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Utah Jazz basketball: Improved long-range shooting aiding Jazz offense

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21 2012 12:10 p.m. MST

"It's one more dimension I added to my game. That means I can step out and shoot it a little bit more and they have to respect that," Millsap added. "I'm able to go out to the basket or drive and create for somebody else. It helps out a lot."

The increased acceptance to 3-point shooting does come with some downsides, one of which was evident when Mo Williams heaved up a rushed trey on fast breaks late in losses during last week's 2-2 East Coast road swing. Williams isn't having his best season from outside, either, shooting 32.6 percent on 4.2 attempts a game.

But Utah is in a risk-comes-with-rewards mode, so some ill-advised shots come with the territory.

Though Corbin isn't giving Jazz players the green light to go bonkers from beyond the arc, the Jazz have made a concerted effort to open up their game. Utah knows 3-pointers can swing momentum, but more importantly for this group, it can clear space inside for the team's bevy of bigs.

In that sense, the Jazz remain much more like their old selves than a team that looks like it's having a 3-point-shooting contest on a nightly basis.

The focus remains on going to Al Jefferson, Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. The paint still rules over the perimeter.

"The philosophy's still the same: inside-outside," Foye said. "The big guys are making it easy for me and I'm trying to help them out a little bit. But the philosophy's still the same — pound the ball in until they stop us."

Utah didn't have that luxury last year when poor outside shooting allowed opposing defenses to camp out in the paint — something that became painfully obvious in the four-game playoff sweep against the San Antonio Spurs.

"It helps us out. It opens up a lot, especially down low for the big guys," Millsap said. "I think our main problem last year in the playoffs, they (were) packing the lane on us and we couldn't really get anything at the basket. To have some outside shooters, it opens things up a little bit for us."

So while the Jazz are only 15th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, they're at least making strides to extend their offensive options.

That's the biggest reason why Corbin has placed an emphasis on stretching defenses.

"One thing that we know is going to happen — at some point they're going to try and get Al in the post. We're going to get him in the post and they're going to try to get the ball out of his hands in the post," Corbin said. "At some point in time they're going to have two guys on the ball in the post, which means if we space the floor somebody on that weak side should get a wide-open 3-point shot, a wide-open shot, and we want to make them pay for it."

While it helps to have more shooters on the team, it also requires the Jazz bigs to recognize their predicament and pass the ball back out. In turn, defenses will have to counter by doubling less and paying more attention to the Jazz shooters.

"If," Corbin said, "we space the floor, move the ball, take advantage of those open shots as a result it will give him more opportunities on the post one-on-one."

Though the Jazz aren't a traditional 3-point shooting team — as witnessed by Utah hucking up more long balls than they have in the past decade — Foye was excited to join the team this past offseason knowing that he might get more chances from outside.

"You're playing with guys that can score — Al, Paul, Big Turkey and D-Favs, that's why I came here," Foye said. "You know you're going to get open shots if they're going to double. That's the best — swing-swing (passes) and you're just standing there and your eyes just light up when you see no one's there and you get a chance to line them up."

"Those are good shots for us," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward added. "We've got to be able to step up and knock those down if we want to free the big guys inside. That's something we need to be able to do is step up and hit 3-pointers."

To that point, Big Al even joined the perimeter party with that oh-so-timely overtime-forcing 3-pointer in the eventual three-OT win in Toronto.

"We're going to hold back on him a little bit. We like him in the post," Corbin said, laughing when asked if Jefferson was going to get more 3-point opportunities. "He did make a big one for us, though."

Jefferson loves to occasionally take treys, but he enjoys having teammates who can make them even more.

"Most definitely," he said. "It do make my life easier."

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com

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