Like many San Antonio Spurs fans, I’m an absolute sucker for the 2014 Spurs team. They were, in the eyes of many fans including myself, one of the most dominant and entertaining basketball teams of the last fifty-some years. Now, one team dominating the league is drawing certain Spurs-y comparisons.
Lost among the multitude of other compelling storylines dominating the NBA this season is the hot start the Utah Jazz have gotten out to. Currently sitting atop the Western Conference, the Jazz have the second-highest net rating in the league and look like legitimate title contenders. And they’ve pulled a few pages from the Spurs’ old books to get there.
Deadeye three-point shooter turned podcast host JJ Redick recently had Mike Conley on his podcast, The Old Man & the Three, to talk about the Jazz’s hot start. During their conversation, Conley compared one particular aspect of this Jazz team to the 2014 San Antonio Spurs, and Redick was quick to agree.
The 2014 San Antonio Spurs and the 2021 Utah Jazz demand perfect defense
The 2014 San Antonio Spurs and 2021 Utah Jazz both run their opponents ragged by spacing the floor with multiple shooters and letting multiple ball handlers probe the defense and pass outward for open looks. The constant need to close out wears defense’s down and is, as Conley remembers, something the Spurs used to deadly effect.
” I hate guarding closeouts and multiple actions,” said Conley, “like playing the Spurs. I hated those. (They) were the longest nights ever.” Redick was quick to respond, “That’s what it felt like last night (against the Jazz), it felt like the Spurs circa 2014. That’s the best approximation of what it felt like last night.”
Between the two of them, Conley and Redick have plenty of experience with what it’s like to have to guard the Spurs’ offense when it’s really humming. Between their respective times with the Grizzlies and Clippers, both Conley and Redick had to face the Spurs when they were absolute best and have had to run from perimeter threat to perimeter threat, getting more exhausted with every passing quarter.
The Spurs and the Jazz used this strategy to emerge as one of the best three-point shooting teams in their respective seasons. San Antonio finished 2014 with the best three-point shooting rate in the league (39.7%) while the Jazz currently rank second in the league today (40.3%).
Now the big question is: can the Jazz replicate the success of the 2014 Spurs? Utah looks the real deal right now. Donovan Mitchell has proven he’s made for big moments, they’ve got a former Defensive Player of the Year, plenty of high-quality role players, and one of the sharpest coaches in the league. They’re a team to watch for sure.
Don’t make them your second favorite team in the league or anything like that. But if the Spurs have the night off and you see a Jazz game on, pop your head in and check things out. You just might like what you find.