01 February 2011
A little over a week ago I made much ado over the Jazz's shooting guard position being the biggest hole in the proverbial defensive bucket, advocating a change at the starting 2-spot to try and plug said gaping hole. I followed that up with a recent post that called out Raja Bell for riding an undeserved reputation as a premiere defender for a single laundry-line play for years since.
He has responded. In a big way.
A week ago, the Jazz carried a differential efficiency (the difference between what you and your opponent do, the higher your "+" the better you're doing there) at the SG spot of minus 12 over their last five games, a staggering and by far a team-worst figure, one that could be laid largely at the feet of Bell and his 30-plus minutes-per-game at the position.
Now, there's exciting news and a good sign that the Utah Jazz have recognized their deficiencies and made aggressive moves to rectify them. Over the last three games, the Jazz's SG spot can now boast a positive differential efficiency of +2.0, largely due to Raja's focus on playing much-improved defense.
Bell has gotten under the skin of his last two counterparts, frustrating them offensively and taking them out of their game, helping the team to go 2-1 over it's last three despite the absence of it's best player, Deron Williams. In the two wins, over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Bobcats, the SG spot on the Jazz is a combined +11, a vast improvement.
One effort really stands out and has gotten little or no fanfare. This remarkable effort deserves it.
Coming into the game versus the Jazz, the Golden State Warriors boasted the league's 5th-leading scorer as well as top three in steals, one Monta Ellis, who was putting up 25.6 points-per-game, and had had only a single performance this season where he'd not managed to put up double-figures in points, a November game in STAPLES where Ellis played a season low in minutes.
He's been so good an All-Star campaign for him was going strong, not only in the Bay Area but from many league-wide as well.
And then he ran into a re-focused and intense Raja Bell.
The Jazz's former defensive sieve held Monta to two points on 1-9 shooting in Ellis' 32 minutes, the lowest point total for Monta's career in a game in which he played at least 30 minutes.
Bell's outstanding defensive effort on the league's leader in minutes left Ellis sulking on the bench for the 4th quarter hiding under a towel he draped over his head and Warriors fans wishing they "could crawl inside his head" or morph into "a fly on the wall in the locker room."
Although the Jazz lost that particular game, one can't help but wonder what would have happened had they had Stephen Curry-stopper Deron Williams available. Regardless of the outcome, there's little doubt left that the 2-spot has begun to turn it around defensively, something that seems to have keyed an offensive resurgence in Bell as well.
Since the Jazz's losing streak had started, January 17 versus the Washington Wizards, Bell had gone 8 for his last 38 from the floor, a miserable 21%. In the last two games, where Raja got under first Monta's skin then followed it up by frustrating the Charlotte Bobcats' Stephen Jackson, he's gone 9 for his last 18 for 50%.
I don't think I need to state the obvious cliche for you.
The Jazz have finally begun to plug the holes. Here's hoping there's a trickle-up effect on the rest of the team.
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