As the old adage goes, defense wins games. And the Jazz showed why they win games, by playing tough physical defense. Against the Rockets they bodied up and wore them down by grinding out 2 hard earned wins on the road.

All of Jerry Sloan's Jazz teams have always prided themselves in tough defense and rebounding (Karl Malone). I love the way they really get after the ball on defense, they attack the ball-handler and they hard show on all ball-screens. They really make you work the entire shot clock and force you to take contested shots. Here are a few sequences, the first one is Kyle Korver stopping Bobby Jackson's drive with a nice block, then a couple of sequences with Matt Harpring and Andrei Kirilenko chasing Tracy McGrady around,

First off, what a game for Andrei Kirilenko. His stat line won't wow you (3pts, 8rebs, 1block), but he made many of the big/small plays that mean so much in the playoffs. In the playoffs, its all about possessions; saving possessions, gaining more possessions, and not losing possessions. Kirilenko was a net plus in generating possessions. He helped defend McGrady for a large part of the game, and came up with many big rebounds, none bigger than the one at the end of the game and kick out to Korver for essentially the game clincher. He's the kind of guy that is the glue to the team, everyone else gets the praise, but Kirilenko is the one that makes it work.

Hedging The Ball-screen:

Against McGrady, the Jazz hedged all ball screens, slowing him down enough for the primary defender to recover. The goal being to wear him out. You can see McGrady trying to make a move off the ball-screen, only to see a double, dribble back out, then another ball-screen with a hedge, then finally a turnover. This is what it looks like when Carlos Boozer comes out for the hedge. Here, McGrady hasn't even taken a dribble yet, but he has to take his non-pivot foot 1 step back and protect the ball,

After a different hedge here, McGrady tries to pass out of the double to the open screener who rolls to the basket, except the lanky Kirilenko is able to get his hand on the ball and create the turnover,


Too bad I didn't record the very end of this game. The Jazz really turned up the physicality on defense. Now, there's a fine line between dirty (like what Haywood did to Lebron tonight) and physical. When I played basketball, it was always rough, you only called fouls if you drew blood. It's different now, where every little touch is a foul, but I like playoff style basketball, you have to win the game on your own and not rely on the refs to bail you out. Tonight, it was my kind of basketball, physical, no easy buckets, fight for everything.

For a new M2M defense video, check out Mark Fox's DVD on Building a M2M Defense. I like his idea of emphasizing taking charges. Already in this playoffs we've seen the impact that charges have had on the result of games (Kurt Thomas for the Spurs). Talk hoops strategy at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.