-room topic of conversation before Monday's game — perhaps appropriate considering the presence of James "The Beard" Harden.
Hayward was a bit confused when asked if he was growing out his facial fuzz as part of "Movember." The 22-year-old said he preferred the term "No-Shave November" because it sounds better.
A confused Jeremy Evans, Hayward's locker neighbor, also chimed in, adding, "I thought it was 'Keep-It-Clean November.' "
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