By Kevin Arnovitz ESPN.com
For a good illustration of how well the basketball is moving in the Utah Jazz's offense, take the first quarter of their 109-99 win over the Clippers at Staples Center Tuesday night:
Of the 13 field goals in the period, 10 were assisted on.
The other three?
A bucket in transition by Deron Williams, and a putback each from Mehmet Okur and Williams.
"The big key to our success is how well we pass the ball," Williams said. "When we share the ball and play unselfish basketball, we're a hard team to beat."
Those might seem like standard issue quotes from a point guard whose team has won nine consecutive games and 14 out of 15. But in the case of Williams, the words are more than platitudes -- they're backed up by the numbers. The Jazz are the NBA's top-ranked team in assist rate, and the only team in the league that records assists on greater than two-thirds of its field goals.
"Sometimes we have shots that are good, but we can get a better one." Williams said, "That's what makes us have confidence in each other -- you pass up a good shot to get a better one."
Utah scored its 109 points on only 93 possessions, an incredibly efficient effort during which they racked up 32 assists. One of the defining features of Utah's offense is the willingness of players with acceptable shots to defer to those with better ones.
"Our teams over the years have been pretty good about passing the ball," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "We got to share the ball and get it to where it's supposed to go."
One of those destinations is Carlos Boozer, who finished with 34 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. After the game, Boozer credited much of that production to the ability of his teammates to deliver him the basketball with solid passing.
"The deeper you get [the ball], the more successful you're going to be," Boozer said. In addition to his words for Williams ("He's dope. He's got a lot of stuff."), Boozer also threw some praise C.J. Miles' way. The Jazz' swingman finished with five assists of his own in 20 minutes off the bench.
"[Miles] made some great plays," Boozer said. "He was a playmaker out there coming off that pick-and-roll. He hit me a couple of times."
Some of Utah's 32 assists came on simple entry passes into Boozer, but many of their baskets were the result of phenomenal playmaking in the half court. Even when a possession seemed hopeless, the Jazz would rescue it from the edge. Late in the first quarter, a grenade ended up in Andrei Kirilenko's hands after Paul Millsap fumbled a pass. As the Clippers tightened the vise with a double-team, Kirilenko patiently guided Millsap to the hoop with a gentle lob pass, and Millsap flushed it home.
"When you play that way and pass the basketball, it's a lot more fun for everybody," Sloan said.
"Fun" has never been a high usage phrase in Sloan's lexicon, but if the Jazz win their 10th straight Wednesday night over the Lakers, the Jazz might etch the word into the players entrance of EnergySolutions Arena.
ESPN TrueHoop editor Kevin Arnovitz is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime. [caption id="attachment_1184" align="alignleft" width="394" caption="Carlos Boozer is Tuesday's Best "]Carlos Boozer is Tuesday's Best [/caption]
Some Rowdy fans at the Gateway Last Night.