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News » Kragthorpe: 'Improved' defense doesn't convince

Kragthorpe: 'Improved' defense doesn't convince

Kragthorpe: 'Improved' defense doesn't convince Denver

The Jazz's season started without enough stops, just the way the last one ended.

While their intentions may have been good, they did nothing to make anyone believe their defense is improved, could not overcome the horrible performance of their controversial power forward and missed a chance to open the season with a meaningful road victory.

The Jazz needed much more than merely a few stretches of adequate defense Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, where they ultimately could not keep up with the Denver Nuggets in a 114-105 loss.

Amid all that Deron Williams gave them and everything that Carlos Boozer failed to provide, the Jazz crumbled in the second half of a game they genuinely could have won.

Seriously, this thing was there for the taking. But after leading by eight points midway through the third quarter, the Jazz let Denver have it. The Jazz suddenly looked an awful lot like the team that fell apart at the end of last season.

The Nuggets began this season trying to successfully defend their Northwest Division championship. Coach Jerry Sloan was just wishing the Jazz would defend somebody ... anybody.

The issue of how soon that can or will happen remains unanswered.

"I'd like for us to be a better defensive team," Sloan said before the game, somewhat resignedly.

"We've tried to work on that some, but we're still who we are. You can't change a personality overnight."

As for Opening Night, the Jazz's timing was good in this sense: Denver's offense would present a good test of their hoped-for defensive improvement.

The Nuggets ranked in the NBA's top five in scoring (104.3 points) and shooting (47 percent) last season, when they advanced to the Western Conference finals. So if the Jazz could stop these guys, there would be some substance to all their talk about defense.

The early signs were not encouraging.

The Nuggets scored on their first four possessions, starting with Nene's drive into Mehmet Okur for a three-point play, injuring the Jazz center in the season's initial 24 seconds. Anthony then assisted Nene for a dunk and a made a free throw, followed by Kenyon Martin's jump shot.

But the Jazz steadied themselves, or maybe the Nuggets just started missing, or both. Okur returned later in the first quarter and even took a charge from Martin, besides making a floater at the horn for a 30-23 lead.

The second quarter looked more like old times for the Jazz . They regressed defensively as the Nuggets shot 55 percent in the period, ending with Carmelo Anthony's drive past Andrei Kirilenko and Boozer for a layup that trimmed the Jazz's lead to 55-54 at the half.

After all the supposed good vibes he created among his teammates and the organization during the preseason, Boozer performed at an all-time low level. He made only one of eight shots, scored three points and had barely any defensive effect.

Boozer continued to struggle in the third quarter, but a flurry of Williams' driving and shooting pushed the Jazz to a 70-62 lead. The Nuggets responded during another defenseless stretch for the Jazz . Billups' three-pointer completed a 10-0 run, sending Denver ahead. The defensive sequence that illustrated the Jazz's futile effort came when guard Ronnie Price dived onto the floor and poked the ball into backcourt, only to have Denver recover, leading to another Billups three.

Even worse, Williams fouled Billups in the last second, and the three free throws gave the Nuggets an 82-80 lead entering the final period. That's when Denver took over, scoring nine quick points and driving home the discouraging reality that nothing has changed for Jazz since April.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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