Yes, it has only been one game, but excitement is in the air.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Coming into the season, the Jazz loaded up on more defensive minded players to bolster their already solid defensive prowess. However, through the first three-quarters of game one, their defense was in complete disarray. Denver was able to spread the floor extremely well and shot 9 of 16 from three in the first half, exposing a massive problem in Utah’s defensive scheme — limiting three-point shots. They were caught going through the motions and were far too slow in closing out on Denver’s shooters - specifically Gobert and Favors. In tandem, those two will give opposing cutters and big men migraines in the paint, but a lot of teams stretch the floor and jack up threes. If Denver is able to get both of them out of the paint like they did in the first half, what’s stopping the more dangerous teams from exploiting that spacing advantage throughout the season? Gobert has a very hard time defending stretch five’s or even fours, even more so when he’s forced to switch. When teams are moving the ball well, Gobert and Favors have to come out and close on those deeper shots, and when they aren’t protecting the paint, opposing teams will score with relative ease.
With that said, when Quin Snyder put his bench in to end the third quarter, Joe Johnson helped fuel a comeback, which he capped off with a vintage buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter. This finally woke the Jazz up defensively. They were everywhere, smothering the ball and frustrating everyone off the ball, forcing 9 turnovers in the fourth quarter. The question going forward is will the Jazz concentrate their efforts on defense for the entirety of their games, or will it show up when they dig themselves a hole?
Derrick Favors looked much healthier than he did a year ago and that is very comforting for Jazz fans and Quin Snyder, but bad news for everyone else. When Derrick Favors is healthy, he’s one of the hardest hitting and most talented post players in the league. Two seasons ago, he averaged 16.4 points per game, shot .515 percent from the field, sank .709 percent of his free throws, pulled in 8.1 rebounds, snagged 1.2 steals, and swatted 1.5 shots. If he can stay healthy this year, he can certainly come close to putting up these kinds of numbers again.
Alec Burks is Back
Alec Burks has been waiting (patiently?) for two seasons to rid himself of injuries, get back into shape and do what he does best — cut to the basket and finish with force and flair. Game one of the 2017-2018 season must have felt good for him because he was on fire all night long, scoring 16 points, going 7 for 10 from the field and 2 of 2 from deep. To cap off his welcome back party, he scored 10 points in the first 3 minutes of the fourth quarter which began with a huge dunk off a baseline cut to the basket. We’ve missed you, Alec.