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Utah Jazz defense is the team’s focus

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) knocks the ball away from Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during there Memphis Grizzlies versus Utah Jazz basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz defense is what the team felt made them elite last season and is one reason as to what propelled them to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

The team finished second in defensive rating (103.9) and helped Rudy Gobert earn the Defensive Player of the Year award. This season, the Utah Jazz defense isn’t up to what it feels is its standard.

“Needs to be better,” Jazz forward Jae Crowder said. “A lot of improvement to go, a lot of work to get put into it.”

The team’s defensive rating is currently at 110.8 which is 18th in the league. There could be several reasons as to why the Utah Jazz defense is slightly below average so far, but Gobert wonders if the new NBA rule changes play a factor.

“I think it impacts everyone,” Gobert said. “We want to be a physical team and we want to impact the other team’s movement. It’s a big change and it’s hard with all those screens and guards that are using that as an advantage to get fouled. It’s hard, but it’s the same for everyone so we have to adapt.”

There were three rule changes the NBA decided to implement this year. One is resetting the shot clock to 14 on an offensive rebound. Another was the clear path foul rule was simplified and what constitutes a “hostile act” expanded for purposes of triggering replay review.

However, what Gobert mentioned specifically is the player movement rule the officials are starting to call. This is to allow the players to move freely and prevent impeding, wrapping, and forcing contact on screens along the perimeter. In the post, officials will look for illegal arm wraps, dislodges, and contact on post moves to the basket.

The Jazz offensive efficiency is up from last year as they score 110.5 points per 100 possessions. This is with point guard Ricky Rubio struggling to find his shot at the beginning of the year.

Rubio is less concerned with his shot right now and more on stopping the opposing team.

“The thing I would focus on is defense,” Rubio said. “Our offense will come. We’re scoring, 110, 115 points a game. But our identity is defense.”

The point guard from Spain says the team just has not gelled yet. He acknowledges that players want to come in and show what they worked on, but coming together and communicating should be the focus.

“At the end of the day, it’s a team sport,” said Rubio. “If you want to show your own skills one on one, this is not the team to be on. Over here it’s five guys that talk and feel like a unit, and so far we showed some spurts, but not what we want to be.”

While the offensive efficiency is up, head coach Quin Snyder believes offense and defense are often connected. He has mentioned in previous games that it puts a lot of pressure on your ability to stop the other team when your offense is struggling.

“The two sides of the ball have such a big correlation with each other,” Snyder said. “We put more pressure, more stress and strain on our halfcourt defense if we make mistakes on offense, whether it be an ill-advised shot or a turnover in particular.”

The Jazz take on the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Smart Home Arena Wednesday at 7 P.M.