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The Utah Jazz simply couldn't keep playing basketball the way they were used to.
Not with Rudy Gobert out because of a sprained MCL, and certainly not with Derrick Favors on the shelf due to back spasms. When healthy, the Jazz are an inside-out team, which makes them sort of an anomaly in today's NBA. Not only did they score most of their points inside the paint, Favors had developed into one of the better back-to-the-basket big men in the league.
That's why watching the Jazz in the past week is a different experience. Stripped of their offensive muscle on the interior, Utah's been shooting away from the perimeter, with seemingly everyone but the security guards at Vivint Smart Home Arena launching 3-pointers.
For the Jazz, it's been a necessary tool in order to survive. And no doubt Utah will shoot a lot more of them on Wednesday night, if Favors isn't ready to play against the San Antonio Spurs.
"Really, it's just been happening like that," Jazz guard Rodney Hood said. "Our spacing has been really good, and guys are getting into the lane and taking open shots. Me and Gordon [Hayward] are a big part of the post presence, so we've been passing out to the perimeter and guys are shooting it with confidence."
How much have the Jazz become a volume-shooting team with Favors out? In the six games that he's missed, Utah's taken 181 3-pointers 30 a night from behind the arc. Those numbers lead the league in that time span. By way of comparison, they were taking just 21.2 threes per game before.
To Utah's credit, the Jazz are 3-3 in those six games, treading water without some of their most important players.
With Favors out, Utah's playing small much of the time. Jazz rookie Trey Lyles has been the starter at power forward, and he's more of a perimeter talent. He also leads the team by making 41 percent of his 3-point attempts. And when Lyles goes to the bench, Joe Ingles plays many of his minutes at power forward.
With Favors out, the offense runs through Hood and Hayward, Utah's two talented wing players. Both can operate in the mid-post area, but both are primarily perimeter scorers who can slash to the basket.
"Right now, it's whatever we can do to get a win," Jazz guard Trey Burke said. "Obviously, Derrick is a presence for us down low and with him out, it's only common sense that we shoot more jumpers. The last few games, we've shot the ball well collectively. I don't think it's something that we're consciously doing. We just want to play good basketball, and try and get the best shots possible."
With Favors out (he's officially listed as day-to-day), Jeff Withey and Trevor Booker have joined Lyles in the frontcourt, and all three have played capably. Tibor Pleiss, the rookie center from Germany, has played in two consecutive games, and even he's jacked up a 3-pointer, albeit missing badly off the front rim.
The patched-up front line's played well, especially Withey, who has replaced some of Gobert's defensive presence at the rim. But Withey and Booker are primarily energy guys, who thrive off finishing at the rim, and making hustle plays. Neither are going to post up and score easy baskets.
Because of that, the onus falls to the Jazz guards and wings to create offense. That means a lot of jumpers. The results have been mixed. In a 94-80 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves the Jazz took a franchise record 39 threes and made 10 of them. More than anything, that was the stat that led to one of the most disappointing losses of the season.
One night later, the Jazz made a franchise record-tying 15 3-pointers in a 109-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. So clearly, Utah's hopes of winning right now lie in how well it's shooting the ball from the perimeter.
Whenever Favors and Gobert return, the number of Jazz threes will surely regress more to the mean. But for now, when you think of Utah, you think bombs away.
"I don't think it will continue to stay like that," Burke said. "Coach [Quin Snyder] puts emphasis on getting into the paint, and making the defense collapse. I think we'll continue to make the right play and everything else will take care of itself."
With Favors out …
• The Utah Jazz are 3-3 with Derrick Favors out. He's been listed as day-to-day with back spasms. Without him, the Jazz are taking 30 3-point shots a game.
• In Favors' stead, Trey Lyles has seen a significant uptick in minutes and production. In Monday night's 93-91 loss to the Houston Rockets, Lyles scored a career-high 13 points in 21 minutes. He's started all six games Favors has missed.
• Rodney Hood is averaging 24.3 points over the last three games. He has been Utah's second offensive option with Favors injured.
Jazz at Spurs
P At AT&T Center, San Antonio
Tipoff • Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. MDT
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM
Records • Jazz 15-18; Spurs 30-6
Last meeting • Spurs 118, Jazz 81 (Dec. 14, 2015)
About the Jazz • Utah is down to 14 players after cutting shooting guard Elijah Millsap before Thursday's guaranteed cut date. … Jazz guard Rodney Hood is enjoying the best stretch of his career, averaging 24.3 points over his last three games. … The Jazz suffered their worst loss of the season at the hands of the Spurs. This is their second time visiting San Antonio. … Utah forward Derrick Favors remaining listed as day-to-day with back ailments. He has missed the last six games.
About the Spurs • San Antonio has won five consecutive games, and nine of its last 10. … The Spurs are looking to win their 30th consecutive home game, a streak accomplished by only six other teams in NBA history. … San Antonio's won its last three games by at least 18 points. … Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard held Gordon Hayward to three points in the previous meeting between the teams.