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Utah Jazz players heed Senor Sloan's D plea

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 11:41 p.m. MDT

Jazz small forward Spencer Nelson scoops in a shot past Real Madrid's Sergio Vidal in Thursday's exhibition game.     (Javier Soriano, Afp, Getty Images) Jazz small forward Spencer Nelson scoops in a shot past Real Madrid's Sergio Vidal in Thursday's exhibition game. (Javier Soriano, Afp, Getty Images)

MADRID — He wanted better defense than he saw Tuesday in London, so the sight of four policia — dressed in full riot gear, replete with helmets and masks — standing right behind the bench had to be encouraging from the start.

The message from coach Jerry Sloan apparently made it to his club, too, as there wasn't much Ole! behavior on display during the Jazz's 109-87 exhibition win here Thursday over Spanish League and Euro?league power Real Madrid.

"We tried to play good defense first, and won the ball game," center Mehmet Okur said, "so everything worked out for us."

It did, which — combined with a game-high 20 points from Paul Millsap, 16 from Deron Williams and the fact that a crowd of 13,703 at 15,000-seat capacity Palacio de Deportes really wasn't rowdy at all — made for a nice end to a weeklong trip that didn't start out nearly so well for the Jazz.

Ex-BYU standout Travis Hansen defends a driving Jazz point guard Deron Williams. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press) Ex-BYU standout Travis Hansen defends a driving Jazz point guard Deron Williams. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press)

Swingman C.J. Miles ruptured a ligament in his left, shooting-hand thumb during practice Monday in London, and the Jazz — also as part of the NBA's EuropeLive 2009 tour — dropped a preseason game there Tuesday to the Chicago Bulls.

That latter experience was why Sloan — introduced at the Palacio as Senor Jerry Sloan — was so adamant about seeing better defense and more patient execution on offense as well in Spain.

"I think the biggest thing was we never really got up and put any pressure on the basketball when we played Chicago," the Jazz coach said, "and the main reason for that was we took a lot of outside shots, and when we take outside shots the ball has to go in the basket — otherwise we're fighting a fastbreak on the other end.

"They (the Bulls) shot in the first half 61 percent — and that was one of the things we talked about when we had our meeting (Wednesday), and we talked about it again (Thursday)."

It wasn't just decent defense and smart shot selection, though, that the Jazz got out of visiting Madrid.

It was also — even though Real lost by 22 and shot just 39.7 percent from the field — a lesson in how Sloan likes a club to perform.

"You could see how basketball should be played the way they play," he said. "They do a great job playing the game.

"Even though they may be a little short in size, they set screens, they do things to help each other and they put a lot of pressure on you.

"That's the way we'd like to have our team play ... and that's what we've always tried to teach," Sloan added. "But we've gotten into situations sometimes where we like to play one-on-one basketball — and they don't play one-on-one. They play five-on-five, and it makes the game more simple to try to give yourself a chance to win."

So why — in a building whose only banners hanging from the rafters are the Spanish flag and one warning against smoking — were things so simple for the Jazz?

Besides, that is, the fact Millsap scored 14 of his 20 in the second quarter to send Utah into halftime up 56-27 — an advantage that did not dip below 12 in the third period or 21 in the fourth.

"We just have more talent," Williams said, dismissing the fact that 30-time Spanish League champ Real Madrid used three players — Jorge Garbajosa, Travis Hansen and Cheikh Samb — who've played in the NBA.

"You know, they're definitely a great team, a well-coached team. Their stuff is hard to defend," he added. "But we're just a lot more athletic, and our system's tough."

But there may be even more to it than that.

Pride may have had something to do with it as well, suggested Sloan, who didn't think the blowout victory was too easy at all.

"We played and lost a tough game the other night (Tuesday) and lost by one point (to Chicago) at the buzzer, and I think our guys got ready to play," he said. "And I think we certainly respect the team we were playing against, because they do a terrific job of trying to help each other by setting screens and passing the basketball."

NOTES: After scoring 16 against Chicago, rookie free agent guard Wesley Matthews scored two on 1-for-1 field shooting with no assists and no rebounds against Real Madrid. The Marquette University product did make a second straight start, joining regulars Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer and Okur. ... Mountain View High, Utah Valley State and BYU product Hansen — who played 47 games for the Atlanta Hawks — had five assists, six rebounds and nine points on 3-for-8 field shooting in 26 minutes for Real Madrid. ... Former University of Michigan guard Louis Bullock led Real with 18 points.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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