Jerry Sloan covets a defensive-minded player like Bruce Bowen. He'd settle for someone like Jeff Hornacek from a decade ago, who simply put out his best effort on defense.
Instead, the veteran Utah Jazz coach continues to be frustrated by watching opponents have huge scoring nights against his team. The Jazz will try to end a three-game losing streak against the young Portland Trail Blazers tonight at EnergySolutions Arena. Tip-off is set for 7.
"We don't have one defensive thinker on our team," said Sloan.
Sloan would love to have a guy like Bowen. The San Antonio Spurs' swingman is often asked to defend his opponent's hottest player and isn't particularly concerned with his own offensive numbers.
But those type of guys are rare in the NBA.
"This league is built around offense," said Sloan. "Every player that comes into this league is an offensive player and an offensive thinker."
That doesn't mean Sloan feels the Jazz are incapable of slowing opponents down, however.
"There is not a guy out there (for the Jazz) who can't defend," said Sloan. "Most of it is attitude. They have plenty of talent to play. If you have enough talent to play in this league, you should have enough talent to defend."
The Jazz are coming off back-to-back narrow road losses to San Antonio and Dallas. A disturbing trend for the Jazz dating back to last year reared its head again during those two games, as a single player lit Utah up. Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili scored 37 points on Friday night while Mavericks forward Josh Howard went off for a career-high 47 on Saturday.
"It will happen sometimes during a game that a guy will get on a run," said Sloan. "But if you get down the stretch and the guy stays in that, you're in trouble."
Again, Sloan feels he already has players on his roster who could step up and become defensive-minded stoppers. Utah's woes in that area are not for a lack of ability.
"Jeff Hornacek played here with one leg and didn't have a lot of athleticism," said Sloan. "But he could stay in front of people."
While the 13-8 Jazz are 4 1/2 games ahead of the young Blazers in the Northwest Division standings, they are teams heading in different directions right now. Utah has lost three games in a row while Portland has won three straight.
One major advantage for the Jazz is that the game is at home. Utah is 8-1 at EnergySolutions Arena this year, while the Blazers are just 1-9 on the road.
"It's a good time for us to be playing at home," said Jazz forward Matt Harpring. "After losing three in a row on the road, it sometimes can shake your confidence a little bit. So if we can get back in front of our fans and play well, hopefully that will lead us through the rest of December."
Sloan, of course, isn't as sure his team will fare any better simply because it will be in more familiar surroundings.
"It doesn't mean you are going to win just because you are at home," Sloan said.A loss tonight, though, could spell some real trouble for the Jazz. Immediately following tonight's game they will head to Phoenix to face the Pacific Division-leading Suns on Wednesday night and will then travel to play at Portland where the Blazers are 7-3 on Friday.
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