After committing 20 turnovers in a narrow Game 2 loss Friday night to the Chicago Bulls, the Utah Jazz were well-aware that they needed to take better care of the ball to win on Sunday.
Perhaps they were too aware."We had a lot of turnovers (in Game 2)," said Jeff Hornacek. "That was like the main theme (before Game 3): We can't turn the ball over."
So what happened?
The Jazz turned the ball over a franchise playoff-record 26 times in their embarrassing 42-point loss at the United Center.
The extra concern about turnovers on Friday may have had a negative effect for the Jazz on game day, he said.
"Sometimes when you (are concerned about turnovers), you are trying to make the extra pass, trying not necessarily to thread the needle, but make the quick pass because you are afraid of making a turnover. And that ends up leading to turnovers, because you don't take the available shot."
If it seems like the Jazz have gotten progressively worse in taking care of the ball against the Bulls, it's because they have. Utah had 13 turnovers in the first game, 20 in the second and 26 in the third. At this rate, the Jazz should turn the ball over thirtysomething times in Game 4 on Wednesday night. Utah is averaging five more turnovers against the Bulls than they did against the Lakers in the conference finals and 10 more than they did against the Spurs in the conference semis.
The Bulls defense in general, and Scottie Pippen in particular, are major reasons why the Jazz are having a difficult time taking care of the ball. Chicago is playing better defense on Utah's bread-and-butter play - the pick-and-roll - than any other team in the league has been able to.
The Bulls have been forcing Stockton to the baseline and Pippen has been coming off his guy, usually Greg Ostertag or Greg Foster, to double team on the pick-and-roll, causing the Jazz fits.
"We took the elemental effect that they have on teams - and that's their screen-roll, their execution in the halfcourt - and frustrated them with turnovers by Karl (Malone) and (John) Stockton in numbers that they are not used to," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "When that happens to your leaders it's a big demoralizer, and we were fortunate to have that happen for us."
Malone turned the ball over a team-high seven times on Sunday, while Stockton committed an uncharacteristic five.
The Jazz know they can make the Bulls pay for the defense they are playing, but to do it, they need Pippen's man to break to the basket for dunks or get open for shots. Several times on Sunday Ostertag was left alone and was hit with passes but wasn't able to convert.
"They shut our pick-and-roll down, but we had four or five shots, and if we make the shots, I think that puts a little different light on it," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "(Chicago's pick-and-roll defense) is not anything we haven't seen before."
The Jazz say that if Pippen keeps double teaming either Stockton or Malone on the pick-and-roll the way he has been, the key is to have the person left alone punish the Bulls.
"When Scottie leaves to go double, whoever he's covering has to get underneath the basket or to an open spot quickly so that John has a release to throw the pass to," said Hornacek.
Since neither Ostertag or Foster has been able to get much done offensively, there were questions as to whether the Jazz would make a change and start with a smaller lineup - with Malone at center and Chris Morris or Shandon Anderson starting at forward. Sloan said he's considering his options, but wouldn't say at Monday's practice whether or not he'd make a change in the starting lineup. Foster started the first 16 games during the playoffs, but Ostertag got the opening nod on Sunday for the first time.
Several of Utah's turnovers in Game 3 were offensive fouls drawn by Pippen.
"That was about as good of a display of being able to step up and take charges as you'll see," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "I didn't know they still called those."
The Jazz know that Pippen is an outstanding defensive force, but they believe their offense will still work if they execute properly.
"Pippen's a great player," said Sloan. "But he doesn't dominate every play he's on the floor. If a guy makes a pass and we do the right thing and get the ball to the right guy, I feel fairly confident that he can't beat us on every play or guard everybody on the court."
Bulls vs. Jazz: The Rematch
Game 1 Jazz 88
John Stockton leads Jazz with 24 points
Game 2 Chicago 93
Jordan scorches the Jazz for 37>
Game 3 Chicago 96
Bulls lead Jazz 54
series, 2-1 Jazz shoot 30 percent in blowout
Game 4 Utah at
June 10 Chicago
Wednesday TV, Time: NBC, 7 p.m.
Game 5 Utah at
June 12 Chicago
If necessary TV, Time, NBC, 7 p.m
Game 6 Chicago
June 14 at Utah
If necessary TV, Time, NBC, 5:30 p.m.
Game 7 Chicago
June 17 at Utah
If necessary TV, Time: NBC, 7 p.m.